Ethics of reverse engineering - Page 2
Close
Login to Your Account
Page 2 of 3 FirstFirst 123 LastLast
Results 21 to 40 of 55
  1. #21
    Join Date
    Feb 2006
    Location
    Republic of Texas
    Posts
    2,446
    Post Thanks / Like

    Default

    One of my customers manufactures food like products. I have no idea if their machines are patented, trademarked or copyrighted. All I know is things off the machines show up with instructions to repair or make replacement parts. Customer is happy because they don't have to wait 6 or more weeks to get part from manufacturer of said machines and part (frequently) may not be correct when it comes in. So. I am reverse engineering stuff every day. And I have modified the design of a number of items that improve the service life of the components.

  2. Likes Bobw liked this post
  3. #22
    Join Date
    Oct 2007
    Country
    SPAIN
    Posts
    3,018
    Post Thanks / Like
    Likes (Given)
    1556
    Likes (Received)
    1043

    Default

    I think all we're really worried about here is the ethics *thing*.
    If the OP is someone like Honeywell/Sikorsky etc, pony up the money and buy it legit.
    If the OP is a Mom and Pop shop, copy away.
    IMO...

  4. #23
    Join Date
    Feb 2004
    Location
    peekskill, NY
    Posts
    24,178
    Post Thanks / Like
    Likes (Given)
    0
    Likes (Received)
    4391

    Default

    Manufacturer: refuses to release electrical schematic for equipment.
    Grinds numbers off of ICs.

    Jim: Challenge accepted, let the games begin.

  5. Likes Bobw liked this post
  6. #24
    Join Date
    Jul 2004
    Location
    Southeast Michigan
    Posts
    6,508
    Post Thanks / Like
    Likes (Given)
    236
    Likes (Received)
    1425

    Default

    If you can engineer it, and do it cheaper...do it. None of these multi billion dollar corporations are going to stop what they are doing if you get in their way, why should you offer the same respect in return?

  7. #25
    Join Date
    Oct 2014
    Country
    UNITED STATES
    State/Province
    Maryland
    Posts
    2,420
    Post Thanks / Like
    Likes (Given)
    1738
    Likes (Received)
    1845

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by gustafson View Post
    If there is no prior art, and it is non obvious, one can patent a design. Many things are not patented because they are obvious. A Jarno to Morse taper adapter is an example of obvious. Even if those tapers were patented the adapter would not be a new invention because it is obvious. One might have to pay both patent holders [if the tapers were patented] but the new invention would not be patent-able.

    Even if it is non obvious, if it existed in non patented form, it cannot then be patented. So publishing for instance prevents future patents
    To claim the design does not guarantee the award of a patent. One can submit a patent for almost anything. Patentable is not really a meaningful term, patent worthy is more realistic and indicates that the invention can sustain a patent examination. A patent is theoretically is only granted for inventions that supersede the prior art and conflict with no other patents.

    dee
    ;-D

  8. #26
    Join Date
    Apr 2006
    Location
    Manchester, England
    Posts
    8,030
    Post Thanks / Like
    Likes (Given)
    1123
    Likes (Received)
    5023

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by BoxcarPete View Post
    Seems like everyone is answering every question other than the one that OP asked.

    Picking an arbitrary, relatively simple piece of equipment for a more concrete discussion: a belt grinder.

    Lots of people make belt grinders. You can't patent a 2x72 design. If one guy does a real nice job of it, good for them. There is nothing ethically or legally wrong about building yourself a belt grinder for internal use, even if your design is partially inspired by examples you see in the field. HOWEVER, buying one unit from the ripoff OEM, putting the custom parts onto your CMM to re-create them, and building a half dozen for yourself is much more dicey, and I would not personally do it.

