an invention

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I was not really sure where to ask this but I figure a few of the members here may have done this. I have designed a USB device I'm working on producing in large volume. My biggest fear is someone taking it from me and preventing my chance at what success it may bring. I dont have 10 grand for a patent to dump on this and no plans to construct a company to support it. It's a modest invention for a small group of people. I was hoping for some sort of gnc/open source protection but I can not find that either. Any ideas?

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Buy a large amount of epoxy and dip your devices in it.

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With this sort of thing, my first question is always: How hard will it be for someone to reproduce your code independently, once they know how the idea works?

With most ideas, the hard part is coming up with the idea in the first place. Copying an idea is usually pretty easy if you're working from a model.

If it were my idea, I'd just use the AVR's lock bits, and get the product out there.

Michael

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If the idea truly is for a small niche (as you seem to suggest), it is unlikely to get stolen/copied, as it isn't worth the time/effort/expense for the other guy.

Writing code is like having sex.... make one little mistake, and you're supporting it for life.

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Well the code its self was another concern I had. And was going to asked that as well, but you just answered it for me.

However, this product's "code" is not the part I'd like to protect. There are plenty of code projects on the web that would allow anyone to rebuild this. Its the device design its self I dont want to be lock out of making. I think UNiXWHoRe has a pint, and at first I figure it was a joke, but if I could prove I originated this idea woudl that not protect it?

Ok So dumping it in epoxy would not be all that helpful but I do have web documented dates of the origination of it, and I think that give me some pull.

My fear is this.. I sell a few, john D. says hmm I could do this.. Thx for the idea bub.. Oh I have money , why dont I patent this.. SUCKA!! Am I being to paranoid?

Quote:
If the idea truly is for a small niche (as you seem to suggest), it is unlikely to get stolen/copied, as it isn't worth the time/effort/expense for the other guy.
True one does out weigh the other.

Could anyone go in to detail on how the lock bits work? Or any precautions I could take to prevent unwanted code hijacks.

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S_K_U_N_X wrote:
My fear is this.. I sell a few, john D. says hmm I could do this.. Thx for the idea bub.. Oh I have money , why dont I patent this.. SUCKA!! Am I being to paranoid?

as long as you have documentation showing you were selling it before the competitor filed for a patent, their patent is void. Once available on the open market it is considered "prior art".

Better yet, publish the design & code under an open source license, and then it definitely cannot be patented by someone after the fact. [but it does allow others to build clone products competing with you]

Writing code is like having sex.... make one little mistake, and you're supporting it for life.

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The idea is not to make it bulletproof, it is to make the time to unpack it/reverse-engineer it more than what the device is worth. If a thief has to spend a week and 10K$ to make a clone of a 10$ device, he will have to sell one thousand before he begins to see his investment back.

The epoxy trick really wasn't a joke, they sell what I call "black tar" epoxy, that becomes as hard as glass once hardened. Not only will it hide critical parts of your design, it will also protect it mechanically and make it very hard to unpack. Dipping your board in it is probably overkill, but putting a generous dab of it on top of your UC and its surrounding circuitry will certainly make it a lot harder to unpack.

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Og says: Look, everyone! I discovered FIRE. You hit one rock against another rock, that makes sparks and sparks make FIRE. Fire is good. We can roast marshmallows in fire. Hmmm, and make S'MORES. Fire is good! It is so good, I patent fire.

Mog says: Big deal. I rub two sticks together. I also make fire. You cannot patent the concept of fire, only the method. Your method uses stones. I use sticks. Your patent is not much good. But, fire is good. I like S'MORES.

I personally think that patents are of little value to real humans. They only "protect" those who have money and do very little for the people with the real ideas. You can protect yourself against someone else trying to patent your idea by making sure the details of the idea are readily available in the public domain. But, there is virtually no way to protect your idea from copy-cats. Any attempt to hide or obscure it can be broken if the idea seems valuable enough. So, make your fame by becoming "the dude who thought up x" rather than person who spends every waking moment fearing that it will be "stolen". Because, sooner or later, it will be "stolen" if it is worth anything.

Jim

 

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So build a couple hundred of them, get a godaddy website and storefront, and start selling them. What will the website say it does? (I might want to buy one)

Imagecraft compiler user

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S_K_U_N_X wrote:
Ok So dumping it in epoxy would not be all that helpful but I do have web documented dates of the origination of it, and I think that give me some pull.

Problem is, the cost of defending a patent is prohibitive, and there's no point spending $10k to get a patent if you are unable to defend it. Ergo, for most projects, it's simply not worth getting a patent. If someone patents your idea, and then tries to come after you, then you'll have clear evidence of prior art, since you'll have been selling the product. Otherwise, I wouldn't worry about it.

With regard to protecting the hardware design, I think the first step is to make a realistic appraisal of how clever the design is. As with software, the hardest part of creating a new product is usually the idea itself. If you honestly think a competent engineer won't be able to work out the design himself (and there are certainly some designs out there that fall under this heading), then use epoxy to obfuscate the design. Otherwise, just get the thing on the market!

