Posts Tagged "IP"

Design patents and utility patents help protect a hardware startup.

Design Patents and Utility Patents for Startups

Design patents and utility patents help protect a hardware startup.Patents, copyrights and trademarks are all forms of intellectual property. For the purpose of this piece, patents — particularly design patents and utility patents — will be the focus of the conversation. While all three types of IP are indeed essential for success, hardware-focused products rely heavily on patents. Often times, proper patent protection can mean the difference between success and failure for a hardware startup.

Patent Basics

A patent for an invention is the grant of a property right to the inventor, issued by the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). U.S. patent grants are effective only within the United States, U.S. territories, and U.S. possessions. There are three types of patents: utility, design and plant patents.

  1. Utility patents may be granted to anyone who invents or discovers any new and useful process, machine, article of manufacture, or composition of matter, or any new and useful improvement thereof;
  2. Design patents may be granted to anyone who invents a new, original, and ornamental design for an article of manufacture; and
  3. Plant patents may be granted to anyone who invents or discovers and asexually reproduces any distinct and new variety of plant.
Conducting a Patent Search

Once you have decided that you are interested in patenting your product, the next step is to conduct a patent search. A proper patent search will tell you if your invention, or its likeness, has been patented before or if your invention is indeed one-of-a-kind. There is nothing more time consuming, financially draining and demoralizing than filing for a patent, only to find that someone else already holds the patent to your invention.

The USPTO makes it possible to conduct a preliminary patent search on your own; however, it is highly recommended that you consult with a licensed patent search firm to assist with the bulk of the research. These firms have vast experience researching and are extremely knowledgeable in the classification systems.

Exploring Design Patents and Utility Patents

Design patents are often overlooked and underutilized compared to the more common utility patents. “Five percent of all patent applications (more than 30,000 per year) are design patents.” (Upcounsel) Design patents focus on the exterior design, features and overall aesthetics of the product. Utility patents focus on the functionality and features of your invention.

Design patents extend to what is exactly shown in the line drawings, nothing more. “Some products might need multiple design patents. Each would cover a specific physical feature of the proposed product. Cars, for instance, require many design patents.” (Upcounsel) Having high-quality professional line drawings by a CAD designer is extremely advantageous. With a design patent, you are able to use the coveted phrases, patent pending and patent issued on all marketing material, and have confidence that your invention is protected for the next fourteen years. Also. when it comes to cost, design patents are considerably cheaper to file than utility patents.

Utility patents focus solely on the inner workings of your invention, its unique functions and overall usefulness. “While a utility patent is harder to get, it offers better coverage. The utility patent has stronger protections built into the patent system.” (Upcounsel) An invention is deemed useful if it provides an identifiable benefit and is capable of use. People often refer to utility patents as “patents for invention”. According to the United States Patent and Trademark Office, ninety-percent of the patent documents issued by the USPTO in recent years have been utility patents. With a utility patent your invention will be protected for the next twenty years.

A design patent coupled with a utility patent provides overlapping protection for both the inner workings and exterior design of your product, and is a powerful tool in your IP arsenal.

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Intellectual property protection for startups during the manufacturing phase is necessary.

Intellectual Property Protection During Manufacturing

Intellectual property protection for a startup during manufacturing is necessary.Protecting intellectual property (IP) is important to any business, but especially so when you are launching a startup. Often your IP’s security can mean the difference between a viable business and a startup failure. That is why protecting your IP during the manufacturing phase of product development is critically important. Below we examine the IP security pros and cons of domestic v. international manufacturing for your hardware startup.

Domestic Manufacturing

When it comes to manufacturing your product in the U.S. there are many benefits, such as: ease of access, clear communication, fast fulfillment, reduced shipping fees and IP security.

When you hold a patent in the United States and decide to also manufacture here, you are guaranteed a certain level of security that your startup’s IP won’t be stolen. However, if for some reason this security breaks down, you have legal recourse for the damages.

International Manufacturing

When it comes to manufacturing your product abroad there are certain advantages that can make monetary sense for your startup: reduced costs, high-volume capacity and increased manufacturer partner options. However, IP protection is not one of the benefits.

