Multimeters Without A Country: Fluke’s Broad Trademark Bans Yellow Multimeter Imports

Check out this SparkFun Digital Multimeter. Does it make your blood boil to see them ripping off Fluke by using the color yellow? From SparkFun’s side of the story that’s exactly what’s happened here. They have a shipment of 2000 of these things stuck in customs. The trademark being infringed upon can be found in their article. Fluke owns the trademark on multimeters with a dark face and yellow border. Great. This seems like a wonderful idea, right up there with Apple owning tablets that are shaped like a piece of paper.

Okay, so if you’re not crying big fat tears for Fluke being taken advantage of in this way let’s talk about more immediate issues than fixing trademark, patent, copyright, and all of the other screw-the-little-guy type of laws (not that SparkFun is necessarily the little guy but you know what we mean). The DMMs sitting in a warehouse are costing SparkFun $150 per day. We believe they have no option of choosing a warehouse with a lower cost as we must be talking a pallet or two, right? The only two options they do have are shipping them back to China where they were manufactured, or having them destroyed. The former will cost more in re-import tariffs than the cost of the product, and the latter comes with a $150/hour disposal fee and no metric on which to judge how long it would actually take. We hate seeing this kind of waste, but sure enough 2000 DMMs are headed for the shredder in a couple of days.

We know you already have your flaming sword in hand, but simmer down for just a second. Fluke makes great products, ask anyone. And companies the world over defend their trademarks. Hopefully there will soon be a positive response from Fluke on this one. If you would like to politely encourage them to do the right thing we found Fluke’s Facebook page URL in the SparkFun comments thread. Both are worth browsing.

[Thanks Chris via Reddit]

246 thoughts on “Multimeters Without A Country: Fluke’s Broad Trademark Bans Yellow Multimeter Imports

    1. Seems like a clear case of trade dress infringement to me. No other reason why a manufacturer would pick a yellow border around a grey face. This isn’t about the color yellow, its about the specific usage here.
      I know that it wasn’t sparkfun’s intent to trade off the goodwill of Fluke in this particular case, and I’d agree that they are getting the shaft here, but the chinese manufacturer would have never picked that particular color scheme if it wasn’t for the fact that we associate it with fluke, which is associated with quality. And you can’t really make exceptions for violations of trade dress unless you want to lose your protection. Once the brand is diluted, you can’t protect it anymore.
      If anyone should have to cough up money, it should be the OEM manufacturer. If they have ever exported to the US before they would know that these units could have importation problems.

      1. Yellow is easy to see, which makes the meter harder to misplace.
        By keeping the face a neutral color, you can use the same face on different products, keeping costs down.

        1. There’s millions of electrical testing type products use yellow, and black or grey. It’s a standy-out colour.

          In a “passing off” case, the plaintiff has to prove that the defendant’s product could reasonably be mistaken for their own. I think the fact Fluke put “Fluke” in big letters on their meters should be enough to keep them distinctive.

          The “we’re protecting against future claims” is nonsense. A future claimant, trying to rip off Fluke and using this as precedent, arguing that Fluke had abandoned their trademark by not defending it, would have to prove there was ever a case to answer here in the first place. Which there isn’t, because nobody can trademark the idea of an instrument in a yellow box.
          Fluke no more “have to” pursue this than any other company that puts instruments in plastic cases.

          It’s not a good enough case to fight now, and it won’t be a good case to base claims on in the future.

          I dunno WHY they’ve pursued this wierd case, and it’s a shame to see a case where, right or wrong, money decides the outcome and not justice, in fact I’d bet this case and many like it never even see a court. I can only think a hyperactive lawyer on Fluke’s payroll is trying to keep himself out of some impending layoffs. If it’s true, this is exactly the sort of person who needs firing anyway.

      2. Only…it’s not. Search “multimeter”. on google. Count the number of yellow meters, by brands that aren’t Fluke.

        1. Vichy, UEI, Innova, Digitech, Tecpel, Atten Instruments, Victor, Cen-Tech, Voltcraft, Martindale Electric… countless generics…

          Fluke’s come in red, too…. are they going to stop those at the border, as well?

          It’s as bad as UPS trademarking the color brown.

