Thinking about making a robot for sale. Robot will consist of
mechanical, electrical, and computing. So I looked up "Robotics" at
the Patent office - there are about 6,000 patents! And software has
about 185,000 patents!
Q: If my robot mechanics couldn't be patent, should I pay royalties or
built something close but not exactly? Also, every computer program is
slightly reorganized. What constitutes a program infringement? Thanks.
In order to get a patent your product / robot / software etc must have a
It is the feature / method of achieving something that gets patented.
Thus you could not simply patent a robot, but you would patent "using x to
achieve y in z environment".
If you phone the patent office they'll probably be able to explain things to
you a bit clearer, and also look up existing patents that relate to your
You pay the person who sells you them, who paid the factory who manufactures
them, who paid the company who designed the specific model of gyroscope you
bought, who in turn paid the guy who invented it. Except the gyroscopic
effect is a fundamental physical property, and almost certainly isn't in
itself patentable. However, a device that uses the effect in an ingenious
way, such as a gyrocompass, is patentable.
So, paying for the gyroscope is enough, assuming the person who sold you it
is authorised to sell it in the first place.
There may be certain criteria, just like software licenses, though they
aren't usually explicitly stated in many other products. The only one you
probably need to worry about is if you use a patented technology or process
as a component of a device you yourself want to patent or sell commercially.
I think (in some cases) you need permission of the patent holder of the
component in order to use it in a commercial product of your own.
(obviously, you don't need to explicitly ask for this for everything, eg a
certain type of basic logic chip like AND gates or soemthing which will have
patented design, but say in the case of the latest processor, you may need
to pay for the right to use it's interface protocols or something in order
to interface with it)
This is all mostly guesswork and gut feeling, however. The golden rule is:
For private/hobby use, just forget about it. For any kind of profitable
enterprise or mass production or anything, do your homework and get
professional legal advice.
By the way, applying for a patent is expensive, but copyright is free and
automatic, as long as you have proof of when you created the thing.
Interestingly, software seems to be covered by copyright, because it's
technically a document, though patentable processes could still be stolen
simply by writing the functions to do them differently, so in the case of
software, you may actually need both, or may be able to get away with just a
copyright (which is free!) in the right circumstances.
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