As mentioned in my previous post, it’s been brought to our attention that features of the open source refreshable Braille display project have already been covered under a patent application filed by Paul D’souza on 5th November, 2014.
Paul’s patent describes the use of “micro-motor actuated pins, the pin cantilever design, the mechanical stop to limit rotor rotation, motors with rotors or cams, mounted vertically or horizontally used to lift pins directly or via an interposer, low force selector etc” - many of these are featured we have included in this device.
Paul has requested we discontinue the project in the interest of potential manufacturers and licensees of his patent, as well as to avoid any legal obligations he may face with the patent office. As a result, the CERN Open Hardware License the project was released under has effectively been invalidated and so I have discontinued work on this current method of braille pin actuation. The patent will severely restrict any global (and particularly local) impact we can make with this project, which was our whole motivation.
However, I would like to make clear that the designs and documentation we have released have been created from scratch, sharing only the working principles of Paul’s patent. My intention has always been to make a completely 3D printable refreshable braille display that anyone can access and I have been working on braille technologies for the past three years. As part of this work, I have developed software to convert text documents to braille and built two refreshable braille display prototypes, one using micro servo actuators and another using a hacked dot-matrix printer head. At that time, I was still a kid in college and didn’t have much knowledge about production techniques or skill in design, CAD, and electronics.
Things have changed a lot since then. Going through the process of setting up and running a 3D printing and product design startup, I’ve learned exactly what I need to know to create just about anything. I actually met Paul at a local Maker Faire and we instantly connected because of our shared efforts on braille and I was amazed and intrigued by his genius ideas for actuation. This meeting resparked my passion for braille and I began using cell-phone vibration motors as a method of actuation along with my experience with FDM 3D printing and product development to create a solution that anyone in the world could potentially have access to just by downloading the files.
What’s more, I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to show one of my early braille display prototypes to the president of India, Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam, before he passed away. He made me promise that I would do everything in my power to ensure the project would reach the people that it matters most to and that has become my life's mission ever since.
Since the 3D designs and documentation are my own original intellectual property, I will be releasing everything under Creative Commons Attribution-shareAlike 4.0 International. This is an open source license that allows anyone to use, modify, and share the documentation and 3D designs under the same license. However, anyone wishing to manufacture and distribute the device itself should contact Paul D’Souza on firstname.lastname@example.org. I have done this to ensure that people can make a personal copy for studying purposes.
I will certainly not stop working on the refreshable braille display due to this hiccup. I have seen some amazing motors from Aliexpress while buying motors for the current system and I am confident that by collaborating with other members of the open hardware community we come up with a “patent infringement free” solution that is feasible, scalable, and will achieve my goal of bringing digital literacy to the visually impaired all around the world.
I wish @PAUL DSOUZA all the best, he has been incredibly supportive on this project, and multiple others my team and I have been working on. I formally apologize for any inconvenience caused to him.
Links to my past work mentioned in this post: