Arduino
Arduino Wars: Group Splits, Competing Products Revealed?
Arduino-Zero-and-Pro
The Arduino Zero Pro from Arduino.org (left) and the Arduino Zero from Arduino.cc (right)

 

(Editor note: Arduino’s Massimo Banzi has supplied us with his direct information about the Arduino rift. Read his note here)

There’s nothing worse than when a family starts fighting amongst itself. If only because, after years being cooped up for weeks at time during the Christmas vacations, you know exactly where to cause the maximum amount of damage.

Right now Arduino LLC—the company founded by Massimo Banzi, David Cuartielles, David Mellis, Tom Igoe and Gianluca Martino back in 2009—is suing Arduino Srl founded by Gianluca Martino.

The second Arduino, Arduino Srl that is, was originally named Smart Projects Srl and was responsible for manufacturing the Arduino boards in Italy. While the first Arduino, Arduino LLC, is the company we’re more familiar with, responsible for development of the boards, management of the open source projects surrounding it, and the community.

However disagreements last year about the direction of the Arduino brand between Martino and the four other co-founders led to Martino taking on Federico Musto as the new CEO of Smart Projects and renaming the company Arduino Srl.

The Arduino board itself is open source—one of the earliest decisions made by the group behind the board was to release the design files. Anyone can make an Arduino compatible board, or even an exact copy of the board. However the Arduino name, logo and graphics are protected by trademark which, while it hasn’t stopped the flow of cheap counterfeit boards, has at least meant that if you saw a board with the Arduino logo on you could be fairly sure of its provenance.

Unfortunately, that’s no longer the case. It’s difficult to determine what actually happened or is still happening, but right now we have the arduino.cc site we’re familiar with, the home of Arduino LLC, alongside arduino.org, a site created by the new Arduino Srl. Both use the same trade dress, logo, names, fonts—they even (mostly) call their products the same thing. At least at the moment, and at least to outsiders, there are two companies claiming to be “Arduino” and it’s rather hard to tell the difference.

Talking to la Repubblica back in November last year—when Musto was hired to lead Arduino Srl—Massimo Banzi  said “E’ surreale quel che sta accadendo…”  which, at least as close as my rusty Italian can make out, means that he thinks the entire situation is surreal, and really, who can blame him?

Right now the whole problem is sitting before the First Circuit and a Massachusetts District Court where Arduino LLC is suing Arduino Srl and co-defendants for trademark infringement.

Against this background is the quiet release by Arduino Srl, rather than Arduino LLC, of the long awaited Arduino Zero.

Announced at Makercon last year the Arduino Zero represents the future for Arduino. While it shares the same form factor as the older boards it is powered by a 32-bit ARM Cortex M0+ core, and is significantly faster than the traditional 8-bit Arduino, as well as being much more capable.

While the arduino.cc site still isn’t listing the Arduino Zero as available, the arduino.org site has an updated product page for an ‘Arduino Zero Pro’ advertising that it is available now—although after looking I couldn’t find anyone with stock, or anyone that claimed they would have stock, at least not amongst the usual suspects. However it might well just be a matter of time before stock of the board starts to become available.

The arduino.org site is offering two new products. The Arduino Zero Pro is 'available now' while the Yún Mini will be available at the end of April.
The arduino.org site is offering two new products. The Arduino Zero Pro is ‘available now’ while the Yún Mini will be available at the end of April.

Interestingly as well as the new Arduino Zero Pro there is another new product—one we haven’t seen on the Arduino roadmap before—the Arduino Yún Mini.

All we know right now is that this new board will be available from the end of April. However, and perhaps somewhat tellingly to those that are familiar with the background behind the situation, the new Arduino Yún Mini looks awfully like the Linino One board with a different silk screen. While it’s possible that the design of the new Yún Mini is based on the Linino One, it’s equally possible that it might well just be the Linino board in a fetching shade of blue. Either way, we should find out soon.

All in all the whole situation is fraught with difficulties and murky at best. I’m certainly not going to be the only person in the maker community that’s awaiting the decision by the First Circuit with some degree of concern. Because there really is only one thing that we know for sure about this mess, that whatever happens it’s not going to be good for the community that’s grown up around the Arduino—the community that’s turned the Arduino from a humble micro-controller board into something that’s part of the permanent collection at the MOMA.

19 thoughts on “Arduino Wars: Group Splits, Competing Products Revealed?

  1. A connection many people seem to be missing is Federico Musto, the new CEO of Arduino.org (formerly Smart Projects), is the founder of Dog Hunter, which owns Linino.

    Dog Hunter worked together with an Asian company a couple years ago to create Arduino Yun. There’s a credit to Dog Hunter printed on the back of every Yun board.

    With Federico at the helm, Arduino.org selling Linino’s products using the official Arduino brand shouldn’t be too surprising. If Arduino.org isn’t shut down, it’s a pretty safe bet that Linino’s other products will probably appear as blue Ardiuno brand boards.

