Plans, kits, licensing, IP....

Discussion in 'General Experimental Aviation Questions' started by Pacha, Dec 11, 2019.

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  1. Dec 13, 2019 #41

    Topaz

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    Lovely. Another overly-broad trademark, and let me guess: Registered, at that. >eyeroll<

    The system got pretty bad for many years. We've started to see some signs of sanity creeping back in the last 3-4 years, but it has a long way to go.
     
  2. Dec 13, 2019 #42

    cheapracer

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    They were drawn up during a build, very likely plenty of vodka was drunk during the process ....




    The opposite, an affordable copy of a Vans is likely to be the most successful path to follow.

    The things are so difficult to build it would put many off that plan anyway, no wonder it takes so long to build one, maybe that was intentional ...
     
  3. Dec 13, 2019 #43

    Topaz

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    If you used the "legit" plans to make a part, then immediately measured that part and made duplicate drawings, a good IP attorney has pretty decent odds to successfully frame that as a form of "copying" the original plans, with the part itself as the intermediary "medium." The rudder itself as "copying machine," no different than if you put the original plans into a Xerox machine. Buying up an airplane completed by a total stranger and tearing that down to create new drawings would probably be a lot easier to defend.

    To each their own, but I wouldn't do it, myself. There are a lot of people who like and support Van's, and a lot of suppliers who depend on that firm's designs for a substantial portion of their revenue. The same people and suppliers that you'd want "on your side" if you did your own design. Nothing says those people have to do business with you if they don't want, and that makes doing business at all with that exact type, using a lot of the same specialty parts, quite a lot harder. The homebuilt community is pretty tight-knit. For example, I wouldn't necessarily count on the people who build and sell engines or landing gear components for Van's various designs to want to do business with you, if you're directly copying a Van's design and undercutting Van's on price. They don't have to, and they won't want to jeopardize their relationship with Van's, who is almost certainly a bread-and-butter client. That could put a crimp in your plans real fast.

    I know you're just talking hypothetically, but I think there are bigger issues than just the IP and FAA regs. YMMV, as always.
     
  4. Dec 13, 2019 #44

    BoKu

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    More to the point, Vans has their system dialed, and it would be very difficult to undercut them and still make it pencil. I crunched some numbers on the RV-8 a while back, and found that a lot of the kit parts are priced not very far above retail prices for the raw materials. They are clearly getting decent volume discounts on what the buy, and they run a tight ship on the floor where they do the punching and braking. I wouldn't look forward to trying to compete in their space.
     
    Last edited: Dec 13, 2019
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  5. Dec 13, 2019 #45

    cheapracer

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    Am I?
     
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  6. Dec 13, 2019 #46

    GeeZee

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    Thanks Topaz for the great explanation. Timely thread. I’m considering a Stolp starlet. Aircraft Spruce owns the rights. To buy plans from them you have to sign and return a license agreement. Some of the requirements seem reasonable (like building only one plane from one set of plans) some I’m not so sure. If I sign this I agree to build to the plans. Also I agree to not use these plans in the “design, construction or manufacture” of another airplane. This last one is concerning. In its most liberal interpretation I’d be prevented from designing a tube and fabric parasol aircraft.
    https://www.aircraftspruce.com/catalog/pdf/STARLET_SA_500.pdf
     
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  7. Dec 13, 2019 #47

    BoKu

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    I wouldn't sweat it too much. It's unlikely they'd prevail in court unless you were really egregious, so they are unlikely to pursue civil action. Just don't poke the bear, and you'll be fine.
     
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  8. Dec 13, 2019 #48

    Topaz

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    This. Good advice.

    What you're seeing, GeeZee, is their legal department trying to avoid liability for you creating a clearly-similar derivative design, and your family coming after them for some alleged fault that killed you, should it happen, that can somehow be tied back to the original Stolp plans they sold to you.

    Your derivative design would clearly have to be based on theirs for that clause to really take effect. Just being a similar configuration, build material, or "type", would be a far too broad interpretation to be reasonable in court.

