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Arduino Dispute Reaches Out To Distributors 92

szczys writes Two companies are claiming ownership of the Arduino Trademark. The most recent development in this sad state of affairs is a letter from Arduino SRL to long-time Distributors of Arduino products. SRL is claiming they are the real Arduino, but there are some tasty tidbits including a Q/A section with some peculiar answers. From the article: "In short, Arduino LLC has been working on developing the Arduino platform, software, and community while Smart Projects / Arduino SRL was the major official producer of the hardware for most boards. Both are claiming to 'be' Arduino, and going after each other in court. So it’s not strange that Arduino SRL would like to try to keep its hold on the distribution channels."
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Arduino Dispute Reaches Out To Distributors

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  • by Half-pint HAL ( 718102 ) on Sunday March 29, 2015 @10:33AM (#49364929)
    Arduino turned 11 yesterday, and like many children of that age, the celebrations were kind of interrupted by its divorced parents' continuing battle for custody....
    • I started playing with Arduinos a couple of years ago. You ordered them by mail order at the time. Eventually Radio Shack started carrying them, which made it easier for anybody to pick one up (and while I live in Silicon Valley, if I needed a few resistors or LEDs or simple components to go with them, it was often easier to stop at Radio Shack than Fry's or mailorder.) Now they're fighting over the name, and Radio Shack is going out of business.

  • Should be simple (Score:5, Informative)

    by kelemvor4 ( 1980226 ) on Sunday March 29, 2015 @10:36AM (#49364953)
    From TFA:

    It turns out that Smart Projects had trademarked the Arduino brand in Italy in December 2008, before Arduino LLC got around to filing in April 2009 in the USA.

    So... what's to discuss. I don't think there's a law against being a complete asshole, so smart projects wins.

    • by DamonHD ( 794830 )

      I think that there is a chance of justice being served in spite of the law here, since it seems fairly clear from the little that I have read that some deceit was going on.

      Rgds

      Damon

      • by amiga3D ( 567632 )

        Laws don't necessarily have anything to do with right on wrong. It's simply legal or illegal. For a long time slavery was perfectly legal in the US despite the rights or wrongs of it.

        • by DamonHD ( 794830 )

          Exactly my point. The law and justice are not to be confused, but I have reasonable hopes for the latter being served here.

          Rgds

          Damon

        • For this stuff, it's not about right/wrong. It's about how good you are at selecting the best lawyers for the job and whether or not you can afford them.

        • You're thinking of criminal law, this is about civil law (money). You don't have to do something illegal to get sued: e.g. the parking break on your car failing and hitting someone.

    • Re:Should be simple (Score:5, Informative)

      by BarbaraHudson ( 3785311 ) <barbarahudsononl ... Nom minus author> on Sunday March 29, 2015 @10:53AM (#49365031) Journal
      Arduino SLR only filed for the US trademark in September of last year, and it hasn't been granted yet. Arduino LLC (Massachusetts) filed in 2009 and was granted the trademark in 2011. So in the US, Arduino SLR is infringing on Arduino LLC's trademark and their attempts to coerce distributors are tortious interference.
      • by mysidia ( 191772 )

        No... you are just taking Arduino LLC's side of it.

        Trademark rights derive from use, not the registration. It is similar to the manner in which a book you write is subject to copyright protection, whether or not you registered. A trademark registration is not the adjudication. Improper or unenforceable registrations sometimes happen, And sometimes enforceable marks may fail to have a registration, see Common Law Trademark rights.

        Or the holder of the trademark failed to have exclusive distinctive

        • Re:Should be simple (Score:5, Informative)

          by BarbaraHudson ( 3785311 ) <barbarahudsononl ... Nom minus author> on Sunday March 29, 2015 @01:55PM (#49365739) Journal

          The problem with that point of view is that Arduino SLR for years paid a royalty to Arduino LLC to use the name and logo. The Arduino SLR trademark was the equivalent of a "submarine patent" - one of the partners in the development of Arduino (who also did the manufacturing) filed a trademark application in his own name, before the group filed their trademark application, then waited years to pull this stunt, all the while paying a license fee so as not to tip his hand.

          He only did so because Arduino LLC was going to go to a supplier with a much lower cost, so he was going to lose his profits from manufacturing, which are significant because he's selling them at 4x the cost of clones.

          • there is no more money in arduino hardware anymore. its a fact.

            business model is hard. the value is the software and libs and user content (MOSTLY user content! its all about the libraries and examples that let us all do rapid prototyping).

