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Pt 699-1
Pictured above, a counterfeit Arduino

I’m a 15-minute walk from Canal Street, NYC, home of counterfeit everything. Men and women from around the world stand shoulder to shoulder shouting “Looyee-Vatton, DVD, Roll-Ex.” Tourists flock to this location looking for a cheap deal on a knockoff purse or watch — some tourists think they’re real, most just want a deal. When you build a brand that represents something of value, eventually you get knocked off. It’s a form of tax for making something sought after.

In my previous article “Soapbox: The {Unspoken} Rules of Open Source Hardware” I mentioned that we as hardware makers in the community do not knock each other off. It’s a fantastic unspoken rule that has allowed us all to improve and add value, not just copy.

Cloning ain’t cool
If your goal is just to make Arduino clones and not add code or hardware improvements, please go do something else instead. I see a few companies just make straight-up clones, make confusing names, and think it’s socially acceptable. It’s not. The beginners get confused as to what’s a real Arduino with the quality, service, and support, and most of the time the clones are crappy. I have a box of “Arduino killers” from all over the world. They’re not adding value in any way — it’s just someone being selfish. I get a dozen emails a week from parents or kids who bought a fake Arduino, and they’re upset it doesn’t work and that the eBay seller or fly-by-night store won’t help them. Most of all, get cloned enough and any reasonable person might just stop doing open software and hardware due to the support burden.

“Clone” in many of the the hardware circles I’m usually in means a knockoff, including the logo, etc. It’s made to fool people; however I think I will say “counterfeit” in addition to clone since there were a couple people on Slashdot that were confused about clone versus counterfeit. This might make it easier to explain exactly what I’m talking about.

So this week I’m going to outline some counterfeits to look out for when you’re looking for a deal on an Arduino or any other types of open source hardware.

Is counterfeit open source hardware a problem?

Not really, sales are only going up for everyone. Innovation is happening more, not less. Counterfeits, are however, being mentioned more and more at events and mailing lists as OSHW has become more high-profile. My prediction is that Arduino will hit 1 million units this year, so with that I think it’s reasonable to expect others to fairly and unfairly try to be part of a huge ecosystem. I’ve also personally seen it in customer support forums on various sites. Customers get what they think is a real Arduino, for example, and it turns out to be junk. The logo is there, the ™ (trademark) is there, but it’s just not a real Arduino. It doesn’t work, and the customer is out $20 or $30. Worst of all, they think learning electronics sucks.

Psychologically, I think it’s hard on makers out there who are worried about releasing their hardware as open source hardware. I’ve heard makers specifically say, “I don’t want to see my product cloned like the Arduino is cloned all the time.” That’s a danger: if we can’t encourage more makers to do OSHW, we’re sunk. But it’s not a problem, yet.

The reputable companies out there that supply most of the open source hardware simply do not do this. You’ll never see good companies just run boards and slap their logo on it, and you’ll not see them just run boards and not work with the maker. We don’t need to, since hardware is basically not-protectable, but we choose to work with each other. It’s not perfect, but it’s working out. So, new makers, here are companies I don’t think you’ll need to worry about: MAKE, SparkFun, Seeed, Freetronics, Adafruit, EMSL, MakerBot, Arduino, Parallax, Wayne and Layne, and the giant list (add yours in the comments) of companies making and selling OSHW. All these companies compete in some ways, but we’re all trying to make the best hardware and out-do each other. The people who work for these companies have pride in their work, and I truly believe they’re all working toward adding value, not just a straight-up copy. And none of them will be violating trademarks or copyrights — we can’t, we all work with each other in some way. We all know that if we step on toes and not raise each other up, this movement will blow apart.

Just to put it in context, RadioShack didn’t need to work with the Arduino team to stock their stores with a board that worked and looked like the Arduino, but they did. There’s more value in working with each other. The Arduino name has value, so RadioShack worked with the Arduino team to stock their stores with real Arduinos. If you’re considering working on open source hardware don’t let any fears of a big company coming in stop you; in fact the big companies are the ones who won’t be cloning/counterfeiting.

Examples of cloning/counterfeiting

The three examples I’m going to use are from Arduino, which covers almost all possible examples, and then I’ll show an Adafruit counterfeit since I help run Adafruit. Right now in open source hardware, Arduino, SparkFun, and Adafruit are getting cloned/counterfeited the most — that’s just my opinion from some data points I’ve collected — feel free to post up your observations. I’m sure there’s a research paper out there in the works. By counterfeit I mean using the trademark/logo, and for cloning I also mean running the boards, not sticking to license, but I’m focusing on the obvious logo/trademark violations.

Pt 699
Pictured above, a counterfeit Arduino

This is a fake Arduino. Usually found on eBay, Amazon sellers, and not your usual electronics shop. At this point I consider eBay one of the worst places to get Arduino-related electronics at this time for beginners — there’s no real punishment for counterfeiting electronics, and Arduino counterfeits are everywhere on eBay. I know the Arduino team is working on getting this stopped, but the biggest victims are the customers who are tricked into thinking they’re buying real Arduinos.

Pt 922
Pictured above, a counterfeit Arduino

After this seller was caught, they just Photoshopped out the Arduino™ logo, but the customer was still sent a fake Arduino.

51Y6Igoa0-L
Pictured above, a counterfeit Arduino
Here’s another: the first one said “Made in Italy” but now it says “Made in China.” It still uses the trademarked name Arduino, so not quite OK. The recent trend I noticed is “Made in Italy” has been removed, quickly. My guess is that the punishment for saying “Made in Italy” is far worse than putting Arduino™ on something.

51Wq0Ffpkpl
Pictured above, a counterfeit Arduino

51Yn79Wlnola
Pictured above, a counterfeit Arduino

Some sellers eventually rebrand their boards and remove Arduino, but they’re using “Uno” which is usually a no-no too, but it’s not a straight-up trademark/logo violation.

I picked these because they’re obviously bad; however, I’ve seen ones that look nearly identical to real Arduinos, and distributors who thought they were getting a “cheap deal from China with overflow” were fooled into buying fake Arduinos.

Ask the reseller where they got them from, ask for photos, front and back of the boards, to see if it’s a crappy knockoff, and if you’re fooled, do a charge-back and tell eBay/Paypal why. In an age where more people care how and where things are made, from organic foods to working conditions in factories, buying a real Arduino matters. If you want to support open source hardware and software, supporting the makers and buying them is the best way to do it.

Img 0909
Pictured above, a counterfeit Adafruit protoshield

A more subtle example, above, this is a counterfeit Adafruit Proto Shield. I’m not talking about just running our boards, removing credits, and following the license (happens a lot to this board) — I’m talking about using the Adafruit logo and name and selling an item as Adafruit (this one was sold on Amazon pretending to be Adafruit).

There are dozens of examples. I tried to pick out ones that would not identify the site, supplier, or pick on a company specifically. Why give them any attention?

What can you do?

If you’re a maker, stay calm and keep making. Don’t worry about knockoffs because, in fact, all the companies that are good work directly with the makers to sell/resell/license.

If you’re a maker, get a trademark. We can’t “protect” hardware besides a patent (and that’s not likely most of the time, too), so you’re best bet is to have a logo, a name, and a copyright. At Adafruit I’ve been able to remove any fake Adafruit stuff off eBay when needed. Arduino does that same — they just have more counterfeits to deal with.

There’s an Open Source Hardware Association that just formed. I’m going to guess that they’ll be helping companies and makers navigate all this. The board has people from top OSHW companies and it’s led by Alicia Gibb, who co-chaired the Open Hardware Summit. So I can say 100% that we’re all in good hands — they’re here to help us.

Buy real open source hardware from the makers. Support a store like MakerShed and pick up a real Arduino or compatible (and other open source hardware products).

Encourage people in your community to get the real deal from their favorite maker making and sharing hardware — it’s worth it.

Look at the giant mess that Google, Apple, Samsung, and everyone else is in when it comes to hardware — it’s war. From the start, the open source hardware community has assumed that we can’t protect our hardware designs. We knew all we had was our smarts and each other. What happens next is up to all of us. Even if you’re not a hardware designer you can help support the makers who have taken the risk, the risk to share their designs with all of us.

Post up in the comments with your thoughts. I’ll be around to answer as many questions as I can, too!

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. Old Crow says:

    Nevermind the official Arduino pcb layout is pretty crummy…lol

    1. in what ways would you improve the layout to make it not “crummy”? have you made improvements and shared them to help the arduino project with your expertise?

      1. Old Crow says:

        I only have the 2009 CAD file to reference, but sure, I will do some clean up on it and post in a relevant forum, indicating what I changed (not the actual circuit, but the layout) and why.

      2. Thomas S. says:

        My biggest peeve is the irregular gap between the top headers- sucks to try to breadboard stuff when 2.54mm just won’t work ;)
        But I realize this will cause calamity with existing sheilds if it is changed.. so carry on however you see fit!

      3. Thomas S. says:

        A couple more on thought- power and reference LEDs cannot be seen with a shield on… Power and USB jacks are slightly off in length, Micro USB is really needed, and can slim the whole board down a ton (or use Mini USB- both are supported more than USB B).

      4. thomas, have you seen any of other arduinos, upcoming ones and the compatibles out there?

      5. Nice piece. says:

        @thomas
        Micro connectors, the connectors tend to snap in half on the cable end. They dont have staying power for this use case. Mini-B is sturdy, the cables dont break even under moderate abuse and the footprint is tiny compared to the A that is used.

        +1 on the leds not being able to be seen,

        I would add a vertical mounted reset switch pointing out the right side if the usb connector is up.

      6. Scott Rider says:

        As promised a clean-up revision of the 2009 Arduino reference design. Annotated.

        http://www.oldcrows.net/~oldcrow/Arduino/Ard09_crowrev.zip

        A few touch-ups left, but mostly improved for better manufacturability. I will go have a look at the 2011 ref design.

