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Open Source Electronic Design

Is an Open Source Electronic Design GPL a good idea

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  • No

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I was wondering if anybody has any idea how to implement an open source design. Something akin to a Linux GPL but for a system to drastically cut residential lighting energy usage.

I have a system that is designed to provide maxium functionality with a minimum of cost that complies with worldwide regulations. What I want to do is provide a certain amount of protection in terms of IP whilst having a personal hate of licensing and Intellectual property.

The end goal is to provide circuit schematics, protocol, firmware as freeware with a small licensing fee for high qty manufacture. I am hoping that maybe the site and administration could be recouped but it isn't an absolute requirement.

What is important is to stop adaption and rebadging of a completely new design for comercial activities. As I said very much in the same way of GNU General Protection Licenses.

What I am unsure of is the same for an electronic design.

Thanks Stuart.

PS Please comment as this has been a struggle to find anything concrete.


Software, firmware, and documentation could be released directly under the GNU license.

This one may be of use for hardware.

You should really try google sometime, that took less than 5 minutes to find =) Using the right keywords is the key (pun intended) to good search results.
Those look like they're a good blanket start, if you want to have a little more concrete legal grounds if someone should copy the design and a fight should break out you should after the design is in usable or refined state get a printed copy made and have a notary public stamp it for you so you have legal proof of where and when the design originated. Around here getting something notarized costs a dollar at any bank. Since you have to refrence the originating source under GNU license and I'm asuming the open hardware one as well it will give you solid legal ground, especially if someone tries to patent it later.
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It's a good idea, the trouble is finding developers who are willing to do it.


New Member
Its as simple as google

I have read about various open source hardware licences and the problem is that software can be protected by copyright and hardware legally doesn't just conform.

I know there are various licences and yes to some form there are ones out there working. I am not really sure how far there scope really protects. Currently hardware GPLs mostly copy the software equivalents and from what I can gather they have a tendancy to be completely open.

The design I have in mind needs strict adherance to the protocol as any incompatible modifications would kill the project.

What I need is an open licence for manufacture but allows zero deviation from design spec.

If there is anyone out there who can say use this and why there help would be much appreciated.


Well ... my company (SUN) posted the sparc cpu specs as GPL (older versions), the solaris now have brother called opensolaris ... so .. there's potential in the idea (ok, who knows what will happen now as oracle purchased us but ..) ...

I spoke with Iain from BitsFromBytes and he told me they plan to release the schematic for the v3 controller board and firmware source as some open source licence, they are still thinking between GPL, reativeCommons - NonCommercial or something else ... still not sure what licence they will use, but from what he told me, it will be open source...

IIRC there are few "servo motor controll board" and "stepper motor controller board" GPL projects out there too ... Most of the GLP'd electronics projects I encountered so far were Atmel based (nothing with Microchip that I found) .. that might have to do with gcc available for atmel uC

Anyhow .. the open source is a great concept, especially for hobbyists, I might be biased as I do live from MySQL but really ... look at IT industry, open source speed up the web development sooooo much .. without open source, linux, apache, mysql .. we would be probably now be somewhere where we was 10 years ago .. same thing can be applied to electronics .. problem is, look around, in IT industry ppl are not afraid to share knowledge, look at elco, I bow to ppl like Nigel or audioguru but 99% of ppl with knowledge and experience keep to them selves ... on one forum I asked "where I can purchase xyz" and I got bunch of pp's ppl telling me they will "order that for me for a small fee" and refusing to give me a link to site I can order from ?!?!?!?


What I need is an open licence for manufacture but allows zero deviation from design spec.
no "open" licence will cover that!!

the point of "open" licence is for others to participate, if they cannot participate what is the point ...

You as the "owner" of the "brand" / "system" / "whatever" can decide if change that someone made to the project will be introduced to the "main tree" or not.

Take a look at MySQL ... it is open source, anyone can make a patch, change anything ... now, if you change something in the protocol it will make the application useless as it will be unable to communicate with clients, or even worse, a bad patch can make it corrupt data which is even worse ... So, noone can prevent you from making that change, but that change will never enter the MySQL tree as it is not proven to satisfy set standards of quality ...

on the other hand, you can always write licence yourself :) and specify what you do and do not allow
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