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Old 02-16-2001, 10:35 AM   #1
Jon Bogert
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Question Intellectual property, patents, and tuner parts

I was reading the short shifter thread, where some of the people who supply short shifters had an issue with someone else trying to produce yet another short shifter.

Short shifters are a bad example, as anyone can look at an Impreza shifter and figure out how to make the throw shorter. But what real protection is there for an innovator in the aftermarket parts biz? Certainly no one could patent their short shifter, so what can a vendor like Kartboy or Trey do to protect their R&D investment?

Given that Impreza owners seem to be willing to wait three months and send an envelope of small bills to Alaska to save $5 on a part, this is a real issue. Any comments?
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Old 02-16-2001, 10:54 AM   #2
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I think that that statement couldn't be further from the truth. of course there are SOME people who are that cheap, but i think that just by the fact that we have impreza's we cannot be put in that group. If that were true, how would anyone sell a prodrive RB5 wing? they cost over $700. The simple fact that we drive imprezas tells me that we aren't willing to settle for less than the best, and are willing to pay the price for that if necessary. I am not saying that there are not people who are cheap like you said, but that comment is a gross overgeneralization. I don't agree with the guy who made the short shifter himself, or anyone else who steals other's intellectual property, but like he said, he wanted to make the shifter because he COULD. there is a sense of accomplishment behind doing it yourself that goes far deeper than saving a few bucks.

But back to the matter at hand. You are absolutely right... there is not a whole lot protecting your intellectual property in this business, a lot of times you have to rely on your name to sell your product over a clone... and know that the people who know what is going on will come back for your quality. Like you eluded to, there are only so many designs for a short shifter, or an intake, or exhaust, but cobb is still the only place you can get an intake like their cold air system... Intellectual property is really self policing in a situation like this.
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Old 02-16-2001, 02:14 PM   #3
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Justin, there's no moral difference between you improving Kartboy's shifter and Kartboy improving Subaru's shifter. Whether there's a legal implication I don't know. I suspect that producing an exact copy of a part, whether it's STI's or anyone else's, is another matter. I really don't know the answer to this--I was hoping someone would have an idea.
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Old 02-16-2001, 08:39 PM   #4
vinman
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First of all, if there is no patent or copyright on a design then its fair game - anybody that has the tools can replicate it. Never mind morals, everybody has a different set of morals and ideas on what's "right" or "wrong".
I don't think the current vendors like Kartboy, Ganz, Cobb, etc have anything to worry about since anybody that is going to replicate and mass produce a part they must have the means to do so, do it on a large scale, consistently reproduce quality, and except the liability that comes along with selling people a piece of equipment that may or not have a negative effect. And don;t even bother discussing warnings and disclaimers, every OEM has warnings printed on boxes, instructions, and stamped into their parts and they still get sued.

One more thing, even if somebody does have a patent on a design then it is up to the person holding the patent to pursue any legal action (at their cost) against anyone infringing upon it. Hence, if somebody makes a one-off for his/her own use, its not worth the trouble and expense to go after them.

[This message has been edited by vinman (edited February 16, 2001).]
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Old 02-16-2001, 09:19 PM   #5
Jon Bogert
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vinman, I think you're a bit off.

I did some reading, and I believe the area of law that applies is trademark protection, specifically trade dress.

If you come up with a short shifter that completely redesigns the linkage in a whole new way, you could patent it. If your shifter is distinctive, but isn't so revolutionary as to be patentable, you can still trademark the design. For example, you can't put your soft drink in a coke shaped bottle not because Coke has a patent on the bottle, but they have a trademark on the design of the bottle.

I believe that, if they haven't already, the innovative aftermarket parts manufacturers should register their designs with PTO. I wonder if any have...

[This message has been edited by Jon Bogert (edited February 16, 2001).]
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Old 02-17-2001, 01:56 AM   #6
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it really wasnt to save money, but to revise a design? example: none of the short shifters levers i have seen have a seat so that the shifter boot does not fall down. my design now will, and $15-$40 could be used towards bushings instead right. i am in no way producing the lever, it was strictly for fun. but my draft is out there for everyone to use, and use as an example

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