    2. that’s awesome, can you email me once you post it up, i’d love to check it out.

      1. Thomas S. says:

        hmm- I kinda want to see it too :) lol… I need to work on my cad skills anyway.

    3. WestfW says:

      (that’s just marked up, rather than actually changed, right?)
      A lot of similar work was done in the 2007 timeframe as part of the “Freeduino” project (when it looked as if the Arduino team might be abandoning their “open source” policy.) We did 4 designs (0603, 0805, and 1206 SMT, plus a TH version) that more or less duplicated the diecimila design, and then fiddled with manufacturability, buildability, assorted “improved” PCB design guideliens, added a mini-usb, used a TO220 regulator, and abandoned the weird shape. A final version of the TH board was/is sold as a kit by NKC electronics and SeeedStudios.
      But this illustrates one of the difficulties with such improvements; without continually chasing the “Official” boards, Freeduino has gotten sorta “obsolete.” There are still nice things about the design, but I don’t think that anyone is really interested in updating it to have Uno-style features…
      Solarbotics also did a similar board in the same timeframe (sort-of part of the same overall “project”), optimized for their manufacturing setup and their PCB design experience.
      Here’s a nice picture of the NKC board: http://www.flickr.com/photos/rickanderson/4610949994/lightbox/

      1. Scott Rider says:

        I reworked all the copper. Well, most of it. Ran out of time for the moment leaving the NW corner to tweak. Compare it to a stock 2009 ref design. URL,

        http://www.oldcrows.net/~oldcrow/Arduino/Ard09_refdes.zip

      2. WestfW says:

        (ahh. I see it now.)

  2. macegr says:

    I wonder if it would be possible to create a trust network between manufacturers and second- and third-tier distributors? Basically, the upstream suppliers for a product would maintain a list of reputable distributors, and the downstream distributors would link back up to the list. If they don’t match, you’re outside the trust network and you take your risks. Right now, this sort of already exists…through word of mouth and previous experience, there are trusted distributors, where you can be fairly sure all their products are legit. But this would be a way to officially state that a particular product is sourced from a certain supplier, you should be able to follow the chain all the way up to the original source.

    1. yah – i think the open source hardware association could do that, and as you noted we’re also all working together in the community pretty well. a good example is there have been suppliers that wanted to sell things to adafruit and other maker-friendly companies but we said no because they were selling fake arduinos, eventually they stopped, but later just vanished so it didn’t matter in the end.

      i’m also pretty sure arduino keeps track of this too in some way and may have an official arduino reselling listing in the works.

      the goal is to show the value in contributing to open-source hardware and showing it’s not good to rip everyone off.

  3. AuthenticInvention.com is in. We plan to follow the, now spoken, rules. There is opportunity for everyone willing to put a little thought into designs. The world if filled with unmet needs and niche markets for hardware. Rather than protecting ourselves from what we fear might happen we should participate in building the world we want to live in.

  4. charliex says:

    How much of a problem is it, if you’re talking millions of devices sold. How many people are actually giving up electronics due to a bad experience, how much damage is actually occurring.. How many of the devices being sold are actually faulty.

    I do find it hard to believe anyone buying stuff from ebay/china that’s cheaper than it is domestically is completely unaware they may be getting an inferior product. People are constantly (and for the most part incorrectly) bitching about subpar Chinese quality.

    I honestly don’t believe this is the right way to approach this. DRM/ Copyrights/ Patents/ Trademarks aren’t the solution to copyright infringement, especially give that they’re unenforceable where these problems exist.

    It is the customers that are doing it, they want it cheaper.

    1. hi charlie, the customers i’ve talked to think they’re getting a real arduino, they were tricked – and then they get junk and zero support when they try to figure out why something isn’t working.

      the resellers who get tricked think they’re getting a great deal on real arduinos and then are stuck when the company vanishes.

      who said solving this means using DRM or patents? copyright and trademarks are extremely useful for open-source software and hardware. i think i specifically say patents aren’t really helpful for makers doing oshw.

      1. macegr says:

        Exactly…that’s what my suggestion above is about. No need to take heavy handed measures to protect a product, when transparency is almost as good. Basically make the supply and distribution chain as open and well-known as the product itself, then anyone buying from an untrusted distributor knows the risks they take. It could apply to companies that manufacture other people’s open designs, as well…you can see if they’re sending a royalty back to the original designer, and make a choice to support the community.

      2. charliex says:

        Patents/Copyright/Trademarks can all be used as a form of DRM/copy(clone) protection, I’m sure you are well aware of this, people have talked about the VID/PID of the newer Arduino’s being used like this too.

        But it doesn’t answer the question, how many people are we talking about that are being affected.

        Companies who don’t do the research to find out if a supplier is viable, are the ones at fault, there will always be someone selling bricks in shoeboxes.

        caveat emptor basically.

      3. Nice piece. says:

        VID\PID solution is kind of moot. It would destroy compatibility with older versions of legit arduinos. No matter what for arduino to sustain what makes it good there will always be support for the FTDI version which means slap that on what ever and you circumvent it.

        It would work but it would be shooting off their own foot and more then that not the kind of thing you would expect from the pioneers of opensource embedded electronics.

    2. Sean Ragan says:

      “Patents/Copyright/Trademarks can all be used as a form of DRM/copy(clone) protection,”

      You are painting with a very broad brush, here, charlie. The legal distinctions between patent, copyright, and trademark protection are quite clear, meaningful, and useful. It sounds like you’re trying to blur them all together as “DRM,” and I don’t think that’s a tenable position. It’s not hard to argue that both patent and copyright are pretty seriously broken, these days, but I don’t see many people standing up against trademark protection. Who wants to live in a world where any company can legally pretend to be any other company, and anyone can sell a product intended to exactly mimic a competitor’s product right down to the last detail? You go to the grocery store, there’s a whole aisle of Coca-Cola products, and not even the staff can tell you which were actually manufactured by Coca-Cola!

  5. Nice piece. says:

    Kind of glad you used counterfeit instead of clone. I even recently used clone to describe HW that is 100% unique design yet 100% compatible with a MFG part. This allows a peer to quickly understand that the code would just “work” so he could learn from it rather then fighting with setup. This is a non arduino board in this case.

    You are absolutely right too on the arduino clones. I recently got my first one to aid in porting code and it was hell figuring out which ones where the real ones. In the end good ole radioshack to the rescue. (would have been microcenter but they carry clones , not counterfeits, but clones clearly not arduino and listed as “compatible” which I learned my lesson on things that use that word already hence buying an arduino to port code)

    Moral of the story?? There should be a radioshack within 5 mins of your home (in the us) and they carry legit arduinos. Why wait for shipping any ways.

    PS the “official 2011″ pic is misleading as it does not reflect the legit ones at radioshack. You should make a clearly labeled section of pics of the real things. And be sure to include the style at radioshack if that pic is a legit model.

  6. nanika says:

    I thought the choice of name for the association is a bit unfortunate (since it abbreviates to OSHA, good luck googling that) but I like the sound of ‘oshwa’ as a fix. Oshwa oshwa oshwa… it works for me.

    More to the point, an Oshwa BBB type program sounds like a good fix. Oshwa members agree to respect trademarks and copyrights, and here’s a list of them. Also, here’s a logo and a code snippet to put on your site that links back to your Oshwa member profile.

    Ideally if Oshwa members would list their distributors through Oshwa, customers could say, “oh, that Open Foo I saw on random-site.com sounds like a great product, I’m gonna hit Oshwa to find a distributor in my country.”

    Of course it only helps as Oshwa gets to be well known, but I think the payoff for having a BBB-type independent overseer would be worth the effort. It wouldn’t need to be advertised generally, just blogged by its members, many of whom are so impressively media savvy.

    1. johngineer says:

      The Open Source Hardware Association _is_ referred to as OSHWA.

      Check out oshwa.org (note that right now that site is currently very slow due to the recently announced Open Hardware Summit call for submissions), but that is what it’s called.

      1. macegr says:

        Hah…OSHWA. Perhaps they could be abbreviated as OƏ (the letter O plus a schwa/shwa symbol, for the unicode-impaired).

      2. macegr says:

        And I just realized that the uppercase schwa symbol sort of looks like an opened padlock. Sorry if this is all obvious and intended, I’m easily amused.

      3. johngineer says:

        @macegr: I don’t think it was intended, but that is a really cool coincidence.

      4. Sean Ragan says:

        Oə FTW. I hope that standard propagates.

  7. Xenix says:

    I’ll grant you that the trademark infringement is a problem. (And clone has never meant counterfeit in the hardware market)

    But if you’re complaining that someone is copying your open source designs and producing their own boards (cloning) – that’s stupid. That’s exactly what open source hardware allows.

    Don’t do open source hardware if this fact is causing you so much consternation.

    Open source drives a faster innovation cycle. If you feel that you are losing out on money due to cloning (your other excuses are lame) – innovate faster.

    It seems like you are trying to make up new rules that allow you to be cool, hip and “open source” but ignoring the definitions.

    1. nanika says:

      The key point is about trademark; if you buy a product from Xenix, it shouldn’t turn out to be an unsupported copy I knocked out in my garage using whatever SMT caps just happened to fall off my pick & place yesterday. Customers getting those knockoffs thinking they’re legitimate Xenix parts damage the Xenix brand.

      1. Xenix says:

        “Cloning ain’t cool
        If your goal is just to make Arduino clones and not add code or hardware improvements, please go do something else instead. I see a few companies just make straight-up clones, make confusing names, and think it’s socially acceptable. It’s not.”

      2. nanika says:

        It’s the “confusing names” part you quoted that’s the kicker. The people I see Paul complaining about are the ones that are intentionally creating confusion as to the provenance of their product. Even in situations where they’re within the letter of the law on trademark infringement, I agree that what they’re doing is “not cool.” Make it clear that your product is UNO-compatible rather than UNO? Totally cool.