If your invention is protected in the U.S. with a patent, trademark or copyright, these protections are not guaranteed overseas. Patenting an invention in the U.S. is not necessarily quick and it can be costly—the same goes for international patents. Often startups don’t have the funds to allocate to international patent protection. However, there are other ways to protect your IP in a foreign market.

  • Contractual Security

A well written and carefully constructed non-disclosure agreement (NDA) can protect IP from the onset. Clauses covering IP security can be included to establish clear ownership.

  • Implementing Security Measures

Restricting the number of individuals that have access to your product’s IP and conducting background checks on key personnel can help keep your IP safeguarded. Encrypting all digital files and communication that contain IP is another measure you can take to protect it.

  • Intellectual Property Insurance

You can transfer some of your IP risk by acquiring insurance. Intellectual Property Insurance typically protects against the significant legal costs that will need to be paid if an organization pursues its IP claims through the court system. It can cover both enforcing and defending claims. (Source: Trade Ready)

As President Lincoln once remarked, the patent system adds “the fuel of interest to the fire of genius.” IP rights, which include patents, trademarks, trade secrets and copyrights play an essential role in monetizing innovation. (Inc.)

Related articles of interest:

Have additional IP and manufacturing related questions? Send us an email at info@3d-innovations.com

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This is what inventors need to know about licensing agreements.

Licensing Agreement Basics for Startups

This is what inventors need to know about licensing agreements.For many inventors a licensing agreement is often a great option since it lets them develop a product, but then puts the expenses associated with commercialization on a more experienced manufacturer.

What is a licensing agreement?

A licensing agreement is a deal between the owner of a patent, brand, or trademark and someone who wants to use the patented or trademarked goods and services. (Upcounsel)

With a licensing agreement, an inventor (the licensor) develops an invention and then protects that invention through a patent, copyright, trademark, or trade secret, and thus creates intellectual property (IP). The inventor—the owner of the intellectual property—then licenses the invention to a second party (the licensee) whose responsibility is to commercialize the invention. As compensation for allowing another party to use its intellectual property, the licensor will receive a royalty.

There are many types of licensing agreements: trademark licensing, copyright licensing, patent licensing, software licensing and merchandise licensing. Intellectual property licensors use three main types of licensing agreements: exclusive license, non-exclusive license and sole license. (Read about each type on Upcounsel)

The Main Benefits of a Licensing Agreement

Globalization has made licensing agreements a very popular option for businesses and inventors. Often, licensing is a strategic way of entering international markets. A foreign company will obtain rights to produce and/or sell another company’s product in its home country.

Below is a list of the top benefits of licensing your invention/IP.

  • The licensor (inventor) does not have to finance the commercialization process.
  • The licensor avoids the need to create and operate a company.
  • The invention will most likely get to market faster because a larger, more experienced company is handling the manufacturing and commercialization.
  • The invention may reach more markets if the licensee is a large, well-funded enterprise.
  • The licensor retains ownership of the intellectual property.
  • It creates passive income for the licensor.

Overall, licensing agreements minimize risk for both parties involved. The licensor doesn’t have to setup a business and incur those additional expenses and the licensee doesn’t have to spend time on product development and testing.

Suggestions for Securing a Licensing Agreement
  • Assess the complexity of your product. Is there a way to get a working version developed without extensive costs? 3D printing/additive manufacturing is a frequently used method to get a functional prototype ready because of its speed and the reduced costs associated with the technology.
  • Identify manufacturers. Find out which manufacturers currently sell product lines to large retailers where you can see that your product would be a good fit.
  • Create a functional prototype. Create a functional prototype of your product and pitch retail buyers. The goal is to get a commitment before you actually launch. You can possibly even offer them a few months of launch exclusivity. The mock-up of your packaging is also critically important. Your product must look as retail ready as possible.
  • Setup a meeting with an IP attorney. The attorney will be able to go over the legal aspects of the licensing agreement with you and help come up with a plan that best suits your needs.
  • Approach the identified manufacturers. If you want to get the attention of a manufacturer, before you even talk about your product, pitch the prospect your new customer, growing sales or the commitment from a major buyer. You’ll get an appointment, and your product has a better chance of moving to the front of the line in the new product development funnel.

