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Pt 2243
Wow, this is crazy… Nate writes-

SparkFun is all about open. Whether sharing the pcb design files for our products or posting pictures from the office on flickr, we’re pretty open about what it’s like to work here. Today we’d like to share with you a cease and desist letter we received from SPARC Industries. Here’s a link to SPARC on wikipedia in case you don’t know who SPARC is.

SPARC Industries’ attorneys seem to think SPARC looks and sounds an awful lot like SparkFun. Tuesday morning we received a cease and desist letter from K&L Gates law firm. Amongst other things they demand that we “immediately take steps to transfer the sparkfun.com domain name to [SPARC International].”

I think SparkFun is going to win this one.

Phillip Torrone

Editor at large – Make magazine. Creative director – Adafruit Industries, contributing editor – Popular Science. Previously: Founded – Hack-a-Day, how-to editor – Engadget, Director of product development – Fallon Worldwide, Technology Director – Braincraft.


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Comments

  1. Anonymous says:

    Protest to:

    Morgan Slain
    CEO
    SPARC International

    sparcinfo@sparc.org
    member@sparc.org

  2. B says:

    convert and 3d print both logos 1″ height 6in long.
    HAND TO A BLIND PERSON (friend colleague co-worker).
    Wait for HYSTERICAL LAUGHTER.

    No, no they are not the same at all.

  3. daqq says:

    Well, I can see how a electronics distributor and developer on the completely other side of the spectrum of things that has a name that includes “SPAR” can seriously damage the profits of a semiconductor… no, wait, I can’t. WTF is wrong with people these days? Is this an act of an overzealous law department on drugs? I mean… what can they gain from this aside from pissed of geeks – the target group of computers!? WTF?

  4. Will says:

    @ Anonymous:

    I just sent this email to those addresses:

    I have no affiliation with SparkFun, other than an interest in simple DIY electronics.I just wanted to let you know that I think your recent demand that they change their name is rediculous. Likewise, the idea that customers might buy their products, thinking that they were made by Sparc, is rediculous. I do not care to look through a catalog of your products, but I highly doubt that you sell anything that competes at all with anything that SparkFun sells.

    I have a lot less respect for Sun and Sparc now. Petty lawsuits make this country worse. Good job.

    Just my 2 cents.

    Will Hobbs

  5. oskay says:

    In other news, SPARC international has sued thirty five manufacturers of sparkplugs.

  6. Jack says:

    Just wrote to the address posted above and to Sun Microsystems.

    This is really petty!

    1. vivi says:

      Sun has nothing to do with this. They created SPARC 20 years ago but it is now an independent entity.

  7. ad astra says:

    Now, this whole business is just confusing the heck out of me. On its surface, this seems like a pretty tenuous suit, but hey, it’s a bad economy, stuff happens. I proceeded to check out SPARC Int’l’s web page, to find out what jurisdiction they’re probably operating under, and Chrome promptly informed me that the site is likely a host for malware. Huh? Being the intrepid Ubuntu-user that I am, I braved this threat to learn they’re in CA. As a CA-operating country, hiring a CA law firm, they’re probably considering suit in CA. As it happens, the best-known trademark infringement test is out of the Ninth Circuit, and it is:

    Likelihood of consumer confusion based on
    -Strength of the mark
    -Proximity of the goods
    -Similarity of the marks
    -Evidence of actual confusion
    -Marketing channels used
    -Type of goods and the degree of care likely to be exercised by the purchaser
    -Defendant’s intent in selecting the mark
    -Likelihood of expansion of the product lines

    AMF, Inc v Sleekcraft Boats, 599 F.2d 341 (C.A.9) 1979

    (Disclaimer: the following analysis is academic in nature, does not constitute legal advice, and should be relied upon for any purpose other than intellectual debate)

