Announcement Let's Talk About Clones

PlayfulPhoenix

Founder of SFF.N
Original poster
SFFLAB
Chimera Industries
Editorial Staff
Moderator
Feb 22, 2015
1,011
1,635
Hey all,

We've been noticing an uptick of users discussing and expressing – often times quite vociferously – concerns about the presence and discussion of clones on SFF Forum. To define that term, a 'clone' is an enclosure or other product/design that is broadly similar to a pre-existing one.

I think it's important that I make clear where SFF Forum stands on threads/posts/users that publish and promote clones, as well as to explain the rationale behind that stance. I also want to take a moment to remind everyone of the rules surrounding decorum.
  • Let me be as clear as possible: SFF Forum has no policy prohibiting threads or accounts that discuss or promote clones. That's because our mission is to promote discussion and share ideas through the forum, and clones are a part (sometimes a big part) of the marketplace. As a part of this, we are not receptive to requests to delete something because an individual believes that one design is too similar to another. Simply put, courtrooms are the designated venues for defending intellectual property, not a web forum with zero jurisdiction or expertise on the matter. We strongly encourage anyone who is concerned about potential IP theft to leverage the full protections extended to owners by law, through the venues and channels established by that same law. On our part, know that – through our content moderation – we will acknowledge and respond to decisions by the courts surrounding the legality of any products or designs.
  • Let me also speak towards decorum around the discussion of clones. However you may feel about a particular project, any accusations, shitposting, thread hijacking or similar behavior in response to them is not ok, full stop. There are plenty of legitimate gripes and concerns surrounding clones (or simply products with similar designs). Believe me, as a designer and as someone running a collective of designers, I get that more than most. But whatever your point of view may be, channeling it into rants and accusations is against the rules, not because there can't be awesome and constructive discussions about clones but because those posts get in the way of that discourse. To illustrate this: a community member respectfully explaining the particulars of why they find a clone to be uninspired, undifferentiated, or unoriginal – and perhaps making thoughtful suggestions of how to change that – is great! On the flip side, accusing someone of stealing a design, lambasting the unoriginality of an enclosure, or just using language intended to incite, is not ok.
  • It’s important that I express the ‘why’ behind all of this. I know that some people may feel that SFF Forum should actively protect designers, and aggressively defend the IP of those who invest time and energy in their projects. I genuinely understand that point of view, particularly since one of the reasons for founding SFF Forum was to give designers a hospitable place to create, develop, and promote their ideas. But what makes that responsibility untenable is the fact that it forces SFF Forum to become an arbiter of who owns what designs, what constitutes a clone, or if clones or other classes of products should be designated as innately inferior or unethical. And as fellow enthusiasts and designers ourselves, we are plainly and woefully unqualified to do any of that. Philosophically, it's simply not our place to dictate such points of view on behalf of the community, either. Our job is not to proselytize. It is to encourage and shepherd respectful and constructive discussions, such that every member of our community can have an informed point of view and exercise their own judgement. So that is what we are committed to doing, to the best of our ability.

I’d very much like to know the thoughts you all have around this topic, so hopefully this thread will become the place to discuss it. As always, feel free to get in touch with myself, @confusis, or any of the mods if you have any questions or concerns. Finally, I’d like to thank all the community members that have come to us with questions about this subject, or who have reported incidents where discussions have become heated; I know it might not seem like it at times, but that feedback is essential and makes a real difference in our ability to moderate a healthy community. Thank you.

– Joshua
 

bledha

Airflow Optimizer
Feb 22, 2017
305
264
What is great is, for the most part from what I have seen, the level of conversation among our members is almost always civil. It can get very, um, passionate - but I rarely see people straight bashing. Although I am sure it happens, it seems the net balance here are just good people who care a lot about this stuff. Let's keep that up! And we can just talk about it without having to avoid it, which I salute the community here for. This is a reason this is the only forum I am a current member of, really, anywhere on the internet.

I do understand this being a complex issue for SFF staff to wrestle with however, especially because they have crossed from being just an internet forum for discussion to quite a powerful marketing platform and marketplace for manufacturers with a nearing 7,000 member count!

Still, I think this stance is the most preservationist and sustainable - and will allow the community to grow the best it can. It isn't the SFF Forum job to regulate the market, but to stand by the legislators if need be is the right choice - and so I appreciate all the transparency on the matter. Keep up the good work.

See you all around the forum!
 

Flyingpepper

SFF Lingo Aficionado
Jan 8, 2018
107
191
SFF Forum has no policy prohibiting threads or accounts that discuss or promote clones.
I believe that is frankly a terrible mistake and a cop out position. I completely understand that SFF is not a court room, and you are not IP lawyers. However, that doesn’t mean a common sense approach can’t be applied when a company (1) repeatedly directly compares their product to the original design and (2) promotes a product that is unquestionably a direct derivative to the original design.