    It’s also not so surprising any mention of the competing (still unreleased) Arduino Tre, featuring a far more powerful Linux processor than Yun, is absent from Arduino.org’s website. Arduino.cc has said publically that Tre will be manufactured in the USA, which almost certainly can’t be a decision popular with Martino who runs the Italian manufacturing operation.

  2. I will be boycotting Arduino.org. The movement started by Arduino.cc to bring the maker movement and programming to a the widest possible audience is brilliant. Arduino.org looks like they want to exploit the brand for profit over helping the community. If I was ok with that I would just buy Chinese knock offs instead. Shame on you Arduino Srl.

    1. Would you still boycott Arduino.org if they start supplying significantly better quality at a lower price? At what point might you change your mind?
      Because there is no scarce property being fought over, I don’t see any problem here whatsoever. Unless Arduino.org hijacks Arduino.cc’s web traffic or phone lines, customers are perfectly free to patronize whichever supplier delivers better value in their mind.
      Property is something that cannot be used by unlimited people at the same time. Intellectual property is an oxymoron.

      1. I don’t object to what they want to do. I object to them hijacking the Arduino name (and web traffic by way of conflicting naming). I’m 100% for more players in the Maker board space. That’s a win win for everyone. What I don’t like is them trying to redirect Arduino traffic to their site and boards. They want to take the project to a much more closed loop that is all in house in their manufacturing facility. I like that Arduino.cc is trying to reach out to outside partners to globalize the project. This make things like the Arduino Tre that combine two amazing projects in Beaglebone and Arduino.

        1. What does hijacking a name mean? Is violence against person or property involved? No. Does it prevent the original name holder from continuing to use the same name? No. Does it trick customers? No. (How many fake Gucci buyers had no idea they paid for a fake? Zero). “Trying to redirect traffic.”? So in other words, not actually redirecting traffic by domain slamming etc. (stealing something scarce).

          Do I admire companies that blatantly copy others? No. Neither do you. But here’s the million dollar question: do I think a Massachusetts judge should be empowered to use violence against Arduino.org’s property (levy fines etc.). No. But I’m afraid you do. And plenty of Massachusetts ancestors do too: in colonial times the court levied a fine against anyone wearing a silk scarf (“hijacking” the identifying mark of a gentleman) unless they had a minimum net worth. Do you agree with that too?

          http://www.constitution.org/primarysources/sumptuary.html

          1. I don’t think your example applies here. That would mean a judge ordering Arduino Srl to not be able to make boards period. Much different than trying to copy a name. This would be more like trying to build a large convenience store named “Target” that also uses a bulls-eye for a logo but is not affiliated with the actual US Company Target in hopes of attracting customer using the market and brand someone else worked so hard to create. Should they be allowed to start a new convenience store? Absolutely! Should they be allowed to call it Target and use the logo. Definitely not! If your company idea is good enough, start your own brand and logo and build it up.

          2. “Should they be allowed to call it Target and use the logo. Definitely not! ”
            I say definitely yes. And I say definitely you should be allowed to wear a silk scarf and pretend to be rich when you’re not. Once you start allowing courts to fine people for pretending to be what they’re not or for copying others’ ideas or logos you are initiating violence against the person or property of others. This is not ok to me.

          3. Do you not understand the purposes for trademarks? They’re very different from copyrights or patents. They are to ensure the consumer knows what they’re getting. If anyone can use any brand name, you never know if the part to your private jet is a quality part that will keep you in the air, or a cheap knockoff that will kill you as soon as you hit 2,000 feet. The issue here isn’t copyrights or patents. It’s trademarked brand names. The Arduino boards schematics are open source. SainSmart makes their own version of the Arduino Uno and Mega. Guess what, I know exactly what I’m getting when I buy it. They are a good company and they make good products. If I buy an Arduino, am I getting the original Arduino LLC’s board or Ardunio Srl’s board? I don’t know anymore.

            This has nothing to do with stealing property, intellectual or material. It has everything to do with stealing an identity and the reputation that comes along with it.

            If that doesn’t bother you, please send me your SS#, credit card information, home address, and phone number. Since you’re so giving, please include your mother’s maiden name, your pet’s name, your driver’s license number, and any other information that you think should be free to the public since it isn’t really property that belongs to anyone. It’s just something more than one person can use at a time, right? Just like the name Target.

          4. Copyright is the unjust right to threaten others against imitating inspiring words or pictures. Trademark is the same concept but emphasizes that these words, designs or pictures are the creators’ identifying marks.

            You seem to be conceding that copyright and patent are unjust but are worried that, without trademark, everyone would lose their identity.

