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Old 07-21-10, 10:41 AM   #1
ClarkinHawaii 
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Ethical question

I have a question of ethics that i would like to pose to you guys.

It does not necessarily belong in this subforum more than any other, but I feel like i know many of the regular posters on "Mechanics" and I would like to hear what you have to say about this.

I am in the market for a nice new, possibly custom-made Titanium frame.

I have been talking to 2 different manufacturers/vendors about this. Naturally they want me to provide as much detail as possible about what I want.

On a whim, I sent an email to the top-ranked , most expensive Ti bike maker and asked them to send me jpg of blueprints/plans for their bike model which I consider nicest.

To my amazement, they actually sent these plans, detailed drawings. There are no Copyright declarations on the plans.

By now you've figured out where I'm going with this.

If I just email plans to XACD in China, they guarantee to duplicate exactly for $US700 delivered. Let's assume for the moment that they are skilled and experienced in working with Ti and can actually do this.

As far as I know, there is no legal problem since there is no copyright declaration.

I could photoshop the plans and mask out anything that identifies exactly where the plans came from or what they represent.

Or I could pay $3000-4000 for the real thing and probably sleep better at night.

What do you think?
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Old 07-21-10, 10:49 AM   #2
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Now I know why you left Alvin.
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Old 07-21-10, 11:02 AM   #3
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Are you a scumbag? If so, call China.
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Old 07-21-10, 11:05 AM   #4
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it was obviously sent to you in confidence whether they expressed it or not

there are usually 2 types of business people 1. very good craftsmen 2. great business minds

not everyone has both skills and it's not fair to steal their intellectual property

the geometry listed below doesn't specifically say it is a copyright but I'll guarantee if I had this frame built and Giant knew they'd be pissed

http://giant-bicycles.com/en-US/bike...bo/3871/41916/
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Old 07-21-10, 11:08 AM   #5
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Karma suggests your $700 frame will snap on the fastest descent of your life. You will then pay $3000-4000 in medical bills.
Maybe you should find out HOW the shop in China can make a frame so cheap. If something sounds to good to be true it probably is ...
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Old 07-21-10, 11:22 AM   #6
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I have a slightly different take, and I'm a manufacturer so factor that in. If you had them do the work of preparing prints for a custom frame for you, and they did so in anticipation of a sale, then either complete the sale or destroy the prints. They were done as part of an unwritten contract and good faith requires that you don't abuse them.

OTOH- if they sent the prints to a stock frame, they haven't revealed any trade secrets and there are no patent issues. Frames and other products are back engineered (copied) all the time in this industry, so the only thing they've done is saved someone some time. That has a value, and I probably wouldn't have enabled you by sending prints, but the cat's out of the bag.

I think that if you have someone redraw the prints, you've probably cleared any ethical hurdle and can take your chances with the chinese, but sending their work product off wouldn't be fair.
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Old 07-21-10, 11:23 AM   #7
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Well, there is nothing unusual or proprietary about almost all steel or Ti frames but as the saying goes; "the devil is in the details". It's highly unlikely the Chinese company will exactly duplicate the drawings you have and, since the differences are likely to be internal (butting. tapers, etc.) you will never know from outside appearances. Also, the weld quality is an unknown and any warranty claims or disputes about what they provided will be difficult or impossible to enforce. As to the plans not explicitly stating they are copyrighted, I would not want to have to defend that position in court. Those are the practical considerations.

Ethically, I've got a real problem with using the plans you received to shop for a lower price. The provider sent them to you in good faith and expected you to use them to choose one of their frames, not as a negotiating tool.

Yes, buying from a top-of-the-line Ti maker is EXPENSIVE but you get custom quality and fit and a local source to assure that if things aren't right they will be corrected. Do yourself a favor and sleep better.

BTW, I'm not sure which domestic company you are dealing with but consider Lynskey (if it's not already them). They are the founders of Litespeed and have decades of Ti experience as well as reasonable prices. If anything happened to my Litespeed that's where I would go.
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Old 07-21-10, 12:06 PM   #8
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Now I know why you left Alvin.
This is the only response which surprises me. Sounds really snarky, and you're not that kind of guy. Please explain in more detail exactly what you mean.
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Old 07-21-10, 12:09 PM   #9
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First, you asked about ethics, not law. The two are not necessarily related. Even if it were legal to copy the plans or duplicate the frame, it's not ethical to do so without the permission of the creator of that design. When you asked for the plans, did you make it clear that you were considering having someone else build a frame from them?