      3. nanika says:

        Sorry, Phillip not Paul. No idea where that came from. “Sir, please step away from the keyboard…”

    2. hi xenix, i’m glad you agree trademark infringement is a problem. clone has indeed meant counterfeit, i’ve had customers specially say they were “ripped off from an arduino clone” when they also could have said counterfeit since it was sold as a real arduino. however i made it clear that these are counterfeits in the article.

      who is complaining that someone is copying open source designs and producing their own boards? just to be clear it’s totally “allowed” to copy open-source software/hardware anything and not add value, however most people do not just do that, they add their own changes and value back in too.

      what excuses are “lame” did you actually read the article?

      1. Xenix – good to see we are agreeing :) there are social norms in open source software and hardware, maybe you do not like them but they’re there :) for hardware, the open source hardware makers out there generally do not just make a “copy” without adding any value in someway. nothing is stopping anyone from making an identical looking and functioning arduino, but generally the community does not. they do something else, better, cheaper and/or with more features.

        making a “copy” of an open source hardware project is more than just running boards. it’s selling them to the community, providing support and if you look at all the folks actually making and release oshw they tend to add improvements in some way, not just make “a copy”.

        i think you’re confusing -is- something is technically and legal “ok”? sure! with what is -actually- happening in the community – which is making better/different versions.

    3. Nice piece. says:

      I think your being unduly harsh. Though i also left with that taste in my mouth after the “unspoken rules” post I think the creation of OSHWA handled the miscomunication that happened with that post. I think every thing pt said here is perfectly valid and fair. But on the same token I agree this is the point of OSHW so others can do what they want, The thing he is singling out is people making mass boards undercutting the exact same thing sold by the creator AND using the creators namesake to sell it. I think your being unfair .

      1. Xenix says:

        “The thing he is singling out is people making mass boards undercutting the exact same thing sold by the creator”

        It’s nice to buy from the creator. I buy official products, although only in the hope that it will enable further innovation on their part. But – none of this means that clones are not “socially acceptable” in Open Source hardware. Once it’s commoditized (clearly Arduino UNO is approaching this point if it hasn’t passed it already), I’ll buy on price alone. i.e., Diavolino, it’s a functional clone, it has a confusing name (something Italian), it is intended to undercut the creator (be affordable), etc.

        “AND using the creators namesake to sell it.”

        Yeah – trademark infringement is a problem. “Cloning” Open Source hardware is not.

      2. Nice piece. says:

        This piece clearly singles out those using namesakes. You need to read before being so harsh man. The last sentence particularly.

      3. Xenix says:

        ““Cloning” Open Source hardware is not.”?

        Harsh?

      4. Nice piece. says:

        Ok your slow so im gonna be nice even though you probably dont deserve it. . .
        Last sentence of the original post. hip cool etc Not arguing you any more. You either get it that your original post is not about what this post is about or you dont. I tried.

      5. Xenix says:

        Nice personality. My confusion was from you replying to the wrong thread.

        “It seems like you are trying to make up new rules that allow you to be cool, hip and “open source” but ignoring the definitions.”

        He either understands what “Open Source” is about or he doesn’t. You can’t have “Open Source, but don’t copy this because it is mine”.

        Don’t delude yourself – “Open Source” is a market differentiator now. People claiming to be “Open Source” then complaining about people and companies using the very freedoms that “Open Source” provides, even encourages, is deceptive in my opinion.

      6. hi again Xenix :) counterfeit arduinos is what this article is mostly about (and other brands). i think you want to argue about if i think a copy of an open-source hardware project is “bad”. it’s not a “good or bad” thing without any context at all, we’re not robots, we’re people so this is where social norms come in.

        it’s what value something can create for a community or a person. if you make an arduino copy that’s identical there can be some value for what you learned, or maybe it’s super-cheap and you can supply a market that arduino can’t, that’s seems valuable to me and i think you’d agree with that too. but that’s not what we’re talking about here at all.

        if you just want to take away an arduino sale and undermine an open-source hardware company by tricking people in some way i don’t think that’s good for the community. i don’t mind debating this because i don’t think you’ll come up with any argument that sounds reasonable to anyone who wants to make and release open-source hardware to make the world a better place through sharing their works. i think you’re being a little unfair to me with your comments, but since this is an opinion article, unfair harshness is somewhat expected – just like i expect there to be some people that will counterfeit the stuff i work on at adafruit with limor or just run our boards without adding any value back too. when you put stuff out there, this can happen. it’s not really stopping any of us though :)

      7. Xenix says:

        “we’re people so this is where social norms come in.”

        There are no social norms in Open Source that say copying is bad. You are proposing this. This is the opposite of Open Source.

        “i think you’d agree with that too. but that’s not what we’re talking about here at all.”

        Then what do you possibly mean when you say, “If your goal is just to make Arduino clones and not add code or hardware improvements, please go do something else instead”

        In my opinion, you made 2 points in your article. One I completely concede – violating trademarks is bad. But the other (whether cloning is ethical or not) you seem to flip flop on.

        So, if this is a “debate” – I concede (again) that trademark violations are bad. And you’ve apparently now conceded that “cloning” is perfectly fine. Debate over right?

    4. xenix – that’s right, i think if you’re making a exact copy without adding any value and trying to trick people with confusing names (like calling it an UNO or something) that’s not valuable for open-source hardware or the community. it gets worse when they use the arduino trademark like the examples above.

      if you look at the counterfeit examples i have above, many are still shipping boards with the arduino trademark, just photoshop out the logo on the ebay auction. or if they’re caught a lot, they just make boards without the arduino logo and just use UNO.

      in the end, the customer(s) are just getting tricked.

      hope that’s clears it up.

      1. Nice piece. says:

        Yeah pt I agree on the uno thing. I also would have approached Arduino officially and asked permission and or offered them a discount on my parts to incorporate them into legit arduinos I know we are thinking the same thing, fill in the blanks. I was a bit disappointed how that went down myself.

      2. Xenix says:

        Lower price is not “valuable”? I don’t agree. Better, faster and cheaper are all valuable enhancements in my book.

        So, trademark “UNO” or if that is too general – pay more attention to what you name your products.

        You keep repeating the trademark issue – we agree on that – no convincing required.

      3. xenix – where did i say lower price isn’t valuable?

      4. Xenix says:

        “xenix – that’s right, i think if you’re making a exact copy without adding any value…”

      5. hi xenix, i think you’re replying to the wrong comment or something, or not reading the article/comments (you left out the rest of my comment too). just to be more clear, again :) here’s a reply i posted to someone asking about the EMSL board: evil mad science has oshw that isn’t using arduino’s trademarked name/logo and they’re only $13 – http://evilmadscience.com/productsmenu/tinykitlist/180 they’re a great company and this is a great example of an arduino-compatible in my opinion. $13 is a great deal and it’s from a great oshw company, hope that clears up what i think about arduino-compatibles that are not exact copies and that are valuable :)

      6. Xenix says:

        “i think you’re replying to the wrong comment or something, or not reading the article/comments”

        Weird – I get the same feeling from your responses… :)

        “(you left out the rest of my comment too)”

        At least I am quoting something. Yes, I left off the trademark discussion – which is not relevant.

        “evil mad science has oshw that isn’t using arduino’s trademarked name/logo and they’re only $13″

        I know – I have several of them. And in my opinion – they are totally clones (as is the 11 that you also discussed). Both of which you apparently like, even though “clones aren’t cool”…

        Same form factor? Check
        Same functionality? Check
        Same development environment and drivers? Check
        Confusing names? Check (“Eleven” is as bad as “UNO” (assuming that UNO is not a trademark of Arduino – Arduino does not seem to publicly claim it as such)
        etc.

        I have no idea how this works, but it seems inconsistent. Is there a place you can draw a line between the cool and uncool clones? Or is this just a clique of entrenched manufacturers and resellers that can clone and it be “cool”?

      7. Xenix – good to see we are agreeing :) there are social norms in open source software and hardware, maybe you do not like them but they’re there in every community :)

        for hardware, the open source hardware makers out there generally do not just make a “copy” without adding any value in someway. nothing is stopping anyone from making an identical looking and functioning arduino, but generally the community does not. they do something else, better, cheaper and/or with more features. this is why we have a flourishing ecosystem and great choices, this is my opinion :)

        making a “copy” of an open source hardware project is more than just running boards. it’s selling them to the community, providing support and if you look at all the folks actually making and release oshw they tend to add improvements in some way, not just make “a copy”.

        i think you’re confusing -is- something is technically and legally “ok”? sure! with what is -actually- happening in the community – which is making better/different versions. there are HUGE differences between valuable derivatives like the EMSL and freetronics and the non-value adding “clones”.

    5. macegr says:

      I’ll agree that it’s not easy to define what is and isn’t OK. You can look at an OSHW design, copy it in nearly every respect, and start building it. As long as you aren’t using anything trademarked or passing yourself off as someone else, you’re within your rights and no one can really tell you to stop. However, it wouldn’t feel quite right within the community. The main reason for OSHW is for people to learn and expand upon the concept. While you can simply copy it, that doesn’t mean you get to feel any love. I’m sure this is the original reason that patents were invented.

      Where do you draw the line? I don’t think you can. It’s based on emotion, pretty much. If people like you, you can get away with more. If you pay an original designer a small portion of profits, you can essentially rip their whole design with no hard feelings. If you make useful or interesting changes to a product before releasing your own version, it feels like you’re adding to the community rather than being a parasite. Take the Evil Mad Scientist Lab’s Diavolino, for example. From a purely functional standpoint, it doesn’t add anything…it’s similar to an Arduino or more specifically an Arduino Pro (no USB converter). One could argue it’s the same thing. However, it does have differences that take it outside the realm of a clone…it has an interesting new layout with snazzy black and red coloring; it looks really cool. Secondly…it’s an Arduino-compatible that has gEDA files available, instead of Eagle. It’s a great starting point for people that want to use an alternate, open PCB CAD tool instead of the official Arduino Team’s choice of Eagle. Therefore, I have yet to see anyone complain about the existence of that product, even though it functions exactly like existing ones.