    If you ever want to design your own airplane, design your own airplane. Unless you directly copied some significant aspects of the other design, all the liability for it will rest completely on your shoulders alone, and Aircraft Spruce won't care. Isn't that a comfort? :D
     
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  9. Dec 13, 2019 #49

    GeeZee

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    Hmmm, well I was thinking of a Starlet with more wing in order to be LSA compliant. Maybe even tube and gusset.... so buying Starlet plans is out.
    I don’t think I can live with that agreement so I guess it’ll be a new design “wasp wing” parasol.
     
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  10. Dec 13, 2019 #50

    ScaleBirdsScott

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    Another option is find an aircraft design you like and simply buy the rights from the owner, and thus be the new owner of the design art. Many have done just this (including a few on this forum) and I know of at least 2-3 aircraft designs right now that could be purchased outright (in some cases with various airframes, components, and tooling) for about the price of a comparable kit. So for someone who was amped to get into making them, it's pretty-much the easiest path to being an aircraft/kit manufacturer (not that it's actually easy in any case). Many designs have been abandoned, forgotten, or cast to the 4-winds, and are ripe to be brought back into the limelight.
     
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  11. Dec 13, 2019 #51

    GeeZee

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    Yep, our very own “Addicted” is one of them. I bought the Li’l Bitts plans and it’s still at the top of the list but I’ve always liked the looks of the Starlet ( with a Verner 5si of course). I doubt the Starlet rights would be available from Spruce. As a matter of fact they are thinking more and more of them. The plans started out at $100 then went to $125 and now they are listed at $195. Personally I’m not interested in selling plans or kits. If I modified a current aircraft, say made a Airdrome D-III sorta look like a Starlet. I’d offer Mr Baslee my dwgs for free. If he was not interested then it would just be a one-off.
     
  12. Dec 13, 2019 #52

    Tiger Tim

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    I like that term a lot. Probably enough to steal it for my own parasol...
     
  13. Dec 13, 2019 #53

    GeeZee

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    I don’t think it’s my creation but it’s all yours :)
    The Starlet wings don’t look quite elliptical but maybe they are. There’s also the “Majorette” with a similar wing planform.
     
  14. Dec 13, 2019 #54

    Dana

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    I'm not sure about the Starlet, but assuming it's like the Starduster, they're "pseudo" elliptical: between the costs the ribs are all the same, behind the rear spar the ribs are different, to give that gorgeous curve (and thus the airfoil varies as well), and the wingtip is rounded front and back to complete the shape.
     
  15. Dec 13, 2019 #55

    BJC

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    Correct.


    BJC
     
  16. Dec 13, 2019 #56

    TFF

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    Aircraft Spruce became a repository for plans that essentially would have made it into a bin. Their service to the community was to buy the classic designs that would have disappeared. I read that they may sell 100 plans total a year, so they are not making their money back. They are just trying to keep around founders of the hobby designs. They don't care and are not watching. If anything if you do sell a design, they make money selling materials; their prime business.

    If you look at lots of classic rag and tube plans, there is rarely anything different in any of them. Very little magic, so taking stock in something different means its pretty much like everyone else's. If you go aluminum tube, non of the plans count anymore for known design; you are just making pretty shapes then if you copy them. It can be good or bad but its no the same.

    If no one copied a design, there would only be Piets,Tailwinds, Pitts, Flybabys, Playboys, and EZs. The Aerodromes would not have been around without hang gliders.
     
  17. Dec 13, 2019 #57

    gtae07

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    To the point, I have a full set of (scratch-buildable) Sonex plans, and an in-progress Van's kit. For both, I had to sign and notarize an agreement/license to the effect of "I agree that I will only build one (insert aircraft) and this right is not transferable without the written permission of (aircraft company)". I purchased my Van's kit secondhand and had to contact them to formally transfer the builder number; I had to sign that agreement to formalize everything. Sonex has a similar process, and I'm sure nearly all other kit/plans sellers do as well.