      3. It boils my blood to say it, but I think Fluke is in the right here. They have to vigorously defend their trademark or risk losing it. And I have a cheap Chinese meter I bought from Amazon with the Fluke color scheme. It’s a piece of junk, even for what I paid, but it’s good enough for working on my truck with (the only reason I bought it, as I didn’t want to keep my expensive meter in my truck’s toolbox). From more than a few feet away, it does look a lot like a Fluke, but using it tells you it obviously isn’t. I can see why they don’t want cheap, mildly inaccurate knockoffs being confused with their brand.

        1. Can you cite an example of a company losing a trademark because they failed to litigate against an infringement? I know trademark holding companies say they have to, but that doesn’t make it true.

          1. That would appear to be a list where the trademark was lost through the general public generalising the term in common usage. I am asking for a specific example where a company held a trademark, which was challenged and ultimately turned over because a competing company had used it without the trademark holder defending it.

            Also, even assuming that link was a valid argument for defending trademarks, that’s a list of names, not descriptions of appearance and is therefore not able to be generalised.

          2. That’s a distinction without a difference. How do you think a trademark gets diluted if not by the public associating the trademark with generic brands?

          3. Usually by being so large and aggressive with their patents and similar that they are the only significant player, coupled with the fact that people generally term things with the most prominent name on the box. I don’t see a single example on that wiki link where the brand allowed a competitor to use the name without challenge, resulting in the public using this as a generic term, costing them the trademark.

            Which is still totally irrelevant in this case anyway, because this is about the look of the device, not the name written on it, which again, cannot possibly fall into generic usage. So unless its possible to lose a trademark case BECAUSE you took no action, its not applicable to this situation.

            Last but not least, if there was a specific example of someone losing a trademark due to not defending it, there is no chance that this community would not know about it and the trademark defenders would be falling over themselves to provide it and shut me up. They aren’t, so I am taking that as a “Doesn’t exist”. So, I issue my challenge once more – someone link to a specific example where a company had a trademark that was taken away and the ruling body said something along the lines of “Because you didn’t defend it, it is being taken away” ANYWHERE in their ruling. and I’ll shut up. Otherwise, I call bullshit on this “We don’t want to be dicks, but you have to defend it or you lose it, otherwise we wouldn’t” defence.

        2. When you bought it, did you mistakenly think you were getting a Fluke? Cos that’s the legal point here. You personally have the right to buy any crappy old multimeter you like, and Fluke aren’t obliged to protect you from that by flattening the competition.

        1. Are you joking? When they filed it and had it recognized as a trademark. I don’t think it’s right that they were allowed to trademark it, but if you think it straight-up wasn’t a trademark you’ve missed the point. It’s the system for approving trademarks that’s broken.

          1. Yeah sure. Because there was never any yellow electronic gear before they filed their trademark.

        2. A lot of companies trademark colours. You try setting up a courier service driving a brown van and UPS will sue you before you’ve made your first delivery

    1. NOBODY has the “right” to own a color, or any combination of colors. Pure corruption, far worse than anything the mafia ever did. Drug company patents are killing millions more than Capone ever dreamed of… do they rival Stalin? A sad story for future generations to tell once the abomination of patents, copyrights and trademarks take their rightful place in history alongside slavery, apartheid, and the Native American genocide.

        1. Yes and King.com has a trademark on the word candy and crush. Any dev making apps that have those words in them gets sued. Whether it’s legal or not, it’s immoral.

          1. But only as it applies to computer games. They can’t go after someone for, say, selling a “Candy Recipes” cookbook app. They can’t go after Skittles Candy. And frankly, if they *did* try to sue someone for using the word “candy” or “crush” in isolation for an app that wasn’t a clone of their game, they would almost certainly (and rightfully) have their ass handed to them as the judge laughed them out of court.

            That said, the Fluke case isn’t some overbearing company abusing trademark to stifle competition. This is a cheap multimeter which is designed to look exactly like a Fluke 17b (aside from saying “Sparkfun” instead of “Fluke” at the top). There are an infinite number of ways you can design a multimeter, many of them as ergonomic or even more ergonomic than Fluke’s design, but these guys chose to copy Fluke. Hell, even doing the front cover in any color other than grey (like white) would have been enough.