            I bought some 328 arduino italy boards when I first started, at $30 or so, each. maybe more, I forget. but they were expensive and I stopped buying them once I could do my own boards. and now, even my own boards do not make as much sense; since I can buy a usb nanon

            • there is no more money in arduino hardware anymore.

              arguing over who sells the hardware is a lose/lose game.

              SLR has announced it's coming out with new boards. But will these be open designs or copyrighted? If they also take over the arduino name for software they control the whole pipeline. Cortex boards are about $20 to $40 right now and they outperform the arduino. SO why are the cortex boards, aside from the raspberry, an idle novelty? because they don't have the unified user base behind the arduino. So who better to come in and scoop this up? after all ardunio is already in this game with the DUE and Y

        • I'll add to this that, contrary to patents and copyright, which are government-granted artificial monopolies intended to favor invention and creation (debating if the employed means efficiently promote the claimed ends is off-topic here), trademark rights core basis is accurate information to customers about what they buy/use, and where it comes from. This is why Mozilla denied Debian the right to use the brands "FireFox" and "ThunderBird" for the custom builds that went by default with the distro, because

          • Come to think of it: no matter what, if a company decided to sell boards strictly following the Arduino design specification as an "Arduino Clone", it would be completely unattackable on a trademark basis.
          • by mysidia ( 191772 )

            If the Schmuck Company sold Arduino-designed boards under the name Schmuckware, without referring to Arduino, it would infringe on the CC license.

            The CC-BY-SA is not an advertising clause. They can include the attribution as a label or note attached to the product package as accompanying it. BY-SA doesn't require (Or grant permission for) them to print that the item is an Arduino or Arduino brand product in marketing material.

    • Re:Should be simple (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Half-pint HAL ( 718102 ) on Sunday March 29, 2015 @10:57AM (#49365057)

      From TFA:

      It turns out that Smart Projects had trademarked the Arduino brand in Italy in December 2008, before Arduino LLC got around to filing in April 2009 in the USA.

      So... what's to discuss. I don't think there's a law against being a complete asshole, so smart projects wins.

      You don't "trademark" things -- you register a trademark. Registration is not strictly necessary in most jurisdictions -- as long as you are actively using the branding, it is automatically considered your trademark. Order of registration only matters if you're talking about two commercial entities independently coming up with the same brand. Here we have two entities with an existing contractual relationship. Smart Projects therefore was not ignorant of the informal body that later became Arduino LLC. Who initiated the contract and who came up with the name? What did the original contract say about the name? Clearly the initial contracts were poorly drafted, or there would be a clear answer, and we wouldn't be having this conversation!!

      • From TFA:

        It turns out that Smart Projects had trademarked the Arduino brand in Italy in December 2008, before Arduino LLC got around to filing in April 2009 in the USA.

        So... what's to discuss. I don't think there's a law against being a complete asshole, so smart projects wins.

        You don't "trademark" things -- you register a trademark. Registration is not strictly necessary in most jurisdictions -- as long as you are actively using the branding, it is automatically considered your trademark. Order of registration only matters if you're talking about two commercial entities independently coming up with the same brand. Here we have two entities with an existing contractual relationship. Smart Projects therefore was not ignorant of the informal body that later became Arduino LLC. Who initiated the contract and who came up with the name? What did the original contract say about the name? Clearly the initial contracts were poorly drafted, or there would be a clear answer, and we wouldn't be having this conversation!!

        Well I learned something today. I guess I should have assumed that lawyers would make the problem as difficult to resolve as possible.

        • Lawyers are the upper-class version of a street thug. You need someone taken out? Get a lawyer. Someone's got a beef with you? Get a lawyer. They are the worst kind of person in the world because their existence serves only to further their own existence. They are the cancer that is ruining your country. I'm not a doctor but even I can see that. What's worse is when a lawyer gets half a brain and starts going at it for himself. Then you have a politician. Lower down the ladder you have the people too dumb t
          • by kwoff ( 516741 )
            And I can't wait for feathered hair to make a come-back. Any other ridiculous non-sequiturs you're waiting for while we're at it?
        • Well I learned something today. I guess I should have assumed that lawyers would make the problem as difficult to resolve as possible.

          Sorry, but this one is good for the little guy. It means that granny can make Mrs Mullins' Marmalade without needing to file or register anything, and The Big Conserve Co can't just walk up and register, steal her reputation and force her to stop trading when she's just starting to make a name for herself. This is protection for the little guy.