You seem to be trying to justify using their work without their permission by looking for a legal loophole (no copyright notice) to rationalize your actions. A work is copyrighted from the moment it is created. That the copy you received has no copyright notice doesn't change the simple fact that it is a still a copyrighted work.

"U.S. law no longer requires the use of a copyright notice, although it is often beneficial. Prior law did, however, contain such a requirement, and the use of a notice is still relevant to the copyright status of older works. " - http://www.copyright.gov/circs/circ03.pdf

Additionally, that frame design itself is arguably copyrighted, not just the plans - so creating a frame from those plans may also be a copyright violation.
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Old 07-21-10, 12:24 PM   #10
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Thanks for the interesting responses. What actually happened is I contacted XACD, gave them a rough overview of what I think i want, and the next thing I know they send me detailed blueprint/plan "for my approval". They don't have any photos showing built-up bike; and i am not trained/skilled enough to be able to determine stuff like top-tube slope or even basic stuff like length of chainstays.

The way they get you is if you "approve" the plans, then it doesn't matter if there's something fundamentally wrong with the design (700 tires don't fit, for example)--If I approved it, they're off the hook.

With this in mind I got the idea to compare against a known frame that i have seen photos of and know looks good to me and rides right.

Since there are no dealers in Hawaii for the company, I have no way to actually ride or examine the frame in person--so I just asked them to send prints, and they did.

I think my real question was best answered by the poster who said the devil is in the details. If a size 54 frame with compact design has basically the same measurements across the industry, then one company's plans are basically going to be the same as any other. Real proprietary differences would be things like welding quality, finish, stuff you can't see.

On the other hand, if a slightly different dimension here or there makes a fundamental difference in the ride quality or durability of the bike, then these drawings are in fact uniquely valuable intellectual property, to be respected as such.

Soooo . . .?
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Old 07-21-10, 12:25 PM   #11
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Originally Posted by mike_s View Post
First, you asked about ethics, not law. The two are not necessarily related. Even if it were legal to copy the plans or duplicate the frame, it's not ethical to do so without the permission of the creator of that design. When you asked for the plans, did you make it clear that you were considering having someone else build a frame from them?

You seem to be trying to justify using their work without their permission by looking for a legal loophole (no copyright notice) to rationalize your actions. A work is copyrighted from the moment it is created. That the copy you received has no copyright notice doesn't change the simple fact that it is a still a copyrighted work.

"U.S. law no longer requires the use of a copyright notice, although it is often beneficial. Prior law did, however, contain such a requirement, and the use of a notice is still relevant to the copyright status of older works. " - http://www.copyright.gov/circs/circ03.pdf

Additionally, that frame design itself is arguably copyrighted, not just the plans - so creating a frame from those plans may also be a copyright violation.
Interesting, Thanks.
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Old 07-21-10, 12:33 PM   #12
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Money is a strong motivator, but I'd feel uncomfortable ethically, as well as doubtful it would really be made as well.
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Old 07-21-10, 12:50 PM   #13
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i don't doubt the workmanship. its probably gonna get mad in the same damn factory that makes the $4000 bike! This stuff happens in the golf world all the time. I never buy OEM golf products, I know I can get clone clubs that work just as good for 1/5 the price.
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Old 07-21-10, 12:59 PM   #14
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just to add, this isn't really an ethics question, it's a legal question. you better be DAMN sure that you aren't breaking any laws if you get this bike made. Ethically, if this is patented stuff and the company is that stupid to just send out plans than I don't really feel bad for them if someone takes the plans and goes elsewhere.
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Old 07-21-10, 01:03 PM   #15
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If you're looking for a cheaper Ti frame there are other brands out there to look at, here in the USA. You could check out Pride Cycle, at www.pridecycleusa.com . I've asked around about this brand, and emailed a time or two with questions, but nobody seems to know anything about it here on the forums. The responses from the company seemed to be knowledgeable, they just have a no-frills website that doesn't necessarily inspire confidence. They're offering custom geometry right now for their standard frame price, which seems like what your looking for. It might be worth an email.

I WANT my next bike to be a Lynskey R340, but if that time comes and I can't scratch the $ together, I'll be looking for something like this.