            Firstly, I believe that it is impossible to lose your identity. If a man stole your SS#, would you forget who you were? No. Would your boss mistake his identity and give your job to the thief? No. Like reputation, identity is not something you own. To be precise, it’s not yours. Like reputation, identity is what others think of you.

            If a man steals your SS# and then pretends to be you and collects your tax refund he has not stolen your identity. Unlike your boss who did not make a mistake, what’s happened here is that the government made an identity mistake. They gave the tax refund to the wrong person. Their bad. Maybe SS#s are a bad idea.

            I choose not to disclose my secret numbers to you because, like lock combinations and secret tricks of the trade, keeping them secret helps me accumulate and retain more private property than others think I need. (Yes, I’m greedy). Just like Coke keeping their recipe secret, I’m not threatening anyone. Nor should you.

            If you agree that it is wrong to threaten others to control their brains and hands without their permission, then you must agree that it is wrong to threaten (as trademark does) to stop people from drawing copies of your logo. And don’t worry so much about customers being confused. Another greedy entrepreneur can fix that with a new service maybe called AuthenticSourceCheck.com

          5. You’re so convinced of your own ideas that you can’t even properly understand someone else’s. You view everything through your filter and misunderstand even simple ideas.

            Yes, you’re right that I believe copyright and patents are unjust. However I completely disagree that trademarks should not be enforced. I’m not worried about customers being confused, I’m worried about them being ripped off. If you have never been the victim of a knock off when you thought you were buying a real product, you wouldn’t understand. It doesn’t require a dumb person to fall for such things. Trusted stores sometimes sell knockoffs because of a mistake made by a supplier. Buying something online always runs a risk of bait and switch. These things are kept to a minimum because of trademark law. Without trademark law, you would never know if you’re getting something worth the money you paid for it, or if you’ve been ripped off.

            Your new service is pointless without trademark enforcement. Why would anyone care about the source if there were no official source? Not having a trademark means that you are not the official supplier of anything. Anyone can claim to be the official supplier, so who is right and who is wrong? Under your system, no one is right or wrong. There would be no official supplier. Only by having a trademark system can something such as an “authentic source” or official source even exist.

            Your arguments are weak and boring. Your refusal to live by your own morals is typical of unthinking libertarians. How about we just obfuscate everything and make everything a trade secret? No more open source, no more education, nor more anything. Companies can’t even sell products anymore because someone might open the device and copy all those trade secrets. Each out for their own and hoarding behind lock and key every morsel and scrap they can accrue. What a paradise that would be! Brigands taking everything they can pry from the cold dead hands of their victims!

        2. I think Arduino is spinning in his grave in the Masino’s Castle.

          The problem I see is that the Italian factory felt threathened becaus the parent company was about to move part or most of the production outside Italy, and not for lack of productive capacity or specialized workers, but because it’s cheaper and nobody will notice the small difference between an Italian made board and a Chinese one.
          Of course I think that the other Arduino will say that the board is designed in Italy, like the Fiat 500, that’s made in Poland. It’s a nice car, but it’s abit disappointig seeing the advertising based on Italian style. And don’t let me sart ranting on Budweiser…

  3. Fraud arduino.org I will never buy your product, the day will come you will be same in front of the community. You easily cheated
    arduino.cc but you cannot cheat community

    1. Then you get VAPOR. arduino.org already has the ZERO boards for sale on amazon. I don’t want VAPOR, but actual product. Enjoy your VAPOR.

      1. No one is going to stop you from buying from arduino.org, they have the board but where is software, forum and community? Like zero so many better boards are available eg: Texas Launch Pad TM4C123, STM nucleus .I have a moral that I have to support arduino.cc your wish to support whom you can

        1. I agree. This is a moral issue at the heart. We are makers. We believe in sharing. This move by Arduino Srl (.org) reeks of selfish capitalism. They have done unethical things to the people they worked with in order to turn a quick buck. I think we as a community should make sure they don’t get away with it.

      2. Link to the Amazon page, or it doesn’t exist. I have yet to see a Zero board for sale anywhere.

  4. I have no interest in buying anything produced by arduino.org.

    Can anyone advise how to identify the difference in source of the products (I vaguely remember seeing somewhere that “Made in Italy” on the boards means “made by Smart Projects”

    1. Remember that Smart Projects IS Arduino.org… Their case do look interesting, it seems that they were using the name long before the trademark was registered (although seemingly as a partner of what seem to have become arduino.cc). It also seems that Arduino LLC (arduino.cc) might be a much newer company that did not exist at the time that Smart Projects was manufacturing the boards (possibly commissioned by the later founders of Arduino LLC). The court papers was linked by hackaday and it certainly seems like it might get interesting…

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Alasdair Allan is a scientist, author, hacker and tinkerer, who is spending a lot of his time thinking about the Internet of Things. In the past he has mesh networked the Moscone Center, caused a U.S. Senate hearing, and contributed to the detection of what was—at the time—the most distant object yet discovered.

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