Arduino
Massimo Banzi: Fighting for Arduino
arduino-team
The Arduino founders in earlier times

Massimo Banzi tells us about a serious rift in the core Arduino team, which is just coming to light now. One of the founding team members has gone off on his own, claiming rights to Arduino and starting a separate operation. We asked Massimo to explain the situation in his own words. —Dale Dougherty

 

This situation has been brewing within Arduino for a long time.

When the Arduino project started, the five co-founders (myself, David Cuartielles, David Mellis, Tom Igoe, and Gianluca Martino) decided to create a company that would own the trademarks and manage the business side of Arduino: Manufacturers would build and sell boards, Arduino would get a royalty from them like in many other businesses, such as in the fashion world. This happened in April 2008 when Arduino LLC was founded and the bylaws of the company specified that each of the five founders would transfer to this company any ownership of the Arduino brand. At the end of 2008 when Arduino was about to register the trademark in the US and worldwide, unknown to us and without any advance notice, Gianluca’s company Smart Projects — our main boards manufacturer — went ahead and registered the Arduino name in Italy and kept this news for himself for almost two years.

After the process of registering in the US was over and our lawyer tried to extend the trademark to the rest of the world, he realised that somebody had registered it already in Italy. We (Tom, David, David, and I) were shocked and demanded explanations. Gianluca reassured us that this was done to protect our collective investment. We were friends (or so we thought), so based on this agreement we kept working together for years, received royalties while quietly trying to bring the trademark back into the Arduino company through endless discussions that dragged on while Arduino became very successful thanks to the hard work each one of us put into it (and for a long time we didn’t even get a salary out of it).

As the project became more successful and sales increased, the attempts at regaining control of the Italian trademark registration became more and more difficult with larger and larger demands made to us while Gianluca effectively vetoed us from either bringing in other manufacturers or get any external investment. We made headway with Arduino creating a lot of innovation, pushing the boundaries of open source hardware, hiring a lot of talented people around the world and ultimately building an amazing community around the arduino.cc website.

Needless to say, it became increasingly difficult to work with a partner that was so reluctant to allow any significant improvement and expansion of the company. We tried for a long time to reduce the cost of products to customers but our hands were tied. Last July after another round of talks, and yet another increasing request for money, we were forced to ask our lawyers to start sending his companies letters to outline our differences and request that the trademark be returned to us. When you believe you’re talking to a friend of many years, it’s hard to deal with this. It’s saddening and heartbreaking, especially for me having spent many years speaking to this person every day for hours on the phone or in person to make Arduino what it is.

A year ago without explanation, Gianluca’s manufacturing company stopped cooperating with us and unilaterally stopped paying royalties. So if people bought an Arduino board made in Italy in the last year thinking they were supporting the project they should know that we didn’t receive any money for it despite the fact that we designed, documented, maintained and supported those products. (The other manufacturers are still by our side.)

Last November, SmartProjects appointed a new CEO, Mr. Musto, who renamed the company to Arduino Srl and created a website called “Arduino” copying our graphics and layout, claiming to have invented Arduino with no mention of us four. They even started printing this new URL on all the new boards.

The last straw came a few weeks ago when this person gave interviews to a number of Italian newspapers claiming to be the new CEO of “Arduino” and implying that I was stepping down to dedicate myself to “non profit” activities.

We were shocked and responded to their claims trying to keep the noise to the minimum and avoid damaging the community and the project.

Now the matters are in the hands of lawyers on both sides of the Atlantic and I can’t go too much into details.

For us original four it’s business as usual. Luckily, three years ago, I started expanding the ways in which Arduino supports itself: working with large corporations to advise them on how to build for the maker community, participating in international research projects, running a very successful online store. This allowed us to grow independently of board sales.

I had this realisation that as hardware becomes more and more of a commodity, business models must evolve towards services, cloud platforms, education, and the whole process of helping makers become pros.

We are working with manufacturers across the globe, we have amazing partners who are on our side, we’re launching new exciting products in the fields of education and IoT. We are very saddened that these issues have been made public to confuse the community but we keep innovating and we want to continue push the boundaries of open hardware like we have been doing for 10 years.

As usual the only real home of the Arduino community is arduino.cc and you can see on day.arduino.cc that the upcoming Arduino Day on March 28 is going to be an amazing global event during which we’re going to unveil a lot of cool stuff.

80 thoughts on “Massimo Banzi: Fighting for Arduino

  1. M.Banzi, thank you for sharing this information with us. Sorry to hear about the issues in the founders team ; unfortunately it’s quite common when money gets involved (been there, done that).

    1. Dear Beardy!!!! WUT IS AR DRAINO????

      There were 5 & ONE IS GONE!!! IS HE the Good Guy or the Scum Bag???