My take away is that design thieves are free to lurk in the shadows until they see a design with enough interest to prove viability—or hell, the most popular case on the forum by views/posts—then release their own version with minimal changes. All without a single reprocussion from the own community they stole from.

Meanwhile, there appears to be no avenue or freedom to call out someone for stealing the work of another person. I have repeatedly heard “flame war” and the like being tossed out without actually seeing any criticisms divulge into name calling, threats, or other significantly inappropriate behavior. What I have seen, however, are people who believe in promoting and curating a space in which original design is not only expected, but encouraged to flourish.

The custom case forum has 340 threads over 3.5 years. Half of which haven’t been active in the last 12 months. It is perfectly reasonable that in the rare instances in which a product is an incredibly clear copy, SFF take a look at and decide what to do in a case by case basis (pun only slightly intended).

For reference, I’ll leave my Louqe Ghost S1 vs Nouvolo Speck argument here.
 
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Aichon

Average Stuffer
Oct 16, 2017
85
230
I think you nailed it when you said that your role is less about being an arbiter and more about shepherding and encouraging.

As much as I respect (and have put my money behind) the creative people introducing new ideas or iterating on existing ideas in fresh ways, I recognize that not everyone shares my values, and that's okay. There are rational people with different priorities making perfectly reasonable choices that differ from my own. Inasmuch as those alternatives are a part of the SFF community—and do not run afoul of the law—it makes sense that they should be reflected on a forum that represents the SFF community, even if some of us may not choose them for ourselves.

For those who want to support the people doing original work, we have the means to do so with our wallets and words of encouragement. This forum has done a great job at (among other things) resisting the fracturing into rival factions that is so common in Internet fora today. I'm unsurprised but glad to see it handling this situation so well, both on the admin side and among the users participating in the prior discussion.
 

bledha

Airflow Optimizer
Feb 22, 2017
305
264
It is perfectly reasonable that in the rare instances in which a product is an incredibly clear copy, SFF take a look at and decide what to do in a case by case basis (pun only slightly intended).
Ok, good pun and at a good time. Bravo.

Deciding what to do on a case by case basis, if that involves silencing someone by a measure that would by all means be subjective (the forum staff deciding a case is too much like another case that came before it, for example) they have crossed the line into regulators. Once you cross that line, well, you've crossed that line. Personally, and I may be wrong, it isn't a position a group of people can occupy on a case by case or casual basis. What if opinions differ? What templates/policies do they have to control all new products being offered? So many what if's! I believe it is an all or nothing thing: they are either providing a space for us all to talk, sell, complain, argue, and buy/vote with our wallets or purses that is civil - or - they are controlling the market that we have access to.

Personally (and again, I am not the sharpest tool in the shed) I prefer the former.

EDIT: of course it is a shame if there is IP theft involved, but I think many of the original designers around SFF Forum are still more successful than their perceived clones. Again, could be wrong here, but I feel we collectively gravitate toward OP (or OG!) designers.
 

Hifihedgehog

Master of Cramming
May 3, 2016
381
357
Here is a suggestion. Maybe forum staff could provide users a list of links to various online forms where they can report infringement for their respective national governing region? In this way, they enable users to be good citizens when those individuals feel passionately it is their moral obligation to report a perceived infringement. This effectively clears the forum staff themselves from performing their own citizen’s arrest and mistakenly assuming the mantle of a regulator. At the same time, they do not come across like an Amazon or an eBay even in the smallest of ways who can be a bit apathetic to the makers and side too cautiously with end-users.
 
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loader963

Master of Cramming
Bronze Supporter
Jan 21, 2017
581
516
Here is a suggestion. Maybe forum staff could users provide a list of links to various online forms where they can report infringement for their respective principality? In this way, they enable users to be good citizens when those individuals do feel it is their moral obligation to report a perceived infringement. This effectively clears the forum staff themselves from performing their own citizen’s arrest and mistakenly assuming the mantle of a regulator. At the same time, they do not come across like an Amazon or an eBay even in the smallest of ways who can be a bit apathetic to the makers and side too cautiously with end-users.
There are a few problems I believe:
1- to my knowledgethe ip owner has to be the one to claim it and accuse the offender
2- there are dozens of governing bodies that handle this, usually in their country or trade union
3- most, if not all require that the original ip have some type of registration with that governing body before they will do anything about it.

And really I don’t believe it’s the site and staffs place to handle it. It is not a cop out when you have nothing involved besides reporting, talking, or comparing cases of similar design. My suggestion would be to let the case creator know of possible infringement and let them take care of it appropriately.
 