          • by Anonymous Coward

            Well I learned something today. I guess I should have assumed that lawyers would make the problem as difficult to resolve as possible.

            Sorry, but this one is good for the little guy. It means that granny can make Mrs Mullins' Marmalade without needing to file or register anything, and The Big Conserve Co can't just walk up and register, steal her reputation and force her to stop trading when she's just starting to make a name for herself. This is protection for the little guy.

            Sorry, but what really happens is that Big Conserve Co registers the trademark, then offer Mrs Mullins a lowball figure of say $50K to buy out her name, and if she refuses their offer they then threaten to take her to court with their $1000/hr lawyers, a team of 20 of them, to fight against her... at which point she realizes that there's no way she's going to be able to afford the legal power to fight against them, and either gives in or tries to fight and eventually files bankruptcy anyways. Big Conserve

            • Yes, the US court system in particular is a bugger for everyone. But the principle of not needing to file trademarks is sound, even if the execution is flawed.
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      The article also indicates that Arduino LLC trademarked the name in the U.S. in 2009, and that Smart Projects had been paying royalty fees to Arduino LLC until recently. Those additional facts seem to suggest that until recently, Smart Projects considered LLC to be a rightful holder of the trademark. Why did their theory change?

    • by Anonymous Coward

      I love my arduino. For me, the arduino is the software, compiler, and discussions on the web. The actual arduino hardware is something I get from chinese manufacturers and then buy widgets from adafruit or sparkfun. Feeling slightly guilty about not buying the expensive italian made boards I just gave the arduino folks a donation. Now I'm wondering who I actually gave that money too. What's confusing is that the site I was on was the compiler download site which would be software, but they were appea

      • I realize that this is probably a little slanted, but is seems like a good writeup of the situation:
        Massimo Banzi: Fighting for Arduino [makezine.com]

        • Thanks for posting this.

          At heart this is a fight over who gets to make Arduino products. Arduino LLC is looking toward a multiple vendor future: more than one authorized manufacturer as Raspberry Pi and BeagleBoard have done, and more partner-designed products like Sparkfun's Arduino Pro and Pro Mini and Intel's Galileo. Arduino SRL wants to remain the only or primary manufacturer.

          Ultimately this is a battle that Arduino SRL can't win. There are no legal barriers keeping other companies from making Arduino-

    • by mysidia ( 191772 )

      So... what's to discuss. I don't think there's a law against being a complete asshole, so smart projects wins.

      For Trademark rights to be effective, you have to both register them AND have exclusive use of the mark when you registered it, AND continue to maintain that exclusive use of the mark.

      It would seem that Smart Projects might have registered first, but failed to maintain exclusive use, therefore, resulting in Arduino SRL acquiring the trademark as well.

    • It sounds like Smart Projects acted in bad faith towards Arduino LLC, in which case Arduino LLC is very likely entitled to the trademark.
    • Use in commerce matters too.

      From: http://www.uspto.gov/sites/def... [uspto.gov]

      Is federal registration of my mark required?
      No. In the United States, parties are not required to register their marks to obtain protectable rights.
      You can establish “common law” rights in a mark based solely on use of the mark in commerce,
      without a registration. However, owning a federal trademark registration on the Principal Register
      provides a number of significant advantages over common law rights alone, including:
      A l

      • by gl4ss ( 559668 )

        yeah so which one was using it in commerce?

        the firm selling the boards to customers or the firm running arduino.cc?

    • So... what's to discuss.

      It does seem pretty straightforward, I mean, they're Italian, a few guys carrying violin cases turn up, badabing, badabang (mostly badabang), problem solved.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    There are dozens of Cortex-M boards far more capable than Arduino and much cheaper. STM's, for one.

    • And do they have easy to use, cross-platform tools with a large number of active forum members willing to help you?

      • by jrumney ( 197329 )
        Yes [mbed.org]
        • This should be modded +5 funny in context of this discussion.

          • by jrumney ( 197329 )
            Sorry, what part of type some simple code into a webpage (with better formatting and syntax highlighting than the slashdot example below), get a binary file back which you copy over USB to your board, reset and it runs is funny in the context of this discussion? Cross platform tools are available if you want them, but the beginner doesn't even need to install them to get started.

            #include "mbed.h"

            DigitalIn enable(p5);
            DigitalOut led(LED1);
            int main() {
            while(1) {
            if(enable) {
            l

            • The website bit, and more importantly the second part involving active forum members willing to help.