Read our Case Study that details how our team worked on turning a consumer product idea into a manufacturable product for licensing to a large international retailer.

Have additional questions about licensing agreements for inventors? Please send us an email at info@3d-innovations.com

Articles Referenced:

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3D design and 3D models are critical for efficient manufacturing.

The Importance of 3D Design for (Efficient) Manufacturing

3D design and 3D models are critical for efficient manufacturing.When you are ready to take your prototype and turn it into a real-world product, be sure that your 3D design files are also ready to go. A CAD file is either a digital 2D or 3D model of your product. When you start reaching out to manufacturers, most of the time they will ask to see your 3D design before moving forward with a manufacturing consultation and quote. “Without some idea of size, number of cavities, complexity, shape, and design, a manufacturer cannot accurately advise on the manufacturability of your product or help you choose the right materials and color.” (Extreme Molding)

3D Design Saves Time

Making sure that the manufacturer has the most detailed information possible about your product helps ensure that you are receiving an accurate quote and that there are fewer potential manufacturing issues down the road.

“Not only does a CAD file help save time when figuring out all the finer details of a part by looking at the 3D model, but it also allows a model to be magnified and even rotate on any axis to get a full three-dimensional concept of the part, which allows the manufacturer a greater sense of the product. It can even reveal internal features of a part if it cannot be seen clearly on a manufacturing drawing. Aside from these benefits, using CAD makes it possible to simulate the movement of a part through production processes.” (Vista Industrial)

3D Design Reduces Material Waste

“CAD files enables the manufacturer to check tool paths before any material is cut. The ability to run a simulation and so verify the complete machining process in a virtual environment is critical for keeping waste and scrap to a minimum. This may be crucial on some jobs, such as those using expensive alloys, large material-intensive components, or for those with complex geometry. Other verification advantages that result from less scrap include less energy consumption and reduced tool wear.

CAD simulations also enable you and the manufacturer to identify how long the production run time will take. Clearly this is useful for scheduling, as well as the planning of throughput, material supply and delivery. As the 3D model is the source of the manufacturing data, the design intent is preserved, and the dimensional accuracy is retained.” (Advice Manufacturing)

3D Design Allows for Ongoing Communication

If your product design needs to be adjusted to meet design or manufacturing needs, this can easily be accomplished within a digital CAD file. Since the CAD files are transferred electronically, you are assured that both you, your product design team and the manufacturer all have the same information moving forward.

“CAD systems also facilitate communication among those involved in design, manufacturing, and other processes. This is of particular importance when one firm contracts another to either design or produce a component.” (Inc.)

In today’s manufacturing environment, CAD files are a necessity. A 3D design allows you to evaluate the form, fit, and functionality of your product. The design will also verify tolerance, loads, stresses and optimize manufacturability. If you plan on filing for IP rights or patent protection, a CAD file will help clearly communicate the design to your attorney and those reviewing your patent application.

Have additional product development questions? Please send them our way, info@3d-innovations.com

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Domestic v. International Manufacturing for Your Startup

manufacturingWhether you are considering having your product manufactured in your home country or overseas, you need to take into account the benefits and disadvantages of each before reaching a final decision. Each item on your list should be weighed based on your startup’s goals, mission, customers and timeline. Below you will find a preliminary pros and cons list to help you get started.