        2. I cantcsoeak towards the others but on the case of caterpillar yellow, it is registered as a specific color (not sure if by pantone or rgb. Likely pantone). Google up mining dump trucks and count the number of companies using yellow. Lots. But not CAT yellow. Why? Because yellow is a mining safety color. Just as the military has color schemes required for all its test gear. Enforcing yellow without being specific in reference to multi meters means no one but fluke can sell meters to the us military. So.. yeah. Its broken.

        1. It’s not blanket yellow, though. It’s yellow on the sides and back *AND* grey on the front *AND* several other things. You have to do *ALL* of those things to infringe on the trademark. Which they did.

          Just making a yellow multimeter doesn’t infringe. They could have made the entire multimeter yellow (even the exact same color as fluke) and not infringed. They could have made the front white (instead of grey) and not infringed. They could have put the input terminals on the top or the side or between the display and the function knob and not infringed.

          If Fluke trademarked “a multimeter which uses any shade of yellow on any part of it,” then I’d be right with you. But that isn’t what we have here.

          1. Terminals on top, perhaps. (But then you get to wire high voltage and various signals under the display and you have suddenly one more layer of boards to cope with. And the signal coupling issues that stem from poor segmenting of the functionality over the circuitboard. But doable, just not the first best idea.) Then there’s the issue of using the multimeter in upright position, where pulling on wires on top would destabilize it much more than at the bottom.

            Between the display and the knob is entirely out of the consideration. The attached cables will then go in the way of either setting the mode or reading the display.

            Putting the holes from the side will cause issues with molding the plastics cover; either you will have the top/bottom separation line going through the holes for the plugs (and the associated issues with the plastic case wiggling open over the years), or you will need an (expensive) mould insert – you have to get the part out after the plastic solidifies, after all.

            Function (and, in second order, manufacturing practicalities) dictates form and it is not just an accident that virtually all multimeters have the terminals at the bottom end.

    2. @agoijf,
      It’s not because you don’t like Sparkfun this copyright infrigment make sense. I can’t beleive colors set could be copyrigthed. It sound ridiculous, as long the “Fluke” name is not on it, it should be legal. Sparkfun were certainly not aware of that, who would have thought it to be possible.

          1. Legally there’s a lot of difference. Trademark law makes copyright law look well-thought-out and benevolent in comparison. Don’t even get started on patent abuses.

    3. Every company that’s been shafted by sparfun knows to stay away from them and their crappy products yet they still have a great reputation in the hobbyist community.

      1. Fluke? Is that you? I’ve been using Sparkfun for many years and have NEVER had any problem with them–in fact, their handling of things has always been exemplary.

  1. It’s funny how the color is not claimed as a feature of the mark, per the trademark filing itself.

    Sure, Fluke’s lawyers may have been overzealous…but Custom agents seem to be ….well…”missing a few upstairs” as well.

    Hope that Fluke is able to show some form of good faith since this story has blown up on Reddit, Slashdot, HAD, etc.

    1. IMHO it is Spakfun that should show “good faith”. there are plenty of alternatives for them if they want to import chinese knock-offs, they do not need to get an almost direct copy of a popular product. Sparkfun is giving “us” a bad name doing this.

      1. except, it’s not really a direct copy.
        Everyone in Fluke’s targeted market know what a Fluke is and won’t make the “mistake” of picking a knock-off…especially since it has a few different features/functionality as a Fluke.
        Sparkfun’s targeted market is different from Fluke’s.

        If it is the “rugged-ized” nature of it…then LaCie would have to stop making their line of drives that have that functionality too (it’s orange, but it sure did remind me of my Fluke).

        Besides, in this world of social media, Fluke is going to get a whipping….what they do next may determine how they will recover in the eyes of the public.

        1. Then we will have to disagree on how close something can look to something else before it is a direct copy. If you read the comments you will notice I am not alone in seeing too many similiarities, so there is a case for confusion.

          It has nothing to do with their markets. a similiar looking device is similiar regardless of its target audience.

          You can not seriously say you confuse a HD for a DMM?

          They will get a whipping because uniformed people will follow the herd and attack. The whipping is undeserved but that wont matter to anyone. And Fluke is required by law to protect their trademark – so the publics view is really irrelevant (esp. when it is wrong. that is a lose/lose situation for Fluke, all caused by our beloved Sparkfun)

          1. And look at cars; their are many cars that look similar and many have similar features.
            Some even more similar than the “alleged” similarities between the Sparkfun “store-brand” hobbyist DMM and a Fluke DMM.

