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'[OT] When is a protocol proprietary?'
2000\05\11@210147 by Chris Eddy

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Colleagues;

I have been asked to design a product that will replace an intelligent
sensor in a sensor system.  The sensors have some form of serial
communications over some form of fixed wire modem signal link.  The
technology appears to be fairly simple.

In order to design a replacement, I would study the signal and
communications messages.  I predict that it will be relatively
straightforward.  The question is, when is a protocol proprietary and
when is it acceptable to study ones' competitors product and design a
replacement?

I step gently because I am always one who leaps to the anti-chip copy
side of the argument.  I sure wouldn't want to be seen as a hypocrite.

Chris Eddy

2000\05\11@225732 by Damon Hopkins

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Chris Eddy wrote:
>
> Colleagues;
>
> I have been asked to design a product that will replace an intelligent
> sensor in a sensor system.  The sensors have some form of serial
> communications over some form of fixed wire modem signal link.  The
> technology appears to be fairly simple.
>
> In order to design a replacement, I would study the signal and
> communications messages.  I predict that it will be relatively
> straightforward.  The question is, when is a protocol proprietary and
> when is it acceptable to study ones' competitors product and design a
> replacement?
>
> I step gently because I am always one who leaps to the anti-chip copy
> side of the argument.  I sure wouldn't want to be seen as a hypocrite.
>
> Chris Eddy

I always thought of a proprietary protocol as one that is NOT a
standard, that's it. Are their any patents involved with the product
being studied? I'd say check them out to make sure you don't get
yourself into trouble. Are you sure that the protocol doesn't have some
for of documentation out there for the public to see? I always thought
that a car's electrical system used some type of NON STANDARD
interfacing but then in Circuit cellar I read about all the different
standards that are implemented and even which manual to order to get
them all.

I understand the anti cloning stance. But I'd say people study existing
ideas all the time and THAT is how new ideas are developed.

                       Damon Hopkins

2000\05\11@234824 by William K. Borsum

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<x-flowed>At 02:59 PM 5/11/00, you wrote:
>Colleagues;
>
>I have been asked to design a product that will replace an intelligent
>sensor in a sensor system.  The sensors have some form of serial
>communications over some form of fixed wire modem signal link.  The
>technology appears to be fairly simple.
>
>In order to design a replacement, I would study the signal and
>communications messages.  I predict that it will be relatively
>straightforward.  The question is, when is a protocol proprietary and
>when is it acceptable to study ones' competitors product and design a
>replacement?
>
>I step gently because I am always one who leaps to the anti-chip copy
>side of the argument.  I sure wouldn't want to be seen as a hypocrite.


A couple of thoughts come to mind---
The part you are cloning--is it very expensive?  What is the profit margin
like?
Once developed, can you sell the result at a competitive price, recover
your investment, and still make a profit?
Will the manufacturer of the original part offer it as an OEM product with
your client's name one it?

Quite often it is simpler to buy a an existing product modified for your
name than to go through a complete development cycle. Heard a story at the
sensors show about a consultant who was asked to develop a new product
because the client refused to deal with the manufacturer of the existing
product--bad blood of some sort between them.  The consultant bought a
number of the existing products, put them in a box, potted them, put his
name on the outside, marked up the price, and sold them to his
client.  Right or wrong, everyone involved was apparently happy.

We will happily put somebody else's name on our data loggers if they will
buy in reasonable quantity.  Most companies will do the same.  Those who
won't deserve the consequences.  For someone who needs 10-100-1000 of
something, it is much cheaper to pay a reasonable price for an existing
proven item than to pay development expenses.  For example, to develop a
good implementation of a high speed multi-channel logger can easily cost
$50-100K by the time the product hits the streets--and that is before EC,
CU, UL, FCC certification.  I've got to sell a lot of $200 items to recover
this kind of investment.

Now, if your personal goal is just to get work.........

Old axiom from marketing: Excessive profit invites ruinous competition.