      So it’s not easy to just draw lines in the sand and say what is and isn’t OK. It becomes a LOT easier to avoid these missteps if you are actually part of the community and interact with it on a regular basis.

  8. Paul says:

    Hey Philip, what do you think of Sparkfun’s “ProMicro” board, shipping with the Leonardo bootloader and instructing users to uncomment the lines in board.txt to use code the Arduino developers feel is not ready?

    1. paul, that’s a great question for the arduino team :)

      1. Paul says:

        Yes, but what do you think, as an advocate for open source hardware philosophy? Does Sparkfun’s behavior (and also Adafruit’s, at least briefly before you guys learned how buggy the Leonardo code is) create a disincentive to publish pre-release open source hardware designs?

        Sparkfun’s ProMicro isn’t a “clone” of the Leonardo, since it’s smaller (almost exactly the same form factor as Teensy), but does it really add value? You, Philip, seem to be the most vocal voice regarding open source hardware ethics, so my question for you specifically is if this sort of thing, selling in large volume a board which is based on pre-release, clearly started not-ready-for-general-use the sort of thing a reputable, ethical open source hardware vendor would do?

      2. hi paul, it sounds like you have some opinions about this already :)

        we (adafruit) worked with the arduino team to make a better bootloader, and we hope to see it released soon.

        it sounds like you want to know what the arduino team thinks about all this, you’ll need to ask them. did they -publicly- say “don’t make boards”? i don’t know enough about this to have an opinion yet, but please fill in any details you can.

      3. Paul says:

        As you probably know, I’m not entirely sold on open source hardware. I believe the model has both strengths and weaknesses. Much like open source, there are many passionate advocates who believe in the strengths and will dismiss any weaknesses. Usually I’m reluctant to even discuss these matters, because these extremely passionate advocates can be quite, well, “difficult”.

        I believe it’s still very early in the development of open source hardware to really know the strengths and weaknesses with much certainty. I certainly do not. I’m trying to keep an open mind, yet proceed with caution.

        Even intentionally deceptive counterfeit products seem to lack consensus. Sure, everyone seems to agree they shouldn’t be labeled “Arduino” and “Made in Italy”. But reading comments here and elsewhere, I get a strong sense that many people are actually quite happy to buy a check knock-off, at long as it works.

        But I think as open source hardware grows, I think we’re going to see many more dubious things like Sparkfun’s ProMicro. I’m sure there are many more examples already, but the ProMicro is one I know about, since it’s intended to compete with the Teensy boards I make, so people ask me about it, and I happen to have a lot of knowledge about the specific technical details.

        There are two separate issues I see.

        #1: Selling a product with known software problems. Adafruit handled this very well, by stopping shipping the buggy code and actually investing engineering effort to fix the bugs, and working with affected customers to resolve the problems or replace the product. But what is Sparkfun doing? If a big, well known vendor like Sparkfun is unable to resist the profit motive to sell a design before it is of good quality, in the long term what can we expect in the market for open source hardware with less reputable players?

        #2: Selling a product of unknown quality, without substantial “in house” testing, where the original author clearly indicated it’s not ready. Even Adafruit went down this path briefly on the 32u4 breakout with the Leonardo bootloader. Sparkfun’s ProMicro page states “bootloader is still in its infancy so expect some glitchiness here and there” (they ought to know by know how buggy it really is). Is this the future of open source hardware, where even well known vendors will grab onto alpha and beta code and manufacture poorly tested products?

        I personally have pretty high standards for my own work.

        I want to be excited about open source hardware, and indeed it seems to have some tremendous strengths, especially where the products are based on minor revisions to an already well debugged design. But I’m seeing actions, not just from no-name Asian counterfeiters, but from the big-name vendors that don’t give me a warm fuzzy feeling about the future of open source hardware.

  9. Andrew says:

    I agree with Xenix on this – if you want the benefits of open source, you have to be prepared for the consequences as well. I don’t know what makes the ‘counterfeit’ faulty, but given that the hardware and firmware are all easily available, anyone with baseline electronics knowledge should be able to ‘clone’ the design.

    Also, I personally feel that if a ‘team’ or company uses the community to develop their product, they have no right to be the sole vendor of the product. If you’re going to use free labor, don’t expect to ‘own’ the fruits of that labor.

    1. andrew, just to be clear – are you saying it’s ok to use the arduino trademarked name? that’s what this article is about, counterfeit arduinos, open-source hardware being sold using the arduino name (adafruit and sparkfun also are counterfeited a lot, i have one adafruit example there too).

      you know that arduino is not the sole vendor of arduinos or arduino-compatibles right? in fact there are official arduinos that are made by other companies too!

      1. Andrew says:

        I guess it’s also a little confusing that Arduino is both the name of the ‘company/team’ and the open source product. I think that pretending to be a company you’re not is wrong, building and selling an open-source project, even by the project name, is OK.

        Of course, this means that low-quality products found on eBay will always be a problem, but I think the buyer is responsible for buying from a reputable seller.

      2. Nice piece. says:

        Drew isnt a better way to look at this, if you have the money and want to make more with it then contact the creator and invest in them if you have nothing to add/change. This is really the issue people want to make money, so do it the right way. Something like We will give you the 10k we would have spent making counterfeits you make legit ones and cut us in. Every one wins. No hard feelings. Less work too.

      3. johngineer says:

        @Andrew: I think you are mistaken. Arduino is not the name of a product, it’s the name of a brand. All the individual boards (the products) have their own names, starting with the NG and up through the current UNO and MEGA2560. Lots of people just ambiguously call them “Arduinos”, but that is technically incorrect. The same way people say “I drive a Ford” — which could mean a Taurus or an F-150.

  10. Phillip, out of curiosity, what sort of faults are popping up with the knockoffs? Compatibility issues? Just plain DOA?

    1. hi greg, DOA, faulty/cheap parts, they’re buying a fake arduino with the arduino logo and TM stamped on it, but the customers are getting something that just doesn’t work at all. the most common issue is DOA, so it’s hard to tell exactly what it is – i’ve seen boards with missing parts to cheap substitutes that just don’t work – with the arduino logo on the boards.

  11. Mike Smith says:

    Arduino noob here.

    I’ve just bought the books/guides to get started on a couple of projects I’ve had in mind for a while.

    My next step is to order/buy the hardware I need to start building my skills and understanding.

    Our local electronics store (Jaycar in Australia) sells an item called an “Eleven” which they claim is 100% Arduino Compatible being “based on the ATmega328″ with “improvements and updates for ease of use, cost and getting started.” They have a whole lot of other stuff as well along the same lines under the brand “freetronics”.

    My question is: Is this Kosher? Where can I go to check up on this type of stuff because I want to support the project originators but without the time lag of international shipping?

    1. hi mike, freetronics is a well known company and it’s local to you, they create and release open-source hardware, publish their files, use open licenses and are well known in the oshw circles.

      1. Mike Smith says:

        Thanks Phillip.

        I’ll drop into the store today and pick up some stuff with a clear conscience.

        Probably make a $ donation to the project as well.

  12. over on google+ someone said “”hah, see, we told you so…” etc…” they were referring to the counterfeits. my reply is, we have a community and we’ll support each other, so far it’s worked out and i think it will keep working. i also sent this link, it’s a closed-source product that makers really like, but it was counterfeited as well: http://www.pjrc.com/teensy/counterfeit.html

    even apple has this problem with fake iphones from time to time. i don’t think people like to hear this, but you can’t 100% “protect” hardware. there isn’t a copyright or trademark (and usually not a patent) that will stop someone from looking at your board and making/re-making it. we need to do more than just the physical bits. there isn’t an uber-license that will protect you either.

    i make sure we get our teensy’s from paul at pjrc directly and i think knowing there are counterfeit arduinos out there will help us help the beginners out there as they figure out what they’re going to purchase and support too. there’s a lot of value in supporting each other and encouraging more oshw.

  13. jmalasek says:

    I think it’s lame to put a trademark in the basic design (e.g. in the silkscreen) and then complain when the trademark remains in further iterations. Isn’t that like putting a patented circuit in a product, putting it out there as OSHW, and then coming back at cloners or people who improve on the product as patent infringers? The branding by the company making or supporting the particular instance should be done separately from the design, perhaps by a sticker applied to the board. Then, people could do whatever with the basic design, and counterfeiters trying to decieve would easily be identified as separate from those merely producing the exact same design (with quality and prices that could be better than that of the original designer).

    1. jmalasek, that’s not a good argument. the counterfeiters are remaking the arduino(tm) logo and doing a crappy job at it too. they’re purposely adding it to a board to trick people.

      you’re saying we should not be allowed to put our own logo on our boards and only use stickers instead? you realize then the counterfeiters would just make counterfeit stickers right? in fact many did (and still do) that say “made in italy”.

      you’re from pololu right? that’s pretty cool, because you’re a well known hardware company that makes great stuff — i have a few questions :) has pololu ever been counterfeited? doesn’t pololu put the name/logo on boards? are there plans for pololu to release oshw without logos on the boards? what oshw products does pololu plan to release… if no plans for any oshw, why not? and lastly, why does pololu buy arduinos and not just make your own?

      1. Jan Malasek says:

        Yeah, I’m from Pololu. I think you’re avoiding my basic point, but maybe I just didn’t make the argument well. You have talked about the brand and design as separate things: design, do what you want with it (though some things are cooler); brand, don’t pretend to be us. I think that’s probably reasonable, but then don’t put the brand in the design. I get it that those who want to deceive still can. But how does someone who wants to contribute by improving the manufacturing process but not touch the design communicate something like, “This is exactly the latest Arduino Uno design, just made by Pololu”?