    Personally, I hate reverse-engineering. Of course, I'm in the rubber business, so whenever parts make their way back to me, they rarely look anything like how they were supposed to. I would much rather do my own tolerance stackups on an "inspired design" than make WAGs about what some other guy was thinking some amount of time ago, under what situation, with what resources to work with, etc.
    Talking about belt grinders one place I worked at used to do a lot of hand grinding. Finishing the profiles of rubber mixing rotors 90% of the time. They had big hand grinding machines that were used in conjunction with the overhead jib crane to take off all the weight and then they finished off the profiles with big die grinders etc.

    The works manager ( not a particularly nice bloke and quite unscrupulous ) went to a abrasive products exhibition and saw a jib crane mounted hand operated belt linisher. He managed to convince the salesman to allow him to borrow one for a fortnight to " try it out ".

    When it arrived he had me take it all apart, draw every thing up, and then put it all back together again ! It wasn't a massively complicated machine in the first place so it wasn't too difficult a task. I even came up with a better method of tensioning the linishing belt.

    We eventually made about 4 of these machines, all for our own use. Of course the one we borrowed was returned with the comment that " It wasn't really suitable for the work we were doing ! "

    The funny part of this story is about 6 months after we made the first one the salesman, who also sold us the linishing belts, wandered into the grinding bay unaccompanied and saw our rip off copy. From all accounts he went ballistic and stormed off to give the manager a real bollocking. He threatened legal action etc and refused to sell us any more linishing belts but there were other suppliers so really it was an idle threat and nothing came of it all.

    Regards Tyrone.

  9. #27
    Join Date
    Feb 2010
    Location
    IN, USA
    Posts
    215
    Post Thanks / Like
    Likes (Given)
    7
    Likes (Received)
    242

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by barbter View Post
    I think all we're really worried about here is the ethics *thing*.
    If the OP is someone like Honeywell/Sikorsky etc, pony up the money and buy it legit.
    If the OP is a Mom and Pop shop, copy away.
    IMO...
    We're closer to Honeywell size but we still have real budgets. My group is an internal machine build group that designs, builds, and installs custom machines for our products in plants world wide. We buy peripheral equipment like robots, conveyors, feeder bowls, screwdrivers, pumps, etc, and integrate them into our custom machines. We're not cheapskates when it comes to purchased systems - we know capability comes at a price and the systems we ship have to run 24/7. In this case, however, the price for the equipment is about 3x the nearest competitor. The competitor product just barely gets the job done, is maintenance intensive, has about 4X the footprint, and isn't as capable. But it works, so it's about 50/50 whether our internal customers will choose to pay the 3X cost adder for the better system. And when they don't, my group gets a black eye because we get blamed for shipping the plant a system that sucks. Hence my question about reverse engineering the equipment. My group could build it for about 1/4 the price and it's pretty straight forward. There's only one detail that would take some effort to reverse engineer but it's really just a matter of figuring out what material it's made from and there are outside labs that could do that for us. The rest of the machine is pretty straight forward.

    My preference would be to just buy it. My group has enough on its plate right now plus I like to reward good work and they've done a nice job on the design. But the price is just too high.

  10. Likes barbter liked this post
  11. #28
    Join Date
    Jun 2015
    Country
    UNITED STATES
    State/Province
    Texas
    Posts
    370
    Post Thanks / Like
    Likes (Given)
    69
    Likes (Received)
    91

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by barbter View Post
    I think all we're really worried about here is the ethics *thing*.
    If the OP is someone like Honeywell/Sikorsky etc, pony up the money and buy it legit.
    If the OP is a Mom and Pop shop, copy away.
    IMO...
    Ethically, I'd think the exact opposite. I give zero sh*ts about some giant corporation and they in turn don't care about me the customer (unless I'm a big customer).

  12. Likes Bobw liked this post
  13. #29
    Join Date
    Jan 2009
    Location
    Maine, USA
    Posts
    127
    Post Thanks / Like
    Likes (Given)
    65
    Likes (Received)
    56

    Default

    A fine line between the OPs situation and Tyrone's, well maybe. Tyrone's boss was clearly unethical from the get go, never intending to purchase one let alone multiple of the belt linishers, only intending to copy it. He didn't even pay for the one he ripped off. The fact that he could do that in house does suggest that perhaps it was overpriced, as the OP faces, but still, he acted unethically, though maybe not illegally for something like a belt linisher.