Enjoy
Kelly


William K. Borsum, P.E. -- OEM Dataloggers and Instrumentation Systems
<spam_OUTborsumTakeThisOuTspamdascor.com> & <http://www.dascor.com>San Diego, California, USA

</x-flowed>

2000\05\12@004733 by Harold Hallikainen

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On Thu, 11 May 2000 17:59:51 -0400 Chris Eddy <.....ceddyKILLspamspam@spam@NB.NET> writes:
{Quote hidden}

       I believe "reverse engineering" is a time honored tradition. I think one
is able to "copy" someone elses product unless there is a patent or
copyright involved or the information about the product is obtained
through theft (a former employee left with the notes, thereby violating
trade secret.) instead of reverse engineering. Trade secrets have an
advantage over patents in that they do not expire. But, if someone
figures out your trade secret, you have no protection. Here, I'd guess
that if there is no patent on the protocol, you are free to reverse
engineer it.

NOT A LEGAL OPINION...

Harold
________________________________________________________________
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2000\05\12@005649 by Chris Eddy
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"William K. Borsum" wrote:

> A couple of thoughts come to mind---
> The part you are cloning--is it very expensive?

Relatively

>  What is the profit margin
> like?

Worth the trouble

>
> Once developed, can you sell the result at a competitive price, recover
> your investment, and still make a profit?

Certainly, if the market is interested (the big if).

>
> Will the manufacturer of the original part offer it as an OEM product with
> your client's name one it?
>

Very unlikely

The trouble here is that the market is cornered by the competition, and there
is a large installed base.  If we cannot offer a plug repacement, offering
lower cost (there is room), then we will not get the market acceptance to play
the game at all.  So even if we do not make a killing in the first round, we
would position ourselves for the second round (entire systems).

Chris

2000\05\12@014543 by Bob Blick

face
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You might want to check the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, it made quite
a bit of reverse engineering illegal. Probably not applicable in your case.

Next up is UCITA, but so far only in Virginia. That makes reverse
engineering file formats illegal from what I hear(goodbye import filters!)

But is it wrong?

Cheers,

Bob

rot 13 my email xor with the first 20 letters of the king james bible and
run crypt to mail me.

2000\05\13@002249 by William K. Borsum

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<x-flowed>At 06:53 PM 5/11/00, you wrote:
{Quote hidden}

Reminds me of s system I designed and built some years ago--complete
laboratory servo hydraulic control and data acquisition system to replace
the antiquated stuff that MTS was selling at the time.   Project was funded
by a major aerospace company--tune of about $1.2 million.  I kept the
rights to the design and could sell as many systems as
possible.  Performance was an order of magnitude better than the
competition (truly!) and the price was about 25-30% lower.  A real
plug-and-play replacement for about $25K.
Couldn't sell a one of them to anyone other than our original
client.  Usual response was something to the effect that if we were still
around in 10 years, they'd consider buying.  Competitor had VERY deep
pockets, and did not mind "spending" some money in the right places.  Ended
up with a priceless learning experience called Chapter 7.  Couldn't even
sell our better design and lower cost units to the competitor to sell under
their own name.

Be very wary.

Kelly




William K. Borsum, P.E. -- OEM Dataloggers and Instrumentation Systems
<borsumspamKILLspamdascor.com> & <http://www.dascor.com>San Diego, California, USA

</x-flowed>

2000\05\13@053603 by Martin Nilsson

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Bob Blick wrote:

> You might want to check the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, it made quite
> a bit of reverse engineering illegal. Probably not applicable in your case.

This article on the Digital Millennium Copyright Act

 http://www.gcwf.com/articles/journal/jil_march99_1.html

says: "The software development community has a narrow
exemption for reverse engineering if used to identify and
analyze parts of a program needed to provide "interoperability"
with another software program."

Cheers,

-- Martin Nilsson

2000\05\14@211002 by Brandon, Tom

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Yes, reverse engineering is illegal, but is this reverse engineering?
Typically reverse engineering refers to stealing an actual idea\design off
someone. I would hazard a guess that you can't copyright a protocol only an
implementation of it, but this could be a grey area. It would seem to me you
can't copyright a input\output pair so therefore if you make a processing
unit that produces the same output to a given input through a different
process you haven't reverse engineered their product. If you could copyright
more than an imnplementation I would have thought Scenix would be in a lot
of trouble from MChip or AMD from Intel unless Intel\MChip were happy about
losing market share to compatible products.

