The Open Design Definition v. 0.5
- authors who contributed to the writing of the code of this definition on GitHub
- authors who contributed to the discussion about this definition on GitHub
This document is the result of the collaborative discussion that has been taking place in the Open Design + Hardware (OD+H) Working Group of the Open Knowledge Foundation. Please join the conversation about the definition on the Open Design Definition repository and on the Open Design Working Group mailing list (past archives are available here).
This document represents a collaborative experimentation about writing and discussing the definition of Open Design, and should not be understood as a license for Design content. The purpose of this document is to foster discussion, collaboration and community building around the concept and the practice of Open Design. This document clarifies the concepts and applications of Open Design, and while it may make easier the discussion about licenses or other sharing strategies for Design, it is not intended as a license. Furthermore, the definition can be forked from the Open Design Definition repository for sub-definitions or for alternative development.
Open Design Statement of Principles
Open Design is a design artifact project whose source documentation is made publicly available so that anyone can study, modify, distribute, make, prototype and sell the artifact based on that design. The artifact's source, the design documentation from which it is made, is available in the preferred format for making modifications to it. Ideally (but not exclusively necessary), Open Design uses readily-available components and materials, standard processes, open infrastructure, unrestricted content, and open-source design tools to maximize the ability of individuals to make and use hardware.
Open Design gives people the freedom to control their technology while sharing knowledge and encouraging commerce through the open exchange of designs. Open Design should always be considered in its political dimension, because transparency, collaboration and release of resources are strategies that do not fully guarantee the balance and social justice by themselves. Furthermore, by making open design project we will unconver their political dimension by making everybody aware of the impact on the social, economic, and environmental dimension of everybody's life.
This definition applies to design in its broadest sense, and is not confined to any specific branch of design. Here design is intended as
- a verb: to design something (and therefore it is considered as a process)
- a documentation: the drawings of a design (and therefore it is a considered as a blueprint)
- an outcome: the design in its usable version (and therefore it is considered as an artifact)
For example, Open Design could refer to a Product Design project, a Fashion Design project, a Graphic Design project, an Interior Design project, a Service Design project, an Interaction Design project, and so on. For specific definition of Open Design related to a specific branch of design, the current definition can be forked and extended from the Open Design Definition repository.
The process of Open Design
Openness in Open Design can be referred to Open Access (to the source files) and Open Contribution (to the collaborative design process). Design also means the design process of developing an Open Design project. Open Design does not refer to and is not defined by a specific design process. Most of the time the design process of an Open Design project will not be documented and therefore there is no need to publish this documentation. However, if the design process of an Open Design project is documented, this documentation should be published together with the Open Design project, in order to make even the process an open one.
The documentation of Open Design
The design must be released with documentation including source design files, and must allow modification and distribution of the source design files. Where documentation is not furnished with the outcome artifact, there must be a well-publicized means of obtaining this documentation for no more than a reasonable reproduction cost, preferably downloading via the Internet without charge. The documentation must include design files in the preferred format for making changes, for example the native file format of a CAD program, in fully-documented, open format(s). Deliberately obfuscated design files are not allowed. Intermediate forms analogous to compiled computer code are not allowed as substitutes.
The documentation of Open Design can take different formats, here we present a spectrum that shows the different possible levels (adapted from 5 ★ Open Data), with an increasing openness of the project:
- make it available on the Web (whatever format) under an open license
- make it available as source file (e.g., vector format instead of bitmap format)
- make it available as a human-readable source file (e.g. ASCII .stl instead of binary .stl, this would work better with version control systems and it would be read, understood and modified by people more easily)
- use non-proprietary formats (e.g., .svg instead of Adobe Illustrator .ai)
- link your data to other data to provide context (e.g. Open Data regarding the design process, supply chain, manufacturing, distribution, end of life, ...)
The outcome of Open Design
Redesigning an existing proprietary design cannot make it Open Design. However, if we use an existing design as a component to include o modify in our project, and we release the instructions for using or modifying such design, these instructions can be understood as Open Design.
The Open Design ecosystem
Any design project does not consist of only files or only the artifacts it describes, but there are more elements that concur to its structure, dynamics, success or failure. Therefore we should also consider the larger ecosystem of a design project, in order to fully understand its nature of an Open Design project. Such ecosystem can be described with a spectrum that shows the different possible levels that extend a simple project into a greater, more complex, participated and structured project. Such spectrum identifies only the degree of complexity of an Open Design ecosystem: levels might be achieved chronologically or not, and far levels might also coexist.
