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Author Topic: Legal advice on how to check if a design patent/copyright has expired.  (Read 6303 times)
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I want to copy the exterior look of an electronic device designed and marketed in the 1950s for a commercial project.
Given that this was 60+ years ago, will there be any legal barriers to this?

I've done some research on the company that released the product in question. They have been bought out/merged several times. The subsidiaries involved are mostly long defunct but part of one is still owned by a massive conglomerate.

Does anyone have any advice on how to find out whether they would have a claim against me if I wholesale copied the look of this old product? As far as I can tell, it was never remade or re-issued and wasn't hugely popular in the first place so I would have thought it unlikely they would continue to renew or be allowed to renew any patents/copyrights.

Any help is much appreciated.
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Why not just ask them if you can use the look for your project?
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I want to copy the exterior look of an electronic device designed and marketed in the 1950
probably that is not patented but copyrighted . And those are valid far longer than patents.

Can you show a picture of what it should look like?

Think you could design a look a like that has enough subtle differences / improvements and still have the feeling.
e.g. al those retro radio's etc just look like a 1950's device, but are in fact modern interpretations.
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I would do a patent/copyright search ... there are legal offices that do this, or even at a patent office. Also, expiry and rules would vary somewhat by country.

I wouldn't be as concerned about the company that created the device 60 years ago, its more important as to what devices are out there now - with valid patents and using similar (or the same) technology.
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I would have thought it unlikely they would continue to renew or be allowed to renew any patents/copyrights.

Patents cannot be renewed.  The look of a product is not subject to copyright.

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Does anyone have any advice on how to find out whether they would have a claim against me if I wholesale copied the look of this old product?

"Wholesale" implies you plan to make an exact copy which means you will run afoul of any trademarks.
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Thanks for the responses.

The product IS a radio from the 50s, I want to copy it directly because I want to do small runs of audiophile quality internet radios. Copying directly means I can literally take casts of an original (I own a few) and produce the new shell. I don't have quite the sculpting skill to do better by myself.

I don't think there will be any patent issues about the tech, it's all basically off the shelf with some custom code.
In terms of differences in look from the original, the new one has a few more holes cut in the shell for modern components to peek out of, would that class as a big enough difference do you think?

How long do trademarks last for on the look of a product?
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How long do trademarks last...

https://www.lmgtfy.com/search?q=how+long+does+a+trademark+last
http://www.uspto.gov/faq/trademarks.jsp#_Toc275426707

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...for on the look of a product?

Makes no sense.  I suggest you spend some time with Google / USPTO...

https://www.lmgtfy.com/search?q=what+is+a+trademark
http://www.uspto.gov/trademarks/basics/trade_defin.jsp
http://www.uspto.gov/trademarks/basics/
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How long do trademarks last for on the look of a product as opposed to on things like logos.

It makes sense, manners cost nothing. Thank you very much for your advice.
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It makes sense, manners cost nothing.

You misunderstand.  Ensuring that what you are about to build does not infringe another person's property does make sense.  The specific question you asked does not make sense.  It indicates that you do not understand what is and what is not a trademark.  Which is why I posted the second set of links.  So you could educate yourself.
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The look of a product is not subject to copyright.

The "look" would be referred to as the "trade dress" and that can be protected under trademark law. A good example of this would be Honda's battle with manufacturers of small engine clones that were almost completely part-compatible with Honda's own engines; while the design itself was not patentable, Honda was able to force them to change the shape/design of their engines based on trade dress law.

http://en.allexperts.com/q/Small-Engines-Lawn-1746/2009/11/Honda-clones.htm
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