Also, is reverse engineering implicitly prohibited? I know most software
agreements have a clause, but few pieces of hardware come with license
agreements.

Tom.

{Original Message removed}

2000\05\14@213503 by Andrew Warren

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Brandon, Tom <.....PICLISTKILLspamspam.....MITVMA.MIT.EDU> wrote:

> I would hazard a guess that you can't copyright a protocol only an
> implementation of it

   True, Tom, but you can PATENT a protocol.

> If you could copyright more than an imnplementation I would have
> thought Scenix would be in a lot of trouble from MChip....

   Microchip filed suit against Scenix the moment the SX chips were
   introduced, and they're still in litigation.

> ....or AMD from Intel

   AMD had a license from Intel to produce older x86 parts; when
   AMD began producing newer x86 clones, Intel sued.

> Also, is reverse engineering implicitly prohibited?

   Reverse-engineering of non-patented software is explicitly
   prohibited (with a few exceptions) in the USA; patent-protected
   hardware, software, and algorithms can't be legally copied,
   either.

   -Andy


=== Andrew Warren - EraseMEfastfwdspam_OUTspamTakeThisOuTix.netcom.com
=== Fast Forward Engineering - San Diego, California
=== http://www.geocities.com/SiliconValley/2499

2000\05\15@000529 by Robert A. LaBudde

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<x-flowed>At 11:12 AM 5/15/00 +1000, Tom wrote:
>Yes, reverse engineering is illegal, but is this reverse engineering?
>Typically reverse engineering refers to stealing an actual idea\design off
>someone. I would hazard a guess that you can't copyright a protocol only an
>implementation of it, but this could be a grey area. It would seem to me you

You patent protocols.

>Also, is reverse engineering implicitly prohibited? I know most software
>agreements have a clause, but few pieces of hardware come with license
>agreements.

Hardware is usually patented.


================================================================
Robert A. LaBudde, PhD, PAS, Dpl. ACAFS  e-mail: ralspamspam_OUTlcfltd.com
Least Cost Formulations, Ltd.                   URL: http://lcfltd.com/
824 Timberlake Drive                            Tel: 757-467-0954
Virginia Beach, VA 23464-3239                   Fax: 757-467-2947

"Vere scire est per causas scire"
================================================================

</x-flowed>

2000\05\15@062419 by wzab

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On Fri, May 12, 2000 at 3:43 PM, Bob Blick wrote:
> You might want to check the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, it made quite
> a bit of reverse engineering illegal. Probably not applicable in your case.
>
> Next up is UCITA, but so far only in Virginia. That makes reverse
> engineering file formats illegal from what I hear(goodbye import filters!)

I hope that the development of import filters just move to the Free World
(r) outside the Virginia or the US. This is how the problem of ITAR and
crypto-applications was solved.
There are still places where the law is yet reasonable...

--
                             Wojciech M. Zabolotny
       http://www.ise.pw.edu.pl/~wzab  <--> @spam@wzabKILLspamspamise.pw.edu.pl

http://www.debian.org  Use Linux - an OS without "trojan horses" inside

2000\05\15@104423 by Chris Eddy

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Gents;

Your suggestions thus far have been very good pointers on the issue,
much appreciated.

To clarify, the task at hand is not to reverse engineer the software or
even the hardware ( I would not feel comfortable reverse engineering
one's software) but studying the message format on the communications
link between the devices.  It is a situation very analogous to the TV
remote control debate.  You can make a reciever, then study the message
format, and make your own transmitter.  But is this (A) legal, and (B)
ethical?  I have made the argument in the past that if one were to make
a nockoff remote, and then market it, that if it were to exibit poor
performance, then that product might make the manufacturer of the TV
look bad, and that they had a compelling reason (but not a legal
right??) to restrict third party devices that work on their TV.  I
obviously painted myself into a solid corner.

