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This is a pretty USB specific question, I was redirected here from the technical stack exchange.

I am trying to figure out what the legislation is around the development by company A of a USB peripheral for use by hardware/software developed by company B, where company B developped a peripheral that A's device is a clone of (in term of functionality - they're not stealing the implementation/blueprints). Company B did not consent to anything.

Company B is having its hardware/software check the USB descriptor of the peripheral in various ways before accepting to use it. Vendor ID, Product ID, iManufacturer... Long story short, let's say the product will only function if its USB descriptor entirely mimicks company A's product's USB descriptor.

What does the law say about mimicking USB descriptors ? Is there a uniform law over countries on this subject ?

To give a concrete example, let's consider third party controllers for a video game console. Company B sells consoles, and special USB controllers that use a custom protocol to communicate with their console, which looks for a given VID/PID to try to communicate with the controllers. Company A wants to manufacture third party controllers and sell them. Doing so requires using company A's product's VID/PID, or they can't work. Can they proceed ? What is there to consider ? Are all companies currently doing this breaking the law ?

  • The title and the body don't match. The title question is legal, in fact companies like Microchip specifically allow it. The body is different and is about cloning VID/PID to mimic a device. – Ron Beyer Apr 24 at 22:03
  • Under which body of law? – sharur Apr 24 at 23:59
  • I edited the title to match the question better. I meant, using another company's VID, and similar, without their consent. As for the body of law, I'm afraid I don't know, I'm quite unknowledgeable about law. Do they get to choose ? Their goal is to make a profit from selling the product. – Julien BERNARD Apr 25 at 8:17
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    Seems there was old video game law that would apply, I'm searching for it. I think an old Nintendo console looked for a term similar to "(C)NINTENDO" in game cartridges, or they wouldn't boot. Courts found that other companies could use that term in their boot logic, since it had become a de facto technical requirement. My memory may be shot, though. – Ask About Monica Sep 24 at 17:30
  • That's an interesting story @AskAboutMonica and I find its outcome puzzling. Let's say Nintendo designs a console with whom only controllers that have some distinctive feature seemingly proprietary to Nintendo, are compatible with, be it Nintendo USB VID or "(C)NINTENDO" in the code, then is the public allowed to do that ? Are we entitled to being able to create compatible peripherals with other people's devices ? Is Nintendo not allowed to protect itself in that manner ? I will search further into it (quick searching didn't yield anything) but if you find some reference I'd love to see it. – Julien BERNARD Sep 25 at 14:10
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I suspect contract law will affect the ability to do this.

Terms like "USB" and the associated logos etc are intellectual property (trademarks, copyrights, etc) owned by the USB Consortium. If you don't comply with their terms, you probably cannot describe your product as a USB product.

THE USB-IF LOGOS MAY BE USED ONLY IN CONJUNCTION WITH PRODUCTS WHICH HAVE PASSED USB-IF COMPLIANCE TESTING AND ARE CURRENTLY ON THE INTEGRATORS LIST. THIS REQUIRES THAT THE COMPANY BE ASSIGNED A USB VENDOR ID NUMBER.

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  • Thank you for your answer, but I'm unsure whether the rights to the use of the USB logo would be required in this case. Is one forbidden to use the term "USB" without an agreement with the consortium though? I'm surprised. If you know a formal source for this claim, could you please redirect me ? As for logo usage rights, apparently it's a different (and more expensive) problem. Quoting vimeo.com/63986266, 1:30+ (USB VID/PID talk by Ian Lesnet), "For 2000$ you can get yourself a USB VID [...] You can't use the USB logo though, that's a whole other can of worms, that costs more." – Julien BERNARD Apr 25 at 21:40
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Laws rarely address specific technologies, and I would be highly surprised if there is even one law that covers USB, let alone a minor detail such as VIDs. However, there are generic laws intended to protect the consumer (including but not limited to trademarks). If the VID misuse can be described as intentionally misleading to consumers, the product might still be found illegal.

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  • On the other hand, if the VID misuse is in fact the selling point of the product ("Use our $5 dongle instead of Company B's $200 dongle! Your Company B machine will detect our dongle as authentic!"), then it's not misleading to consumers. – Dan Henderson Sep 25 at 20:19

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