Author Topic: How do I start an Open-Source Project?  (Read 2982 times)

0 Members and 1 Guest are viewing this topic.

Offline Pitron

  • Contributor
  • Posts: 33
  • Country: us
    • Pitron Project Website
How do I start an Open-Source Project?
« on: July 13, 2022, 03:24:19 pm »
For the past couple of months, I’ve been working on a tech startup that specializes in the design and manufacture of breadboard accessories.

I released my first product about three weeks ago. This product is a set of test leads with contacts specially designed for breadboard use.

However, my original design was too bulky. I’ve been using feedback from the EEVBlog community to create a revision of the test leads (Rev2), which is much slimmer. I attached a photo of our current design.

I plan to turn these test leads into an open-source project. I would like to know if anyone has any experience with starting an open-source project. If so, where do I begin?

Project Website: https://www.pitronllc.com/

This is a link to the EEVBlog forum where we have been working on the test leads design: https://www.eevblog.com/forum/projects/breadboard-test-leads/

Thank you for all the help.
« Last Edit: July 13, 2022, 03:49:43 pm by Pitron »
 

Offline lutkeveld

  • Regular Contributor
  • *
  • Posts: 110
  • Country: nl
Re: How do I start an Open-Source Project?
« Reply #1 on: July 14, 2022, 11:56:43 am »
The usual opensource project is a Github repository with all the design files (mechanical, hardware, software).
A good README page always helps.

By the way, I would fix the following typo on your site, it's a bit ironic :)
" Quailty. Is Our Standard."
 
The following users thanked this post: janoc, Pitron

Offline Picuino

  • Frequent Contributor
  • **
  • Posts: 539
  • Country: es
    • Picuino web
Re: How do I start an Open-Source Project?
« Reply #2 on: July 14, 2022, 01:29:31 pm »
1. If there are several of you, create an association (it is simple and cheap) to manage everything else in a more formal way.
2. Try to get the pitron.com site (it's your brand on the internet).
3. Register the Pitron brand so that nobody can use it (just like the managers of the open source project Arduino have done with their brand).
    https://www.usa.gov/federal-agencies/u-s-patent-and-trademark-office
4. Publish all the designs on Github (for example) so that they are available with CC BY-SA, GNU, etc. license. So that no one can say that those designs are someone else's.

 
The following users thanked this post: Pitron

Offline Picuino

  • Frequent Contributor
  • **
  • Posts: 539
  • Country: es
    • Picuino web
Re: How do I start an Open-Source Project?
« Reply #3 on: July 14, 2022, 01:36:20 pm »
pytron is a name very similar to Python.
Will it be easy to look it up on the internet?
Does it have any meaning in other languages?

Think twice about the name. You can do it now, later it will be very difficult to rebrand.
« Last Edit: July 14, 2022, 03:10:38 pm by Picuino »
 
The following users thanked this post: Pitron

Offline Pitron

  • Contributor
  • Posts: 33
  • Country: us
    • Pitron Project Website
Re: How do I start an Open-Source Project?
« Reply #4 on: July 14, 2022, 04:06:31 pm »
Thank you for the responses.

Should I patent my open-source project? Or is publishing the project online with an opensource license suitable?

Also, what is the difference between the open-source licenses, and which one would you recommend?

Thank you again for the help.
 

Offline T3sl4co1l

  • Super Contributor
  • ***
  • Posts: 20032
  • Country: us
  • Expert, Analog Electronics, PCB Layout, EMC
    • Seven Transistor Labs
Re: How do I start an Open-Source Project?
« Reply #5 on: July 14, 2022, 05:09:11 pm »
FYI, and IANAL, this isn't legal advice, etc. etc.

Patents are used to restrict the use of something, while in the process, telling exactly what that thing is, and how it works (since, how else could someone determine if they've violated it?).

Patents can be used in a de facto free manner (see: Tesla indicating their charger patents shall be free to use), but it seems like added cost for no benefit here.