    The OP in my opinion is not being unethical to take a plain jane product he's bought numerous times, and improve on it in both cost and performance, even if "internal use" means as part of a integration into machines made in a large corporation. If he was outright copying and selling to consumers maybe that's dicier, but maybe that's just competition, but I see nothing wrong with what he's proposed to improve his groups performance as part of a larger organization.

  14. #30
    Join Date
    Feb 2005
    Location
    Akron, OH
    Posts
    1,809
    Post Thanks / Like
    Likes (Given)
    271
    Likes (Received)
    1350

    Default

    Don't worry, if they leave the pricing at "we can't be bothered" and it's really that easy to copy, there are already eight companies making clones and selling them on alibaba...

  15. Likes Mike1974 liked this post
  16. #31
    Join Date
    Jun 2019
    Country
    UNITED STATES
    State/Province
    Texas
    Posts
    148
    Post Thanks / Like
    Likes (Given)
    37
    Likes (Received)
    114

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Comatose View Post
    Don't worry, if they leave the pricing at "we can't be bothered" and it's really that easy to copy, there are already eight companies making clones and selling them on alibaba...
    We quoted some pipe drivers for one of our lathes recently and was quoted at $5000. Our engineer used the picture from their website and had 2 versions modeled and printed in 4 hours. Current rough estimate is that it will cost a little under $500 to make 2 of them for ourselves.

  17. #32
    Join Date
    Jun 2015
    Country
    UNITED STATES
    State/Province
    Texas
    Posts
    370
    Post Thanks / Like
    Likes (Given)
    69
    Likes (Received)
    91

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by M.B. Naegle View Post
    Most companies are started by someone who see's a product and thinks, "I can do that better." That's just American Business.
    ^^yup

    The first company I worked for out of school made electronics. They invented and patented a device in 1961 that was better than anything on the market. GE promptly blatantly knocked off the product and put it on the market at a very low price. The company was faced with a lose-lose. They couldn’t afford to reduce prices and run in the red as GE could. They also couldn’t afford to lawyer up and fight GE’s legal team. Either way they’d go broke. They did survive but that is how the game goes often times.

    No patent, it’s all fair game. Patents? If you have a legal team and lots of money for them, you can ignore those too.

  18. Likes M.B. Naegle liked this post
  19. #33
    Join Date
    Feb 2004
    Location
    peekskill, NY
    Posts
    24,178
    Post Thanks / Like
    Likes (Given)
    0
    Likes (Received)
    4391

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by CosmosK View Post
    ^^yup

    The first company I worked for out of school made electronics. They invented and patented a device in 1961 that was better than anything on the market. GE promptly blatantly knocked off the product and put it on the market at a very low price. The company was faced with a lose-lose. They couldn’t afford to reduce prices and run in the red as GE could. They also couldn’t afford to lawyer up and fight GE’s legal team. Either way they’d go broke. They did survive but that is how the game goes often times.

    No patent, it’s all fair game. Patents? If you have a legal team and lots of money for them, you can ignore those too.
    Like the guy who invented the interval wiper for cars. Or the guy who invented the quick release button for the sears ratchet.

  20. #34
    Join Date
    Aug 2010
    Location
    Medina OH
    Posts
    1,667
    Post Thanks / Like
    Likes (Given)
    88
    Likes (Received)
    670

    Default

    My grandfather always said, if you want your idea stolen, patent it. If you want to keep it a secret, keep it a secret.

    He and the guys that worked for him had some incredible ideas and concepts that they incorporated into their manufacturing. There is a really known roll form company out and about the world that most of the machines,and the mechanics, were designed at my grandpas shop, never to be patented and never to be copied.