            DMM are pretty simple; layouts tend to be very similar from make to make.
            That said, there are plenty of “knock-offs” in the mainstream that use their colors (yes, I realize that the trademark filing did not claim colors in the right field).
            Just look at walmart.com

            The public’s view is relevant to Fluke and their marketing department.

          2. Caused by Sparkfun??? Who in their sane mind would think that a stupid color combination that’s fairly common wherever you look can ever be trademarkable? There are things like color combinations that should be untrademarkable, if only to avoid this kind of confusions and accidental stepping-in. Want a distinctive design? You can have it but it should be tightly specced and should include a bloody logo!

            Where the similarity ends? For an uninitiated, all multimeters look the same. A pro will not get confused even with a pretty similar fake. Where to put the threshold? Isn’t the present one a bit unfairly placed?

            Are you aware how many laws and regulations you violate merely by breathing? Will it feel fair if you run into something you did not even expect to exist in a sane world? Do you check out every little step you do with a bunch of lawyers (one won’t do, it’s too overwhelming even for the “pros”)?

            I quite hope that the emergence of 3d printing and at-home manufacturing will make these things so unenforceable that they will have to be completely overhauled. One can dream, no?

          3. But who is wrong here? This patent is no different than one for “rectangular shaped objects of unspecified size, connected to any display device, such as but not limited to TVs, for entertainment and content delivery purposes.”

            Even the image on the patent was unecessarilly pixelated so as to look ax general as possible.
            Its pretty clear: any yellow rectangular box used for measuring anything is a patent violation. Even if its a “black box” recorder for a vehicle, required to be yellow by a law in dome other country.

          4. Similarities? Other than it having an LCD display, a dial, and places to plug in leads (not even the same number), I do not see ANY similarities. All things that 99% of meters have. And we’re comparing Yellow to Orange.

      2. They were probably not aware of this copyrighted color and as to know the look of Fluke DMM… I spend my carreer in electronics and I don’t know what they look like. My old Fluke 77 bougth in the 80′s is all black, not a trace of yellow on it. Frankly it enrage me that such things could kill small companies like Sparkfun.

  2. I do not think y’all understand what this trademark is about. Fluke multimeters have a great reputation and a brand identity. Its brand identity is a yellow meter with a black face. The trademarks are to protect them from other companies making look-alike products that could confuse somebody into buying the fake look-alike.

    You cannot reasonably argue that Sparkfun was doing anything other than directly copying the look and feel of the Fluke.

      1. Looking at a Fluke DMM on their website, this Sparkfun one does actually look reasonably like it. The three aligned holes for the cords at the bottom and the dial do make the units look reasonably similar.

        These really do look too much like a knock-off. Looking at them you can see clearly which is the better product, but to a random layperson, they could be confused, and that’s where these laws step in. Not that someone who can’t tell the difference between the two products because of layout and colour is going to notice the difference in the quality of the DMMs…

        1. To the random layperson? And how many multimeter wielding persons out there are considered “random laypersons”? No. Sorry, do your research, know what you’re buying, be intelligent about it. No excuses. Protecting a color combination is bullshit.

          1. I own a DMM and I’d consider myself a layperson.
            Usually the law on things like this is based around what an average person would see. They could well look at the two and assume that the Sparkfun one is just a less-featured version of the Flukes.

            I’m not defending overzealous copyright enforcement, and I think the lack of “Sparkfun fined heavily” in the title shows that no one is being a dick about it.

          2. How many? More than you or I could imagine. Would I use the meter in question? Not a chance, but I use my meters for things other than what this one was designed for.

            How well Fluke have protected their trademark in the past is for someone else to argue over, but I’m mostly on their side. Try and market a red can of Pepsi and see what happens (or sell it in a contoured bottle for that matter); or a green and yellow piece of agricultural machinery that doesn’t come from John Deere. Google the colour “Cadbury Purple” (or Pantone 2685C if you will).

            While I have, and will continue to support both companies, what really is BS is not the legal wrangling happening as we speak, but the likely waste of 2000 (albeit cheap) multimeters that could go to perfectly good use in a multitude of underprivileged organisations (as long as the end users are given a proper appreciation of what a $15 meter may or may not be capable of).

            SparkFun did hit one nail on the head though: Sorry Earth.