        I’m not sure what Pololu will do as far as making our designs open. We have had some of our stuff cloned in the traditional sense: people have copied our designs from scratch, without our files. We put a decent amount of effort into securing our bootloaders (I’m not challenging anyone here!). I do share some of the sense other commenters have expressed about OSHW companies or proponents wanting it both ways in terms of openness and control. By the way, I want it both ways – I want everything out there to be totally open, and I want control of everything I create. My earlier patent analogy is also kind of in play here: I think one thing I would want to do if we cloned an Arduino is to add our soft power switch to it; for now, I have not looked into the ramifications of openly adding a patented element to an open source design. We don’t make Arduinos because I’m not that excited about making exact copies of something that is easy to buy. If we were to do some clone, there are a lot of little things we’d want to change, and we would then want to advertise those differences (“improvements”).

        More broadly and to nitpick at the same time: I do not think intellectual property is a morally valid concept, and I am all about freedom. I did not and would not say, “[you] should not be *allowed* to put [your] own logo on [your] boards”; I’m just pointing out what I think is inconsistent in your statements. And since you seem to be into constructive suggestions and solutions instead of just complaints and skepticism, the branding could be done through a separate layout layer (in the case of a PCB) that still gets merged with a functional traditional silkscreen layer to produce the final silkscreen. People after the design but not the brand could then just modify or not use the brand layer. I haven’t looked into it, so maybe this is already standard practice (but I doubt it).

      2. Jan Malasek (pololu) thanks for stopping in!

        you wrote “I’m not sure what Pololu will do as far as making our designs open. We have had some of our stuff cloned in the traditional sense: people have copied our designs from scratch, without our files. We put a decent amount of effort into securing our bootloaders”.

        ok, so you see value in your designs and you’re protecting them with what i think people would call DRM.

        and then your write “More broadly and to nitpick at the same time: I do not think intellectual property is a morally valid concept, and I am all about freedom.”

        how can you say that and then also say you’re not doing open designs and you’re securing your bootloaders if you’re also saying you do not think intellectual property is a morally valid concept?

      3. Jan Malasek says:

        I believe people have an intrinsic right to keep ideas to themselves. I also believe that once an idea gets out, there is no intrinsic right to prevent others from acting on it. There is no contradiction here.

      4. Jan Malasek – then why bother putting “a decent amount of effort” into securing your bootloaders at pololu if you do not think intellectual property is a morally valid concept?

      5. Jan Malasek says:

        What is the conflict or inconsistency you see? I’ll try to phrase it differently: I do not believe you should be able to own an idea. If someone else has the same idea as me, even if I thought of it first and he’s copying me, he should have the right to act on it. However, that doesn’t mean I have to share my ideas or make them easy to copy.

      6. Jan Malasek – saying that pololu is DRMing their bootloaders but then also saying you do not think intellectual property is a morally valid concept AND you “are all about freedom” seems inconsistent to me, just my opinion (this is my opinion article, so here it is).

        i’m really glad pololu / you posted this – you’re welcome to correct me, but it appears the company policy is: DRM is ok, but copyright and trademark are not morally valid concepts.

        i’ll follow up with a future article if you’re up for it, can you email the best way to contact you?

  14. jeffornot says:

    I just bought an “Arduino Uno r3″ online for $18 that I’m now fairly certain will turn out to be a knockoff. $18 vs $29.

    On the one hand, I have an extreme dislike of companies trying to “pull a fast one” by taking a trademarked name. People that don’t know any better are getting duped.

    On the other hand, people that DO know better are getting cheaper hardware. I have a “real” Mega 2560 already and was looking for the cheapest way to take a project and make it permanent. A 328 chip seems like the best way, since you can easily breadboard them with minimal components. For $18, I’m getting a 328 and the board to program and develop with. I would still buy it for that price if they didn’t have “Uno” in the name. Arduino is by design an open hardware spec, so it should surprise no one that there are cheap chinese versions. It’s disappointing that they took the name (no such thing as copyright in China), but at least it will probably be functionally identical, since the entire spec is public (unlike a knockoff iPhone which will be nothing but disappointment)

    1. jeff, evil mad science has oshw that isn’t using arduino’s trademarked name/logo and they’re only $13 – http://evilmadscience.com/productsmenu/tinykitlist/180 they’re a great company and this is a great example of an arduino-compatible in my opinion.

      1. jeff says:

        That’s a nice option, I haven’t seen that one before. $13 plus a $20 ftdi cable makes it less exciting, but they make a fair point that you only need one ftdi cable. $13 makes it almost not worth breadboarding the 328!

      2. Xenix says:

        They are great. They are perfect for the use you suggest. They are the guts of just about every Arduino project I’ve moved off of the breadboard. Just put on what you want and leave everything else off. If you need more room – just use a tiny bit of ribbon cable to hook it to a piece of perf-board.

      3. jeffornot says:

        Actually, I’ll amend my last comment. I was about to recommend that Diavolino kit to somebody else that was looking into an inexpensive Arduino kit. But now that I’ve looked into the Diavolino more, there really isn’t very much included in that kit. It’s a PCB, the Atmel 328, a couple resistors and caps, and a crystal. This would not be a good choice for most purposes.

        1). You have to solder it together yourself (not a negative – just something that should be driving the price down since it is now just a box of parts)
        2). It has no built-in serial interface – A $20 FTDI Cable is needed to communicate with it.
        3). It has no power supply – it doesn’t have any supply circuitry at all – not even a 5V regulator!
        4). No 3.3V regulator onboard
        5). It doesn’t even include the HEADERS! (+$1.50)
        6). It has no room on the board for additional hardware! The only reason I can see wanting a board like this is for wiring up a “completed project” – but the board doesn’t have any extra space on it to put the project, so what’s the advantage of this over just using a blank board? It seems like a better use of $13 is buying the chip, a DIP socket, the necessary resistors and crystal, and a breadboard that has some space on it.

        Another way of looking at it is to say “For only $5 more, you get: FTDI interface (including cable!), a power supply that can take between 7 and 20V, and all the headers.”

      4. tastewar says:

        Another good choice is the BareBonesBoard [1] from Modern Devices or its diminutive sister, the *Really* BareBonesBoard [2]. Both require soldering, etc., but good hardware.

        I’m glad to see some discussion of what *is* acceptable copying in the comments; was hoping to read that in the main article.

        1. http://shop.moderndevice.com/products/bbb-kit
        2. http://shop.moderndevice.com/products/rbbb-kit

  15. WestfW says:

    Hmm. That board with the yellow ISP connectors is sorta interesting. They’ve absconded with the “arduino” trademark, but the board itself seems to be significantly different than any of the Arduino reference designs (in particular, the layout of the L/RX/TX LEDs is different, and it’s “up” at least one size on most of the SMT components.) It’s got two crystals, many vias in the ground plane, and pins on both ISP positions. In some ways, I might prefer it to a ‘real’ Arduino, if the vendor had been more honest and I felt like I could count on getting THAT board and not the ‘knock-off-of-the-week.”
    In a way, that’s sadder than a true counterfeit. If you improve something, you ought to plaster your name on it and be proud!

  16. I am interested to know how big a problem this is? I have in my toolbox several “Arduinos” some genuine, some not so much :) I also move in circles where people are buying either.

    I have never seen a clone that I would say was especially inferiour to the origional product and indeed I have joked on several occaisions that you “can spot a forged Arduino a mile away, the build quality is always better!”

    The thing is, clones are as I see it as much part of the ecosystem as the genuine product. They make the hobby even more accessible than the origional Arduino. More people use them, more people show off their creations online and offline and more people are exposed to the hardware and decide to dabble themselves. Those that get into using microcontrollers are going to end up purchasing a mixture of genuine and non-genuine parts. The Arduino team end up making more sales.

  17. Using the logo of another company on a product you’re turning out is never ok. The Arduino team give a pretty good overview of what they see as acceptable use of the Arduino name with regards to clone products and it should be respected.

    There are a huge number of fake products out there and they are cheap and readily available. Its the cheap part that temps most people, sellers and buyers alike. If you have an idea of what sort of price an Arduino board costs and you find something that costs significantly less you can pretty much be certain that it is a fake. If you go ahead and buy it then you take the risks associated with buying a fake product. It’s bad that people make these fakes but there is a market for them.

    Your comments on eBay are a little off in my opinion. I believe it has the toughest feedback system out there. A buyer can leave honest feedback on each and every transaction, with no fear of retaliatory feedback from the seller, they can also open an item not as described case for any item. If you’ve been sold a fake you can open a case, get your money back and leave a negative feedback, telling the world that the seller is selling fake Arduino. If you use it in conjunction with the Arduino distributor list you can find some good deals. I have to declare an interest in this statement. I sell genuine Arduino on eBay! (as well as genuine Adafruit products!).

    Although I don’t agree with the sale of these fake products, I’m pretty sure their overall presence in the market has had a net positive effect. More people have been exposed to Arduino due to their lower price point.

  18. Gil says:

    Thank you Phillip for an interesting article and an even more interesting discussion. To tell you the truth I own an (original) arduino mega for a few years now and have never noticed that arduino is tm. To tell you the truth I find this very troubling. The arduino team has done an amazing job, but I believe that a huge part of arduinos popularity and success is it community. Without development and interesting projects I doubt they would be selling so many arduinos. The thing is with many people (like me) the name arduino is a name associated with the project, not the product. If your talking about open source its like Linus Torvalds trademarking the name “Linux” and saying that anyone using that name is violating copyright. Mind you there are some open source companies like Redhat and Fedora that add tm icons and names into their Linux distributions and essentially take control over them.

    If someone tries to sell a board under the name “arduino clone” I doubt anyone will buy it even though that doesn’t necessarily mean that it is poorly made. Mind you selling inferior products that don’t work is always bad, but to the best of my knowledge, for obvious reasons, there are no attempts to combat bad clones on the part of the arduino project. As a contrary in the reprap 3d printer project, since it was started by the University of Bath, there are reviews for different vendors.

