Patent and patent protection used to up to 17 years only. On an international summit in the 1980's, they have extended this. Now it is 20 years. Andrew Richie, the founder of Brompton started his prototype in the mid-70's and even if we stabilize his patents and say fast forward to 1986 to 1990 for the Brompton's design and other features, by 2010, for sure all of these are past deadline and the patent is open for the public to use. No doubt, before 2010, any patent B's may have filed have already expired.
But patents are of different kinds. IP or Intellectual Property basically hinges on 3 main areas:
1) Patents for inventions and and new processes, including plant
2) Copyright - which covers artwork such as literature, poetry, songs, etc.
3) Trade Mark - for those
Copyright tend to last much longer than Patents. If I recall correctly, it is enforced as long as the author is alive and is perptuated and can be inherited by its heirs up to 75 years after the death of the author (or composer). I need to check on the details of Copyright as maybe I am wrong. Regardless, when it comes to bikes, we deal more with patents that copyright.
So, whatever patent protection B's have are already expired. However, the B's also is a design and it can also be rightly be argued that some features of the B is design oriented. And in some lawsuits against the clone makers in the past 20 years, Brompton won on the basis of design copyright rather than the patent aspect of it. The use of the curve frame, M-bar, and cable routing are some of the things that a Netherland court found in favor of Brompton in one of the litigation it had against Neo bike, or the Flamingo in the ensuing years. The Brompton clones were called many names depending where they were sold, with Flamingo as the most well known to many.
I will not go into each case or the history of the company and how in 1990's B's had tried to crack the Asian market by partnering with Taiwanese firms to make B's for the east asian market. What is important is this, betrayal and appropriation of their technolgy, has forced B's future decisions as to how they do things to be done in house.
In reality, any good engineer can reverse engineer any Brompton bike.
As far as MIT V8 and their IH version goes (BP01), the hydroformed frame, and the use of internal fame cable routing are some of its adjustments to avoid future litigation. The use of a aluminum and a different frame alone almost automatically removes any disputes in the matter. Because the patents have expired, and MIT has chosen to work around any other patent or design disputes, in selected countries, there shouldn't be any more problems with it.
However, this deviation did cause implementation and performance problems. Noted in the 1st or 2nd gen in the Flamingos were the flexing of the stem-post, and some mismatch in some parts. Plus early B clones were not tightly made to exacting tolerances. Maybe this is what caused these problems in the first place.
The MIT V8 and the BP01 (the IGH version) seems a big step up from the Flamingo. In our group, one had a Flamingo and the new V8. On the surface they are similar. But after the initial doppelganger shock, the differences and the better build and more fine finishing of the V8 is noticeable.
Next -> How Brompton sees the world. Or an inside look at how Brompton's
Philosophy and POV of bikes and bike making.