[Discuss] discuss Digest, Vol 9, Issue 27

Chris Church thisdroneeatspeople at gmail.com
Thu Feb 28 21:25:31 UTC 2013

Hi Matt,

On Feb 28, 2013, at 2:27 PM, Matt Maier wrote:

> I have a hard time with the idea that where you put buttons on the front of an electronics enclosure will rise to enough of a level of "distinctive" to actually distinguish your product from other products. Seems like you'd have to put an awful lot of effort into it, like how Apple puts so much effort into that one-button on the bottom middle layout.

I am referring to distinctive design elements which are machined as part of the enclosure which are not functional - i.e. where material rises, drops, overhangs, and additions are made to create a distinct shape to identify the product.  We are even spending time and R&D dollars to encourage the placement of hands on our new products such that the interaction with it seems more natural and obvious.  

(Of course, I still would argue that in the case I'm referring to, the functionality of the design is not inhibited in any way by the lack of an enclosure.)  

Sharing a design that is not the design sold is not "sharing the product's design files," in my opinion -- it is morally equivalent to swapping out components between the schematics you share and what you actually produce.

I think we see where most currently stand on the issue regarding design elements of enclosures, so I'd rather not distract us any longer from the remainder of the discussion, which I think is more to the overall point.  (But if you like, I'm not going to try and get in your way =)

> As for protecting yourself from clones by not releasing your front-panel source files, that only makes sense if the files have some kind of distinctive decoration embeded in them, like if the CNC machine carves your logo into the corner. Otherwise you're saving the cloner (a professional) like an hour of work measuring the holes. An amateur, on the other hand, will probably have a lot more trouble recreating a source file for the panel. So you're creating a larger barrier to entry for the people you want to participate in the open project, without really slowing a professional cloner down at all.

As I said, anyhow, we release all files necessary for a person to create their own enclosure (3d models of all parts, including the populated circuit board).  The question being there: do you need to enable a person, or demonstrate an exact model?  But, you answer that below...   

> Besides, you can always release the files under a non-commercial license (or any license you feel like making up on the spot). The sort of people who are going to blatantly copy the product aren't going to care about the license at all anyway. But you can't get support or participation from the open source community if they don't have the files to work with.

Is that to say that we should encourage the use of noncommercial licenses?  Thats seems less-than-open to me, but I'm sure some would disagree.

I disagree with the final statement - I have direct experience with it, and the open-source community can well differentiate functional parts from non-functional parts.  (We have been selling products under this model since 2010, and the only complaints we've had about not sharing our enclosure files have been from people who want to make their own enclosures for sale and found it too cumbersome to do the design work themselves from the provided files. We also have several individuals selling upgraded enclosures, or enclosures for those who make their devices from our designs, without any herculean effort, and to be honest, they've told us that they appreciated that we created a market opportunity for them. YMMV and all that.)

I'm also not entirely sure that cloning is a given in niche markets where there is no open-source. Tight-knit markets are less forgiving of clones than large-scale consumer markets. 

> You could also release an inverted file. Instead of handing out the file that describes the actual enclosure, release a file that describes the negative space that needs to be carved out of whatever the enclosure is made out of. That's totally just function, not form, and it would be easy for amateurs to just subtract that volume from any shape they want to get a file that will enclose the project.

I fail to see how two ways of achieving the same thing (a 3d model which can be used to design an enclosure around [simply intersect with a material], or a 2d drawing of holes) differ so greatly. Do not both achieve the same end goal?

But, I submit the second question from my earlier post again: on what basis do we draw barriers, and say "failure to share an enclosure design makes it not fully-open source," and at the same time "failure to share the design of components needed for the basic operation of the device can still result in the device being fully open-source?"  

Do we succinctly define the rule which one uses to measure the openness of the design such that anyone could come to the same conclusion, or do we rely on a panel of experts at a governing body to make the decision? I feel in many ways, that an elephant this discussion is leading us to.


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