-Jeremy
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Old 07-21-10, 01:12 PM   #16
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If you have to ask whether your proposed actions are ethical or not you have no moral compass to guide you in your decisions but rather are looking for justification by testing which way the wind blows. You ever thought of politics as a profession?
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Old 07-21-10, 01:13 PM   #17
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If you're looking for a cheaper Ti frame there are other brands out there to look at, here in the USA. You could check out Pride Cycle, at www.pridecycleusa.com . I've asked around about this brand, and emailed a time or two with questions, but nobody seems to know anything about it here on the forums. The responses from the company seemed to be knowledgeable, they just have a no-frills website that doesn't necessarily inspire confidence. They're offering custom geometry right now for their standard frame price, which seems like what your looking for. It might be worth an email.

I WANT my next bike to be a Lynskey R340, but if that time comes and I can't scratch the $ together, I'll be looking for something like this.

-Jeremy
If i don't have them mixed up with somebody else, I believe I went to their website and their prices were way higher than habernero, which I think is an OK company and who i will probably end up using. Of course, Hab's frames are definitely made in China and i've heard it said they're made by XACD. But mark is an OK Dude and patiently helpful, so he's probably worth $500 more than XACD, since with him there's a really good chance of getting an excellent frame that will serve me perfectly. One little glitch in the XACD plans and I've spent $700 on a large paperweight.
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Old 07-21-10, 01:13 PM   #18
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I learnt in B-School many years ago that the most appropriate way to tackle ethical questions/issues is to put yourself in the other person's shoes.

How would you feel if you owned the outfit that sent the blueprints/plans?

You should be able to live with whatever your answer is.
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Old 07-21-10, 01:26 PM   #19
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Do your own homework!

In the end you'll ride a bike that you'll be proud of and/or you'll be proud to sell to your customers. The Chinese will make it as good or as bad as you tell them to. Not being well versed in frame design and manufacturing will only work against you in this process. There is no harm in studying the plans but try to understand why that frame manufacturer came to the conclusion they did in designing their frame but change it and make it your own.
At the end of the day all frames are pretty much the same but its the tiny details that make the ride unique.
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Old 07-21-10, 01:34 PM   #20
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Part I:

This sounds a lot like that Chinese company that takes plans from other yacht businesses that have been around for generations and offers to build the same for half the cost. Only, they have disappeared and shown up under a new name and domain after the customer 3 months before starts complaining about rusting hardware, hull leaks, delaminating marine hardwood finish, dislodged railing, etc...this is not a joke...they really exist.


Part II:

While proprietary tooling, custom material mods, and processes might be patentable/copyrightable, geometry ain't.


=8-)
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Old 07-21-10, 02:22 PM   #21
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If you feel you have to ask, you have an ethical dilema. Remember, it s often the cheapskate who pays the most.
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Old 07-21-10, 02:28 PM   #22
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Here's what I think happened. The blueprints you got for your approval are probably stock blueprints, or quickly modified blueprints/plans to suit your case. It probably didn't take very long for them to do this.

If you sent the designer a $50-100 check and thanked him for his time, but explain you're going a different direction, I think you've adequately paid him for the effort. Right now, they have virtually no cost in you except for the time they spent on you.

The quality of Taiwanese frames is comparable to major manufacturer frames. Think Bikesdirect. There is no secret to how they cut cost. Their costs are simply lower. And every independent account I've heard about the manufacturing process suggests that if anything, the Taiwanese/Chinese frames are often better-made, since their manufacturers have more experience (building 20 frames/day compared to an American building 4).

Here's another question. Why are you looking at Titanium frames? Titanium is nice, but it's a bit of a luxury. It would be far more cost effective to go with Al, carbon, or steel, and unless you have something you're looking for specifically, a custom frame may not fit you any better than some stock frames.
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Old 07-21-10, 03:13 PM   #23
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Actually they are indeed stock blueprints, no special mods at all-couldn't be, since I only sent about a 10-word email.

There is no logical reason for Ti, except I think of it as the best; and luxury is definitely the right word. The bad news is I can't justify it. The good news is I don't have to, except to myself, and even I am a hard sell (far from convinced). The bottom line is that my life will be not at all different if there is $1000 less in my bank account, so why not?

This XACD is in mainland China, where industrial espionage has been perfected as an art form.

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Old 07-21-10, 03:23 PM   #24
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Hey, those who are being helpful, thank you!

Those who are just being self-righteously nasty, well . . .
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Old 07-21-10, 03:32 PM   #25
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Looking at that Pride Cycles website it's obvious that there are long standing companies already making Ti frames at an afforable price. For the difference in cost between the China Option and something in the price range that Pride is asking I'd say it's a no brainer. Go with the company that is already making the product. And assuming they have a decently long history there's a far better chance that any warranty issues will be honored instead of dealing with an overseas source.

And in fact I'm really liking their 4130 frame pricing....
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