Domestic Manufacturing Advantages
  • Easier Communication. When you and your manufacturing partner share the same language, you are less likely to experience communication barriers and breakdowns. When communication is a challenge, it can be costly for your startup.
  • Visit the Facility. When your manufacturer is close, you are easily able to visit the factory and build a trusting relationship with your manufacturing partner.
  • Faster Fulfillment. When you don’t have to factor in international shipping, your product will most likely be available much quicker, which means that you can get it to market faster.
  • Production Flexibility. Domestic manufacturers are usually able to accommodate smaller production runs. While an international manufacturer might be able to offer a smaller production run, shipping can make it cost prohibitive.
  • Reduced Shipping Fees. If you intend to sell your product domestically, you will be able to save money on shipping costs.
  • Positive Press & Market Perception. The American public tends to view products made domestically as superior in quality and is therefore willing to pay more for your product.
  • IP Security. Intellectual property (IP) can make or break a startup. Copycat products not only hurt your brand, but they can also harm consumers. Manufacturing your product domestically may decrease the chance of intellectual property theft.
Domestic Manufacturing Disadvantages
  • Higher Costs. Manufacturing your product domestically usually means that you will be paying more for your product. U.S. labor laws require manufacturers to provide minimum wage for workers along with safe working environments.
  • High Volume Production Issues. Manufacturers are not as well equipped to produce high volume orders as their international counterparts.
International Manufacturing Advantages
  • Reduced Costs. Manufacturing a product overseas is almost always significantly less expensive than manufacturing domestically.
  • Increased Options. In the U.S. manufacturers tend to specialize in the products they can produce, whereas in China a manufacturer might be able to produce a wide range of products. There are also more factories in China which means you have options, helping to keep prices competitive.
  • High-volume Capability. International manufacturers excel when it comes to producing high-volume orders in a single production run.
International Manufacturing Disadvantages
  • Communication Barriers. By not sharing a language or native culture, navigating business can be a bit more challenging.
  • Challenging to Find. Not all international manufacturing facilities have a website, or keep up with the Google algorithm—which means that finding them on the internet can be a challenge. Also, the facilities that do have a website and provide contact information are most likely contacted very frequently by people “testing the waters”, so they may not respond to your email in a timely manner, or at all.
  • Limited Oversight. It is always a good idea to visit a facility before entering into a contract, however this can be a challenge with international suppliers. You might make the initial trip to visit the facility, but subsequent visits can quickly add up and could be cost prohibitive for your startup.
  • Increased Shipping Fees. When you intend to sell your product domestically, having your product shipped from their international facility to the U.S. can be costly. Increased tariffs and other political factors can make predicting shipping fees a bit challenging, and these fees can readily fluctuate.
  • Less Secure IP Rights. Without the protections of U.S. intellectual property rights, your product is vulnerable to IP theft and copycats flooding the market.

Ultimately the decision to manufacture either domestically or internationally is based on your budget, timeline and customer preferences. With our heightened political climate and a shift in attitude, many people now prefer to buy products that are made in the U.S., and are willing to pay more for these products.

Do you have additional questions about manufacturing your product? Send us an email at info@3d-innovations.com

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Get Your Product Idea Off the Ground

product idea, hardware, entrepreneur, startups, product developmentComing up with a product idea is exhilarating—knowing that you have an idea that will help not only yourself, but an entire segment of the population, is the very definition of exciting. So now you have an idea, but you aren’t exactly sure what to do next. Below we have gathered helpful advice and insight into the next stages of your product development journey.

Developing a Product Idea Isn’t a “One-Size-Fits All” Process

It is a common misconception that building a hardware startup is a straightforward and linear process: Find a Problem—Design a Solution—Sell the Product—Make Money. In theory this is how it should work, however in actuality, this process is more of a maze with twists and turns on your way to success.

Each product and each startup will face their own challenges on the way to market; by preparing yourself for any hiccups you encounter along the way, you will be in a much better position to successfully navigate them.

Consider and Research Intellectual Property Protection

Navigating the world of intellectual property is challenging for seasoned entrepreneurs, and even more stressful when you are working on designing and launching your very first product. Intellectual property (IP) is often moved to the bottom of the priority list because it is full of unknowns. When is the right time to file? Do I need a design patent? Is a trademark necessary?

With the spread of technology and globalization, a solid intellectual property strategy has never been more critical. Copycat products are popping up at an alarming rate—which is bad for business and dangerous for consumers. Having a strong intellectual property strategy early-on or having the patent process started, is a great way to protect your invention, attract or solidify partnerships and secure funding.

Add Value Through Product Design

The Design Hierarchy of Needs is a good starting point during the product development process. As an entrepreneur, you can look at your product, or product idea, through this lens and determine where your product excels, and which areas need a little more help before your product design is finalized.

