I was just reading George Kramer's blog and his latest posting about Humminbird suing Lowrance over the side-imaging technology ( "A second patent for Humminbird..") and it made me think of just how bad the fishing industry is about "borrowing" ideas. I don't all the details of what happened in the case of Lowrance and Humminbird, but the technology does seem awfully similar, but it's nothing new in the fishing industry.
Think of soft-plastic baits...how many companies have a "senko"? How many have a "fluke"? Do you think someone can have a patent on a type of bait? Kramer also talks about the patent Gene Lawew Bait Company had on all baits that are impregnated with salt. But today, it's just common practice.
How much of a change to you have to make in a bait for it to be considered new and safe from copyright laws? There is a fine line there and most companies do just enough to keep from getting sued. On the other hand, how much of the changes can be seen as just improvements on the original idea. Just something to think about, but I think everyone in the industry is doing it.