      Shalom, Justin Martyr de Salem, Oregon.

  2. So how does one make sure they are buying a board that was manufactured by a supportive manufacturer, and not by these clucks?

    1. From what I gathered, all boards sold outside of Italy are going to maintain the status quo. And the arduino.cc website will also have the same ownership as before. So if you are outside of Italy and use the arduino.cc website, you have nothing to worry about.

        1. Where did you find that fact? Arduino SRL doesn’t manufacture anything, much less distribute it.

          1. Oh wow. How embarrassing. You are right, my apologies! I take back what I said up there ^^ :)

    2. It’s easy, just go here http://arduino.org/distributors (yes, the .org domain) and avoid any distributors from their list (there are a lot and big ones like mouser, rs, farnell, digikey,…).

      So I guess Alessandro Mencarini is right: just buy from arduino.cc and avoid every others distributors until the problems between the founders are solved or until the distributors give more informations.

      1. I wonder how much the distributors are aware of this power play (and taking a part on it): I see e.g. that in U.S. Adafruit is listed, but they seem to be quite friendly and in business with Banzi & co.

          1. Magyc is one of the defendants in the US court case, so guess who is getting the revenue? Not Arduino LLC.

      2. FYI, this is absolutely not true. As far as I know, even arduino.cc sells boards made by Smart Projects. The distributor list has just been copied from arduino.cc (or more specifically from their internal distributor list).

        Basically, the distributors don’t have any more information than what you can read publicly online.

        So basically all distributors have always been buying their products from Smart Projects (or some of their sister companies), not from arduino.cc. Now they have been silently moved to do business with arduino.org. At the moment, there is no other way to get the official Arduino named boards without buying them from Arduino SRL. (except some additional models that are made by other companies, like Sparkfun’s Arduino Pro models).

        So the distributors are as confused and frustrated as the customers. Not sure about the bigger distribution companies, they might have some additional information…

        -an official Arduino distributor in Europe

  3. This is a matter of misrepresentation, negligence and fraud. I don’t see why it’s so hard to show that the trademark was obtained via fraudulent methods. If indeed there was intellectual capital and work done for the Arduino project by all 5, and if there really existed corporate by-laws, all the lawyer has to do is show the trademark was obtained illegally and with intent to commit fraud.

    As usual, there’s probably two sides to this story. Something doesn’t smell right however.

  4. Its sad to watch greed consume almost everyone these days. A project that is meant for open minded, creative people should never be in the hands of the narrow-minded. I hope something good comes from his attempt to split.

    1. Yes, you are right, open minded, creative people and most of the time young engineers in electronics. But once this open minded, creative people is looking for a job in western countries, he sees most of the job is outsourced in China. Look like the narrow-minded guy (Musto) wants to keep jobs in western country while the other Banzi want to outsource it at the cheapest price.

  5. i went to the arduino.org website. It looks glossy like a magazine but lacks any reference sections like arduino.cc. Its how “arduino” came about ten years ago description is disgusting considering there was no mention of the brains behind the creation.

    1. “…considering there was no mention of the brains behind the creation.”

      You mean Hernando Barragan?

    2. Well, it looks like Massimo Banzi was not so much interested in the manufacturing side of the board at the beginning. He was probably thinking that hardware manufacturing worth nothing when you are open source. Musto has probably invested a lot of money and probably took a huge risk by investing in his plant in Italy with all the manufacturing equipment. After that, you have on one side Musto with employees manufacturing the board in Italy and on the other side Banzi & CO that have never invested any Euro in production saying that the board can be manufactured anywhere (e.g. Thailand for the Yun) and at a lower cost. Overall, we cannot say that Banzi did everything in Arduino; you also have tens of employees that have contributed to this community and have been working in the manufacturing of these boards for instance. Many customers are purchasing the true Arduino “Made In Italy” instead of a clone “Made in China” by conviction or because of the quality of the product.
      It was probably not fair for Musto to register Arduino in Italy (without saying anything to the other 4) but I guess it was not fair too that after Musto invested so much money in his plant that Banzi has decided to manufacture the board anywhere else in the world. Musto probably did that to save his investment and save jobs in Italy.
      In this story, I guess it was quite obvious for Arduino employees to go on Musto side in order to save their job. When I went on arduino.org, I have noticed on one page that employees are named co-founder. I think this is a fair way to recognize everyone contribution in the success of Arduino company.

      Amazingly, this is very strange to see an alliance between Banzi and Adafruit because Adafruit has quite the same slogan as Arduino; “Made in New-York city”! Adafruit did not make the same mistake as Banzi and has invested in its own manufacturing equipment. There is a huge cost and risk in producing boards downtown New York city that Limor Fried took. Banzi did not took that risk for his own company.