    Of course, there are additional checks too. As others have noted, Van's doesn't sell scratch-buildable plans any more (many dimensions were removed from the old plans, and the new plans are mostly assembly prints, not fabrication ones). You pretty much have to buy the parts from them one way or another*. Sonex, IIRC, uses a proprietary extrusion for their spar caps, and will only sell you one shipset of that extrusion.

    Finally, one can have a set of "preview plans" and the build manual from Van's; those are available in electronic format for $10 and they'll happily sell them to anyone. Without the kit, the plans are useless; without a signed agreement, they won't sell you a kit. I'd suspect it's just a copy of the electronic preview plans.



    *I know a guy who built an RV-6A insanely cheap without buying a single part from Van's--he scrounged and bought a bunch of stuff secondhand. He still had to sign the agreement to get the final paperwork though.
     
    Last edited: Dec 13, 2019
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  18. Dec 13, 2019 #58

    Dana

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    One aspect nobody mentioned is that you buy a set of plans with such an agreement, build a plane, and then give or sell the plans to somebody else who builds a second copy, you are in violation of the agreement, but the second guy who builds the copy isn't.
     
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  19. Dec 13, 2019 #59

    Topaz

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    Depending on how the original sales contract is set up, that's almost certainly not true. If the original transaction includes a license to use the published material - plans, builder's manual - and the new owner doesn't sign an agreement with the company, he/she doesn't have a license to use the plans to build an aircraft. Since there can be no IP protection on the "design" of the aircraft itself, sure, someone could build one from scratch using "other knowledge," to inform the build. Buy someone else's copy of the airplane and take it apart, basically. But the second guy can't build a copy from the plans.

    The key is the copyright on the plans and on the construction manual. Copyright doesn't just mean someone can't copy your work, it also means that they can't use it without the copyright owner's permission. Legally, that "permission" is in the form of a license, granted by the sales contract, to use the plans and builder's manual to do "x", whatever the company decides it wants to allow and, in this case, "build one (1) copy of the design shown in the plans."

    This is a very central part of my work in the graphic design field, so my own business is a useful example. A "work for hire" relationship means that any "work" (in the sense of art, writing, ideas, etc.) created by the employee generates an automatic copyright on the work for the employer. But I have an independent business. A "work for hire" relationship doesn't exist between myself and my clients (and is specifically disclaimed in my contract), so the copyright for any "work" that I create, even on behalf of my client, belongs to me upon creation of that work. I then bestow "usage rights" on the client to use the work for terms I choose, as part of the contract for the project, in exchange for payment. Because of the kind of design I do, my own terms are pretty darned loose - pretty much "use it however you want, forever" - but professional illustrators, painters, and other artists who might be able to sell a given work several times often have usage rights terms limiting the client to use for a specific time period ("two years"), a particular type of use, ("one time placement in the magazine, Example Times"), or even a limited number of reproductions, ("you are licensed to reproduce 500,000 impressions of the work"). In the case of airplane plans, the usage rights granted might be, "build one (1) copy of the design shown in the plans." Other stipulations in the contract would cover transfer of the plans to another party, under what circumstances that's allowed, and may even prohibit the original purchaser from transferring the plans at all until the prospective buyer has signed a contract - a license agreement - with the company. Remember, the company can stipulate pretty much anything (legal) they want.

    So if Guy 1 buys a set of plans and, in exchange for that payment, is granted a license to build one (1) airplane from that set of plans, does so, subsequently sells them, and Guy 2 then builds a plane from them without ever contacting the company for a license, they're probably both in trouble. Guy 1 transferred the plans without the new owner signing an agreement with the company, and may also be in violation of a stipulation that he won't allow someone else to build from them. Guy 2 is using the plans and construction manual to build a copy of the design without license to use the plans and construction manual for that purpose. He's in violation of the copyright on those publications.

    IP is a tangled web. Some of it is law, some of it is just whatever someone stipulates in a contract. If it's done well, that contract pretty much binds everyone to the terms the company chooses. It's then upon the company to actually enforce those terms, but that's another subject entirely.
     
  20. Dec 13, 2019 #60

    cheapracer

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    What "final" paperwork?

    You mean for naming rights to call it a Vans? or else?
     

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