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Unread 04-01-2018, 11:34 AM
worriedstudent worriedstudent is offline
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How to prevent design from being copied

Hi CD,

My team has a relatively unique design which has been pretty effective for us in our events this year. At our past event, apparently someone from another team (which has a robot with a very similar intake) came over to our pit and snapped a bunch of photos, and asked people in pits about all the design decisions and tricks we used to make it work.

We're worried that they might use their unbag before the district championship to completely copy our design. At their first event, they had a massive elevator which they managed to totally remove during 6 hours between their first event and their second event, so copying our design would not be too difficult for them (because they have upwards of 50 members).

I know this doesn't sound GP, but the thought of working hard all season to come up with a unique and effective design, only to have it copied right before the district championship, is really infuriating. I know a lot of teams like 3847 and 319 open source all of their designs, as they are committed to helping the global FRC community, but I feel like newer, lower resource teams like ours should be able to get a leg up by making a unique design. Is there any way we can resolve this, or do we have to cross our fingers and hope they don't completely copy us?

--A concerned student, after putting hundreds of hours into a robot
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Unread 04-01-2018, 11:39 AM
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Re: How to prevent design from being copied

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Originally Posted by worriedstudent View Post
Hi CD,

My team has a relatively unique design which has been pretty effective for us in our events this year. At our past event, apparently someone from another team (which has a robot with a very similar intake) came over to our pit and snapped a bunch of photos, and asked people in pits about all the design decisions and tricks we used to make it work.

We're worried that they might use their unbag before the district championship to completely copy our design. At their first event, they had a massive elevator which they managed to totally remove during 6 hours between their first event and their second event, so copying our design would not be too difficult for them (because they have upwards of 50 members).

I know this doesn't sound GP, but the thought of working hard all season to come up with a unique and effective design, only to have it copied right before the district championship, is really infuriating. I know a lot of teams like 3847 and 319 open source all of their designs, as they are committed to helping the global FRC community, but I feel like newer, lower resource teams like ours should be able to get a leg up by making a unique design. Is there any way we can resolve this, or do we have to cross our fingers and hope they don't completely copy us?

--A concerned student, after putting hundreds of hours into a robot
There's basically nothing you can do about it. Also, if they are copying your design, you still have an advantage because you have been working with it all season and probably tweaked it slightly someway that pictures would not show.
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Unread 04-01-2018, 11:42 AM
Boltman Boltman is offline
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Re: How to prevent design from being copied

Copying is the sincerest form of flattery. You should be proud of what your team designed. There are several ways to spring it onto the world:

Before your event don't share anything.

After that and once you show it , this is where copying stuff happens all the time. Its the way the world works.
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Last edited by Boltman : 04-01-2018 at 11:45 AM.
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Unread 04-01-2018, 11:45 AM
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Re: How to prevent design from being copied

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Originally Posted by Boltman View Post
copying stuff happens all the time. Its the way the world works.
I guess this is the lesson I should be taking away here. Just unfortunate it has to happen before our district championship, which is one of the steepest proving grounds for both robot performance and awards for design.
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Unread 04-01-2018, 11:46 AM
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Re: How to prevent design from being copied

You iterate and improve. Iterate your software, make it better tuned. Make your hardware more robust or faster. OR just give your drivers more practice.
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Unread 04-01-2018, 11:47 AM
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Re: How to prevent design from being copied

FRC is all about innovation and improvement, it happens every year when a few teams have a great idea, 2015 can burglers, 2017 velcro winches, its a sign of FIRST well, working.
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Unread 04-01-2018, 11:48 AM
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Re: How to prevent design from being copied

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Originally Posted by worriedstudent View Post
I guess this is the lesson I should be taking away here. Just unfortunate it has to happen before our district championship, which is one of the steepest proving grounds for both robot performance and awards for design.
You can innovate in other ways , remember engineering is only one leg. There is still scouting/driving/strategy ...good luck
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Unread 04-01-2018, 11:48 AM
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Re: How to prevent design from being copied

To truly answer your question of how to keep it from being copied, wrap it in black duck tape, put a box over it when you aren't competing, put bright leds on it so pictures of it are washed out, and them proceed to show no one, including judges, your robot.