Hifihedgehog

Master of Cramming
May 3, 2016
381
357
I agree. I am just trying to give the people who sincerely feel there is something afoul the opportunity to put their conscience at ease and fulfill their moral obligation. The dead horse has already been beaten to a subatomic pulp as to whether or not I believe a certain product here is in violation of infringement, which I do not. In stating my suggestion, I hope to also extend an olive branch to anyone I may have offended over the proceeding weeks.

I want them to know I am categorically and unequivocally against silencing anyone’s voice and I do believe they have the God-given right to be heard in the proper context. Everyone wants to feel like they are important and that they have a say and no one has the right to remove that from them so long as they do not infringe on the rights of others.
 
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Flyingpepper

SFF Lingo Aficionado
Jan 8, 2018
107
191
And really I don’t believe it’s the site and staffs place to handle it. It is not a cop out when you have nothing involved besides reporting, talking, or comparing cases of similar design. My suggestion would be to let the case creator know of possible infringement and let them take care of it appropriately.

It’s a cop out because SFF could do something about what is a cut and dry case of design theft. If SFF did something about this it would put out the message that it isn’t tolerated.


Like I already stated, at this point the message I’m receiving is that doesn’t matter. That SFF won’t back up its own creators who more often than not don’t have the means to get an IP lawyer. That SFF is more concerned with blocking discourse about clear design theft instead of the actual theft itself.


This is a side project for a lot of designers, so throwing away money on a lawyer for this isn’t feasible, and honestly wouldn’t lead anywhere.




Ok, good pun and at a good time. Bravo.


Deciding what to do on a case by case basis, if that involves silencing someone by a measure that would by all means be subjective (the forum staff deciding a case is too much like another case that came before it, for example) they have crossed the line into regulators. Once you cross that line, well, you've crossed that line. Personally, and I may be wrong, it isn't a position a group of people can occupy on a case by case or casual basis. What if opinions differ? What templates/policies do they have to control all new products being offered? So many what if's! I believe it is an all or nothing thing: they are either providing a space for us all to talk, sell, complain, argue, and buy/vote with our wallets or purses that is civil - or - they are controlling the market that we have access to.


Personally (and again, I am not the sharpest tool in the shed) I prefer the former.


EDIT: of course it is a shame if there is IP theft involved, but I think many of the original designers around SFF Forum are still more successful than their perceived clones. Again, could be wrong here, but I feel we collectively gravitate toward OP (or OG!) designers.
Haha thank you! :D

Sure, I understand that there would be some grey area. In this case, however, it’s incredibly clear. There is no questioning.
 

loader963

Master of Cramming
Bronze Supporter
Jan 21, 2017
581
516
It’s a cop out because SFF could do something about what is a cut and dry case of design theft. If SFF did something about this it would put out the message that it isn’t tolerated.
I understand the point of trying to prevent and stop infringement and everyone doing their part. If sfflab was selling the product, yes I would be in the voices to pull it, but that’s not the case here. All this place is is a community to talk about sff and it’s related subjects. Knock offs are a part of those subjects, regardless if the site approves or disapproves.

I do not think it’s a good idea to censor people based solely on some people’s perceptions on case similarity. Even in this short thread, there are different opinions on the same example that has recently brought this debate up. At what point can we define “cut and dry” that everyone would agree on?
 

Flyingpepper

SFF Lingo Aficionado
Jan 8, 2018
107
191
I do not think it’s a good idea to censor people based solely on some people’s perceptions on case similarity. Even in this short thread, there are different opinions on the same example that has recently brought this debate up. At what point can we define “cut and dry” that everyone would agree on?
When the company makes multiple sly comparisons to the original design and even uses photos of the original design to determine how to do water cooling in their knock off.
 

loader963

Master of Cramming
Bronze Supporter
Jan 21, 2017
581
516
@Flyingpepper
I did smile at that :)

I agree that it is a copycat and that he isn’t trying to hide it. I did see a couple of SMALL differences though, and honestly don’t know how much would be needed to classify it as “inspired heavily” vs “100% copy”. I also don’t know how the regulators would judge it. But there are quite a few other cases here in that aren’t as black and white.

I just disagree with trying to make an independent, social forum enforce IP rights when there are global legal systems designed and better suited to make judgments on these matters.
 
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Windfall

Shrink Way Wielder
Nov 14, 2017
1,857
1,376
I was hoping this would be mentioned.