    Under this test, any suit here would be a bad idea. The mark is suggestive, which is right around the middle of the strength levels. The goods are fairly close in proximity, as both sell internationally. This is in favor of infringement. The marks are somewhat similar, as they both contain the sound “spark”, but they’re also plainly different, since Sparkfun has never referred to itself as, or been commonly referred to as, “spark” only. This comes down about evenly. I frankly don’t believe that SPARC can show any actual confusion. Not a chance. This is strongly against infringement. They use very different marketing channels, as Sparkfun advertises mainly over the internet and in hobbyist publications, and SPARC is in publications aimed at those who buy professional servers. This is strongly against infringement. The type of goods, while broadly under the category “electronics hardware”, is vastly different to the potential consumer market for each, a market which, at least on the side of professional server purchasers, is likely to be very savvy. This is strongly against infringement. I highly doubt SPARC can produce evidence Sparkfun intended to draw from SPARC’s fame, since “spark” has been associated with electronics and electrical devices since far before anyone who has ever worked at either company was born. This militates strongly against infringement. And likelihood of expansion into these product lines? When SPARC starts selling hobbyist boards, or Sparkfun professional servers (in convenient kits!), let me know. This is strongly against infringement.

    That’s 1 in favor of infringement, 2 in the middle, and 5 strongly against. That’s a terrible infringement case. Unless the the judge or jury would literally be willing to equate all electronics hardware, I can’t fathom why anyone would bring this case.

    1. ad astra says:

      Er, in the disclaimer that should be “should **NOT** be relied upon for any purpose other than intellectual debate”.
      Though the original’s kind of funny.

    2. ad astra says:

      Er, in the disclaimer that should be “should **NOT** be relied upon for any purpose other than intellectual debate”.
      Though the original’s kind of funny.

  8. Og, Inventor of Fire says:

    I, Og, Inventor of Fire, have ordered my long-time-lawyers at Hells Gates to send a cease-and-desist order to SPARC International, demanding that they relinquish any and all trademarks and intellectual property having to do with or generating thermal energy!

    Sparkfun, you guys are cool. However, do you think you could replace that tongue of flame in your logo with something else? A blinky-thing, perhaps?

    Thanks,
    Og

  9. Anonymous says:

    Wait! Is this the Makita fan site?

  10. CircuitGizmos says:

    I await my cease-and-desist order from Circ de Soleil. And from anyone with a circulation system. And the circus…

  11. Anonymous says:

    SPARC now being sued by a spork.

  12. Dan says:

    …so that they can take legal action against K&L Gates for the damage they will suffer as a result of the reckless action against Sparkfun.

  13. Anonymous says:

    Sparc int. thinks they have copyright on the word “spark”? In that case they have allot of sites to sue for illegal use of their copyright. It an insult peoples intelligence, especially THEIRS!!

  14. Apis says:

    It should be illegal to sue people for making outrageous legal threats.

    1. Apis says:

      oops, I meant: “it should be illegal to make outrageous legal threats”.

  15. Sean says:

    After all, all that SPAR VARNISH just might cause misunderstanding and cause confusion for people trying to find SPARC Industries.

    Hmmm…

  16. jewelzc4 says:

    Even worse is the “scalable processor architecture” and their chips are non-proprietary and open source, according to the SPARK wiki. To me it makes no sense for a company that promotes open source to sue Sparkfun over anything.

  17. Shadyman says:

    I, for one, am at no risk of buying from SPARC when I meant to buy from SparkFun. And you can quote me on that.

  18. RonWW says:

    IANAL,but as I understand it, Trademark and Servicemark holders have to vigorously defend their marks or they will loose their marks. In most cases, the holder is looking for quick resolution. Obviously, the quickest resolution is for the alleged infringer to stop using the allegedly infringing mark. However, even a negative ruling from a court is good enough to satisfy the defense of mark requirement.

    That said, there are companies who will push the case, no matter how tenuous. This often involves wearing down the defendant until (s)he either gives up or runs out of money.

  19. webmink says:

    On Sun’s behalf, I’d like to make clear that this action was taken by Sparc International (SI). SI is an independent trade association. Sun was involved in starting SI many years ago but today is one of several members and is not responsible for the actions SI takes. I’ve asked Sun’s representative to SI to investigate, but beyond that there’s not much else I can do.

    S.
    (Sun community ombudsman)

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