Understand Common Startup Roadblocks—Then Avoid Them

We can all learn from failure, we can even learn from other startup’s failures. Making yourself aware of the challenges associated with building and launching a product, you are more likely to make educated decisions that allow you to avoid failure altogether.

Diving into the product development process is an exciting time for an entrepreneur. With the right knowledge and information, you are setting yourself and your startup for success.

We would also suggest you check out these additional blog posts:

Have additional questions about developing your product idea and want to talk to an expert? Send us an email with your questions to info@3d-innovations.com

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New Partnership with the Hawaii State Bar Association

hawaii state bar association, hsba, 3d innovations, partnership, hawaii, product developmentWe are excited to announce a new partnership — 3D Innovations has partnered with the Hawaii State Bar Association. HSBA members have access to a range of discounted products and services throughout Hawaii with their “HSBA Member Benefits”.

3D Innovations (New Member Benefit)
Have a new product that you want to develop?  Let 3D Innovations help you develop your new idea.  3D Innovations provides Product Development Our suite of services includes product design/engineering, prototyping, 3D Printing, additive manufacturing, supply chain management, packaging design, and production manufacturing sourcing. We provide 3D Printing and Rapid Prototyping services to quickly validate designs and make improvements for production manufacturing. Experience the benefits of 3D Design and see how 3D Innovations can develop innovative solutions to engineer, design, and manufacture your product.

Members will receive a 15% discount when they present their bar card. Click here for more information.

View other business partners and service providers on the Hawaii State Bar Association website.

Have questions about our new partnership with HSBA? Send us an email at info@3d-innovations.com

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Hardware Entrepreneurs: A Big Picture Mentality

hardware, startups, product design, technology, small business, hawaiiWhen it comes to developing a hardware product, it is easy to get bogged down in the design details during product development. While the details certainly do matter, if you focus solely on them from the start it could spell trouble for your startup later on. Having a big picture mentality allows you to get a complete grasp on product development as well as other major decision milestones, such as: manufacturing, sales, partnerships and marketing.

Developing a Preliminary Design Plan

Planning ahead is always a good idea when it comes to building a hardware product and launching a startup. A preliminary design plan is a good first step to help you get a firm grasp on the “big picture”. With a preliminary design you clarify budgets and timelines—which leads to better decision making as you head towards commercialization.

“A preliminary design (pre-design) focuses solely on the decisions that impact the big picture for your product. This includes your product’s cost, profit margin, performance, features, development feasibility and manufacturability. A pre-design ignores any details that don’t impact the big picture for your product. You can worry about those later. After you complete the pre-design you need to accurately estimate all of the costs required to launch your product. This includes the cost to develop, prototype, certify, scale, and most importantly the cost to manufacture your product. Knowing these costs ahead of time will allow you to plan the best strategy forward” (Predictable Designs).

The Benefits of Planning Ahead for Your Hardware Startup

By starting with a preliminary design, you will be able to focus on the big picture and the overarching goals you have established for your startup, as well as:

  • Make informed financial decisions;
  • Talk knowledgably with potential investors;
  • Have a clear idea on your development and product launch timeline;
  • Develop a product that is manufacturable;
  • Understand your break-even point and at what point your startup begins to make a profit;
  • Build a realistic business plan.

Take the time now to plan ahead—your startup will thank you in the end.

Have questions about your preliminary design plan? We are happy to help. Please send us an email at info@3d-innovations.com

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3D Innovations is a Product Development Company – from the 3D Design to a fully functional 3D Prototype & Product.

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What to Expect from Your First Product Development Meeting

product development, hardware startupsComing up with a product idea is exciting, but making the decision to pursue and develop it, is truly exhilarating. Many first-time entrepreneurs want to jump right in and get to work building their product, only to realize that they may not have the exact skillset necessary to develop the product all the way. This is where a product development firm is brought in to aid in the process. It can be nerve-wracking sharing your idea with someone else, and we all like to have a general idea of what we can expect in initial meetings.

While each product development firm has their own template for initial meetings. You can expect a variance on the below.

Get to Know You

Just as you are eager to get to know the product designer, they are eager to know more about you. This goes beyond your product—they want to know the backstory of how your product idea came-to-be. They want to know what you are passionate about. They want to know your skillset, where do you excel (sales, marketing, accounting)? This information will allow them to get a better idea on where their services will be utilized the most efficiently.

Discuss Your Product Idea

In your first meeting you are going to want to get as detailed as possible when discussing your product idea. You may think that the littlest details may not make a difference as you start developing an idea, however, every detail matters. Provide as much detail about your product requirements as possible. A good development company will be able to ask you the right questions throughout the development process to help you narrow down the requirements and focus on the functionality. You don’t need to know all of the technical details about the product, just how it needs to function.

Talk About the Product Development Timeline

While TV and the internet can make you believe that products are designed, manufactured and launched overnight, this isn’t how it works. Developing a product takes time. While the exact amount of time to develop your product depends on the idea and the intricacies of it—in general expect to be spending weeks to months on product development.

 Discuss Your Intellectual Property Strategy

Just like you, product development firms want to make sure your product is protected from copycats, so they will want to discuss IP and what your initial feelings on it are.

Most hardware startups find themselves thinking about intellectual property early-on and wondering if it is truly necessary for their invention. If you are planning to manufacture your product abroad, considering a crowdfunding campaign, wanting to speak with potential investors or find yourself constantly worrying about someone copying your invention, then meeting with a patent attorney is a great idea. In many cases, having a design or utility patent will be beneficial for your startup in the long-run.

Have questions about developing a product idea? Send us an email at info@3d-innovations.com

Additional Information about Product Development

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3D Innovations is a Product Development Company – from the 3D Design to a fully functional 3D Prototype & Product.

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Intellectual Property Protection for Hardware Startups

intellectual propertyNavigating the world of intellectual property is challenging for seasoned entrepreneurs, and even more stressful when you are working on designing and launching your very first product. Intellectual property (IP) is often moved to the bottom of the priority list because it is full of unknowns. When is the right time to file? Do I need a design patent? Is a trademark necessary?

With the spread of technology and globalization, a solid intellectual property strategy has never been more critical. Copycat products are popping up at an alarming rate—which is bad for business and dangerous for consumers. Having a strong intellectual property strategy early-on or having the patent process started, is a great way to protect your invention, attract or solidify partnerships and secure funding.

Below are links to help you get familiar with intellectual property terminology, resources, and strategies.

Intellectual Property Strategies for Hardware Startups

Intellectual property (IP) protection is an important consideration for any startup, and possibly even more so for hardware startups. Patents are a way to not only protect an idea, but to also minimize competition and act as a defense mechanism against infringement claims from others. Here are four considerations for your startup’s intellectual property strategy.

FAQ: The Basics of Intellectual Property and Manufacturing

No two products are alike; therefore, a custom-tailored strategy is necessary when it comes to navigating these two areas of product development.

On the IP side, a decision must be made about what type of patent (design patent or utility patent) makes sense for the invention and budget. On the manufacturing side, everything about the design, even the smallest details, must be accounted for when selecting materials and where to manufacture the product. Having insight and answers early-on in the startup journey helps entrepreneurs understand the full spectrum of what it takes to bring a product to market.

The Benefits of a Provisional Patent Application for Your Hardware Startup

A provisional patent application early-on can be very beneficial for a hardware startup if your business goal is to either license your invention or proceed with a patent filing.

How to Prepare for Your First Patent Attorney Meeting

If you are planning to manufacture your product abroad, considering a crowdfunding campaign, wanting to speak with potential investors or find yourself constantly worrying about someone copying your invention, then meeting with a patent attorney is a great idea.

Navigating IP on the Path to Commercialization

Whether you are at the helm of a startup that plans on crowdfunding a product or a SME working on a new and innovative technology, securing and protecting your intellectual property (IP) rights to that invention is key to successful commercialization.

General Information Concerning Patents (USPTO)

Some people confuse patents, copyrights, and trademarks. Although there may be some similarities among these kinds of intellectual property protection, they are different and serve different purposes.

Have additional questions regarding an intellectual property strategy for your startup? We are happy to help. Send us an email at info@3d-innovations.com

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