    In the article you also say ” In an age where we all care how and where things are made, from organic foods to working conditions in factories, buying a real Arduino matters. If you want to support open source hardware and software, supporting the makers and buying the real deal is the best way to do it.”
    I’m a little baffled on what working conditions in factories has to do with supporting open hardware and makers. Aren’t allot of open source hardware kits (excluding arduino) made in China? Are factory work conditions really considered when open source companies go into manufacturing? (I’m not trying to be sarcastic I’m really asking).

    I think its admirable and I agree with the arduino team to make the boards in Italy so that workers are assured fair wages (even though this looses some value when most probably all the components are made in China). But I think its unfair to force these values on the rest of the world. The makers usually only think of the western customers and western values while forgetting the rest of the world. We may believe that fair wage is important, someone else would believe that accessibility is the most important. The difference between $18 to $29 in extreme cases might be the difference between someone being able to play freely with the arduino (not afraid of burn things) or not buying it at all. Don’t forget that for allot of people (outside the US or europe) shipping prices also play a major part in the overall price. I can say I am a huge fan of Adafruit industries but when the price of things are marked up by %20-%75 when you take into account shipping to Israel, I try to source what components locally wherever I can (although I clearly prefer to buy things from adafruit). Unfortunately as for the current time the Chinese are able to ship worldwide for free or with really low prices.

    Just to conclude, In order for open hardware to prosper everyone has to make money. But I think that if you are selling open source (hardware or software) your mindset should be that you are selling a service not a product (even if the service is collecting all the components)

    1. hey gil!

      thanks :) i’ll try to hit all your questions: “I’m a little baffled on what working conditions in factories has to do with supporting open hardware and makers. Aren’t allot of open source hardware kits (excluding arduino) made in China? Are factory work conditions really considered when open source companies go into manufacturing? (I’m not trying to be sarcastic I’m really asking).”

      given the current topic in the news about foxconn i wanted to include where things are made actually do matter. mitch altman who makes open source hardware as well non-open source hardware has visited the factories he works with to meet the workers and check out the conditions. does it matter to everyone? probably not, does it matter to some people, yes. it matters for us at adafruit too, we’ve selected specific companies for some assembly needs based on location and the people who run the fab house.

      next up, your wrote “when the price of things are marked up by %20-%75 when you take into account shipping to Israel, I try to source what components locally wherever I can (although I clearly prefer to buy things from adafruit). Unfortunately as for the current time the Chinese are able to ship worldwide for free or with really low prices.”

      that’s why we all have a pretty good network of hackerspaces and distributors, if there’s not one in your area let us know and i’ll see what i can do! there’s a race for free shipping of some kind for most online retailers, so that’s a business challenge for everyone. amazon has prime and first class mail around the world can be included for free for small orders.

      last up you wrote “I think that if you are selling open source (hardware or software) your mindset should be that you are selling a service not a product”. that’s the mindset i try to have, at adafruit we supply tutorials, videos and more-value then just the physical parts. i think we have the best customer support for our customers, that’s a service, not a physical thing. at MAKE we have a maker faire, and a makershed, events and an experience you can share with others. these things are more than just physical items.

    2. follower says:

      > If your talking about open source its like Linus Torvalds trademarking the name “Linux”

      “Linux” *is* a trademark of Linus Torvalds, see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Linux_Mark_Institute and the bottom of pages on http://www.linuxfoundation.org/programs/legal/trademark where it explicitly states “Linux is a registered trademark of Linus Torvalds”.

      Another example of an Open Source/Free software project using Trademarks is Firefox: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Firefox#Trademark_and_logo

      In these cases trademarks are generally used to protect endusers from fraud or exploitation.

  19. A7 says:

    But how open is the Open Hardware community? I mean, if the schematics and layout is open to anyone, what’s wrong with copying?
    - Arduino is a trademark.
    Well, arduino is nothing but a AVR development kit. There are hundreds of microcontrollers out there, pic, avr, arm… ( NXP gave away thousands of arm cortex m0 development kits last year) But arduino became trendy, cool, with a bunch of hipster-makers pretending to be high-tech, and making money with trademarks, and now protection? sucks to be free, huh? The late Jobs thought the same way…

    The layout of the so called ‘arduino’ board could not be anything but open. You pick the FTDI datasheet example schematics, add the AVR datasheet example schematics, and you’ve got one board..

    someone may say “and what about the bootloader?” well, screw it.. it consumes way more ROM than it should anyway…

    — “in what ways would you improve the layout to make it not “crummy”? have you made improvements and shared them to help the arduino project with your expertise? ”

    well, why would I help the project owners, when they say its free, its open, but in fact the registered the mark, and don’t like when others reproduce their datasheet-based design? It sounds just wrong. They want people to help for free, because its open, but want the profits ( not only money, but status in their group) just for them?

    its seems that the whole concept of the arduino project is to fool (yeah you got that right) the newbie, giving him(her) a black box with a fancy name. “You can use it, improve it, but do not tread on our profit margins”

    Its open. Anyone can copy. The design is not new. The concept is not new. Anyone can make this boards. Screw it.

    1. Jaromir says:

      Nice one, A7.
      I checked the whole thread just to see response of this kind. I don’t expect a lot of agreement from local users, but believe me, there is a lot of people thinking the same.

      1. A7 says:

        thats cool!

        i’m glad i’m not the only one!

    2. svofski says:

      well said, a7.

    3. a7 – you wrote “what’s wrong with copying?” – this is about using someone’s trademark and business name to trick people. there is a difference, i realize you’ve said you do not care about trademarks, but there’s a huge difference between copying and counterfeiting, you know this.

  20. a7 – “a bunch of hipster-makers pretending to be high-tech”? please keep the name calling/insults off the comments here, this is your only warning.

    there’s nothing wrong with “copying” you appear to be confused about this article and do not understand how trademarks work it seems. the article is about counterfeit arduinos mostly using the arduino name, tm logo and being sold as real arduinos.

    you wrote “whole concept of the arduino project is to fool the newbie” – really? it’s black box with a fancy name? it’s completely open source, you can make your own, better, version and call it whatever you want. many do and have businesses built around it.

    1. A7 says:

      “Cloning ain’t cool
      If your goal is just to make Arduino clones and not add code or hardware improvements, please go do something else instead. I see a few companies just make straight-up clones, make confusing names, and think it’s socially acceptable. It’s not. The beginners get confused as to what’s a real Arduino with the quality, service, and support, and most of the time the clones are crappy””

      its kind of a fairy tale to believe that given the option, people will choose a name that isn’t related to the mainstream product.. the ‘duinos show that.. boarduino, seeduino..

      “Its like an arduino, but is not..”
      In the 80′s compaq started as a PC-compatible, but soon people forgot IBM and started calling Compaqs and Dells just PCs.. HP notebooks are PCs or PC compatibles? Acer? Asus?

      The arduino name sticks.. sounds nice (in english it is exotic, european-like)…

      but who really cares about the property of the name? to the buyer, price is the important factor. If china can sell it cheaper, they will, and people will buy it. And (except for the real naive ones) who buys from china cannot complain about quality.. If it breaks, just buy another one. (even though i believe that theres nothing to break in a arduino board.. If the AVR microncontroller burnt, just pop it out and replace it. Soldering irons are made for it., and you can learn a lot by fixing things..)

      arduino boards are just plain old microcontroller development kit, just like IBM PCs were just PCs

      1. “arduino boards are just plain old microcontroller development kit, just like IBM PCs were just PCs”

        i think the arduino is more than just that, there’s a great community, an open source IDE and a flourishing ecosystem of accessories and derivatives.

        i realize you think trademarks do not matter, but people specifically seek out certain brands over others because of quality, support and features.

  21. Eric Weddington says:

    Hi Phillip,

    It’s not enough to declare a philosophy, or set of ethical guidelines. The real world is harsh.

    If the hardware design is open source, then it will be copied / cloned.

    If you put a trademarked name on it, then sure you can protect that trademark, but only in the countries where you registered that trademark. If that trademark is not registered in China, then there’s not much one can do about Chinese clones with your trademarked name.

    Remarking the chip itself (another suggestion that I’ve heard), such as a custom logo, will not stop people from making counterfeits.

    If one truly wants to stop counterfeits there are solutions. For example, Atmel makes certain crypto chips that can be put on the board to uniquely identify the board as being “genuine”. (Full disclosure: I work for Atmel, but I was not intending that as an advertisement, just an example.) But then, once you do that, then the board may not necessarily be considered as “open source”. But is the magic of Arduino in the fact that the board itself is all open source? Or is it in the open *interface*, allowing the ecosystem of “shields” to flourish? Or is it also in the easy-to-use software?

    My point is that there are truly ways to stop counterfeiters, if that is the real problem. But does the solution mesh with the philosophy that is being promoted? If there are conflicts between the solution and the philosophy, then one needs to decide which is more important.

    In the end, saying that counterfeiting is unethical and shouldn’t be done is all well and good. But what is the actual remedy? There are legal remedies; difficult across nations, especially with China. Or there are technical remedies, but may conflict with the philosophy. If the people involved are unable or unwilling to do either route, then this issue comes across as somewhat moot….

    Commercial companies have been dealing with this issue in embedded systems for many, many years before the open source hardware movement.

  22. hi eric! thanks for stopping in! very cool to have ATMEL here commenting!

    here are some comments back to your questions “My point is that there are truly ways to stop counterfeiters, if that is the real problem. But does the solution mesh with the philosophy that is being promoted?”

    i think it’s very possible to keep your ethics and not encourage counterfeiters. we have trademarks, copyrights and patents, these can be used in various ways, they’re not all “bad”. copyright for example makes open-source possible.

    the reality is – for hardware we do not have many (if any) protections, we however have a thriving community. my article here is to raise awareness of these fake arduinos. ignoring them is not helpful, in fact that’s why open source hardware i think works out, we’re always sharing.

    you also wrote “Commercial companies have been dealing with this issue in embedded systems for many, many years before the open source hardware movement.”

    but the big difference is most commercial companies are not all releasing open-source hardware and are part of a community. we all started out assuming we didn’t have very much if any hardware protection, so we decided to share our designs and work together in various ways.

    it’s not perfect, but it’s working out. open-source hardware companies are not using the “openness” against each other, we’re all trying to make better products, different products and keep our values.

    my question back is, why doesn’t ATMEL just make an exact copy of an arduino and call it an ATMEL dev board? it would technically be ok and perfectly legal, but you’re not going to do that, why not?