An open design, of a manufactured part, particularly something with large barriers to entry -- for example, are those plastic parts molded? -- doesn't seem very useful for either party (mfg or customer), as it exposes your own product to copying, and your brand to dilution and counterfeiting (substandard parts being represented as, or confused with, your own).  Patenting can be used to protect the mechanical design itself, independent of trademarking, which helps with securing profits (you hold a monopoly over that design).

Keep in mind that patent litigation, these days, is immensely costly, largely used only as a cudgel by large corporations to bully around each other, or smaller corporations.  The cost of the patent itself is largely irrelevant (some $thousands for the paperwork, some $10...100k's for lawyers/artists to draw up?) while the cost of litigation dominates (millions).  Which can be used judiciously (actually protecting the thing), rent-seeking (extorting settlements out of potential violators; see also: copyright trolls), or strategically (the case isn't actually meritorious or intended to win, but conducting it just to bully the opponent with $M's of their own legal fees to run them down).

Note that patent and trademark are separate mechanisms.  You can still own the trademark, and prosecute violators of that mark -- whether or not the item it's on is patented.

Likewise, copyright is separate, and serves to protect an artwork rather than a method.  The product documentation would be copywritten, while the product might be patented.  Both might contain trademarks.

3D models/prints, I think are protected by copyright (would be something like sculpture law?), and needn't be patented necessarily, but mechanical things could be.  Note that a copywritten item could be modified (fair use) or imitated (an original work of similar nature, but not infringing) for the same functional purpose; whereas a patented item can't be modified or imitated for the same functional purpose (that function is protected), but can be modified or imitated for a substantially different purpose (while having largely the same apparent form).  I don't know offhand how exclusive these two roles are; presumably, an item could have both, and thus be protected from both kinds of reproduction.


As for publishing: having it online somewhere, as a whole design, with accessible formats (preferably industry standard interchange, e.g. PCB gerbers and (PDF?) schematics, 3D STEP or STL, etc.), is enough.  It can be on your own website, or any other place that hosts such (indeed, Github is a popular choice).

Like, I have a couple such things on my website; though small, and few of them (and I don't have an index enumerating them, so you're welcome to try and find them :P ).  Almost all my content is under default copyright conditions (I haven't registered anything; US law provides for an implicit creator copyright, and for which I can file a (retroactive?) registration if I need to file a lawsuit protecting something).

Tim
Seven Transistor Labs, LLC
Electronic design, from concept to prototype.
Bringing a project to life?  Send me a message!
 
The following users thanked this post: Pitron

Offline Picuino

  • Frequent Contributor
  • **
  • Posts: 539
  • Country: es
    • Picuino web
Re: How do I start an Open-Source Project?
« Reply #6 on: July 14, 2022, 05:32:00 pm »
It is also important to separate two types of copyright:

Programming code.
If it is open you can protect it with licenses such as GPL v3 or you can also protect it by not publishing it.
More information on https://www.gnu.org/licenses/gpl-3.0.html

Documentation, drawings, photographs, etc.
These can be copyrighted or you can publish them with open licenses such as Creative Commons.
Within the Creative Commons licenses I recommend BY-SA, which is the same as Wikipedia. You can also use the BY-NC-SA, which prevents others from using your documents to make money.
More information on https://creativecommons.org/
 
The following users thanked this post: Pitron

Offline Picuino

  • Frequent Contributor
  • **
  • Posts: 539
  • Country: es
    • Picuino web
Re: How do I start an Open-Source Project?
« Reply #7 on: July 14, 2022, 05:37:36 pm »
The history of Arduino can be inspiring for your project
https://arduinohistory.github.io/
 
The following users thanked this post: Pitron

Offline Picuino

  • Frequent Contributor
  • **
  • Posts: 539
  • Country: es
    • Picuino web
Re: How do I start an Open-Source Project?
« Reply #8 on: July 14, 2022, 05:44:19 pm »
It may also be interesting to launch the project on Kickstarter or other similar platform to fund it, advertise it and know the number of people interested in it.

