Massimo Talks

The biggest news coming out of Maker Faire Shenzhen, outside the size and intensity of the event itself, was the announcement made by Massimo Banzi that Arduino boards using the name Genuino will be made in China by Seeed Studio. There have been plenty of Arduino clones made in China that closely copied every detail of Arduino, including stamping “Made in Italy” on the board.

Now, Eric Pan’s Seeed Studio will be manufacturing boards in Shenzhen for distribution in China. This follows Banzi’s announcement at Maker Faire Bay Area that Genuino boards in the United States will be made by Adafruit in Manhattan, New York. Previously, genuine Arduino boards were made at manufacturing facilities in northern Italy.

I interviewed Massimo Banzi and Eric Pan immediately after Massimo’s talk on Saturday at Maker Faire Shenzhen. Banzi in his talk emphasized the importance of new efforts to expand support on arduino.cc for a Chinese community as well as developing educational materials for the China market.

Arduino Wars

The news from Shenzhen is another episode in what might be called the Arduino Wars. It is both confusing and upsetting to see the original Arduino community calling itself Genuino (which means genuine in Italian) in order to outmaneuver the Phantom Arduino and its appropriation of the original name.

Genuino represents the efforts of four of the five original Arduino team to salvage their life’s work, and continue to grow the open source community that has flourished around Arduino and its home at arduino.cc. The Phantom Arduino is the result of one of the members of the original team, who was responsible for the manufacturing of Arduino in Italy, forming his own company, Arduino.org, and then selling his interest in it to Frederico Musto. It is a blatant attempt to commercialize Arduino without respect to its founders or the community. There are now competing claims over who owns the Arduino trademark and its trade dress in European, American, and Asian markets.

At Shenzhen Maker Faire, Banzi said that he would not use the name Arduino in China as the legal process plays out. This does not mean that he’s abandoning the Arduino name or the fight over it. It means that there are legal restrictions in place that they are following in hopes that they can win a legal battle and retain these rights in the long run.

At Maker Faire Shenzhen, there was a Genuino exhibit and separately, an Arduino exhibit. It’s a battle of .cc versus .org. Banzi and his team certainly have the support of the Maker community and the companies who have become part of the Arduino ecosystem. There’s a huge difference in vision, which may not come across to newcomers in the Maker community. It’s hard to tell who the Phantom Arduino really is — the “about” page on the site has the ingratiating opening: “We were there from the beginning.” Musto has written me asking to tell his side of the story and I have asked him for it but he doesn’t provide anything. The Phantom Arduino might not seem like a menace, but it’s all part of a strategy to mask who they really are — and try to hide what they are not — the genuine article.

Banzi was joined in Shenzhen by another one of the original team, Tom Igoe. They continue to engage openly with the community, and keep moving the open source hardware project forward. Michael Shiloh and Judy Castro, who have worked closely as educators with the Arduino team, were doing workshops at Maker Faire Shenzhen. Shiloh told me that they would stay in China after Maker Faire to do workshops in Beijing and Shanghai, which is typical of the successful work supported by the original Arduino team.

All that we really know for sure is that there will be more episodes to come in the Arduino Wars.