Now, if you feel the above sounds silly, it is. You should definitely feel flattered that another team wants your design. Typically, it is much harder for them to get it to work, because you had to go through the testing. Yet if they can pull it off, it shows that team has strong resources to adapt to the competition. That's one of the largest things about FRC, is learning to adapt to the competition around you, and become stronger. Thus, as much as you don't want it to happen, it will. Be super glad that you are able to help make other teams around you improve, so that matches become more competitive. I might even go as far as to reach out to the team, and ask if they plan to make a replica, and if so, help them make it. It will definitely improve relationships between the teams, and you'll be able to share your knowledge with others, which is a great feeling.
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Unread 04-01-2018, 11:52 AM
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Re: How to prevent design from being copied

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Originally Posted by darajaco View Post
FRC is all about innovation and improvement, it happens every year when a few teams have a great idea, 2015 can burglers, 2017 velcro winches, its a sign of FIRST well, working.
This makes a lot of sense, actually. Thanks for the insight.
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Unread 04-01-2018, 11:53 AM
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Re: How to prevent design from being copied

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Originally Posted by worriedstudent
How to prevent design from being copied
You don't. Move on.

<Caution, small rant ahead...>

It's the way the new-world works. Ask Omar from CTRE how he feels about Digilent. He's not even remotely alone. Pharma companies have it the worst and generics in unregulated markets are a serious issue for them - granted, they haven't done themselves any favors with price gouging.

There are a lot of sides to this and my personal theory is that we're in a world where manufacturing is getting cheaper and easier, a world in which intellectual property laws have gotten to a point where they are openly mocked and ignored because they have become a farce due to overboard-lobbying and a lack of common sense, and a world where the pressure to compete is immense and a first to market solution can be beaten by someone with a cheaper product that is a few months delayed and better thought out - brand loyalty is dead.

Want to know how to beat them? Don't stop evolving. You made an awesome widget? Great. What's next? What can you do to evolve it and make it better and stay competitive?
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Last edited by marshall : 04-01-2018 at 11:56 AM.
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Unread 04-01-2018, 11:56 AM
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Re: How to prevent design from being copied

You can't stop them from copying it. The best you can do if you don't want people to see your design, is to hide it before the first competition. You still have more experience with the design, so you are ahead. The fact that a team wants to copy your design is something you should be proud of.
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Unread 04-01-2018, 12:00 PM
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Re: How to prevent design from being copied

Another positive way to think about it:. No idea is an island. Everything you've done on your robot has been enabled by the ideas and hard work of teams and suppliers that have gone before. Seriously, just go back and watch videos of even the best robots from the early 2000s. Your design stands on the shoulders of giants.

If instead of guarding it, you freely share your idea - plublicize it, brag about it - you'll inspire more teams to do the same, and ultimately you'll have more possibilities to work with next year. You might even get some suggestions about how to make it better for DCMP.

Last edited by nuclearnerd : 04-02-2018 at 12:52 AM.
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Unread 04-01-2018, 12:01 PM
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Re: How to prevent design from being copied

Be proud that you are now a team that others look to learn from.
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Unread 04-01-2018, 12:05 PM
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Re: How to prevent design from being copied

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Originally Posted by Lil' Lavery View Post
Be proud that you are now a team that others look to learn from.
Quote:
Originally Posted by nuclearnerd View Post
Another positive way to think about it:. No idea is an island. Everything you've done on your robot has been enabled by the ideas and hard work of teams and suppliers that have gone before. Seriously, just go back and watch videos of even the best robots from the early 2000s. Your ideas stands on the shoulder of giants.

If instead of guarding it, you freely share your idea - plublicize it, brag about it - you'll inspire more teams to do the same, and ultimately you'll have more possibilities to work with next year. You might even get some suggestions about how to make it better for DCMP.
You guys are right, I think I'm just approaching the problem from the wrong way. At its core, FRC is a competition, and my competitive side has a hard time accepting it, but FRC is also not just about the performance of my own team. There's a reason teams are so willing to share parts, cheesecake, etc. rather than closing doors and putting a curtain in front of their pit.
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Unread 04-01-2018, 12:11 PM
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Re: How to prevent design from being copied

I wouldn't mind a team copying your design. In 2016, my team was pretty friendly at our first event with 66 and 470 since our next event was with them too. When we showed up to the second event, their robot leaked pretty close to ours and resembled our robot more than their original robot they made. Even talking to them, they mentioned that they got inspiration from us. Nobody on my team minded since the design was effective and it worked well, and since that point, we improved our design to make that one even better based on what we saw from other teams.

Also, just because a team copies your design, doesn't mean they can pull it off as well as you do since you had 6 weeks to work on it, where they had less time to work on it. Controlling a mechanism like that may even be difficult depending on how it is setup. I personally don't mind other teams copying our designs later in the build season/ comp season.
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