Legal matters when it comes to selling home-made gear

Discussion in 'General Electronics Chat' started by tom66, Sep 23, 2010.

  1. tom66

    Thread Starter Senior Member

    May 9, 2009
    I plan to sell my home made on screen display module to FPV users.

    I was advised that I should get a legal document drawn up or I could get sued if my module goes wrong during flight (as it will be put on a model aircraft) or if it stops working.

    However, I was originally going to just say this: All sales are final. If your OSD module goes wrong within 3 years from purchase, you can return it to me for a full refund. (Contact me before doing this so I know to expect it.) User damage (including crash damage) is not covered. No shipping costs are covered.

    So, what should I do?
  2. Jaguarjoe

    Active Member

    Apr 7, 2010
    First you say that all sales are final. Next you say the widget can be returned within 3 years. You can't have it both ways. If a sale is final, there is no warranty or recourse if something is not right with it.

    If you need legal advice, I don't think this is the place for it. I don't think AAC or the posters on AAC would want to be dragged into a legal quagmire because of damage caused by your widget. Seek the advice of a lawyer, or a solicitor. Over here, generally the first call to them is free.

    If your sick, you don't shop for a cheap doctor. The same is true for lawyers.
  3. tom66

    Thread Starter Senior Member

    May 9, 2009
    Yes, I know it's not the place to find lawyers. I was looking for advice from people who may have done this before.

    I should probably clarify it then. Sales are final except if the device malfunctions and is returned under warranty.
  4. someonesdad

    Senior Member

    Jul 7, 2009
    It sounds like you want to start a small business selling things. I'd recommend you search out local resources to help you learn the myriad of details you'll need to know about if you want to set up a small business. At the very least, you need to know all about your country and local tax and licensing regulations (you have no idea how many bloodsucking beings want to tag onto your coattails -- and bureaucrats who want to drown you in paperwork). If you're designing a product that can directly or indirectly cause harm to people or property, you need to learn about liability, insurance, etc. In the US, you need to decide whether you'll organize as an S-corp, LLC, corporation, partnership, or sole proprietor -- and why you make such choices (one reason is to insulate your personal property from litigation -- which may not be relevant if you design something that is determined to be at fault in injury or property damage). There are thousands of people who make their living helping others navigate these small business shoals. If you're serious about it, you at least need to have the services of an accountant and lawyer (at least in the US).

    This isn't to scare you away from what you want to do -- just make sure you do it fully informed.
  5. marshallf3

    Well-Known Member

    Jul 26, 2010
    You either warranty none, part or all of it and it sounds as if all you want to warranty is for any defects involving original workmanship only - it's a common warranty.

    Tons of this stuff running around and very few problems arise from it so long as you expect to be there to deal with your customers.

    Ever see an RC controller that was guaranteed against going bad and allowing a plane to crash?
  6. timrobbins

    Active Member

    Aug 29, 2009
    First things first - are you making and selling the goods as a company?

    You could also sell them in an auction (eg. eBay - check their T&C's out).
  7. tom66

    Thread Starter Senior Member

    May 9, 2009
    I am selling them as a personal thing.
  8. Kermit2

    AAC Fanatic!

    Feb 5, 2010
    If you don't want to deal with the legal 'headache', you should do this as a NOVELTY item. All aspects of the use and/or misuse of the item become the responsibility of the buyer. Present the item as intended to do NOTHING other than be purchased, the ultimate use to which it is put, becomes the responsibility of the purchaser. For a person who is not a company and not actually 'IN' business this is a perfectly legal means by which to operate. It also avoids someone trying to claim you sold them something which malfunctioned and 'ruined their house' or 'destroyed their car'. If it was only meant to be purchased as a novelty item then that use of the item becomes the purchasers problem, not yours.

    Believe me, there are people (and lawyers) who will, can and do make such outrageous claims in order to get money from someone such as yourself.
  9. jpanhalt

    AAC Fanatic!

    Jan 18, 2008
    See a lawyer, as has already been advised. You are talking liability. Warranty is hardly an issue in that. As lot of home-brew protection schemes (e.g., selling the item as a novelty) fall apart in tort. The buyer may not be the one suing you. It is the party injured by the buyer who sues. For example, American aircraft manufacturers were being sued for damages resulting from designs that were more than 40 years old.

    A lot of tort is based on who has deep pockets. Who pays for what is also extremely variable by country. So, see an attorney.

  10. tom66

    Thread Starter Senior Member

    May 9, 2009
    I will definitely consider seeing a lawyer.

    However it will probably cost me a lot. Likely the lawyer is going to say I need a legal contract drawn up and that will be £xx/hour. I simply don't have that amount of money, nor do I have means to acquire it, so I was wondering if simply saying "no liability on my part" (similar to the GNU GPL v1-3 for example) would be enough and if anyone has experience in this matter.

    I am only a student and I don't have much cash. So this project is intended to make me more independent.
  11. Wendy


    Mar 24, 2008
    How many of these are you considering? If it is to friends and very small quantity I think the fuss is about nothing, but if it is an open market item then you may need some legal input.

    The US has several advice sources, some are free. I'd look into whatever Britain has.
    tom66 likes this.
  12. tom66

    Thread Starter Senior Member

    May 9, 2009
    I will be selling to various people over the internet, mostly in the USA, but also in Europe and elsewhere.

    Maybe I should consult an advice source. I will look out for them, thanks for the idea, Bill.

    I forgot to add: This is an open source project (all three bits: hardware, microcontroller firmware and PC software) I'm looking to follow similar open source hardware/firmware/software projects like Arduino - have those guys been sued yet for their Arduinos going wrong?
    Last edited: Sep 24, 2010
  13. Rbeckett


    Sep 3, 2010
    In the US and for any item sold in the US you are responsible. If you offer an item for sale and anything bad happens, you are going to pay. That is the gist of the US legal system. So, get a lawyer and make sure you have a legal document protecting you before you make a mistake that could cause you life long consequences. Dont ask me how I know, it isnt pretty.
  14. theoldtrout

    New Member

    Oct 15, 2009
    As others have said, you MUST have public liability insurance, it is reckless to trade without it. Also be aware that if you are manufacturing a product to sell on the open market your product may have to comply with certain EEC directives such as EMC or the use of lead-free solder. Probably not applicable in your case but make certain that you do not infringe anyone's patent or intellectual property rights.

    Good luck with your venture.

    I was a Director of my own company for a few years and am now just self -employed so have some experience.
  15. tom66

    Thread Starter Senior Member

    May 9, 2009
    Thanks for the advice guys.

    I was unaware of all the troubles that could occur.

    I thought that just putting "I am not liable" would be enough.

    But apparently it is not.

    I will still sell the modules, but I will get some advice on legal matters from professionals.

  16. retched

    AAC Fanatic!

    Dec 5, 2009


    Go to and your golden.

    Just kidding.

    But, if you want tons of free advice, visit

    This is the Small Business Administrations website. There is great info there, all free.

    They delve into selling your product abroad and give resources, also free.

    Remember, time is money with a lawyer. The MORE research you can do, the better.

    The library of congress and your equivalent, as well as contracts from products like yours will give you a basis for what to study. has business contracts and the such that you simply cut-and-paste.

    If you put the document together, check against laws and a few products clauses, you may only need a few hours of a lawyers time.

    If you were in the US, the SBA has retired lawyers that donate their time to such ventures. Im sure you can find a retired lawyer to help you. It may only cost you dinner.