Any further ideas?  Such as case law on one manufacturer studying
another's product?

Thanks
Chris Eddy

2000\05\15@111743 by Andrew Kunz

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In order for a device to work on our network, it needs to do the following,
which is kinda neat.  The protocol is pure ASCII, so it's very readable to
anybody watching the party line (RS-485).  The master assigns addresses for
communication, and auto-detects them.  By default, a slave device must be
inactive when first powered up.

A slave will only accept commands after it has received a message "COPYRIGHT
XXXX" where XXX is the company name and copyright date.

A slave will not be spoken to unless it responds to a "COPYRIGHT" query with a
valid response, which just happens to be the company name and a valid copyright
date for that type device.

Now tell me, are you going to make a device for somebody when it has to tell the
world that its copyright belongs to your competitor in order for it to work?

BTW, the guys wife who came up with this scheme is a patent attorney for a BIG
bioengineering company.

Andy










Chris Eddy <KILLspamceddyKILLspamspamNB.NET> on 05/15/2000 06:42:23 AM

Please respond to pic microcontroller discussion list <RemoveMEPICLISTTakeThisOuTspamMITVMA.MIT.EDU>








To:      spamBeGonePICLISTspamBeGonespamMITVMA.MIT.EDU

cc:      (bcc: Andrew Kunz/TDI_NOTES)



Subject: [OT] When is a protocol proprietary?








Gents;

Your suggestions thus far have been very good pointers on the issue,
much appreciated.

To clarify, the task at hand is not to reverse engineer the software or
even the hardware ( I would not feel comfortable reverse engineering
one's software) but studying the message format on the communications
link between the devices.  It is a situation very analogous to the TV
remote control debate.  You can make a reciever, then study the message
format, and make your own transmitter.  But is this (A) legal, and (B)
ethical?  I have made the argument in the past that if one were to make
a nockoff remote, and then market it, that if it were to exibit poor
performance, then that product might make the manufacturer of the TV
look bad, and that they had a compelling reason (but not a legal
right??) to restrict third party devices that work on their TV.  I
obviously painted myself into a solid corner.

Any further ideas?  Such as case law on one manufacturer studying
another's product?

Thanks
Chris Eddy

2000\05\15@113828 by wzab

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On Mon, May 15, 2000 at 11:15:02AM -0400, Andrew Kunz wrote:
>
> A slave will not be spoken to unless it responds to a "COPYRIGHT" query with a
> valid response, which just happens to be the company name and a valid copyright
> date for that type device.
>
> Now tell me, are you going to make a device for somebody when it has to tell the
> world that its copyright belongs to your competitor in order for it to work?
>

I remember, that in the old DOS times, there were drivers (mouse drivers?)
which had to include the "Copyright MICROSOFT" string (or something like this)
to be recognized properly...
Certainly they ware cloned as well. In many countries the reverse
engineering is allowed if it is necessary to assure hardware compatibility.
In this case such "COPYRIGHT" query is just a part of the protocol, inspite
of its meaning in English.
However it is just my opinion, and I'm not a lawyer...
--
                             Wojciech M. Zabolotny
       http://www.ise.pw.edu.pl/~wzab  <--> TakeThisOuTwzabEraseMEspamspam_OUTise.pw.edu.pl

http://www.ise.pw.edu.pl/~wzab/picadc/picadc.html - Build your FREE Data
                                                   Acquisition System

2000\05\15@114049 by Chris Eddy

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Oh, that is VERY good.   Gives me chills.  I think I will use that some time in the
future.

That is similar to a protection scheme that I heard sometime ago, probably on the
list..

Hide a special key sequence in your menu system.  If the competitor steals your
code, then you can call in your trump card right there in front of the jury.


> A slave will only accept commands after it has received a message "COPYRIGHT
> XXXX" where XXX is the company name and copyright date.