I don't have much, just three things to contribute, mainly to those who are trying to produce clones:

1. The makers of the original cases (@Josh | NFC, @dondan, etc) invest A TON of time and money into this, and they are passionate about it. Please respect and protect that passion; it drives this community.
2. Do What is right in your heart. If your goal is to get rich, please consider that more carefully and think, is putting one of these guys out of business worth money?
3. The original makers of these cases often have legal protections and patents. Is your "get $1K for a new pc by selling cases" really economically feasible if you spend 20K or more in court? It's simple math.

I love this community, and all the people in it. That INCLUDES those who are making clones. Remember, just because we don't approve of your ideas doesn't mean we hate you. Every member is valuable here.

Please live by this word, if it's the only word you are going to live by: Respect.

Cheers,
Windfall
 

whatanoob

Caliper Novice
Jun 18, 2018
31
40
I understand the point of trying to prevent and stop infringement and everyone doing their part. If sfflab was selling the product, yes I would be in the voices to pull it, but that’s not the case here. All this place is is a community to talk about sff and it’s related subjects.
I don't understand this part. I'm relatively new to this forum, but it certainly isn't purely a "community to talk about sff and it’s related subjects". It also serves a marketplace.

Unless I've got it all wrong, creators use this forum to find a customer base to sell their cases to. I mean, I used this forum to find and pre-order my first SFF case (CCD MI-6 v2). So I don't understand why you think it wouldn't be OK for both cases to be sold in the same marketplace, but it's OK to let them both flourish in the same forum, that also serves as a marketplace.

Good thing I'm not a creator, because if I were, god forbid my first launch doesn't go smoothly, or someone will be free to take my design, change some minor things, and launch it in the same forum where pretty much all of my customer base is. Obviously I wouldn't be worried, because people will surely do the right thing when they vote with their wallets.

I don't even have a horse in this race, I'm just disappointed at the response here, as it seems there's just a whole lot of talk that will lead nowhere. But hey, at least we're all super polite and civil, so congratulations to us! Bet we're all waiting for our medals to arrive in the mail.

I do agree that these things should be taken care on a case by case basis (stop mentioning this pun, it's really bad).

I really don't think this situation requires a whole discussion thread about it. What I think we need is simply an official response from the administration regarding this case, anything else seems to be just pointless talk.
The way I see it there's basically two responses that they can give:
  • We don't think the Nouvolo Steck is enough of a copy of LOUQE's design to stop it from flourishing here.
  • While we agree that the Nouvolo Steck is a copy of LOUQE's design, we are OK with letting it flourish in this forum.
The first response is something that I completely disagree with, but at least their lack of action would be justified.
The second response I would interpret as meaning that this forum is a safe harbour for people looking to profit off of others' designs.

None of these sound very good, which is why I'm doubtful there will be an official response, at least one that doesn't try to avoid the issue.
But hey, I'm new here, I don't even know these people, so maybe I'm wrong.
 
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Gautam

Cable-Tie Ninja
Sep 5, 2016
148
123
Clones boil my blood. I also have friends in the PC industry who have directly suffered because of them.

That said, this is probably the correct stance for a forum. It's up to consumers to vote with their wallets if they don't want clones to flourish. This is indeed not a court of law.

Additionally, it's pretty hard to come up with unique layouts. When you start out with a full-size GPU, an mITX mobo, and an SFX PSU, you can literally count all the sensible ways to arrange them on one hand.
 

royalba94

Airflow Optimizer
AVAENTUM SLEEVING
Bronze Supporter
Apr 2, 2017
268
433
Avaentum.com
And to think I clicked on the link because I thought they wanted to talk about Star Wars Clones... XDXD

That aside tho I think the OP was a reasonable response.

One idea I thought of though is that it could be cool if there was a way to pin a comment or add to the OP of a "clone" with a link to the original case or design they seem to be basing their work off of.
That way there is at least some credit given and if people are interested enough or want to support the hard work of the OG designers then they have an easy way to find how to do that.

IDK, just an idea that hopefully made sense. I do echo a lot of the other comments and commend the bulk of the community for remaining civil more often than not on this forum - I hope it stays that way so the SFF Forum can continue to grow and be awesome! :thumb:
 

loader963

Master of Cramming
Bronze Supporter
Jan 21, 2017
581
516
@whatanoob
The reason I specified that example is that on sfflab there is money being sent to thru that site for direct purchase from a “builder”. In my opinion, while many consumers and “builders” meet here it’s not a storefront like eBay, amazon, sfflab, etc. There is no money sent to sff. A marketplace is different from a conversational/news forum. You did not buy a case on small form factor. You may have met up with someone who could sell you one here though, as I have a few times.

This is a forum to see and talk about things in the sff world. And moderators jobs are to help the community follow a site’s policy and rules, not to be a global police force in complicated trade/ip laws.

And the first post is literally the admin’s response, so it appears they and many others see the wisdom in that approach.
 
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