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At the beginning of Primer, we learn that it's Robert's turn to choose the project for the group, and Aaron and Abe clearly don't want to build it.

Regardless, they never seem to tell him "no", and as they begin building what eventually becomes The Box, they complain about the parts that Robert wants and that he does everything the hard way.

However, part-way through the build, Robert and Phillip are cut out of the loop on the build entirely. Once completed, Aaron mentions that he and Abe will be taking the rights for it, but that Robert and Phillip can have all of the patents for the past two years of their work.

Whose idea was the box to begin with?

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The idea for The Box is Abe's, though he does not anticipate what its true effect will be, and he seems to be in part inspired by other plans produced by a third party. Those plans are for a bigger Device (of which the Box will be a subsystem), and they want to create an improved version of this Device by removing the need to supercool its superconducting components.

See my answer to your other question for a conversation excerpt that helps illustrate the fact that Abe is driving this project. Also, in the scene immediately preceding, there is this exchange (discussing whether or not to adhere to "the agreement" that the four Emiba partners have) [italics mine]:

Abe: ... For what I wanna do? We don't need them. Not even Phillip because it doesn't need software.

(brief exchange between Aaron and his wife about care of their daughter)

Aaron: Even if Robert's OK with it -- and he won't be -- I don't even think that I have a clear understanding of what it is we're saying the thing's gonna do.

So, you can see that Abe is the only one with a clear definition of the goal.

They are shown to have copies of a blueprint for a different version of the Device, and it is implied by their conversation that these are someone else's plans. I don't think it's ever made clear exactly where they got those plans, only that they are for a device intended to produce a similar effect but less elegantly and economically than Abe's intended approach. Perhaps it's a discarded or theoretical plan available from scientific publications. Perhaps it was provided to them by Granger or someone else with access to the efforts of another group.

At any rate, they seem to be using those plans as the starting basis for their own, improved design, so the author of those plans might also deserve some small credit for inspiring Abe's idea, though it is strongly implied Abe's idea for the Box subsystem is the real innovation. And, more importantly, it is the field create by the Box that allows time travel -- the rest of the Device is superfluous for this purpose.

As you point out, Robert is involved in discussions about Abe's plan early on, though he is later cut out. Maybe Abe and Aaron were making a final effort to get him to agree to this as the next Emiba group project instead of his own. (This would, in my opinion, be in keeping with Abe's character.)

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