    1. Eric Weddington says:

      Hi Philip,

      You wrote:
      “i think it’s very possible to keep your ethics and not encourage counterfeiters. we have trademarks, copyrights and patents, these can be used in various ways, they’re not all “bad”. copyright for example makes open-source possible.”

      Ethics is an ideal. Yes, there are trademarks, copyrights, and patents, all different forms of intellectual property. However, the concepts and forms of intellectual property varies widely throughout the world. Intellectual property has a longer history in the Western world then it does in Asia (and specifically in China). And all of these forms of Intellectual Property only do one any good if there is recognition of it and some way of enforcing it. This is not consistent in a globalized world. Despite the ideal of ethical behavior.

      You wrote:
      “my article here is to raise awareness of these fake arduinos. ignoring them is not helpful,”

      Certainly, raising awareness is a good thing. However, I think what a number of commentators here are suggesting is that there are contradictions. On one hand, it is open source hardware, so how can one be rightfully upset at cloners? Sure, one can put a trademarked name on a board, but if it’s not trademarked in China, and the means to enforce it there, then what can be done? There *are* technical solutions to enforce origin of hardware (as I mentioned in my previous post), but that may conflict with the ideal of promoting the philosophy of open source hardware.

      Sure, one can cry that counterfeiters or cloners may be unethical, but without the means to actually enforce it, it just remains a nice ideal.

      [Disclaimer: the opinions above are my personal opinions, and not that of my employer.]

      You wrote:
      “my question back is, why doesn’t ATMEL just make an exact copy of an arduino and call it an ATMEL dev board? it would technically be ok and perfectly legal, but you’re not going to do that, why not?”

      Well, why would we have any reason to duplicate the work? ;-)

      1. hey eric! You wrote:
        “And all of these forms of Intellectual Property only do one any good if there is recognition of it and some way of enforcing it. This is not consistent in a globalized world. Despite the ideal of ethical behavior.”

        ebay operates in countries with laws, sellers are not allowed to sell counterfeited goods. it’s easily stopped, and is most of the time. why shouldn’t we encourage ethics and doing good? just because it’s hard work sometimes?

        You wrote:
        “On one hand, it is open source hardware, so how can one be rightfully upset at cloners? Sure, one can put a trademarked name on a board, but if it’s not trademarked in China, and the means to enforce it there, then what can be done?”

        just because it can’t be enforced today at 100% (or ever) doesn’t mean the arduino team should not continue to put their trademark on their boards and expect companies like ebay to remove auctions if requested. there are less counterfeits on ebay in general than there was, so i would say that it’s useful to assume things will change to favor the creators of products, not immediate, but eventually.

        You wrote:
        “There *are* technical solutions to enforce origin of hardware (as I mentioned in my previous post), but that may conflict with the ideal of promoting the philosophy of open source hardware.”

        again, i don’t think you need compromise your values to have a trademark and still do open source and open source hardware.

        You wrote:
        “Sure, one can cry that counterfeiters or cloners may be unethical, but without the means to actually enforce it, it just remains a nice ideal.”

        but auctions are removed, arduino is selling more arduinos than ever. i believe the system is not perfect in oshw, but it’s working really well.

        You wrote:
        “Well, why would we have any reason to duplicate the work?”

        exactly, you would not be adding any value. it seems more valuable for ATMEL not to duplicate the work – can you elaborate on why?

  23. A7 says:

    “i realize you think trademarks do not matter, but people specifically seek out certain brands over others because of quality, support and features.”

    So arduino is a trademarked product, owned by a restricted group. The open-hardware thing (creed) is only to comfort the buyer, that his money wont go to the shareholders of a major semiconductor company, but will go to ‘nice’ people, a community, an ecossystem…
    Well, the money doesnt go to the community but to a few people that design the so-called ‘original’ boards…
    I dont know if they(the arduino project designers) are really annoyed by the use of their trademark but ,if they really are, this behaviour is not different from that of the semiconductor companies, so they are all the same.. If companies are evil for not sharing knowledge and IP, so is the arduino project that dont want to share the brand.

    The moment you say it is a brand, it looses all its open status and joins the ranks of the major companies.

    - the layout and schematics are open, but the branded one is more expensive?
    You’ve got to pick one side, open for everybody to use the board and name as they want (free as in ‘free beer’) or a company that sells development kits, like digilent and terasic and many others..

    I agree with Gil in :” if you are selling open source (hardware or software) your mindset should be that you are selling a service not a product”

    If they are selling a product (with brand and stuff) this is not really open, someone wants to make money on his own…
    In that case, major companies are more ‘open’ since anyone can buy their stock.

    If they are selling a service (assembling the board, programming bootloader) well, its not a good business, since others can make it cheaper..

    If they are a creed, or a sect, there’s nothing to discuss.. but please stop complaing and trying to catechize those who don’t “believe”

    1. a7 – you can 100% have a “brand” and also do open-source software and hardware. there are great examples like redhat, or firefox or companies like EMSL, adafruit, sparkfun, etc.

      you wrote “You’ve got to pick one side, open for everybody to use the board and name as they want”

      that’s not correct. you can make any arduino-like board you want, just don’t call it arduino(tm) and/or use their logo. there are tons of a great businesses that are doing fine without using the arduino name and logo for their derivatives. you can do this right now and make as much money as you want, this is happening now, you know this.

      1. doulos says:

        China Will copy anything no matter what, but open source means it’s Legal for them to do it. Hey China here’s our boards here’s our layout here’s our firmware now china please don’t copy our logo are you serious? I am a maker I don’t care who made it first all I want to know is will it work like any other adriano and is it cheaper! Why would I pay more if I can get the same thing for less a logo? And FYI when the new real Arduino Mega came out Arduino sold me one that would not load the updated firmware I.e I had a dead board for about 4 days till they fixed it that I payed 65 dollars for so yea I know its fake ill still buy it cause its cheaper

      2. A7 says:

        yes, you can make money with open software/hardware, selling services, maintenance and support.
        IT companies use open software solutions because they’re free and became a standard. everybody uses them, so its easier to sell, integrate and adapt. programmers tend to like them, giving the impression that they are not working to “the man”, and are more familiar since they use it at home or at college.

        If you give away a code that anyone can compile, you can only sell service.

        But open hardware? You give people the opportunity to make their own board, but they wont… too much hassle to do it. So they buy the assembled board, and just dont care about the board design, treating the arduino(TM) as a black box, which is not very educational.
        A black box that you can open, but who really opens it, huh?

        Over last few years, i’ve seen people refering to microcontroller boards as arduino(TM), independently of the MCU family, not only on the internet, but also at university. I’ve been asked if a PIC microcontroller was ‘like’ an arduino(TM), in which ” I can program code in it”. Since it is indeed a coll exotic name, it stuck. The apparent freedom of not being owned by ‘evil companies’ is comforting, so arduino(TM) is becoming a synonym for microcontroller which is just wrong.
        This board now has its own ‘walled garden’, but it’s hip, trendy and cool, so people like it, and dont care about the walls…
        “Microcontroller Development Kit” sounds too-engineering, too technical, it’s lame…

        “Arduinos can make incredible things.. ” Well, the microcontroller inside it is the one doing incredible thing.. Any microcontroller can do it.

        Selling this philosophy is the one thing that i don’t like. Sounds like religion.
        Makes people believe they are getting something new, but in fact that was already available for them. giving the impression of freedom, not showing the truth, with a whole nice-to-hear philosophy to make money is just not cool.

        long live the counterfeits, for making avr development kits accesible to anyone, anywhere in the world, with free shipping

      3. doulos you wrote “China Will copy anything no matter what”. that’s not true, there are plenty of reputable chinese companies that do not just “copy anything no matter what”. if you need a specific one seeed studio makes and releases their own open-source hardware and works with tons of makers in the community. i don’t think it’s fair to say something about an entire country, and the trend is trademarks being used and respected by the chinese gov/factories and their people. it’s not perfect but, nothing ever is.

    2. A7 says:

      http://processors.wiki.ti.com/index.php/MSP430_LaunchPad_(MSP-EXP430G2)
      cheaper, not counterfeit. from a ‘evil’ closed company=D

      USD 4,30

      1. a7 – who said TI is an evil closed company? the msp430 is great, and i also really like the TI beagle bone and beagle board (open source hardware too!)

      2. A7 says:

        yeah man, but not everyone in the world can afford the luxury of being part of a nice friendly and ethic community..
        The concept behind openhardware is great, utopian but still..

        In the case of the arduinos, there are exchange, shipping, taxes, and other costs involved. If there are alternatives to the (lets not use the word original.. since it’s open, there are no false ones) ‘main production line’ of the boards, that are cheaper, people will prefer. The name arduino stuck, and the (mainly chinese) manufacturers of alternative boards will exploit that.. its simple.

        beagle boards are really nice indeed, but the fact that its open source its not the most relevant part of it.. i mean, not much people have the resources to build their own multilayer boards, with BGA or QFN ICs and other tiny smd components. Its nice that it is open, i had looked at the schematics and layout, in fact. But i don’t believe that (for the beagle) the fact that it is open change a lot in practice, maybe for a few people with resources to make them too – but wouldn’t these people or companies also have the resources to design their own too?

        I give the example of HP that gives away the schematics of its high-end measurement equipment for maintenance, but you don’t see a lot of ‘counterfeit’ 10GHz spectrum analyzers or lock-in amplifiers, since it is just not practical to make them from the schematics, even though its possible..

