Copyrights and design

Hi, i was thinking asking someone in private, but i am sure that it can be interesting for everyone.

To make it clear, what is possible to do and what is not… if someone can tell us precisely ?
i make a serie of simple questions regarding those restrictions, with in mind (important !) a free and open source module… but to know also about commercial modules can be an enlightment for some of us…

1/ Can we use an existing logo or name from an existing company ? (i am sure not, but i ask)
2/ can we imitate the design (existing hardware) and color ?
3/ what if… :smiley: if we change just one letter to the name of the brand ? … “Behringore” :smiley:
4/ can we duplicate the “electronic scheme” of an existing hardware, must have a patent anyway ?
5/ can we integrate/use free licensed sound/samples files in our modules ?
6/ and finally, can we modify an existing open source module and fork it indefinitely ?, what are the basic “needs” to be able to release a new custom version ?

ok, i mean, that should be clarified, anyway, and for everyone… i hope i am not disturbing here… and i am sure that i am not alone, asking those details… bye

There are three types of intellectual property (IP): copyright, trademark, and patent.

In general, don’t use others’ IP without their permission. It may be illegal and/or make the owner of the IP upset. You have a number of options if you wish to use someone’s IP.

  • Ask them. They may outright say “no” or may say “yes” with conditions.
  • Understand IP law enough, or ask a lawyer, to make a decision without asking them. Note that a lawyer will only tell you if you are breaking the law—they cannot know whether the owner will be upset.
  • Use it without asking, risking breaking the law and/or making the owner upset.
  • Don’t use the IP but create original works instead.

Here’s what I can answer.

Read the license to make sure you’re following its conditions. If you follow the conditions, you don’t need to ask for the owner’s permission—they’ve already given it to you.

If the open-source license allows forks (as it should, assuming the license is truly open-source), then you can fork it under the conditions of the license. Read the open-source license for more details of its conditions.

Note there may be other non-source-code IP comprising a plugin, e.g. graphics, samples, trademark, etc. Make sure you have permission to use those too if you decide to include that IP in your fork.

1 Like

I would like to answer the 5 question. It depends on the specific licensing terms of the sound/samples files you want to use. Some free licensed sound/samples files may have restrictions on how they can be used, such as requiring attribution or prohibiting commercial use. It’s important to carefully review the licensing terms for each file you want to use to ensure that you are complying with any restrictions. In general, it’s a good idea to err on the side of caution and follow the terms of the license for any free licensed sound/samples files you want to use. You can also consult online with a lawyer. I have found a good lawyer regarding article 120 UCMJ on the Internet.

So in the UK IIRC IP is:

Copyright: Lasts 70 years (excluding Peter Pan which has a Royal Perpetuity). Anything older than this can be freely used.

Trade Mark: Lasts as long as they keep payments up and must be licenced.

Patent: Lasts 20 years. Must be licenced. The only logical defence is the demonstration of Prior Art (art of technology existing before application for patent grant).

Registered Design: Kind of a hybrid between patent, copyright and iconic traded product (a mark of origin). Never do one of these as it’s kind of impersonation and illegal in places.


MIT is a very free licence. But there are many. It is not possible to supersede a licence which you do not have a right to change unless the licence allows it.