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Thread: Boat Plan Licensing Conundrum

  1. #36
    Join Date
    May 2016
    Ottawa, Canada

    Default Re: Boat Plan Licensing Conundrum

    Just another data point here... Our boat is based off some published lines in the French Ar Vag book series. We didn't even think twice about borrowing some line plans from a ~ 100 year old boat. From that point forward it really was a new design as this included all the lofting/modeling on the computer along with the scantlings and design details.

    Regards to the OP - my opinion is that all the folks associated with the original boat would be thrilled to hear that the design has stood the test of time and another one is going to be constructed.

    Last edited by Mark0; 09-06-2018 at 07:07 AM.

  2. #37
    Join Date
    Apr 1999
    West Boothbay Harbor, Maine

    Default Re: Boat Plan Licensing Conundrum

    For what it's worth, a catboat to Warner's 17' Bob Cat design (not the Bolger Bobcat) was built and then for sale a year or so back. I don't know if that's the enlarged Tidbit design.
    If I had a dollar for every girl who found me unattractive, eventually they would find me attractive.

  3. #38
    Join Date
    Nov 2000
    Newburgh, NY USA

    Default Re: Boat Plan Licensing Conundrum

    Paul,I forgot to send you a scan of bobcat from "Boat Plans of Mystic Seaport".
    Maybe that's good, because I would have been violating the books copyright.

    Just get started! I was going to say "just do it" , but now I'm afraid of infringement!
    Seriously, I believe you will be making enough changes in construction, details, materials and dimensions to deviate from original plans and avoid any potential infringements.

  4. #39
    Join Date
    Jan 2004
    Rockport, Maine

    Default Re: Boat Plan Licensing Conundrum

    Disclaimer - I am not a lawyer. The information below is based on my research and applies to the US. It is about the legal aspects of boat designs and plans, not about moral or ethical aspects.

    While the concept of "rights" to a boat design is widely discussed and assumed to exist, the legal basis for such rights is very limited in the US. In general it is completely legal to build and sell a copy of any boat unless the design has been registered under the VHDPA and is less than 10 years old, or the design is covered by an unexpired utility patent (which expire after 20 years), or the design is covered by an unexpired design patent (which expire after 14 years), or the builder is using plans which they obtained from a party which restricted the use of the plans in a legally valid manner. Copyright protection applies to the contents of the plans: the lines, offsets, other drawings, text, etc. It does not apply to the boat design described by the plans.

    Copyright, term varies and for works created before 1978. and without copyright notice and/or registration there may be no copyright. Works created after 1977 do not require registration or notice. Terms for works which qualify for copyright are very long. In general copyright applies to “original works of authorship”. Artwork is covered by copyright to the extent it is non-functional. Functional objects are not covered by copyright. Boat plans which are original may be covered by copyright and can’t be reproduced without the permission of the copyright owner (other than within the fair use exemption). However the knowledge in the plans isn’t covered so boats can be built from copyright plans without infringing on the copyright.

    Vessel Hull Design Protection Act
    , 10 years. Registration must be applied for and approved . Designs which are covered by a design patent are not eligible for VHDPA registration. Covers the shape and the hull and deck if they are sufficiently unique. “Protection is afforded only to vessel hull designs embodied in actual vessel hulls that are publicly exhibited, publicly distributed, or offered for sale or sold to the public on or after October 28, 1998.” Application for registration has to be made within two years of the first public showing of the hull. Once the 10 year term expires the design is in the public domain.

    Utility Patent , 20 years. Must be applied for and granted. Most boat designs and elements of boat designs don’t qualify for a utility patent because they don’t meet the required conditions. Validity of a patent is only established through litigation. After 20 years the contents of a utility patent are public domain.

    Design Patent
    , 14 years. Must be applied for and granted. Protects only the original aspects of the appearance and ornamentation of an object, not it’s functional aspects or construction. Validity of a patent is only established through litigation. After 14 years the contents of a design patent are public domain.

    Trade Dress, indefinite. Trade dress are the unique, visual, generally non-functional elements of a product (or its packaging which is unlikely to apply to a boat) which are identified with its source. Once rights to a trade dress are established they can last indefinitely. Registration is not required though there are advantages to registering a trade dress. I assume that similar to a trademark, trade dress has to be defended or rights to it may be lost. Trade dress appears to have been the primary basis of Hinckley’s claims concerning its “picnic boat” designs. Only certain elements of a boat’s design could constitute trade dress.

    , indefinite. “A trademark is a word, phrase, symbol or design, or a combination of words, phrases, symbols or designs, that identifies and distinguishes the source of the goods of one party from those of others.” The name of a boat design such as “Laser” or “Sunfish”, or the name of a manufacturer such as “Benateau”, or a logo may be a trademark and if so can only be used by the trademark owner. However, a trademark is not a design so ownership of a trademark does not confer any rights to a particular design.

    License Agreements and Contracts
    , term depends on the agreement. Private agreements between two parties which are only enforceable by one of the parties, and in general require agreement by both parties. An example would be a license agreement between a designer and a builder under which the designer agrees to furnish the builder with plans for a boat and the builder agrees to pay a fee, build only one boat from the plans, and not allow anyone else to build a boat from the plans. Presumably this type of agreement is what is meant by statements such as “buying a set of plans only allows one boat to be built”. A license agreement can also include a requirement that the plans cannot be transferred to another party without their agreement to the license terms. Someone who is not a party to the license agreement or contract cannot be forced to abide by its terms, nor can they require the parties to the agreement to behave in a certain manner. Museums and others who own plans can require agreement to a license agreement which may include building of boats to the plans as a condition of purchasing copies of the plans. However they cannot restrict the building of boats of the designs by parties who did not agree to the license conditions.

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