There are several projects on Kickstarter that you can study to take an example from them.

https://www.easyship.com/blog/top-successful-kickstarter-projects
« Last Edit: July 14, 2022, 05:46:33 pm by Picuino »
 
The following users thanked this post: Pitron

Offline tunk

  • Frequent Contributor
  • **
  • Posts: 737
  • Country: no
Re: How do I start an Open-Source Project?
« Reply #9 on: July 14, 2022, 05:46:00 pm »
Also note that if you publish it, then it may not be patentable:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prior_art
 
The following users thanked this post: Pitron

Offline Picuino

  • Frequent Contributor
  • **
  • Posts: 539
  • Country: es
    • Picuino web
Re: How do I start an Open-Source Project?
« Reply #10 on: July 14, 2022, 05:53:12 pm »
You should study it, because it may be more interesting to publish it than to patent it or protect it in another way. That's what the Arduino team did. Publishing it was the way to be able to keep the project in their hands. And the Arduino trademark is the one that protects them from other similar products copied by the Chinese (it is open-hardware and anyone can copy it).

Many times it is better to protect it under a known brand name that will be more appreciated than similar products without this brand name (you can see Apple smartphones vs others). That is why I mentioned before the importance of a good name and logo protected by a registered trademark (R) not TM.
 
The following users thanked this post: Pitron

Offline Pitron

  • Contributor
  • Posts: 33
  • Country: us
    • Pitron Project Website
Re: How do I start an Open-Source Project?
« Reply #11 on: July 14, 2022, 06:03:00 pm »
Thank you for your help.

I don’t mind someone else using my design. I just want to prevent someone from taking the design and claiming it as their own. Or taking the design and attempting to patent it.

I read that Arduino uses “Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike 2.5” license. I considering using the same one.

Thanks again for your help.
 

Offline Pitron

  • Contributor
  • Posts: 33
  • Country: us
    • Pitron Project Website
Re: How do I start an Open-Source Project?
« Reply #12 on: July 14, 2022, 06:22:59 pm »
It may also be interesting to launch the project on Kickstarter or other similar platform to fund it, advertise it and know the number of people interested in it.

There are several projects on Kickstarter that you can study to take an example from them.

https://www.easyship.com/blog/top-successful-kickstarter-projects

I would like to do a Kickstarter. However, I not sure how to drive traffic to the Kickstarter campaign.
 

Offline Fred27

  • Supporter
  • ****
  • Posts: 716
  • Country: gb
    • Fred's blog
Re: How do I start an Open-Source Project?
« Reply #13 on: July 15, 2022, 03:24:56 pm »
Should I patent my open-source project?
What exactly are you hoping to patent? A quick search shows existing products that appear to be the same as the one you're planning - e.g. https://www.amazon.co.uk/Cleqee-Breadboard-Jumper-Stackable-Silicone/dp/B08Q7PXVL9/ref=asc_df_B08Q7PXVL9
 

Offline Pitron

  • Contributor
  • Posts: 33
  • Country: us
    • Pitron Project Website
Re: How do I start an Open-Source Project?
« Reply #14 on: July 15, 2022, 04:07:10 pm »
Hi Fred27,

Thank you for bringing this to my attention. Those cables are very similar to the ones I’m working on. I might have to re-think the project.

I attached a copy of the updated design, for those that are interested.
 

Offline janoc

  • Super Contributor
  • ***
  • Posts: 3631
  • Country: de
Re: How do I start an Open-Source Project?
« Reply #15 on: July 15, 2022, 06:56:00 pm »
I think patented open source is an oxymoron. Patent pretty much ensures whatever you have published is not really open and free to use because there are major strings attached.

I think it would help if you would formulate what you are actually hoping to achieve and what you understand under that "open source project".

Making something open source (i.e. freely as in freedom available to others) under some sort of permissive license is not something one imagines when talking about breadboard leads.

Thank you for your help.

I don’t mind someone else using my design. I just want to prevent someone from taking the design and claiming it as their own. Or taking the design and attempting to patent it.

