Ideas are easy. Initial prototyping is harder. Progress across the next few prototypes even harder. A release candidate harder still. Testing, refinement and final production yet harder. Final production, marketing, sales and shipping y'ouch! Oh and then there's ongoing product support and future development...
This is part of the reason I choose not to protect my ideas. In fact, I openly document the development of most things I make on Twitter. If someone were to see any commercial potential in something I am doing, not only is the "route to market" hard but acoustics is so messy that any of the stages above could result in a divergence of approach. Also, the barrier to entry / understanding what's interesting about what I am developing is high enough in the first place.
Moreover, I come at this from a point of generosity (and undoubtedly naivety) of spirit. I am keen to see a world full to the brim of exciting sonic explorations and inventions. That doesn’t happen if we don’t try to excite and inspire. I also show plenty of failures too in case they are of some interest or assistance.
I guess if you are making widgets and your widgets are distinctive in some way and you are keen to make money manufacturing said widgets, you’d want to protect this. Makes sense. But my instruments have a much narrower, specialist appeal and my motivation is far less rooted in capitalism. I just need to get by enough to keep making.
I think Miles finds my openness in this regard rather surprising but for me the trade-off is simple - I get years of input, inspiration and collaboration on the basis of showing my workings, against what seems to me a vanishingly small risk of ever getting ripped off in a way that I would consider anything other than flattering.
As I write this, I am reminded of two examples of where direct rip-offs have appeared. Not of my work but of related work. In both cases they generated a lot of fuss and I think the perpetrators got the message. The first was when someone created a clone of Mitch Altman’s TV-B-Gone and the other when some chap started getting worldwide press coverage for the long-stringed instrument he claimed to have invented. Naturally, there was no lack of people willing to point out the existence of Ellen Fullman’s instrument.
I too would be frustrated if one of my more established projects was not only cloned but claimed as their own by someone else. But, honestly, if they took the idea, developed it and gave me a little hat-tip in the process, I’d be flattered more than anything.