2000\05\15@114245 by gacrowell

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HP had a copyright query/response in their printer memory cards about 1990.
They never implemented a restriction on operation though - this was about
the time that IBM was getting hit with restraint of trade suits from
StorageTech (was it?).  I believe IBM was refusing to provide support to
mainframe systems that had StorageTech (IBM clone) drive systems hung on
them.

We reverse-engineered the card (properly - I know that another *major*
after-market memory supplier copied the code), and 'encrypted' the HP
copyright in our ROM.  If queried, the microcontroller decrypted and sent
the 'copyright'.  (The decryption key just happened to be our copyright.)
Our story was to be that it was just a bit stream to us, but HP never
pressed the subject.

Gary Crowell
Micron Technology



{Original Message removed}

2000\05\15@120558 by Harold M Hallikainen

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On Mon, 15 May 2000 07:38:54 -0400 Chris Eddy <RemoveMEceddyspamTakeThisOuTNB.NET> writes:
> Oh, that is VERY good.   Gives me chills.  I think I will use that
> some time in the
> future.
>
> That is similar to a protection scheme that I heard sometime ago,
> probably on the
> list..
>
> Hide a special key sequence in your menu system.  If the competitor
> steals your
> code, then you can call in your trump card right there in front of
> the jury.
>

       Something like this has been used to demonstrate theft of source code.
There may indeed be only one way to code a particular algorithm, but it
can be shown that it was stolen, not independently derived, by analysis
of the white space in the source code (the particular combination of tabs
and spaces).

Harold


FCC Rules Online at http://hallikainen.com/FccRules
Lighting control for theatre and television at http://www.dovesystems.com

________________________________________________________________
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2000\05\15@124306 by Josh Koffman

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Another interesting scheme I once heard about was to purposely blow a
particular chip or diode or transistor, and put it in the circuit. If
someone copied your circuit exactly, they'd put in a working component,
and your firmware would detect that and refuse to run. I've never
bothered to figure out what would work best. Probably a diode...cheap,
and fairly easy to destroy.

Josh Koffman
joshyEraseMEspam.....mb.sympatico.ca

Chris Eddy wrote:
{Quote hidden}

2000\05\15@125928 by jamesnewton

face picon face
The guy that wrote A86
http://eji.com
says he used two alternate forms of coding some commonly used instructions
to encode a signature that allows him to quickly check any published
executable to see if it was made with his product. Here is an excerpt from
his manual:
<BLOCKQUOTE>
A86 takes advantage of situations in which more than one set of opcodes can
be generated for the same instruction. (For example, MOV AX,BX can be
generated using either an 89 or 8B opcode, by reversing fields in the
following effective address byte. Both forms are absolutely identical in
functionality and execution speed.) A86 adopts an unusual mix of choices in
such situations. This creates a code-generation "footprint" that occupies no
space in your program file, but will enable me to tell, and to demonstrate
in a court of law, if a non-trivial object file has been produced by A86.
The specification for this "footprint" is sufficiently obscure and
complicated that it would be impossible to duplicate by accident. I claim
exclusive rights to the particular "footprint" I have chosen, and prohibit
anyone from duplicating it. This has at least two specific implications.

a. Any assembler that duplicates the "footprint" is mine. If it is not
identified as mine and issued under these terms, then those who sell or
distribute the assembler will be subject to prosecution.

b. Any program marked with the "footprint" has been produced by my
assembler. It is subject to condition 5 above.
</BLOCKQUOTE>

I'm not sure if the same is applicable to PIC code but it would be
interesting if it was.

The UPS quick cost calculator submission form contains a field:
<INPUT TYPE="HIDDEN" NAME="accept_UPS_license_agreement" VALUE="Yes">
and the cgi that processes the requests won't if that field isn't present
and with that value. If you want a good laugh, read that license some time.
Well, actually, if you want a good laugh, sign up with UPS. Did you know
FEDEX does ground now?

---
James Newton (PICList Admin #3)
EraseMEjamesnewtonspampiclist.com 1-619-652-0593
PIC/PICList FAQ: http://www.piclist.com or .org

{Original Message removed}

2000\05\15@130145 by Robert A. LaBudde

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<x-flowed>At 05:36 PM 5/15/00 +0200, Wojciech wrote:
>I remember, that in the old DOS times, there were drivers (mouse drivers?)
>which had to include the "Copyright MICROSOFT" string (or something like this)
>to be recognized properly...
>Certainly they ware cloned as well. In many countries the reverse
>engineering is allowed if it is necessary to assure hardware compatibility.
>In this case such "COPYRIGHT" query is just a part of the protocol, inspite
>of its meaning in English.
>However it is just my opinion, and I'm not a lawyer...

Undoubtedly the same in the US. A copyright protects the exact expression
filed only. Protocols are subject to patents, not copyrights. So any
utterance of a phrase as a necessary part of communication would be the
province of patent, not copyright, law.

================================================================
Robert A. LaBudde, PhD, PAS, Dpl. ACAFS  e-mail: RemoveMEralEraseMEspamEraseMElcfltd.com
Least Cost Formulations, Ltd.                   URL: http://lcfltd.com/
824 Timberlake Drive                            Tel: 757-467-0954
Virginia Beach, VA 23464-3239                   Fax: 757-467-2947

"Vere scire est per causas scire"
================================================================

</x-flowed>

2000\05\15@140005 by Robert Rolf

picon face
Andrew Kunz wrote:
...
> A slave will only accept commands after it has received a message "COPYRIGHT
> XXXX" where XXX is the company name and copyright date.
>
> A slave will not be spoken to unless it responds to a "COPYRIGHT" query with a
> valid response, which just happens to be the company name and a valid copyright
> date for that type device.
>
> Now tell me, are you going to make a device for somebody when it has to tell the
> world that its copyright belongs to your competitor in order for it to work?

Well, that trick didn't stop a large number of makers of VGA video
cards. ATI, Genoa, V7, and many others all got around this tagging
trick.

If you look at any early VGA bios you will see a message to the effect
'Copyright IBM' at a specific address in the first page of the
card's BIOS. This was because the early IBM machines looked for that
tag to see if a VGA card was installed. The clone makers had to have
the same data in the same place if they wanted their cards to work
in IBM machines. One BIOS said "Definitely NOT Copyright IBM".


> BTW, the guys wife who came up with this scheme is a patent attorney > for a BIG bioengineering company.

Yeah, that's the kind of mind that would think of such a thing.

What do you call 10,000 lawyers at the bottom of a lake?


As has been noted before on this list, it's the lawyers that are
killing the evolution of technology. Where would we be today if Xerox
PARC had enforced it's IP rights on the 'look and feel' of mice, or the
graphical interface we call 'Winblows'?

Robert.Rolf-AT-Ualberta.ca

2000\05\15@142247 by Andrew Kunz

flavicon
face
>What do you call 10,000 lawyers at the bottom of a lake?

A good start?

Andy

2000\05\19@042433 by Jason Harper

picon face
> In order for a device to work on our network, it needs to do the
following,
> which is kinda neat.  The protocol is pure ASCII, so it's very readable
to
> anybody watching the party line (RS-485).  The master assigns addresses
for
> communication, and auto-detects them.  By default, a slave device must be
> inactive when first powered up.
>
> A slave will only accept commands after it has received a message
"COPYRIGHT
> XXXX" where XXX is the company name and copyright date.
>
> A slave will not be spoken to unless it responds to a "COPYRIGHT" query
with a
> valid response, which just happens to be the company name and a valid
copyright
> date for that type device.
>
> Now tell me, are you going to make a device for somebody when it has to
tell the
> world that its copyright belongs to your competitor in order for it to
work?

If the protocol allows for any garbage characters to precede a valid
response, this could be worked around by sending something like "THIS
PRODUCT IS NOT MADE BY" in front of the required company name.  In fact,
this has actually been done in a similar case... my understanding is that
IBM's official method of recognizing their original EGA graphics card was
to look for the string "IBM, Inc." (or something like that) at a certain
address in the card's ROM.  3rd party EGA cards simply put "Not a product
of " in front of it - satisfying the protocol, without committing a
copyright violation.
       Jason Harper

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