daniel_reetz wrote:I haven't read their patents, seen any of their engineering documents, or done anything other than watching some of their marketing stuff. That leaves room for the design to be free and freely available.
IANAL, but I think there are a few issues here, and I don't think any of them is a huge stumbling block:
1) I don't think anyone can stop us from discussing technical solutions to a problem, even if it's a discussion of a patented process. I don't think anyone could even stop us from reproducing the patent itself -- part of the point of a patent is that the entity holding the patent gives up the knowledge in exchange for a monopoly on the idea. Though if we were to publish copyrighted drawings from a patented design, then I think there'd be trouble,
2) I don't think there is much remedy for a disgruntled patent holder against a community that is building its own equipment, even if said patent holder feels the designs being generated infringe. I don't believe there are any statutory damages available, which mean each infringement claim would have to be brought to suit and litigated -- which is hugely expensive.
3) I don't think ignorance of existing patents and prior art prevents legal action by a patent holder. It's irrelevant that an idea is generated independently; pretty sure it's the final embodiment that matters. If an independently-generated design is marketed and later deemed to have infringed, then I don't think it's important whether the infringement was willful or accidental.
4) It is quite all right to make an improvement to a patent that is not your own, and be able to patent your improvement.
Finally, I'm guessing the interesting part of commercial scanning systems is either the page-turning mechanism (which we mostly don't care about, sinc we're generally not trying to scan books non-stop all day, every day), and the proprietary software (which we're already doing without). So I would find it quite a stretch for any legal action to be raised over drawer slides and camera mounts.