        2. many companies make products that look similar to Fluke’s, there are only so many practical ways to make a multimeter. The “random layperson” isn’t going to buy a Fluke, either.

        3. Using your logic: that new Toyota looks just like a Chevy. It has 4 tires, one in each corner, and the grill is also in the front. They even copied the “2 headlights in the front” branding. Worst of all, they are both silver. Looks like Chevy needs to sue Toyota out of existence…

          All DMMs look similar because form follows function. Yellow and black are common colors in safety industries. To ban all yellow and black DMMs that vaguely resemble Fluke’s is simply impossible, and beyond that, totally unreasonable.

          1. If you think form follows function or that all multimeters have to look alike you should really have a look at the first generation of digital multimeters that came out. They look nothing like what most meters look like today. This for instance was a popular style

            Oh, look, it is even a Fluke.

          2. So far as I can tell, the only meters that used that design with the slide-selector switches were Fluke’s first two models and rebranded versions of them. Most other multimeters used rotary selector switches all the way back to the analog-meter-and-Bakelite era. (There were a few oddball cheapie analog meters with no switches where you selected the range and mode by which sockets you plugged the leads into, but they weren’t the norm.)

        4. “The three aligned holes for the cords at the bottom and the dial”

          So you mean “it looks like a multimeter”. Because every digital multimeter I’ve owned has had “three aligned holes for the cords at the bottom and the dial” looked like this — and I haven’t owned a single fluke. Even the display was in the same place.

          1. In all the multimeters I own and have used, the two or three holes have the exact same spacing. This is true for fluke, no-names and other big brands. It’s just how a multimeter is, it’s a standard. And the dial, even 50 year old multimeters are like that…

          2. For Tomasito,
            ” the two or three holes have the exact same spacing.”
            That spacing is the standard for paired banana plugs.

        5. As people have pointed out, DMMs all look largely the same. You could certainly find two almost-identical ones from different makers, but it doesn’t mean either was ripping off the other. Presumably this is why the manufacturers put names on them. If it was a Fiuke, or a Flake multimeter, they might have a point.

      1. Actually, that IS the whole point. Crappy $15 meters that look just like a Fluke, giving Fluke a bad name.
        All it takes is a couple of nitwits saying “Oh yeah, I had a crappy meter that looked JUST like that one!” Face it, not everybody is as smart as you.

        1. That’s silly. The world operates on buyer beware principles. You know, Nissan makes a car that looks mighty similar to Toyota’s. What if I end up buying a Nissan that doesn’t have the reliability of a Toyota engine?? (I know, ironic after today’s news!)

          Shit-meters that resemble Fluke’s don’t give Fluke a bad reputation, they give shit-meter supplier/producer a bad reputation. That’s common sense.

          1. Nissan and Toyota both make pretty sure their cars a unique in several ways – not limited to big damn signs on the front and rear. But let’s see what happens if Nissan uses Toyatas signs too…

            The world do not work on ‘buyer beware’, as the many many many consumer, trademark and patent protection laws is proof of.

            You do not have to agree with the law, but it is there and in this case it seems to me it is applied correctly.

          2. Exactly, you said it for me! I was wondering if I would need to…

            “…not limited to big damn signs on the front and rear. But let’s see what happens if Nissan uses Toyotas signs too…”

            They don’t! And neither do these SparkFun multimeters! SparkFun multimeters say “SparkFun”. Fluke multimeters say “Fluke”.

            Actually, you are absolutely incorrect. The world DOES operate on buyer beware principles. If it didn’t, those laws would never have been passed in the first place. Those laws are an attempt to steer away from buyer beware, in an evidently silly manner.

            I’m not saying those laws aren’t entirely useless, either. Obviously, I agree that custom logos should not be copied. However I draw the line with God-given colors.

          3. The logo on these things is much less obvious. And they even placed their Sparkfun logo in the exact same spot as the Fluke models. It is not any one specific thing that makes this too obvious a look-alike, it is a combination of all the details. This case is about more than just the colour(s).

            Infact I had to go back and check the picture again to even notice the logo in the first place. I may be naive and unintelligent – but it is people like that the law is in place to protect.

            And reg. “buyer beware” as soon as we instated the laws we abandoned that system – so no, the world might have operated as that, but not anymore (even more so if we extend “the world” as you put it to include other countries than US, though this being in the US makes that a bit irrelvant).