Michael

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S_K_U_N_X wrote:
Could anyone go in to detail on how the lock bits work? Or any precautions I could take to prevent unwanted code hijacks.

For information on lock bits, have a look at the datasheet. For AVRs, the lock bits are set the same way as fuses. This should help:

https://www.avrfreaks.net/modules/FreaksFiles/files/382/DN_020.pdf

Michael

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Ah, that is what those annoying black spills are for...

Thx all, this was very helpful.

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So you're not gonna tell us the idea?

Imagecraft compiler user

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Ah, well its not of much a use here, like I said its for a small group of people.

But in a nut shell:

I wrote code to interface with a quite a few game console controllers, and found a way to detect the protocol when plugged in. The code then patches over the means to talk to this controller and read its input. It supports every thing from atari to game cube.

list here
http://www.underground-gamer.com/redir.php?url=http://spreadsheets.google.com/pub?key=tGD-U_eW1Rc7rNyqkpgJuIg&output=html

There are a lot of adapters out there for anyone wanting just one, but I aimed to make an all-in-one solution. Took a lot of doing and learning, and help form this forum but I made it work. There are a few things that make this a bit unique, like being able to connect the controller to the box with out silly adapters. I had to learn how to fabrication plastics and to do it, else it would not be affordable.

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glitch wrote:
S_K_U_N_X wrote:
My fear is this.. I sell a few, john D. says hmm I could do this.. Thx for the idea bub.. Oh I have money , why dont I patent this.. SUCKA!! Am I being to paranoid?

as long as you have documentation showing you were selling it before the competitor filed for a patent, their patent is void. Once available on the open market it is considered "prior art".

Better yet, publish the design & code under an open source license, and then it definitely cannot be patented by someone after the fact. [but it does allow others to build clone products competing with you]

It doesn't take selling a product with the "invention" in it to declare the idea "prior art". All that would be required is public discussion of the idea.

(Actually some countries still allow filing for patent protection even after a product is offered for sale)

A big/simple rule to remember is not to disclose the idea (without an NDA) or ever offer to sell a product that encompasses the idea prior to filing for a patent.

Also, in order to go down the patent path and eventually obtain a patent,
you will have to fully disclose how the invention works,
so that any one "of ordinary skills trained in the art" can build your invention.

Anyone can legally build your invention for personal use using your patent as a guide without ever having to ask permission or pay you any royalties.

Patents protect your rights to sell the invention.

This is why patents are not always the best method of IP protection. Sometimes it is better to keep it a trade secret even if that means using blobs of bright orange epoxy on your circuit boards just like Hayes did in the late 70's and early 80's.

--- bill

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bperrybap wrote:
Patents protect your rights to sell the invention.
[RANT ON]

In the U.S, this boils down to the protecting your right to sue someone else. The government won't pursue a violator. The violator won't stop just by knowing you have a patent. (In some countries, some people think it is their moral obligation to copy and produce your product. And those countries' governments tacitly agree.) A large company will have a barrel full of patents and will look for anything they already have (either owned or licensed) that you may have violated, then look for cross-licensing, usually for free; in the worst-case, they find that you are violating more of their patents than they are violating yours and they end up charging you. :evil:

I worked for a large company (HP) where I was literally told not to look at patents since if it could be proved that we knowingly violated a patent it would be treble damages. This turns the idea of a patent on its head: The original idea is to trade the inventor a monopoly on a product for a limited time for the public disclosure of how the product works.

Patents are, in my not-so-humble opinion, bullshit. The only winners are patent trolls and huge companies.

Oh, and lawyers. Let's not forget the lawyers. :evil:

For the small guy, just hoping that you're in a small enough niche that no one wants to mess with your product is usually enough. If someone really wants to copy your idea, they will copy it. Black goop won't stop 'em. Lock bits in the processor won't stop 'em. Obfuscating your code won't stop 'em. Funky dongle keys and hokey religions won't stop 'em.

In the end, you're only recourse is to make reverse-engineering the product more costly than sales of the resulting cheaply-produced copy is worth. If you can't do that, you need to stay ahead of the curve by out innovating them.

If you can't do that, hope you can make enough money from the product before the copies hit to make the development worth while.

And if you can't do that, don't bother. Unless you like losing battles.

[RANT OFF]

Wow, what just happened? Was that line noise? :wink:

Stu

Engineering seems to boil down to: Cheap. Fast. Good. Choose two. Sometimes choose only one.

Newbie? Be sure to read the thread Newbie? Start here!

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Stu,

Thanks for the rant. I was thinking about doing a similar rant, I've done a couple of patent rants before, but my ranter is a bit weary at the moment, so it is good to see someone with a little energy charging the windmill.

Smiley

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Quote:

my ranter is a bit weary

Hmmm... That might actually be it. The invetion is a "ranter"! :D

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Glad I have not been the only rant on this thread. Or, is that "runt"? Could runt be the past tense of rant?

Jim

 

Until Black Lives Matter, we do not have "All Lives Matter"!