              All platforms have their social issues, but from what I've seen the mbed platform does not rank highly in my humble opinion on community support. Certainly not as highly as Arduino or to a lesser extent the AVR community who can also be a right royal bunch of twats to newcommers at times.

      • Yes of course they do.

        The Arduino tools are appalling, literally the worst development environment I have ever used. And I've written code in emacs. I do appreciate that many of the competing products are a little bit too complicated, but that Arduino thing is a shocker. Surely there's a middle ground somewhere?

        The forums are... well.. not very helpful.

        To be fair though, the library support that ships inside that dreadful "IDE" is quite good.

        • I have ever used

          I've just found a bit of the quote there that gives it all context. So you've used development environments before then? Probably fully featured ones too. Yes in that context Arduino is the worst.

          However it is by far the best development environment ever for someone who has never programmed before. A 14 year old could literally pick it up and have code running in minutes without needing to check for help or figure out how to configure project environments, or attach debuggers, or find out how to download co

    • There are dozens of XYZ boards far more capable than Rasberry Pi .

      Man the whole point is that the arduino is a common platform for tinkers evrywhere. it's the libraries and community know how that make this fun. In some ways it's like the joy of stock car races where exceeding the imposed limits can be the fun of it. It's also really simple so it's something one person can truly master in their spare time. I'm addicted. I've had doofuses tell me about other development boards that are far superior for reans A,B, and C. Sure if I was building something just to be apro

    • by Osgeld ( 1900440 )

      two different worlds

      Cortex's are execlent brains but lack any muscle and require lots of glue to the outside world, the old 8 bit AVR's are pretty dumb but makes strong glue

    • There are dozens of Cortex-M boards far more capable than Arduino and much cheaper. STM's, for one.

      You mean like the Arduino Due? That's an Arduino combined with a cortex-M made by arduino.

      I've not seen cortex-Ms for $2.50 but you can buy as many arduino's as you want for that. that's the whole board not just the chip. See alibaba.

  • A Reash of SCO? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by JBMcB ( 73720 ) on Sunday March 29, 2015 @11:02AM (#49365081)

    Sounds like a rehash of the (failed) SCO argument. We licensed UNIX, we're the only "official" seller of UNIX, therefore we ARE UNIX.

    Didn't go so well for them.

  • Can't we all play nice? Arduino was such a happy product.
    • We can all play nice on the edge of the playground, while the bullies fight in the middle. I bought one of the 'Arduino Uno' clone boards on eBay a few years ago. It was really really cheap. It had a sticker on it that could be peeled off and beneath it was a counterfeit Arduino logo/brandmarking.

      I have also bought 'real' Arduinos, but for my sort of usage the real point in the first place was buying one of the socketed through-hole versions. A tube of the processors is really cheap and the 'Arduino boa

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday March 29, 2015 @11:25AM (#49365185)

    After Visicalc, the first electronic spreadsheet, gave businessmen a reason to buy personal computers (specifically Apple II's), a nasty round of litigation ensued between the company that developed the software (Software Arts) and the company that productized the software (Visicorp, nee Personal Software). Both companies were dragged down as Mitch Kapor and Lotus Development came out with the hit product on the new IBM PC.

    The sage is now a staple of business school curricula on what not to do, I think.

    http://www.bricklin.com/history/saiend.htm

    • Visicalc was available only on the Apple II for about the first year it existed. Businessmen would go into the fledgling new Personal Computer shops and say "Can you sell me a Visicalc."

      That was actually the origin of Apple's initial success as a company: the exclusive marketing deal with Visicalc. Anything else about the 'origins of Apple' is a myth. They're really lucky they were able to get past that, because when Visicalc became available on the new IBM PC nobody wanted Apple hardware anymore.

    • Short NPR "Planet Money" podcast about the history of spreadsheets, including interviews with the inventor of Visical:

      http://www.npr.org/blogs/money... [npr.org]

      > Note: This episode contains explicit language.

      > Spreadsheets used to be actual sheets of paper. Sometimes, a bunch of sheets of paper taped together.

      > Then, in the late '70s, a bored student invented the electronic spreadsheet. It transformed industries. But its effects ran deeper than that.