          4. Man, you just keep making points against your own case!

            Have you ever seen a car logo? Notice how every single car manufacturer puts their logo in the exact same place?

            In addition to that, a car logo is MUCH smaller in proportion to the car than is the word “SparkFun” or “Fluke” in proportion to the DMM, making your case of it being “much less obvious” silly.

            In addition to that, even if it DOES resemble the other company’s meter, it’s still up to the buyer to know what they are buying. People attempting to buy Fluke meters don’t head over to SparkFun and load up their cart with their $30 SparkFun multimeter, which by the way, the product listing simply says “Digital Multimeter”

            The bottom line is it doesn’t confuse anybody. Not a single person. Not anymore than someone looking to buy a curvy new Toyota Camry while at the Hyundai dealership.

            Finally, buyer beware is a word of warning; one that doesn’t stop applying simply because laws are in place to help prevent it. The only time it stops applying is when the threat it warns against no longer exists. So I ask you, do scammers still exist?

          5. I dont know why you keep wanting to compare to a car which is a totally different ballgame. But car logos are neither alike (yes some, but far from all) nor in the same places (they are on the back or front, but can be pretty much anywhere, usually along with some fancy name-tag of the model). The proportion is indeed a “issue” but it is only 1 part of the whole picture, i keep saying it is not 1 part alone, but the combination of things. The law is there not only to protect us from Sparkfun misrepresenting it, but also later that it does not show up on ebay as a Fluke etc. If the bottom line is that it does not confuse anyone, then it is strange there are several people here who can be confused by it. (reg. buyer beware. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Caveat_emptor it does seem USA is a buyer beware system to a larger degree than i was aware. that is too bad, i thought you guys had gotten further – perhaps then this law is wrongly applied and you do deserve to get the market flooded with knock-offs ;-) )

          6. To be honest, I think you are misunderstanding my comparison. The comparison shows how cars are much more similar in shape, color, logo placement, and other factors than are these digital multimeters, yet there seems to be no problem with that whatsoever.

            When you say “Car logos are neither alike…”, I don’t think you realize that you are actually arguing my point. The car logo is analgous to the multimeter “logo”, in this case the word “SparkFun”, or “Fluke”. As you stated, car logos are not alike. And as I compared, the words SparkFun and Fluke are not alike.

            In any case, I’m not FOR the market being flooded with knock-offs, I’m just against people trademarking such simplistic and fundamental things such as color.

            As someone else mentioned, it’s probably a good thing that DMMs typically have “warning colors” (red, yellow, orange”), and Fluke is primarily yellow, Milwaukee is red, and Extech is orange. So in that case, what warning color is left for remaining companies? Don’t you see how silly it is when someone incorporates something as fundamental as a color into their domain?

            As far as buyer protection goes, trademarking a color isn’t even necessary in the slightest. All somebody needs to do is follow the most basic principles of buying to correctly obtain a Fluke multimeter. Buy from Fluke, look for the word Fluke, make sure the listing says Fluke! Hence why it WOULD be misleading if another DMM used the word Fluke, but not the color yellow.

          7. @mh,
            “And they even placed their Sparkfun logo in the exact same spot as the Fluke models.”
            Even an illeterate could not confuse the word “Fluke” with the word “Sparkfun”. I want to imitate a “Fluke” so I will place the name “Sparkfun” at the same spot! so bright!

          8. Jacques,
            “Even an illeterate [sic] could not confuse the word “Fluke” with the word “Sparkfun”.

            Even an idiot would not confuse a cheap knock-up like Sandra Fluke with a legitimate multimeter manufacturer.

          1. No one in the market for a Fluke (aka got some serious coin and is looking for something good) is going to mix this up. Even novices know about fluke, so I see no realistic watering down of brand identity here. The thought process behind finding a good multimeter is not, let me choose what will work best for my electronic needs based on color. Consumers are not as stupid as intellectual property law would have them seem. Plus, nowadays we have googlable product reviews accessible within seconds from our pockets. Intellectual property laws make my blood boil.

          1. If you don’t actually spend the big bucks then you don’t own a fluke…unless you got it used. even if someone is too dull to tell the difference their wallet will know the truth.

    1. Knowing what product you are buying is a responsibility of the BUYER. It’d be one thing if these rip-off meters had the word FLUKE on them, because that’d be straight up lying, but protecting a color combination is bullshit.