 

 

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Hi there! I'm working on an open-source video game controller thing myself, so I've researched this stuff a little bit. As far as open-source protection is concerned, it's tricky, since open source hardware licenses (from Wikipedia) "rely on patent law, rather than copyright law. Whereas a copyright license may control the distribution of the source code or design documents, a patent license may control the use and manufacturing of the physical device built from the design documents." So basically, without a patent, you can't really protect your hardware, since without an actual patent, you can't really legally enforce any licenses on your hardware. So the epoxy might be the best way.

If you're an American, you might want to look into the Provisional Patent. It's basically something that tells the patent office that you're going to file a patent on device X within a year. You have to basically write out most of your patent, but the filing fee is only a few hundred dollars for a small entity. This gives you the freedom to get a patent if it turns out to be really successful, while not costing a fortune if you figure it's not worth it to get a full patent. It's also only valid in America.

Just an aside, have you thought about open-sourcing your code? If you don't really care about that part of your design, having software interfaces to a variety of different controllers would really be an asset to the open-source community, if just to have it all in one place.

Shoot, looking at your spreadsheet, it doesn't look like you're supporting the Wiimote. I'm looking for someone who can supply me with the plugs that fit into the Wiimote...

Alan Chatham
OpenChord.org
No more buttons! Play guitar games with a real guitar controller.

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i have gone though this myself before, although my "product" was nothing electrical or related in any way. i investigated getting a patent and was quoted $20000 AUD. after talking to a few people the best solution i was told is; if you can make the product for cheaper than anyone else, and only put a small margin of profit, say less that 30%, there is very little chance that anyone would try to copy it for them self or for a profit as it is not worth it. the big problem these days is people are to greedy any try to get to much money for nothing, in my opinion, that greed is what caused the GFC.

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alan.chatham , Actually it really is open source at the moment. I'm a big fan of open source and I have helped a number of people in the past few years. All of my code is indeed search-able in parts. After all, I needed to borrow some logic myself. I wanted to patent the idea of uniting it all in one box, along with a few other traits. From reading the "rants" it is clear to me that patents are BS.. I'm going to stay clear of it.

On the subject of wii, I will say I support a lot more then what on my list. but the list only contains those that fit on the 168. If I wanted to add everything I can support I would need the 328. Any how that being said, I'm a mountain of resource for this type of thing.. see link.

http://slotcover.wordpress.com/2009/03/12/wii-extension-controller-to-usb-project/

He stopped dev a ways back but it does work. I made a few changes, just cant squeeze it in the 168 with the others yet.

--
Ah, after re-reading your post I think your more so after the plug, maybe he can help you on that one.

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Hmm, I understand you are worried because you made a nice software that can autodetect which proprietary game controller is used, and would like to make a few bucks with it.

However, how do you know that someone does not have a patent on those controllers or electrical buses they use, and by making something that is compatible with it, you get sued? For example this is the reason most AVRs, FPGA cores etc use SD cards in SPI mode, because the native mode is patented, and making a native mode bus host needs royalty payments.

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the thought crossed my mind, I figured the patent layer would have looked in to it.

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Stu,
Totally agree with you. I wouldn't really call that comment a rant.
Just more information to those that haven't been through the process.
Yes, the lawyers. I've been on both sides of patents.
It's no fun when companies like IBM & ATT start throwing threatening letter after letter at your company to try to block your products on the grounds of patent claim violations.

It eats up your time and costs tons of money to have to go through all their letters and prove that you are not in violation of their patent claims.
And in some cases you really will have to license something from them or make cross licensing agreements.

I've also had to schedule engineering development meetings where we keep the lawyers on speakerphone during the entire meeting so that any/all discussion would be part of privileged conversation.

In one instance, I was involved with invalidating an ATT patent on the grounds of prior art.

I think it isn't so much that patents suck or are BS so much as how they are currently often used as offensive weapons to shut down smaller/weaker potential competitors that sucks.

I also think it sucks that in today's world it is much easier to get a patent issued that shouldn't be granted than to get the patent that shouldn't have been granted thrown out.

--- bill

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I would agree with not patenting your idea. I worked for a company (3M) that lives on innovation, and they gave us various seminars on intellectual property, ideas, etc. Patents only give you the a basis for suing.

Anyway, one concept that works well is 'trade secret'. Don't tell anybody how you do it, and protect your idea. That's what Coke(tm) does. They probably keep the recipe in a mason jar on Funk and Wagnall's porch. Anyway, have you ever seen the recipe for actual Coke(tm)? I think not.

So, count me in with the epoxy it or whatever crowd. The exception might be if you knew that you could patent it -- and then sell the patented idea.

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As the OP said it the firmware is open source, he only wants to patent the fact that it is a multiprotocol universal game controller.

Since it is open source, I don't think it would be very hard to figure out the hardware either.

I totally agree with barrte. If you are honest and open about your project and you sell it for relatively cheap, everyone will realize that they are a lot better off buying it from you. I am pretty sure you will get a lot of support if they like your product.

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thx Frank, Yeah it pretty much needs to be open source IMO, most the code I assembled ( %60 of it) came from open source examples. I like the responses from this topic and feel they helped easy my mind.