    Company I used to work for sounds similar to the OP. We built production machinery. One of our main products was a machine that they ripped off from another manufacturer. The first manufacturer had a great idea, but poorly executed it. The company I worked for ripped it off and made it work and made it well. So much so, that the first company sends anyone looking for that type of machine to the company I worked for.

    Better part of my products are reverse engineered. Course most of the designers and manufacturers have been dead for 70-100+ years.

  21. Likes barbter liked this post
  22. #35
    Join Date
    Nov 2004
    Location
    Webster Groves, MO
    Posts
    7,111
    Post Thanks / Like
    Likes (Given)
    1779
    Likes (Received)
    3211

    Default

    I owe a mea culpa for not reading carefully and missing the part about the device not being patentable.

    Anyway, since the discussion has veered that way, as CosmosK says, a patent doesn't protect you, i only gives you a license to sue. The history of patents is full of these cases. Most of the time, might doesn't make right but it makes money. One of my friends got a $25 million judgement against a large company. They simply refused to pay. At the following suit, the judge said to the company "Will you give him $5 million?" They agreed. He then asked the plaintiff if he would settle for $5 million. He agreed and that ended the case. The lawyers made a lot of money. My friend didn't.

    If you want some morbid reading, look up Edwin Armstrong's suits against all the companies who infringed his FM patent.

    In their defense, sometimes might comes out right. A company I worked for sponsored a German glass blower to come to St. Louis. He was the real thing, could do anything he wanted to with a piece of glass. He and his wife rented an apartment. Then they were comparing their paychecks to their rent payments, which seemed unbalanced. He asked his boss about and he sent it to company lawyers. As expected, the rent was grossly out of line, taking advantage of the renter's lack of knowledge. The lawyers had a meeting with the landlord and told him that they had examined the lease and determined that it was unbreakable. They were going to sue him, anyway. They knew they would lose, but by the time they were finished, the whole world would know what he had done. He took their suggestion that he rethink the rent.

    Bill

  23. #36
    Join Date
    Sep 2008
    Country
    UNITED STATES
    State/Province
    California
    Posts
    1,529
    Post Thanks / Like
    Likes (Given)
    973
    Likes (Received)
    885

    Default

    I used to make replacement parts for a local label printing outfit.

    They had lines of MARK ANDY printing presses.

    The reason I made the parts is I could frequently turn out replacement parts the same day to get the printing presses up and running again.

    My same day prices were frequently cheaper then MARK ANDY'S parts that would take anywhere from 1-5 weeks to get from the manufacturer.

    There was never any discussion about whether parts were patented or whether what we did was even ethical. The older machines may not have been covered by patents, but I'm sure the new digital presses were.

    There were however lengthy discussions about down time, getting labels delivered on time, late penealties, sending people home, overtime to catch up etc etc. Those were the realities we lived by.

  24. #37
    Join Date
    Feb 2011
    Country
    UNITED STATES
    State/Province
    Texas
    Posts
    1,981
    Post Thanks / Like
    Likes (Given)
    1293
    Likes (Received)
    836

    Default

    Just a story on this topic from way before my time:

    Our company builds a sewing machine that was first patented in 1882 by The Campbell Bosworth Machinery Co. Sometime around 1900, they approached The Randall Co. and asked if they would make machines for them under contract. They said 'sure, just send us copies of all the prints', which Campbell did. Within a year or so, Randall had ripped off the machine making just enough changes to the design to skirt around the patent (Can't find any records of legal action relating to this case).

    2 things came out of this interaction. One, Campbell only leased their machines to customers. Randall sold theirs out-right. So this bout of corporate espionage (if you can call it that) was actually good for the market as it made the machine more available to people who didn't want to get into a lease.

    Second, in the early 60's, both companies ended up being bought buy the same company in New York. They had a family dispute and separated them in the early 80's, but we put the companies back together in 2006 creating Campbell Randall Machinery Co. so now both machines are serviced under the same roof (and there have even been a few cases where we rebuilt old Randall machines into Campbell's) So Campbell kinda got their revenge in the end, however, since 2000 we've ended the lease program and only sell the machines, so Randall kinda got their way too.