        I like open hardware ideas, contributed to some, specially in FPGA ip-cores, which are easier to distribute and have only IP value, not physical value.. But for hardware implementations, when you increase complexity, the value of the openness vanishes, since its not practical for the ‘average joe’ to make them on his own…

        Good discussion anyways.. lots of ideas and opinions to exchange

  24. kevin says:

    This issue really highlights an important distinction between open hardware and software. The incremental cost of software is effectively zero, whereas there is a finite incremental cost for hardware. The real money is made in creating value for the end user – just look at Redhat. At the enterprise level, this could work for hardware – just imagine a company supporting open source servers.

    At the hobbiest level, this argument still works for open source hardware. While it is anathema to think of paying for support after the sale, there is tremendous free support for the products. That consistent suppport creates loyalty which I will reward with more purchases. This system cuts out the leech that does nothing but make inexpensive parts.

    1. A7 says:

      as i said.. open hardware only works for simple hobby projects.. when you step up the complexity, as in a beagle board, it makes no difference, since the hobby-grade user cannot manufacture the board, or at least would be really hard to do it. He will be more interested in open software to run on those boards.. peripheral drivers, linux kernel etc..

      have you seen the size of the smd components on a beaglebone? who wants to solder that at home? it is cheaper to buy an assembled board, so the fact that they gave away the schematics and layout is nice, but just not practical

      1. johngineer says:

        “open hardware only works for simple hobby projects.”

        No, that’s only _your_ situation. There are plenty of people with more advanced in capabilities than you for whom seeing the hardware designs of something like the BeagleBone would be an advantage. I’m not trying to put you down, but it’s clear to me that you keep projecting your own situation and needs onto the entire hardware-consuming community, which ranges from beginners who’ve never soldered before to seasoned EE’s with access to reflow ovens and pick-and-place machines.

        The TI semiconductor division is in the business of selling chips. A long-standing convention in the semi industry for attracting customers is providing high-quality application notes, to help customers understand how your product will meet their needs. The BeagleBone is basically a physical app note. It has vetted circuits and subcircuits which just work, and can be incorporated into new designs easily because the schematics and layout are provided.

        1. WestfW says:

          Note that there are a large number of commercial products that are not very far from “open source” in that they’re bsaically a manufacturer’s “reference design” for some SoC, running a thin veneer of propietary user interface over a layer of open source operating system.

  25. Scott Rider says:

    My take on this clone/counterfeit thing. It is OK to make your own spin on an OpHard device, but generally offer it, if you are going to offer it at all, in a manner that tries to comply with two criteria. 1) Do not use the source vendor’s name or badging in such a manner as to conspicuously mislead the consumer into thinking you are buying the source vendor’s product. 2) Sell it at a cost-recovery level only. Not a profit level. If you want to profit, design plug in boards. BatchPCB would be good for this because you can offer the board up for manufacturing cost only, and all the logistics is handled by the sparkfun/batch guys.

    A word about “Chinese knockoffs” in general. If you use an overseas factory for mass production. *expect* your product to be reverse-engineered by someone there. It has been done to me more than once. heck, look at Apple hardware knockoffs. Done the same way.

  26. WestfW says:

    I have a certain sympathy for someone in “south farawayland” who can’t buy the real version of an OSHW platform under reasonable terms, running off exact copies of the “reference design” in their local manufacturing facilities. The current reference design doesn’t include the fancy logos and such, but does have “Arduino(tm) Uno” in the silkscreen.

  27. Nimbus says:

    This counterfeit problem is very large, and some would say the problem starts in China, and maybe that’s true… but they didn’t invent the problem. I currently live in Shenzhen, China.. where most of the electronic products in the world come from.
    Years ago all things were made by hand to high quality… then we wanted more and more at a lower price, and we didn’t have time to wait. So the factories moved to China and the stuff got made cheaper and faster and in BLUK.
    Now these same factories have their own agenda to make a huge pile of ‘whatever’ and sell it off quick. There is no way of tracing a product back to the maker so no liability.

    Unfortunately in China no one suffers from a thing called guilt, or morals when it comes to business. The sales of these cheap crummy items in China alone is sufficient to support this way of business.
    I myself have made products here that can sell with a 800 percent margin due to the strategic use of low cost materials (only where it doesn’t matter), and skipping the Quality Control process where ever possible.

    The thing is that a factory can only make a product for a short time before they have to change to another rip-off product.. so they are always looking for new ideas to hijack. Sure enough, any successful product gets picked up and is copied by dozens of un related factories looking for a quick buck.

    Though there is no way of stopping this happening at all, government in China IS helping to close down copyright theft and fakers, but as i look out my 32n’d floor apartment across and endless concrete jungle i can tell you its a big job!

    Good news though…. these factories are beginning to loose their hold on the low cost world.. to places like the Thailand, India, and Indonesia, and are starting to realize that they can now use their own brands, with their own names. And they are realizing they can have their own Ideas and invention, and they can begin to take pride in making their own mark in quality an innovation. These companies are realizing they live in a society with the fastest growing middle class consumers in the world, and they are sick of cheap junk.

    Things are getting better in this part of the world for all the global consumers. Electronics seems to be at the front of this… in a few years “MADE IN CHINA” will possibly move up as a mark as quality, rather than a warning sign that its probably fake.

    The best thing to do to help is to NOT buy fakes, and send a message to producers that fake doesn’t sell any more.

  28. aisencc says:

    Reblogged this on Making Toys and commented:
    Wow! Society is moving in the right direction! People want to prototype micro controller projects so much, there is an opportunity for counterfeit merchandise! Hurray!!! LV, Coach and broke fashionistas- Electronics and open source hardware is what’s up!
    - Just the optimistic side of things…

  29. yup, you totally get it :) i considered this a milestone in the popularity of open-source hardware and the arduino project. there’s so much value in a name like arduino, it’s being put on boards.

  30. [...] article last week about Arduino counterfeits (as in companies actually using the Arduino name, logo, and trademark) and selling them as real [...]

  31. rileyporter says:

    I am surprised that the RepRap gen 7 electronics build discussion has not come up in this thread. (Perhaps I missed it as it a long one!)

    http://reprap.org/wiki/User:Traumflug

    Its a good read. It brushes on the topic you have started here phil.

  32. Counterfeits can be a problem for those that provide support. DIYDrones sells parts and kits for remote control and autonomous model planes and multicopters. Their main controller board is Arduino-based. They offer good technical support for their parts, whether sold directly or through retailers. They do have a problem with people asking for support when they actually (unwittingly) bought a clone.

  33. [...] article last week about Arduino counterfeits (as in companies actually using the Arduino name, logo, and trademark) and selling them as real [...]

  34. [...] In my previous article Jan Malasek from Pololu had some really interesting statements on intellectual property, so in addition to wanting to know more, I thought I’d see if Jan was up for an interview with MAKE about Pololu. I’ve been covering a lot of open-source hardware companies, almost exclusively, so I wanted to make sure I had some in the “maker space” that have not been covered in the recent open-source hardware articles (I don’t think open-source is for everyone, and see the value in a lot of diverse business models). Special thanks to Jan for sharing a bit about the company and more! [...]

  35. [...] In my previous article Jan Malasek from Pololu had some really interesting statements on intellectual property, so in addition to wanting to know more, I thought I’d see if Jan was up for an interview with MAKE about Pololu. I’ve been covering a lot of open-source hardware companies, almost exclusively, so I wanted to make sure I had some in the “maker space” that have not been covered in the recent open-source hardware articles (I don’t think open-source is for everyone, and see the value in a lot of diverse business models). Special thanks to Jan for sharing a bit about the company and more! [...]

  36. lone_clone says:

    I can’t see the problem as long as it’s clearly visible that it’s not a 1:1 copy. If I would clone it I would:

    • not print on it ‘Made in Italy’
    • Use different color for the solder mask
    • Probably add the word ‘compatible’

  37. Robert says:

    The way I see it is: if it looks like a duck, walks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, it’s a bloody duck.

    The way I see it, what makes an Arduino an Arduino is not who made it, where it was made, or who got paid. What makes it an Arduino is: does Serial.println(2+2,DEC); get you 4, that sort of thing.

    The only problem I have with “counterfeits” or “clones” is if they don’t work right. (Like, what does it matter if my “Rolex” is fake, as long as its seconds are real?)

  38. julietbravo says:

    I partly agree; when I needed an Arduino, I bought an official one, despite the ‘slightly’ higher costs. It makes sense to support the people who developed it, and you probably get a better quality than the Chinese clones. However, for a recent project I needed an Arduino Nano. DX was able to deliver one at my front door for EU 9.36, which worked just fine, my local Arduino ‘dealer’ in the Netherlands asked EU 39,95 + 3.95 sending costs. That’s a FACTOR 4.7 MORE! I’m very sorry, but if the overhead of the official logo, dealer and everything else is that much, they are just ripping you off and deserve clones to start dominating the market.

  39. Nathan says:

    I realize this post is a year old, but I just stumbled across it and I would like to point out that there is a major difference between counterfeit Arduino’s and Arduino-Compatible boards. Arduino is open source, so “clones” that do not infringe upon Arduino’s copyright are perfectly legal and ethical to produce and sell.

    I sell Arduino-Compatible boards for two reasons:

    1. I can’t afford to buy official Arduino boards in high enough quantities to be able to sell them at the MSRP without actually losing money

    2. The markup by the manufacturer’s and vendors is WAY too steep IMHO and selling Arduino-Compatible boards (which, contrary to Phillip’s post, typically work just as well as the official boards) allows me to offer them to the customer at a far lower price.

    As an example for my second point, I’m selling Arduino-Compatible Mega 2560′s for $19.95, while Adafruit sells the official board for $65.00 and Sparkfun for $58.95.

    What’s better for the end user, who is often a student with very little money?

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