      > As one journalist wrote more than 30 years ago, "The

  • The Arduino ecosystem relied on the strong contributions from everyone involved to reach the heights that it has. This kind of action by one of the corporations involved is just a way of telling us all that Arduino is no longer worth the trouble. Hobbyists are losing one of the coolest products available because a board producer doesn't understand the value of the software that runs the board. Arduino is no longer worth the time and money in that scenario.
    • The Arduino ecosystem relied on the strong contributions from everyone involved to reach the heights that it has. This kind of action by one of the corporations involved is just a way of telling us all that Arduino is no longer worth the trouble

      No the Arduino ecosystem relied in an initial push to get the ball rolling. The Arduino IDE is stable and open source piece of software. The Arduino hardware is commodity AVR microcontrollers and two sets of headers with funny spacing and a common pinout. If both Arduino SRL and Arduino LLC vapourised tomorrow it won't make a difference as the critical mass has already been reached. Providing the IDE remains available, providing the Arduino compatible boards, often knock-offs of the original ones, remain av

      • by Kremmy ( 793693 )
        What you say is true, however I feel it sidesteps the point that Arduino SRL's actions are damaging to the brand. They're flushing their own investment by attempting to take control of something that, as you've pointed out, is far beyond their reigns. If I were a distributor of Arduino SRL's products, and had read up on the story, what would I think of continuing to distribute their products?
        • Oh I agree. They should die in a fire, but my point is that the ecosystem is out of their control. If they disappeared tomorrow it wouldn't change that Arduino is used and works on thousands of clones, copies, and even in some legit products which have been loaded with their bootloader.

          I'm speaking back against the assertion that Arduino SRL's actions in some way make the Arduino ecosystem not worth the trouble. They could run around tomorrow and start killing babies, but the system itself will still work t

    • Do what now? I can buy Arduino boards from any number of manufacturers, and I can get Arduino software from the open-source community and/or write some myself. Nothing here changes that - it certainly does not and cannot render the platform unviable.
      • by Kremmy ( 793693 )
        Yes, you can buy Arduino boards from any number of manufacturers and the software is open source. What this changes is whether Arduino SRL is going to be a worthwhile source of any of that.
        • And if it's not? Plenty of others can take up the slack. They're only hurting themselves, not the Arduino community.
  • Sure, all the little shields and things are convenient. But most folks with a search engine and some jumper wires already find out how to connect things not designed for the Arduino to their boards.

    But it's the software that has made it easy for everyone to get started immediately. I've used a dozen or so development environments for embedded, and Arduino's has the easiest learning curve I've seen. It's not particularly powerful or flexible, it's not super great at debug/ICE/ICD stuff. But you can type in t

    • . But you can type in the few line example C program, and flash your first blinking LED program in a matter of minutes.

      You could do that with all the other ones too. TI's Launchpad, Freescale's KINETIS board, STM have their discovery boards. They all let you blink some LEDs in a matter of minutes - and the Arduino ones are the most expensive. I rather suspect that most people don't do much more than blink some LEDs anyway, since doing anything much more complicated than that with the Arduino "IDE" is an extremely painful exercise indeed.

      • I don't agree. I've used Code Red, Launchpad, and others. And the tools they give you pretend to be professional tools, and seem to have a steep learning curve. Especially with Code Red wanting to upsell to a better version. But most of these free IDEs are more like trial versions to me. Adruino's crippling was done to make the process of making little gizmos more accessible, most other tools are crippling so they don't cut into other markets.

        That said, I never really was much of a fan of Arduino because I

    • by thegarbz ( 1787294 ) on Monday March 30, 2015 @01:25AM (#49368381)

      No, it's the entire environment that does that. The point of the Arduino is that any idiot can grab %insert Arduino model here% and attach %insert shield here%, go and download %insert library here% and then plug it all in and turn it on.

      I have friends who have never programmed before using Arduinos for all sorts of neat things, controlling lights via PWM, monitoring environments etc. None of them would have achieved what they have if they had to dig through datasheets, understand the differences between voltages, signals, figure out how to communicate via I2S, or god forbid solder something (I'm sure most of them would have grabbed the iron like a pencil).

      Arduino exists as it does because of all the little conveniences it provides.

      • That's fair. There is some real value in not having to write libraries and drivers from scratch for every project. I forgot that a shield isn't just a block of hardware that convenient interfaces, but usually someone has written some software for that shield that makes it pretty easy to integrate into a project.

  • Arduino was never the best name anyway. Come up with a new one, with an amusing competition of some sort, then form a less greedy body to take charge of the name, transfer all the open source rights etc to this new name, replace the rest, and teach these lousy business heads that the open source world is not a magic tree to be cherry picked. If a business does not act in the best interests of the rest of humanity, that business should be considered broken. Likewise between business and open-source and free-

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