  25. Likes sfriedberg liked this post
  26. #38
    Join Date
    Jan 2016
    Country
    UNITED STATES
    State/Province
    New Jersey
    Posts
    206
    Post Thanks / Like
    Likes (Given)
    65
    Likes (Received)
    88

    Default

    That's a pretty neat story -- quite the timeline of events.

    Quote Originally Posted by M.B. Naegle View Post
    Within a year or so, Randall had ripped off the machine making just enough changes to the design to skirt around the patent (Can't find \
    any records of legal action relating to this case).
    Any engineer working product design or development has created patent workarounds (some probably without even realizing it). It's the nature of everyday engineering, at least at this point in time. Some of those workarounds are patentable technology in their own right. As you point out, this usually has positive impacts for consumers, whether it be through technology development or reduced prices.

    My professional experience has been that absent legal protection, a design can and will be copied. I'm not convinced this is even an ethical question anymore, it's certainly been decided in the field of professional engineering ethics. That said, buying from a competitor to reverse engineer their product, and then returning the product without paying crosses the line, IMO.

    In some of the industries I've worked in, competitors go to great lengths to prevent the sale of their equipment to the competition, or in some cases even contractually bind their customers to prevent their competition viewing their equipment once installed.

  27. Likes M.B. Naegle liked this post
  28. #39
    Join Date
    Nov 2007
    Location
    marysville ohio
    Posts
    9,216
    Post Thanks / Like
    Likes (Given)
    2627
    Likes (Received)
    6083

    Default

    Among other things I make are the hose ends used on Indy car refueling hoses. The end that fits the probe is like a big hose barb, tapered inside weird flange with 3 bolt holes, 3 pockets and a notch to clear a button and the barb detail. it is made of 5" diameter 6"long 6061 T6 I get 400.00 each for them. A good seller for a long time, but they are reusable. Every team has 2 or 3 per car. I might sell 2 or 3 a year now days. I just got a call from the owner of a pit equipment supplier. he wants to buy a hose end and a few other odds and ends. Now I was born at night but not last night. He is not buying the hose end at retail to sell it at retail. he is going to copy it and put it in his catalog. I asked him straight out if that is what is going to happen, he says no. I don't believe it. What did I do? I sold him one! I could have said no and then he would have gotten one from a team. No sale for me with the same result, he copies my part. So if he wants to fight for 3 sales a year on a low margin part more power to him.

  29. Likes TeachMePlease, metlmunchr, barbter, Mud liked this post
  30. #40
    Join Date
    Nov 2004
    Location
    Webster Groves, MO
    Posts
    7,111
    Post Thanks / Like
    Likes (Given)
    1779
    Likes (Received)
    3211

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Pariel View Post
    Any engineer working product design or development has created patent workarounds (some probably without even realizing it). It's the nature of everyday engineering, at least at this point in time. Some of those workarounds are patentable technology in their own right. As you point out, this usually has positive impacts for consumers, whether it be through technology development or reduced prices.
    Often companies who have the money will file several spin off patent applications with no intention to make the product that way but to block workarounds. I read about a chemical engineer whose patent applications were the bane of the industry, reading something like "combined with an element of the 14th column of the periodic table, preferentially, but not limited to, tin". By the time he got done, he had plugged all the possible alternatives.

    There was mention of patents limiting each other. In the very early days of radio, Fleming had the patent on the vacuum tube rectifier, used to detect radio signals. deForest had the patent on the three electrode electron tube with a grid he thought would make it a better detector. deForest's backers dumped him, leaving him only the worthless radio tube patent. Then Fritz Lowenstein figured out how to make it amplify and deForest naturally said that was what he meant all along. You can write a history of early radio consisting only of patent citations and lawsuits.

    Bill

  31. Likes barbter liked this post

Tags for this Thread

Bookmarks

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •