Alternative Handpan shapes

Hi there!
I’m new to the forum but not new to the topic:
It is about the legal dispute with the Swiss PanArt.
The topic is mainly for the builders among you but I think everyone else has some thoughts, too.
It is not about “does PanArt have the right of claiming copyright and blaming international makers for violating it”. My personal opinion is: They don’t have the right on the concept itself because the shape is the logical and simplest consequence of a structure and size, producing the handpans’ unique sound, stable and distortion-free tones, of ergonomics and playability (regarding e.g. the possibility of playing chords due to the scales in a zig-zag pattern and accessibility of the root-note).
But now the main question:

Do you think there are other possible shapes for building a handpan?
Maybe some keywords (just as examples):

  • truncated pyramid
  • kidney shaped
  • flat bottom plate
  • diamond shaped
  • holding vertically
  • bucket shaped
  • oval
  • flat upper plate
  • cajon-like

I read a the verdict at a German court where the argumentation was, that an instrument that shall produce a handpan-like sound does not necessarily have to be lentil-shaped. PanArt demonstrated at that court hearing, as far as I remember, that other shapes could produce the same sound as well. I don’t know what devices they played or if a skilled listener would have come to a different conclusion as the judges or for not comparing apples with oranges if these devices would have been playable like the handpan as handy lap-instrument or more like a drum-set or whatever.

There was an other argument PanArt had - or more an other example of explanation - that could become a problem in future: Due to their many other instruments that all produce a comparable sound to the handpan:
What if they start claiming copyright on all their ideas as soon as anyone invents something new that produces gong-like sounds on hammered tone-fields, no matter what handpan makers do, because there is a hidden blue-print in a hidden drawer at PanArt that no one knew about that they suddenly conjure up from the hat.)

As much as I love the pleasing shape and the simplicity of handpans, maybe we should - at least - think about and try, discuss and share some possibilities of evolution.
Because: As long as the first idea is with us, no one else can claim copyright on it and bully the handpan community.
And: If we come to the conclusion “No, the only possibility is exact this shape with exact these proportions” and if we could prove that, we could fight the testimony of “The shape is a question of art, of simplifying and reducing and harmonising the shape of a sound sculpture etc. (you know the story)” with “Sorry, you successfully reduced your understanding of simplicity to the physical necessities. Stop claiming copyright on laws of nature. Go in peace but go.”
Handpans touch the heart of millions. The concept, as far-reaching as possible, has to be public domain!

I am hoping for an open discussion :slight_smile:

Wish you all the best!

1 Like

Interesting to think about! I wouldn’t be surprised if they could be build in different shapes & produce a similar sound. The real bummer in my mind is the thought of having to do that in the first place, just to get around being able to create and sell the instrument. :thinking:

I hear that’s exactly the argument of Panart : the lack of innovation.
I have seen a maker that is making a double handpan a bit like a 8 with high notes on the top o and low notes on bottom o. It’s the begin but I see problems :

  • can’t really play sitting
  • can’t move hands quickly
  • selling will be expensive and packing will be big
    But if it was more like ∞ 2 people could play together.

It will be interesting to see what the court says. Both sides are putting huge sums of money behind the case so we know at least lawyers from both sides will be the big winners !

I’m only a beginner at the Handpan. But have loved the instrument for years. I have been trying to catch up with the hole PanArt thing. I don’t have anything substantive to add but wanted to tell you that your post is the most articulate well written summary of the whole situation. Very constructive as well. Thank you.

I can’t understand how the courts accepted that they created the shape. The round shape of the steel drum has been around for many years. and the idea of the hollow shaped drum has been around for longer… look at the clay udu. All PanArt did was borrow two ideas and shapes that have been around for ever and put them together. If the maker of the steel drum was still around they could take PanArt to court for copying their idea from a steel drum. The Sound of the Caribbean: Steel Drums in St. martin - YouTube

The whole concept was swiped from impoverished and enslaved Caribbean people who managed to sneak oil drums (the oil was being taken by the British) because so much of their enjoyment was banned.
The entire sound and structure was developed in the late 1800s.

Granted, PanArt may have continued to modernize, refine and make more portable … but that doesn’t change the history or the origination. Steel drums and kettle drums of course stemmed from the same roots. One is pressed in and the other pushed out. Development of refinement began wayyyyyy before PanArt was around. Mmm… 1930s or 40s, I think.

I don’t see how they could possibly claim any design rights of any kind. It wasn’t their idea. Modification does not constitute origination. Besides, who has any rights to any instrument design? If that were the case, there would only be 600 violins in the world and they would all be Stradivarius. :roll_eyes: