Ethics of reverse engineering
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    Default Ethics of reverse engineering

    Let's say someone is selling you a piece of equipment. It's an elegant, simple design that works very well. It uses mostly off the shelf components with a couple key custom parts. The only problem is the price is ridiculously high. You're in the machine design business and can see that it could be built and sold profitably at 1/4 the price. You've tried negotiating with the manufacturer but this thing is a sideline for them and they don't care much whether they build them or not, hence they price it high enough to make it worthwhile to take resources away from their core business. You only use this piece of equipment internally - you will not be selling them outside of your own company. There is nothing patentable about the design. There are other manufacturers that have taken a similar approach, it's just that this company did a really nice job in choosing components and in overall packaging.

    Is reverse engineering and making it yourself for use in your own plants legal and/or ethical?

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    I am sure that every single person has broken a patent or law just for something for themselves. If you dont sell it, all you did was build something for yourself.

    Sent from my SM-G960U using Tapatalk

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    Copy away for yourself. If its cheaper to copy than buy the OEM has serious marketing problems.

    Patents, copyright et al were originally intended to protect the commercial application of ideas and things. Which is fair. If you have spent serious time and money developing a concept into something that works reliably and well then its only right that you should have the opportunity to make back your money and, hopefully, enough to continue development into something better / cheaper / appropriate to a different market et al. Can't do that if cheapskate copy merchant promptly undercuts you with looks similar but not well enough made version. Can be dangerous too as Mr Cheapskate rarely understands what is being made and the implications of seemingly minor things. Assuming he even wants to.

    But there is supposed to be no barrier to non commercial or even partial copying to develop something else use. The whole point of the patent system was that you got a limited term monopoly on commercial exploitation in exchange for publishing details so that other folk could use your ideas and product as a basis for improving the state of the art. Governments encouraged it because its an obvious driver of economic improvement. Just no direct copying or appearance so similar that Cheapskate Inc can pass their crap off as yours.

    Trouble nowadays is that the intellectual property sharks, sorry lawsters, have got their hooks into the system and protection patents proliferate. Basically getting in first before someone else sees the potential of exploiting the concept. Mostly such seem to fall foul of the "reproducible by a person skilled in the art" test. Usually with unverified and oftimes impo ssible claims. Those I'd copy in less than a heartbeat.

    Clive

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    Quote Originally Posted by Punkinhead View Post
    Let's say someone is selling you a piece of equipment. It's an elegant, simple design that works very well. It uses mostly off the shelf components with a couple key custom parts. The only problem is the price is ridiculously high. You're in the machine design business and can see that it could be built and sold profitably at 1/4 the price. You've tried negotiating with the manufacturer but this thing is a sideline for them and they don't care much whether they build them or not, hence they price it high enough to make it worthwhile to take resources away from their core business. You only use this piece of equipment internally - you will not be selling them outside of your own company. There is nothing patentable about the design. There are other manufacturers that have taken a similar approach, it's just that this company did a really nice job in choosing components and in overall packaging.

    Is reverse engineering and making it yourself for use in your own plants legal and/or ethical?
    .
    unless it is a simple part, most machines have complex designs and engineering specifications and tolerances where making something in low quantities is not worth it. From debugging manufacturing steps, having fixtures and other items to help with manufacturing it is usually not worth it making most things for example
    .
    1) making a iphone or celluar phone
    2) making ball bearing assembly, inner race, outer race, balls, cage and seals
    3) making a vise grip locking pliers or making a socket set
    4) making a special thread tap
    5) making a dial caliper
    6) making a dial indicator
    .
    sure they make money selling you a product but many times the customer just doesnt understand the complexity of manufacturering including actual total costs to make something. and as quantities increase cost come down. literally you make 10,000 items the price might be 1/10 the cost than if you only made 10 items. plastic injection molded parts is a example
    .
    literally there are companies that stop making a product who had trouble remaking something cause they did not keep detailed procedures work instructions and the people who were involved were no longer with the company. Polaroid instant film cameras the company of some former employees wanted to restart a old factory. they call it the impossible project. many things are far more complex to make and cost far more than original estimates when you include scrap rates

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    Why all the comments about patents? The OP said is it can't be patented.

    So have at it, for your own use or for sale. I don't think ethics enters into it. Would you not use the wheel because someone else thought it up? Any manufacturer knows that the price has to make sense. Even if its patented, start gouging too much and you get substitutes, alternatives etc. It comes down to IP. If your design isn't protected (i.e. a patent) your IP is limited to your brand, know how in making them, vendor relationships. sales channels etc....that limits your value add and hence what you can charge. Step well outside of that, by expecting too much margin for the value added, and they've all but invited someone to eat their lunch.

