Week 19: Invention, intellectual property, and income

06/01/2019 - St├ęphane Muller

This week we have to develop a plan for dissemination of our final project and prepare drafts of our summary slide (presentation.png, 1920x1080) and video clip (presentation.mp4, 1080p HTML5, < ~minute, < ~10 MB).

My final project is far from being revolutionary, but I think it's cool and has some potential. My initial goal was just to make something fun, but as times passes, I'm contemplating the idea of starting a small side business. This business would be about making cool, decorative, usefull or useless objects and selling them online. I would make the first object as a prototype, for me or for a friend, take pictures, document the process and finally take orders.

I intend to publish the documentation and source files under some kind of open license.


Since we're talking about digital fabrication, what we need to protect is our digital fabrication files. Those fall under software licenses, so we'll need to read about free software, open source software and proprietary software.

The distinction between these licenses is not always clear and is sometimes hard to understand. Free software is not necessarily free (as in no cost). Free software means that if you get the software, you get the source files as well and are free to modify and distribute them. Open source software is more of a project management methodology whereby you can have developpers from all over the world contributing to your product.

A software can be free (as in no cost) but not open.

In the end, it all depends on your mindset and the purpose of your project. If I invented something major I guess I would want to make some kind of profit. But I also think knowledge should be free and I like the idea of sharing what you've learnt. It's not an easy balance to find. Fortunately, for my current project, things are a little more clear cut.

Dissemination plan

Intellectual property

My goal here (at least for this project) is clearly to be able to sell the fabricated product (time and resources spent), not the fabrication process itself. If someone likes my project and wants to replicate it using my files, I'd be flattered. It's a cool way to learn new things, exactly like we did during Fab Academy, learning from others.

In that sense I want my project to be free and open. Even selling the end product would be fine with me. The license that spoke to me the most was the Creative Commons. There are various degrees of this license and I chose one of the attribution share alike one, which is also approved for free cultural works.

I must say I hesitated a lot with the Beerware license (version 42) I saw on our instructor's page Adel. But in the end, I like to give credit where credit is due and that counts for my own work as well (and I don't like beer anyway)!

 * ------------------------------------------------------------
 * "THE BEERWARE LICENSE" (Revision 42):
 *  wrote this code. As long as you retain this
 * notice, you can do whatever you want with this stuff. If we
 * meet someday, and you think this stuff is worth it, you can
 * buy me a beer in return.
 * ------------------------------------------------------------

As I intend to sell my end product, I'll have to make a compehensive BOM and make a close estimate of the time it'll take to produce one piece. But that I will only be able to do once I have done the prototype and another piece. Then I'll have to define a (reasonable) hourly rate.

Once I have done that, I will compare this price to other similar products and adjust it.

I'll use my website to show off my projects and offer my services, but mostly I'll have to use social medias like Instagram, Pinterest or Facebook. I'll have to check out Etsy as well.

Copyright issue

Technically my project would infringe on copyright laws, but making movie props and even selling them (as long as you don't mass produce) is usually tolerated. There are even whole communities devoted to making movie props and selling them. I found an interesting thread on Quora on that topic.