Weinberg: Open Source Hardware and the Law

At the Public Knowledge blog, Michael Weinberg addresses the differing legal underpinnings of open source hardware and open source software. "This combination – copyright that does not protect function, trademark that needs to be applied for and does not protect function, and patents that need to be applied for and can protect functions – means that most hardware projects are 'open' by default because their core functionality is not protected by any sort of intellectual property right. Of course, in this case 'open' means that their key functionality can be copied without legal repercussion, not that the schematics have been posted online or that it is easy to discover how they work (critical elements of open source hardware)." The article is an extension of Weinberg's recent talk at the Open Hardware Summit, and poses questions interesting in light of MakerBot's announcement that its latest 3D printer would not be open.