      I see Arduino LLC vs Arduino SRL as a fight between 2 visions of the business. When I see the mention “Assembled in the USA” on an Arduino board produced by Adafruit, it is like if Banzi recognize his job (design) and but not the job of tens of others in Italy that have made the company a success on a daily basis (manufacturing, dispatching, packaging, accounting, …) and the risk Musto took. I am not a big fan of Apple like businesses (e.g. outsourcing all the job in cheap country to make huge profit). I prefer the way Adafruit make business!

      1. Sorry, but manufacturing is but a footnote in any modern IT business. And that’s what Arduino is, an IT business. Most of the work done is in software, documentation and some little hardware design.
        A manufacturing plant stealing your ideas is no better than what happens when some unscrupulous far east companies start making knock-offs of your designs.
        With that said, copyright, trademarks and such are only damaging the industry nowadays. We’d be much better off without IP. Innovation instead of trying to profit off deception, resting on laurels and market strategy.

  6. VERY DANGEROUS …ARROW is partner if HUAWEI which is in turn being “examined””by the US STATE DEPARTMENT…VERY dangerous territory …especially if who is doing the investigation is LANGLEY VA…

  7. Bah! They should fix this the old Cosa Nostra way. Kidding! Hope this ends up good for all. It’d be interesting to hear the Martino side to make this neutral. But still, I’m on Banzi side.

  8. Definitely going to ensure future Arduino purchases are from the original team. Easy enough to “vote with your wallet”. Reminds me of the SCO hijinx of 2003 when they claimed to own Linux, even got vendors to pay their “licensing fee”…until the courts shot them down.

      1. “SCO’s only remaining operations are to pursue the lawsuit against IBM.”

        A suit doesn’t mean they will win, nor is it likely even if they are in the right. Since they are a non-funded company attempting to sue a company with deep pockets to pay lawyers.

  9. I’ve seen this kind of thing time and time again. It comes with the territory when you bring people together in alternate social structures. You’re always going to run the risk of someone forcing power into their own hands – I’m not saying I know the full story here – but I’ve been through this. Best wishes to you all as you work to resolve your differences.

  10. 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

  11. The fair thing to see is the opinion of Gianluca about it. I can say arduino.cc never recognized the work of Hernando Barragan with the wiring board, although Massimo was the thesis director of him and Hernando was the actual creator of the idea to be open source. On the other hand arduino.org is recognizing his ideas: “The inspiration came from the electronic board called Wiring, a thesis
    project created by Hernando Barragan, an IDII student at the time.”. There should be something between hands with Massimo too.

    1. Is there still a chance for all of you to sit down, have a drink, talk weather, then settle this ? I’d be honoured to cover the tab ?

    1. Minimal, likely. The boards reference designs are open sourced, as it the IDE and standard libs.

      Anyone can fork it, and call it whatever they like. The mindshare of the “Arduino” concept won’t die as long people keep tacking “duino” at the end of their board’s name. ie Freeduino, SainDuino, etc etc.

    1. Could be. The way his company words their website sounds like either he is trying to take all the credit for himself or he’s been operating under certain delusions the entire time. Hopefully all of the necessary details would become known. It would probably be ok, if annoying for him to hold the trademark in Italy and manufacture/ship boards out of gathers, but to not credit the others and claim that it’s all been his thing from the start is BS.

      It’s highly questionable to go behind your friend’s/co-founder’s back like he did apparently.

    1. JUST WUT da FUK [ “IS” ] AR Draino ANYWAY!!!!????? Mar. 19, 2015.

      Tell ME in 2- short sentences!!!!! RESPOND!!!!!!

      Justin Martyr de Salem, Oregon.

  12. Martyr March 19, 2015. SITE: Type this into U-Tube–>
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    That should NOT BE Allowed but U-666-Tube IS OWNED by Dick-Eaters!
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    When Ever I Answer a White-Dick-Eater, then, Either They, Ali Servan, Dingle, Barabbas Quint or U-666-Tube OWNERS, MURDER my REPLY!!!
    Justin.James.Martyr@gmail.com, Salem, Oregon.

  13. To be the “example of open hardware” first the foundation should show the numbers (transparency). The price was the same over years when the cost not (maybe they gained few in the beggining and lately starting to recover the investment but hey! State clear numbers and that’s it!)
    Was Gianluca the issue for this?

    Excuse me if I said a stupidity but never understood some things…

  14. Shall we also ask Hernando Barragán to tell his side of the story of the Wriring / Arduino framework?

      1. My impression is that there was never any issue. Wiring is intended to be open, and the Arduino project simply implemented it as part of their unified programming/hardware platform.