An Open Design project is part of a greater ecosystem that work for its development, which can reach increasing structure and complexity with these levels:
- a documentation of a design artifact, and the manufactured or final design artifact
- an open, collaborative and openly documented process that manages the whole life cycle of a design artifact
- an organization (community, company, foundation, ...) that extends the work of the founders of the project with participation, discussion, contribution
- an open, collaborative and openly documented budget that allocate costs and revenues
- an open, collaborative and openly documented governance that manages the processes, participation and budget of the project
Open Design and necessary software
When presented publicly, outcomes and byproducts of an open design work must be distributed with the source of the open design work that were used to produce such outcomes and byproducts. The source files must be available with open and interchangeable file formats, in order to let anybody access them and edit them with easily accessible software, tools and technologies.
If the design has not been designed by a person but is rather the outcome of generative process from a software, it is Open Design if also the source code of the used software is released openly.
Open Design and Intellectual Property
An Open Design project can consist of several components, and therefore the intellectual property of them should be considered fi they are designed within the project and not adopted from somewhere else (where they probably have a specific and separate intellectual property situation). For example, an O Design project that includes software or hardware can be defined Open Design if the software is released under an OSI-approved open source license and the hardware is released under an Open Source Hardware-approved open source license/strategy.
From the legal point of view, design can be intended in a different way than from a designer's point of view. Therefore there may be different understanding of what design is or what can be protected as design in every country. This definition want to establish a framework for understanding in an easier way how to protect and share Open Design projects. For more background on the situation regarding Design Rights, Copyright, Creative Commons and CC+Design please consult this paper which provided part of the content of this section.
Before being able to know how to share your project, you should always check if your project can be protected in your country as:
It is protected by copyright when the laws states that the specific kind of project can be regarded as copyright, your work is original, and it fulfills the requisites for being considered as copyright. For example blueprints, when reaching the required level of originality or creativity, can be considered a work of authorship in their own right. Alternatively, when purely technical and lacking any originality, it is arguable that blueprints are not protected by copyright. Blueprints, however, when disclosing the outer appearance of the product, could also be considered part of the product, or even as the product of design themselves, and accordingly attract the protection offered by design law (see the sections about unregistered and registered design rights).
You can share the project when it is protected by copyright by applying a Creative Commons license to your project. Please remember that the only valid Creative Commons license for Open Design are CC0 for waiving all the rights and publishing the project into public domain and the Attribution (CC-BY) and Attribution-ShareAlike (CC-BY-SA) for maintaining the author's rights. The use of NoDerivs and NonCommercial options is in contrast with the definition of Open Source.
- It is protected by patents when ...
- You can share the project when it is protected by patent by...
Unregistered Design Rights
It is protected by unregistered design rights when the law states that some rights can be protected for the designers upon disclosure of the design project, even if not formally registered. In the European Union, for example, if you do not register her design at any level, you can still enjoy a three-year unregistered (UCD) protection which can operate regardless of any other form of national unregistered design protection.
You can share the project when it is protected by unregistered design rights with the following procedures. Design rights, under a number of aspects (registration, subject matter, requirements, duration, competent offices, tests) are much closer to trademarks and patents, a set of rights that are unanimously outside the scope of the Creative Commons licenses. If we apply them to a design, they will only govern the copyright in the work, and not the design rights in the product. There are therefore two possibilities:
- CC0: By applying a CC0 to a design project the designer would surrender any copyright in it, as well as any UCD-based (Unregistered Community Design) claim against acts of copying of the design.
Registered Design Rights:
It is protected by registered design rights when it is formally registered within a dedicated public institution and the law grants specific rights to the holder after the registration. For example, in the European Union the protection offered by the Community Design Regulation to products of design covers "the appearance of the whole or a part of […] any industrial or handicraft item resulting from the features of the product itself […] and/or its ornamentation" (but not software). In order to achieve Design Rights for a project, it has to have: novelty (no other "identical design" must have been made available to the public before it) and individual character (the design must produce an overall impression on the informed user that is different from the overall impression produced on such a user by any design which has been made available to the public before the relevant date).
You can share the project when it is protected by registered design rights with the following procedures. Design rights, under a number of aspects (registration, subject matter, requirements, duration, competent offices, tests) are much closer to trademarks and patents, a set of rights that are unanimously outside the scope of the Creative Commons licenses. If we apply them to a design, they will only govern the copyright in the work, and not the design rights in the product. There are therefore two possibilities:
CC0: By applying a CC0 to a design project the designer would surrender any copyright in it, as well as any RCD (Registered Community Design) claims. The designer, however, would still be entitled to file a registration for an RCD (Registered Community Design) within a period of 12 months from the date of the first disclosure of the product, but after this grace period, anybody should feel free to reproduce the design.
