Protecting design ideas

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I am after some information on protecting electronic design ideas.

I am outsourcing a electronic design engineer form another country because
they have a lot of experience in the area I am after.

They will be responsible for design PCB, firmware, and maybe enclosure
design.

Now I need to protect my ideas before I submit them so they cant start
manufacturing my ideas.

Regards
Tim



Re: Protecting design ideas



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Not at all easy. You can apply the standard protection methods such as
patenting, but that doesn't guarantee that someone won't pinch your idea. If
they do then your only recourse is legal action, which costs heaps. If the
action involves offshore parties, then you're dealing in a bigger ballgame
again, possibly different legal systems and having to send legal teams to
other countries. Work it out yourself. Can you imagine fighting a case
against a large company in China?

For starters you can put non-disclosure clauses in your contracts, but that
doesn't guarantee anything, particularly if your IP is significant.

Best approach is probably to arrange things so that you only need to divulge
stuff that doesn't give away your IP.



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You can try sticking it all in one of the new secure FPGA's, like the
Xilinx Spartan 3AN:
http://www.xilinx.com/products/silicon_solutions/fpgas/spartan_series/spartan3an_fpgas/index.htm
Xilinx designed these devices to solve that exact problem, the third
party design house will never know what the design does, and it will
be practically impossible for then to reverse engineer it.

BUT, if you let them write the firmware then you could be giving the
whole game away. It depends on how much of your design can be done in
programmable hardware, and how much is done in firmware.

Dave.


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It could be helpful to put a useless component or two in the design in a
position that an expert witness could see serves no purpose, so that it is
more obvious in any legal proceedings that they have ripped off your
design. (Sort of like the two school kids that both made exactly the same
errors in the maths test.)  Same with any firmware, e.g. tell the judge to
hold down these three buttons, and the screen shows "This code was stolen
from Tim..."

Chris

Re: Protecting design ideas



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There were several errors in the original IBM PC BIOS code which later
allowed proving that some BIOS from Asian countries was copied from the
original and not written from scratch as IBMs copyright required.
These were errors discovered as time went on, not traps originally set
to catch the copiers.

--
john G.



Re: Protecting design ideas


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Map makers do exactly this, due to the high cost of production and the
ease of ripping off someone else's map.

Some part of the coastline will zig where it should zag, or zag where it
should zig. Or a street name will be mispelled (or even be wrong). That
way they know when some other company rips off their maps.

Cheers!
Rick Measham

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To protect your intellectual property you would have to minimise the information
given to the subcontractor, such that they would only have enough infomation to
construct the basis of what you require, but not enough information to build a
fully
working product. If you could develop the firmware locally the construction
could
be done overseas. Programming, final assembly and testing could be done locally.

If the engineering company that you want to use has experience in the field of
your
idea, ensure that your idea hasn't already been developed.


Re: Protecting design ideas


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My first protection effort was around 1979, on a Z80 system, and 2716
eprom. I swapped D6 and D7 to the eprom & hardware, and placed version
text into it, so that it would appear normal when read by a programmer. :-)

Trapped everyone, including me at times.

If I was in your position, I feel I would be getting the job done by two
sources.

Get the manufacturer to create the hardware and diagnostic software that
will fully test the design.

Using the diag source code, get some one you trust, to tune it to your
needs. If you have all the I/O routines, tuning should be fairly simple.

As long as the diag program doesn't fully produce, what you want the
final product to do.

Don...







--
Don McKenzie

Site Map:            http://www.dontronics.com/sitemap
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Re: Protecting design ideas


Thanks very much to all those that replied to my question.

I think the safest answer is to have two different sources design the
product (one for hardware and one for software).

It would be great if I could get the entire design from one source as it
would save a lot of time and money as this is estimated to cost in excess of
40k.

Once again thanks for all you help...

Regards
Tim

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Unless you put protection into the finished product, anyone may simply
be able to copy your finished product.

And the software people will usually need some hardware to develop on,
along with intricate details of how it works.

Dave.


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Yes that is correct. however I would prefer to fight a legal battle with
someone from Australia (Where I am form) rather than overseas.

Tim

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Sure, but what's to stop someone from *insert country* buying your
product and selling a copy over there?

If you are concerned with protecting your design, then you need to do
it both at the product level (reverse engineering) and the sub-
contractor design level.

Dave.


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Seriously, budget $100K and up for any Supreme Court action,

Doesnt make sense though, for a $40K project, unless your business plan
turnover is in the 8 digit range,

is it ?


--
Regards
Mike
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Re: Protecting design ideas


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This is one, of many, recipies for disaster...

Human communications, especially in 21st century, suffers.

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That is so cheap, doesnt gel if you want to protect it by patents or
trademarks,


--
Regards
Mike
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Re: Protecting design ideas


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Its very likely its been done before these days... so you are likely
wasting your time.

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If you are not talking exotic materials properties issues then you *are*
wasting your time.

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Why cant this be done by engineers in Australia ?

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Pointless these days, product lifecycle is so short its not worth the
effort, be ahead of the competition with up to date designs,


If you product business plan doesnt have 8 digits then forget it...!


--
Regards
Mike
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