How much money do you have for lawyers? Keep in mind that copyright, trademark or even a patent don't do anything for you by themselves apart from pulling (a LOT) of money out of your pocket for filing them and the annual maintenance fees (for trademarks and patents). They are only  the "ammunition" you can use in court when you want to stop someone from using your idea.

Do you want to go to court over your breadboard leads? Patent suits costs start at a $1 million or so, with uncertain result. You could spend millions and years litigating and lose everything including your patent (patent invalidation is a common defense) in the end.  And that assumes you are litigating in the US. Good luck trying to litigate a patent against some company in China, for example - not that it isn't possible but you will need to add at least one more zero  to that legal budget ...

And nobody else will enforce a patent or copyright for you, you (or, well, your lawyers) must do it yourself. Trademark you may even lose if you don't enforce it. Oh and you have to do it worldwide, or wherever you have applied for the patent protection for - it is done (and paid!) separately for EU, for US, for China ...

Also note that if you publish it, then it may not be patentable:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prior_art


Not true. Of course you can patent what you have published. Prior art applies to work published by someone else which could prevent you from patenting that idea later because you have obviously not been the first one who thought about it.

Now whether it is smart to publish stuff before you file the patent (and thus have potentially someone else patent it before you - not every publication counts as prior art) is another matter.


EDIT: the above is not right, publishing (and even talking about) an invention could well prevent one from getting a patent later. See: https://www.science.org/content/article/patent-first-publish-later-how-not-ruin-your-chances-winning-patent and do consult an IP attorney if considering a patent!
« Last Edit: July 16, 2022, 09:11:54 am by janoc »
 

Offline Pitron

  • Contributor
  • Posts: 33
  • Country: us
    • Pitron Project Website
Re: How do I start an Open-Source Project?
« Reply #16 on: July 15, 2022, 07:36:33 pm »
Thanks for your reply.

I don’t plan on getting a patent (even if I did, I wouldn’t enforce it). I was only wondering if a patent was part of the process.

My main goal with this project is to share all the design files of the test leads (architecture/design drawings, bill of materials, production/assembly instructions, and anything else that can enable others to replicate the test leads).

I decided to turn this into an open-source project with the hopes of receiving more feedback from EE community.
 

Offline janoc

  • Super Contributor
  • ***
  • Posts: 3631
  • Country: de
Re: How do I start an Open-Source Project?
« Reply #17 on: July 15, 2022, 10:28:02 pm »
Thanks for your reply.

I don’t plan on getting a patent (even if I did, I wouldn’t enforce it). I was only wondering if a patent was part of the process.

Well, a patent could be part of the process if you want to protect your intellectual property. Just it is at odds with the project being open and probably does way less than you think it does while costing a ton of money.

However, if all you care about is that someone doesn't grab your idea and patent it, for that it should be sufficient that your project is public. In case someone tried to file a patent on your idea, your published work would likely count as prior art and should be sufficient to have such patent invalidated (or not even granted). Of course, the devil is always in the details - that's what IP attorneys make big bucks on ... E.g. not every publication counts as prior art - you may want to check with an attorney or the patent office about that.

E.g. in France it is quite common to protect your idea against someone else trying to patent it by filing a special declaration with the patent office - "Hey look, I declare that on this day I have done X and Y." That doesn't give you any special rights (it is not a patent!) but it does explicitly establish prior art without having to publicly disclose what you are doing (e.g. for commercial reasons), in case someone tries something funny with patents in the future. And it doesn't cost you a dime. No idea whether something like that exists in the US too.

But practically speaking - forget about patents and this IP stuff. If you want to make a business, then first make your business profitable before you even think about patents and such. Yeah, IP attorneys will tell you that you must patent everything you even think about or you will go bankrupt - but they don't give a damn about you or your business, they live from your fees that you pay them to make those filings. Talk about vested interest ...