CC+Design: Creative Commons offers additional legal tools that can prove quite effective in special cases. CC+ (CCPlus) consists in a Creative Commons license plus another agreement that allows licensors to offer additional permissions and more rights above and beyond those granted by the standard Creative Commons license. It is possible then that the "+" would be represented by a waiver whereby the affirmer relinquishes every possible right or interest, for example from EU community design in Europe, or from national design rights law (read about this proposal here). The affirmer, in particular, should declare not to have filed any application, and to relinquish the relative right (which would exist for a 12-month period from disclosure) to file for a registration. In a case in which a registration has been filed and/or obtained, the waiver should contain specific wording declaring that the rights granted by the registration are waived, abandoned or relinquished and will never be enforced. The affirmer should also explicitly abandon, waive and promise not to assert the unregistered design rights which will endure for a period of three years from disclosure regardless of any affirmative step taken by the designer. A specific reference in the waiver should be addressed to national unregistered design rights. In order to ensure the maximum level of compliance with national laws, where and to the extent that such waivers are deemed invalid, the affirmer should grant a worldwide, non-exclusive license allowing the performance of all the acts that the waiver would have covered. The waiver should be preceded by a preamble clarifying the intentions and motives of the licensor in order to guide courts called upon to interpret this novel contractual structure in case of litigation. The above solution cannot obviously work when copyright does not exist. If applied, it would lead to some sort of "contractual public domain" status, as copyright is absent and design rights have been relinquished. To solve the problem, an alternative approach is possible. It largely resembles the CC+Design solution seen above, but the "+" is in this case is not represented by a waiver, but by an additional grant that extends the scope of the license to include (registered and unregistered) design rights. In this way, design rights will not be waived, but licensed together with copyright and other related rights, and will therefore follow the conditions established by the Creative Commons license. This solution allows licensors also in countries with a partial cumulation approach to allow the use and reuse of their designs under conditions such as attribution of paternity, use of the same or equivalent license for derivatives, and non-commercial uses. Please remember that for the only valid Creative Commons license for Open Design are Attribution (CC-BY) and Attribution-ShareAlike (CC-BY-SA). The use of NoDerivs and NonCommercial options is in contrast with the definition of Open Source.
Registered Trademark (R) / Unregistered Trademark (TM)
- A trademark is a recognizable sign, design or expression that identifies the source of a specific product or service. It can be either registered or unregistered. Many Open Source (Hardware, Software or Design) projects have their own brand and trademark. However, most of the time these are not shared or open source brand themselves. The topic of a completely open source brand/trademark is still under development: the use of a Creative Commons license could even result in a loss of the trademark rights altogether.
- A common strategy for sharing an open source trademark project lays in establishing a trademark policy that grants permissions in advance for limited uses, with sometimes a review of the requests for using the trademark. For example, we can learn from these cases of elaborated custom policies (for example: Wikimedia, Mozilla, Creative Commons), restrictions on name usage (for example: Django), specific policies with specific brand guidelines (for example: Ubuntu - policy - brand guidelines), custom policies with Creative Commons-licensed components and other components that cannot be used (for example: Android), different logos for different usages (for example: Debian) or a specific logo for community usage and licensed under a Creative Commons license (for example: Arduino).
Unregistered Trade Dress
- It is protected by trade dress when...
- You can share the project when it is protected by trade dress by...
Registered Trade Dress
- It is protected by trade dress when...
- You can share the project when it is protected by trade dress by...
No protection forms:
There is no protection for the project when the kind of project you are developing does not fall into the descriptions of the law that regulates the protection of design IP. For example, service design projects are a typical example.
When there is no legal protection for the specific kind of your project, if the blueprints reach the required level of originality or creativity, they can be considered a work of authorship in their own right and therefore protected by copyright. You can then share the project when it is protected by copyright by applying a Creative Commons license to your project. Please remember that the only valid Creative Commons license for Open Design are CC0 for waiving all the rights and publishing the project into public domain and the Attribution (CC-BY) and Attribution-ShareAlike (CC-BY-SA) for maintaining the author's rights. The use of NoDerivs and NonCommercial options is in contrast with the definition of Open Source.
- Your project is a trade secret when the design is not disclosed and known by the public, it confers some sort of economic benefit and is kept secret by you and/or somebody else. Typical legal protection is achieved with non-disclosure agreements (NDA).
- A Trade Secret design is in contrast with the Open Design and Open Source Definitions, therefore if you want to share it you need to choose one of the previous procedures for publishing, ceasing its nature of Trade Secret.