        (I’m sure the Wiring authors would like to get a hat-tip occasionally. It would be easy to get the impression that the Arduino team invented the Atmel libraries they use.)

        1. Open source is on thing. Research in an educational institution is another. Professors should not steal their student’s great ideas, or undercut them on the market as it is being created. So it is not a legal argument, but an ethical one.

  15. I’d like some clarification. Aren’t all of the the genuine “Made in Italy” Arduinos made by Smart Projects? Is Arduino.cc still selling them, or have they switched to a different manufacturer?
    Are the only Arduinos that yield royalties the variants made by Sparkfun, etc?

    There should be more complete reporting to this story. I agree that without hearing from Gianluca it’s not possible to come to any clear opinion.

  16. It looks like nearly all Arduinos are sold out at Arduino.cc. Does Arduino.cc have a new official manufacturer yet?

    1. No, M. Banzi had a better idea; declare all Arduino board as discontinued on arduino.cc except the Arduino Uno that he is going to manufacture by Adafruit.

      I am not sure this kind of publicity will make hundreds of distributors very happy!

      M. Banzi was not loyal to all these workers in Italy. He is not loyal to his
      distributors. I suspect he is a bit egocentric!

    1. Why not go all the way back to the person who created the actual language used (C++) or perhaps the company that created the basic hardware (Atmel) or heck perhaps the person who created the first microprocessor…

      The value in the Arduino was creates (as a business) by the original team of five. Let the original five argue over it, and the rest of us just buy Chinese clones depriving both parties of the funding they need to fight this in court. Hence keeping us from having to hear their various complaints…

      1. I understand your point. However, this is different. In the realm of Open hardware , it is fair play. But this is an ethical academic problem.Professors should not steal student ideas. The value you mentioned is in the Wiring thesis: the language, the hardware, the documentation and the community. That was the whole idea that Barragan worked on for a couple of years until the professor, Banzi, made exactly the same thing with no additional research, taking all of the ideas and undercutting his student by 15$, of course taking with him the young community… I even bought several Arduinos as many have not knowing the narrative. In academic circles, professors should not usurp student research projects. It’s a moral problem.

  17. Moral of the story is very simple when you go in business with a group of people you can trust no one ever. Everything about a company has to be documented and legal agreements drawn up to prevent the theft of what everyone agrees at the time is company property and that includes all trade marks. Just think how simple this would be if a lawyer or two had looked at this company before there was a chance for someone to knowingly steal the trade mark and keep that information to himself.
    The winner in this case will be the person or group with the best documentation and I bet that the one that has absconded with the trade mark will also have the best documentation.
    Great product BAD business.

  18. Even buying an Arduino or components from China or another source we should consider to pay a fair royalty to Arduino.cc. E.g. would it make sense to pay maybe 5-6% of the chinese final end price (which is a good figure for patent royalities) to Arduino? Thats little and considering they made even layout, community etc it could be even more. Suppose you buy a 10 Euro board you give additional 60 ct to Arduino.cc Its just an idea that should be discussed. They could also sell stickers for such an amount.

  19. Gianluca’s side of the story is on his website Blog at:

    http://www.arduino.org/blog/1-the-new-blog/to-the-makers

    Basically he says there is a disagreement with the original founders, that it is too much to go into, it will be resolved soon, we and by the way forget arduino.cc, arduino.org is the place to be. Just not cool. I suspect he credits Hernando Barragan and Processing because they are don’t have any legal claim so why not sound like a nice guy by crediting them?

  20. Massimo, I’m truly sorry to hear about this, especially after all of the work you and the others put into gathering all the pieces needed and designing the hardware; if I had the facilities needed to manufacture the boards, you can bet I would do so, and be fair enough to support your legal right to the Arduino trademark.

  21. im not surprised. money makes everyone thieves. in the end this is a good product and deserves to be made. please continue.

  22. Isn’t Arduino open source hardware? If so everybody can produce and sell an Arduino board. Is it just a trademark issue?

  23. Interesting discussion. With the amount of money that they are losing with the clones, it is a pity that all the shite finally hits the fan after all the hard work that was done.

  24. Since Arduino copied the work of wiring because it’s open source and the chinese copied arduino, then I guess to be fair, I should buy the cheaper chinese copy and send the difference to Hernando Barragan. I feel this guy never received it’s fair share of the pie.

  25. Well, you can’t say i didn’t warn you! I knew there would be trouble when you decided to let other companies make your arduino boards.

    Then… i whas talking about Adafruit, not knowing the problems were allready started in italy.

    Anyway, a warned man, counts for two!

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Massimo Banzi

Massimo Banzi is the co-founder of the Arduino project. He is an Interaction Designer, Educator and Open Source Hardware advocate.

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