And if you aren't making a business and want to release the design as open source project, then you don't need to care about it. Even if someone tried to patent your idea (which I doubt), you have prior art. And even if they succeeded it probably wouldn't matter anyway because you wouldn't be able to afford to sue them (even trying to invalidate someone's patent is extremely time consuming and expensive). The same if some Chinese manufacturer copies your product verbatim - hoping to gain cause by suing them over a patent or something like that is completely futile.
« Last Edit: July 15, 2022, 10:37:32 pm by janoc »
 
The following users thanked this post: Picuino, Pitron

Offline Picuino

  • Frequent Contributor
  • **
  • Posts: 539
  • Country: es
    • Picuino web
Re: How do I start an Open-Source Project?
« Reply #18 on: July 15, 2022, 11:15:57 pm »
How much money do you have for lawyers? Keep in mind that copyright, trademark or even a patent don't do anything for you by themselves apart from pulling (a LOT) of money out of your pocket for filing them and the annual maintenance fees (for trademarks and patents). They are only  the "ammunition" you can use in court when you want to stop someone from using your idea.

I do believe that a trademark can do something. It is not more expensive than registering an internet domain and it gives you the security that you can use it without anyone taking it away from you. Just like registering a domain name on the Internet, which is similar to registering a trademark on the Internet.

https://www.uspto.gov/trademarks/basics/how-much-does-it-cost

In the case of Arduino (a successful open-source and open-hardware project), the only thing that differentiates them from other board manufacturers is the trademark. Only they can use that trademark and they make distributors sign an exclusivity contract so that when selling Arduino products they cannot also sell products cloned by the Chinese or anyone else.

But the first thing I would do would be to register the pitron.com domain.
« Last Edit: July 15, 2022, 11:20:51 pm by Picuino »
 

Offline Pitron

  • Contributor
  • Posts: 33
  • Country: us
    • Pitron Project Website
Re: How do I start an Open-Source Project?
« Reply #19 on: July 15, 2022, 11:33:20 pm »
But the first thing I would do would be to register the pitron.com domain.

I tried registering the pitron.com domain name. Unfortunately, someone already owns it.  :(

However, I was able to register the https://www.pitron.cc/ domain name.
« Last Edit: July 16, 2022, 12:30:17 am by Pitron »
 

Offline Pitron

  • Contributor
  • Posts: 33
  • Country: us
    • Pitron Project Website
Re: How do I start an Open-Source Project?
« Reply #20 on: July 15, 2022, 11:43:18 pm »
I would like to give you all an update on the project.

I decided to license this project under Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International (CC BY-SA 4.0). https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0/

Once the design is complete, I will register this project with Open-Source Hardware Association. https://www.oshwa.org/

Also, I plan to upload the final design files to GitHub. https://github.com/PitronLLC/Pitron_Banana_Breadboard_Test_Leads

Let me know if there is anything else I need to do.
 

Offline ebastler

  • Super Contributor
  • ***
  • Posts: 4455
  • Country: de
Re: How do I start an Open-Source Project?
« Reply #21 on: July 16, 2022, 07:23:58 am »
I must be missing something here. An open-source plug?! How am I supposed to make my own?

The value of shared design drawings or files seems quite limited, since the hurdle is in the manufacturing process and equipment. I don't happen to own injection molding equipment...

Frankly this looks a bit like a publicity stunt to me -- trying to gain attention for your plugs and cables by declaring them "open source hardware". Sorry to be negative; if I misunderstood your intent, please correct me.
 

Offline ebastler

  • Super Contributor
  • ***
  • Posts: 4455
  • Country: de
Re: How do I start an Open-Source Project?
« Reply #22 on: July 16, 2022, 07:35:34 am »
Not true. Of course you can patent what you have published. Prior art applies to work published by someone else which could prevent you from patenting that idea later because you have obviously not been the first one who thought about it.

This is incorrect, at least when stated in the absolute terms you use here.

Various countries, including the US, do indeed have a "grace period" in their patent law, where you can still patent an idea within 6 or 12 months after publishing it. But many other patent offices, notably including the European EPO, do not allow for a grace period, but require "absolute novelty" at the time of filing an patent application.
 