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    First- the purpose of patents is not to protect the inventor. The purpose is dissemination of information. Companies often keep ideas secret and use a method in their production while only allowing a few trusted individuals to know about it. The most famous one is the formula for Coca Cola. The period of protection is the reward the government gives the inventor in return for making his invention "patent", a definition that has fallen out of use but originally meant "obvious" or "apparent".

    Patent | Definition of Patent by Merriam-Webster

    Copying one for your own use is not legal or ethical. A good example is a patent the Brunswick Corp. got for an air gauge I made that measured area of a bore rather than diameter. The use was only in our production of micropipettes and we never marketed the device, but only wanted to be able to stop competitors from gauging their own production.

    US3438244A - Fluid measuring gauge
    - Google Patents


    Bill

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    When a OEM get's to be too bad on price & delivery, the aftermarket world comes in to fill the void.

    Look at the automotive parts world. parts for a 350 cheby are numerous.

    Not that I agree.

    FWIW I generally get jobs in where the OEM is out of business, doesn't support anymore,
    or is incapable of helping.

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    Quote Originally Posted by digger doug View Post
    Look at the automotive parts world. parts for a 350 cheby are numerous.

    Not that I agree.
    .
    imagine what chevy's prices would be without the competition? I almost always seek a non OEM automotive part, I just feel so ripped off by them, voting with my pocket book is sweet revenge

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    Quote Originally Posted by Punkinhead View Post
    Let's say someone is selling you a piece of equipment. It's an elegant, simple design that works very well. It uses mostly off the shelf components with a couple key custom parts. The only problem is the price is ridiculously high. You're in the machine design business and can see that it could be built and sold profitably at 1/4 the price. You've tried negotiating with the manufacturer but this thing is a sideline for them and they don't care much whether they build them or not, hence they price it high enough to make it worthwhile to take resources away from their core business. You only use this piece of equipment internally - you will not be selling them outside of your own company. There is nothing patentable about the design. There are other manufacturers that have taken a similar approach, it's just that this company did a really nice job in choosing components and in overall packaging.

    Is reverse engineering and making it yourself for use in your own plants legal and/or ethical?
    If there is no patent on the device anyone can claim the design. The US patent law has the first to file concept. So if you scour the IP of all people and you find something novel that is not already covered by a valid patent, you can claim it.

    First to file and first to invent - Wikipedia

    If there is no existing patent, the only market protections the company can claim are trademarks and copyrights. Trademarks are more applicable to labeling and aesthetics, and copyrights are generally applicable to nonphysical IP like music, books, and other publications. The trademark and copyright laws need a lot higher burden of proof to enforce. Under the doctrine of "fair use," individuals may be permitted to make backup copies or archival copies of some materials as long as certain conditions are met. So even if the device is copyrighted, you can claim that you just made a backup copy . It would cost the company more to go after you than its worth.

    In commercial use, there are a lot of other factors one needs to consider, the cost of support, other improvements and services the company may provide with the device. Even though you could reproduce the device for peanuts it may have a large opportunity cost, or having to secure the supply chain becomes expensive beyond making one or two. And if you planning to compete with the OEM, consider the legal costs as well.

    dee
    ;-D

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    Quote Originally Posted by dcsipo View Post
    And if you planning to compete with the OEM, consider the legal costs as well.
    For what? He's says its not patentable. Unless there is something undisclosed like he's hired some of their people recently, or signed an NDA, noncompete etc, what would be actionable?

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    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.

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    I want to correct something said earlier. If something is patented, it is not legal in US law to make an unlicensed copy for in-house/personal use.

    The only time this would be enforced is for process patents or business-critical production gear, where the owner of the patent has the financial motivation to prove you're using their patent. Making a shop copy of a patented wrench or fixture is not going to be an issue. Copy a vendor's fluidized bed cleaning design and make one for in-house use, and you might hear from their lawyer. Copy a competitors patented ammonia liquor production process, and you can count of spending a bunch of money in court.

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    The real world of patents is a very messy one, as some have pointed out. I haven't applied for a patent under the first to file system, but I don't like it. Something that most overlook is that the great majority of products on the market are not patented, either never were or expired. Sometimes the best solution is to publish and get it solidly in the public domain so everyone can use it, then compete on the normal price, delivery, quality grounds.

    Beryllium copper, as is used in electrical contact springs, is very difficult to plate because beryllium and copper are so far apart in the electromotive series that the current setting for one is way off for the other. I developed a process where I remove the beryllium in the surface, leaving pure copper. Once you get there, you can plate anything you want on it. The problem with marketing it is that a first year chemistry student could analyze the solution and if I got a patent, I would have to get search warrants for every shop doing that plating if I wanted to enforce it.

    Dcsipo says that anyone can claim an unpatented design, or at least, that is how I interpret his statement. You can make it, but I doubt that you can patent it if you did not invent it or it has been public for a year. At least that is how it used to be. Patents could only be issued to the inventor, who could then assign them to anyone. The year limitation also applied to the sale of products made by the device, even though You kept it secret, selling the products constituted a public demonstration.

