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Pre-WW2 Military and Naval Aviation Please use this forum to discuss Military and Naval Aviation before the Second World War.

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Old 20th March 2023, 11:31
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Pre-WWII Subcontracted Aircraft Manufacture and Intellectual Property

Bit of an odd query, perhaps, but I'm wondering if anyone has any knowledge of the workings of IP with pre-war outsourcing of aircraft manufacture?

For example, Armstrong-Whitworth outsourced Siskin IIIA production to Bristol, Blackburn, Gloster, and Vickers, as they were presumably at capacity with concurrent deliveries contracted for both the Siskin and the Atlas.

I understand it was also government policy at the time to spread contracts amongst firms to keep them in business and to retain trained staff, to facilitate a rapid, industry-wide response to surge requirements, in an emergency, but how did competing companies protect their designs?

I'm not seeking a detailed legal run-down, rather just a basic explanation for my own understanding, if someone else has looked into the subject in the scope of their research...?

Thanks
Steve
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Old 25th March 2023, 14:52
Stig Jarlevik Stig Jarlevik is offline
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Re: Pre-WWII Subcontracted Aircraft Manufacture and Intellectual Property

Quote:
Originally Posted by Steve Brew View Post
Bit of an odd query, perhaps, but I'm wondering if anyone has any knowledge of the workings of IP with pre-war outsourcing of aircraft manufacture?

For example, Armstrong-Whitworth outsourced Siskin IIIA production to Bristol, Blackburn, Gloster, and Vickers, as they were presumably at capacity with concurrent deliveries contracted for both the Siskin and the Atlas.

I understand it was also government policy at the time to spread contracts amongst firms to keep them in business and to retain trained staff, to facilitate a rapid, industry-wide response to surge requirements, in an emergency, but how did competing companies protect their designs?

I'm not seeking a detailed legal run-down, rather just a basic explanation for my own understanding, if someone else has looked into the subject in the scope of their research...?

Thanks
Steve
Steve
Since no one so far has raised to the task I thought I would give it a try.
I haven't studied it so what I say are my own thoughts.

First of all, the situation wasn't new. Outsourcing production was an idea already thought up by
the Wright Brothers where their
early models were built in every country where there was a possible chance for sales.
Certain important details were put under a patent so could not be copied without heavy fines.

Of course WW 1 changed all that and not only were aircraft cross built between real aircraft manufacturers,
but almost any "small" business around the corner were bidding for their share as long as they could tinker
and had a handy carpenter at hand.

The 1920s and early 30s were lean years and at least in Britain and later also in Germany and Italy the Governments
realized if a viable aircraft industry should survive they needed to share the contracts with each other and by doing
so made sure they all survived.

Important innovations were still being patented so I don't think the manufacturers were particularly
worried and, I don't know this, but I suspect there was enough go-around between designers and their helpers
so any "secrets" would leak out anyway in the end.

For "minor" countries license production was still their best way of keeping track of development and even
larger players, such as Japan did the same thing until they felt they could stand on their own feet.

With regard to what you call "intellectual property" there is no way you can protect against such transfer, unless
you have taken a patent on the finished result.
Once an individual has moved on he is free to invent new things or modify already known products.
There are constant court battles probably back then and today to show how difficult it is to draw a clear line
between two products.

I suppose the bottom line is that you can't really protect your products. Not even sure the aviation industry
was/is interested in doing that, since once you allow license production the secret is out.
On top during the 1930s development was so fast that when an aircraft went into production it was already
old compared to what was on the drawing boards.

Cheers
Stig
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Old 27th March 2023, 14:03
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Steve Brew Steve Brew is offline
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Re: Pre-WWII Subcontracted Aircraft Manufacture and Intellectual Property

Many thanks Stig; that's really helpful, as it's quite different to how things run today.

I appreciate you taking the time to reply. It gives me a good idea of how things worked at the time.

Steve
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