Offline janoc

  • Super Contributor
  • ***
  • Posts: 3631
  • Country: de
Re: How do I start an Open-Source Project?
« Reply #23 on: July 16, 2022, 08:42:23 am »
I do believe that a trademark can do something. It is not more expensive than registering an internet domain and it gives you the security that you can use it without anyone taking it away from you. Just like registering a domain name on the Internet, which is similar to registering a trademark on the Internet.

By the "do something" I meant that "something" will happen automatically for you. It won't.

You actually have to go and actively look for violations and then prosecute them, nobody will do it for you. Also, if you register a trademark in one country, that doesn't prevent someone in another country from registering the same mark for their product by default.

Sometimes not even in the same country, even though the trademark office shouldn't allow registration of a similar/identical mark but things happen - e.g. it could be claimed the conflicting mark is in a sufficiently unrelated field which would make it kosher. If you don't like that - again, you need to go and enforce it.

Specifically, in that Arduino example, the two Arduino companies sued each other over the trademark rights. That's how you enforce it. However, trying to enforce your trademark against e.g. Chinese cloners - good luck. The best you can hope for is that you get the customs seize the counterfeit goods with the protected mark at the border (e.g. the infamous Fluke vs Sparkfun multimeters incident or counterfeit handbags or shoes). However, it won't stop anyone from selling an identical product and just call it "Chineseduino". That's how all those Arduino clones are legal and how Sparkfun is selling their meters again after they changed the yellow holster.

Such thing is not protected by a trademark and is completely legal - the mark only protects your "name" from being used to sell something that is e.g. of inferior quality and thus damaging your reputation or causing you costs (e.g. in support calls)  without your permission.

The thing with Arduino forcing resellers to not sell clones - I don't think that has anything at all to do with trademarks, it is matter of the contract they sign and whether or not the reseller is willing to agree to that. They can only "lean" on the resellers to not sell counterfeit (i.e. board labeled by the Arduino logo and name but not made by Arduino) products. But can't stop them from selling similar/identical boards that don't carry the logo. Plenty of Arduino resellers do just that - e.g. Sparkfun which sells both the original Arduinos and their own "Redboard" clones. Or Adafruit. In fact, Arduino has explicitly said that is OK because the design is open - as long as one doesn't use the name or the logo (the protected mark) with the clone.

Trademark could be still valuable if you are hoping to build a business (it essentially protects your name and business reputation) but do make sure that you understand what exactly are you "buying" when getting one. Otherwise you may get a rude and expensive surprise.
« Last Edit: July 16, 2022, 09:28:22 am by janoc »
 

Offline janoc

  • Super Contributor
  • ***
  • Posts: 3631
  • Country: de
Re: How do I start an Open-Source Project?
« Reply #24 on: July 16, 2022, 08:49:37 am »
Not true. Of course you can patent what you have published. Prior art applies to work published by someone else which could prevent you from patenting that idea later because you have obviously not been the first one who thought about it.

This is incorrect, at least when stated in the absolute terms you use here.

Various countries, including the US, do indeed have a "grace period" in their patent law, where you can still patent an idea within 6 or 12 months after publishing it. But many other patent offices, notably including the European EPO, do not allow for a grace period, but require "absolute novelty" at the time of filing an patent application.


You are possibly right there (see e.g.: https://www.epo.org/law-practice/legal-texts/html/epc/2020/e/ar54.html which seems to corroborate what you are saying) but these are the sort of nuances why one typically hires a lawyer to get an advice.

There is also this article:
https://www.science.org/content/article/patent-first-publish-later-how-not-ruin-your-chances-winning-patent

So I guess I was talking out of my ass. Let me edit the original comment so that someone doesn't get burned.
« Last Edit: July 16, 2022, 08:57:00 am by janoc »
 


Share me

Digg  Facebook  SlashDot  Delicious  Technorati  Twitter  Google  Yahoo
Smf