    Bill

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    Quote Originally Posted by Punkinhead View Post
    Let's say someone is selling you a piece of equipment. It's an elegant, simple design that works very well. It uses mostly off the shelf components with a couple key custom parts. The only problem is the price is ridiculously high. You're in the machine design business and can see that it could be built and sold profitably at 1/4 the price. You've tried negotiating with the manufacturer but this thing is a sideline for them and they don't care much whether they build them or not, hence they price it high enough to make it worthwhile to take resources away from their core business. You only use this piece of equipment internally - you will not be selling them outside of your own company. There is nothing patentable about the design. There are other manufacturers that have taken a similar approach, it's just that this company did a really nice job in choosing components and in overall packaging.

    Is reverse engineering and making it yourself for use in your own plants legal and/or ethical?
    If something isn't patented I see no problem with copying.

    If you copy you are probably making a 1 off. A company making something as a product should be making many at a time if for no other reason than to keep costs down. If you can make the same thing cheaper than they can they are doing something wrong.

    Not sure if this is a good example or not but even building a car by buying the parts as individual items or even making what you can and buying the rest would probably end up as being a very expensive car.

    When I buy small screws and small O-rings I buy at least 500 at a time. They get used eventually.

    Can anyone honestly say they wouldn't copy a page, a document or something just because it has a © or ® on it?

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    Quote Originally Posted by dcsipo View Post
    If there is no patent on the device anyone can claim the design.
    ;-D
    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

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    Most companies are started by someone who see's a product and thinks, "I can do that better." That's just American Business.

    I'd say it's fair to make your own (if patents are not in play). The OEM should be able to mass produce the item cheaper than you could yourself, not as cheap as possible, and not with as much profit as gullible consumers would pay. If they don't hit that middle ground, they kinda missed the sale.

    IMO, the role of the OEM should also extend toward servicing the product line, but this is often overlooked these days. If there was ever a problem, they should have a solution for you (who pays for it just depends on wither it was your fault or theirs). So that's something else to keep in mind with the value of the item.

    We have had people approach us and say our machine was too expensive, but then they had the balls to ask for copies off the blueprints so they can make their own . I say if they want to reverse engineer our stuff, go for it! I wish them well. But in so doing they are left to be their own engineer and figure it all out on their own dime. If they fail to use the right materials, tolerances, fasteners, etc. that's the risk they took.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Gordon B. Clarke View Post
    If something isn't patented I see no problem with copying.

    If you copy you are probably making a 1 off. A company making something as a product should be making many at a time if for no other reason than to keep costs down. If you can make the same thing cheaper than they can they are doing something wrong.

    Not sure if this is a good example or not but even building a car by buying the parts as individual items or even making what you can and buying the rest would probably end up as being a very expensive car.

    When I buy small screws and small O-rings I buy at least 500 at a time. They get used eventually.

    Can anyone honestly say they wouldn't copy a page, a document or something just because it has a © or ® on it?
    Said Gordo.
    "API gauges are very expensive so I'm wondering if it's possible to buy one in the USA, not use it, and return it (after copying it as good as possible) saying the purchase was a mistake? The flaw in that thought is I doubt if it's possible to cheat the same gauge supplier more than once."

    Ethics and Gordo ?

    Time to sit on your hands.

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    Quote Originally Posted by digger doug View Post
    Said Gordo.
    "API gauges are very expensive so I'm wondering if it's possible to buy one in the USA, not use it, and return it (after copying it as good as possible) saying the purchase was a mistake? The flaw in that thought is I doubt if it's possible to cheat the same gauge supplier more than once."

    Ethics and Gordo ?

    Time to sit on your hands.
    Par for the course. Yet another useless inaccurate post misquoting me by you diggity dog.
    When you write BS you should also include the post I was replying to.

    What's your point with your posts directed at me? No life of your own?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Gordon B. Clarke View Post
    Par for the course. Yet another useless inaccurate post misquoting me by you diggity dog.
    When you write BS you should also include the post I was replying to.

    What's your point with your posts directed at me? No life of your own?
    This comes to mind.
    kettlecallingpotblack.jpg

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    Is it legal? I don't know, but you have brought it into the open here on a public forum..

    Ethical? I think so, for your own use. How many people make their own vise jaws? How many make specialty vise jaws, like for talon grips or versa grips? What about strap clamps, spacers, t-nuts, the list goes on... Sure these might be stretching the idea about what the OP asked, but I think they fall in the 'same boat'. It costs roughly $200 for talon grip jaws from mitee bite. How in the hell does it cost that to make them... it doesn't! (or shouldn't) so alot of people are going to make their own.

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