      Sorry, what happens again if 20 companies all decided to make multimeters and all the good color combinations are taken because it’s their self-declared brand identity? Oh, too bad, so sad. I liked yellow with dark face BEFORE YOU DID.

      No, that’s bullshit.

      1. I agree, nowhere near as much engineering goes into color selection as it does the innards, half the time it’s on a whim. “Hmm, I like.. the gree- no the yellow one!”

        Then you see someone else made the same choice.. “Hey f**k you, you can’t have the same color I chose, I’m unique!”

        Even if they aren’t even the exact same color.

        It’s like middle-schoolers with lunchboxes, wtf, seriously, this is going to be enforced?

        If they copyrighted a specific pantone color and it matches, alright, I guess I can roll with that, but ‘yellow’ in general along with orange and red are all warning colors, indicating caution, something good to observe while around electricity. Also so you can find the thing easily.

        So they picked one of the 3 warning colors and put it on a device where if mis-used you could potentially kill yourself measure voltages, I don’t see a fault there, also it’s not like Fluke’s logo is anywhere on it or it’s a true knock-off. It’s just a multimeter..

        I like Fluke and all but jeeze, get your act together, “yellow multimeters” is too broad to enforce like this, send SF a pardon or something..

        1. I’m sure the trademark aplication is more especific that yellow with dark faceplate.

          Now, imagine a can of cola bewerage, red, with a fancy font resembling that of CocaCola, and named CocoCola…. Only one element is the same, red can. The other two are similar. Do you expect the average consumer not to mistake one for another at first glance? What if CocoCola intoxicates the consumer? He will claim CocaCola intoxicated him.

          The whole trademark isue is to protect both the consumer and the manufacturer.

          Of course, as with all IP related laws, there are abuses, but, realisticaly, the only IP law good for the consumer is trademark. Patents and copyright actually damages the consumer.

    2. Sparkfun did no such thing. 2/3 of the off brand meters in my local market (Japan) are black boxes with yellow rubber slaves. It is essentially common practice.
      Spark fun merely bought them with the intent to resell. I know so because Tokyo hacker space has 8 of these EXACT meters with yellow sleeves, which were bought locally.

      Legally it is the Chinese manufacturer, not spark fun to blame. Ethically Fluke is, since they filed an intentionally vague and blanket patent.
      And the PO is to blame for not actually researching the market and repercussions of granting such non specific patents. Fluke may be entitled to registering “Fluke Yellow” but not simply yellow.

      1. Believe it or not, there was a time when the yellow rubber bumper sleeve was a new thing and solely and specifically Fluke. It wasn’t just trade dress, it was a real functional rubber meter dress. It was copied immediately but not in yellow. The first non-Fluke yellow ones were for yellow meters, like Extech. Sparkfun should examine their buying policy. This one is so obvious. I bet it has fake CE on the back. The “China Export” logo that is made to look like a CE certification. I have had pallets of power supplies seized and destroyed due to CE and UL labels.

    3. IMHO, they don’t have a great reputation anymore, after this frivolous trademark! I’ll go with Agilent instead.

    4. @ Vacuum Catastrophe “You cannot reasonably argue that Sparkfun was doing anything other than directly copying the look and feel of the Fluke.”

      I can, and I will.

      SparkFun “sourced” the meters. This means “the buying of components of a product from an outside supplier, often one located abroad”. SparkFun neither designed nor manufactured the product and was more than likely blithely unaware that such a ridiculous trademark could exist much less be enforced and cost them what it has. I don’t think for a minute that they were blatantly trying to sell knockoff Fluke meters.

      As SparkFun did not design or manufacture the meters they cannot logically be accused of copying the look and feel of “the Fluke”

      While you might be able to argue that the manufacturer of the meters had that intent- and they may have for all I know, the simple fact is you cannot blame SparkFun for it, and to accuse them of what equates to ‘blatant forgery’ shows not only a lack of understanding of the situation, but a lack of rational thinking.

      For a moment, place yourself in the shoes of a lowly procurement specialist, or ordering department blah blah, or whatever they call them these days. You’re told to find a product to fill a need. Your company doesn’t focus on high-end luxury products but serves a market that primarily services the low and medium end of things, usually people on a tight budget. You’re not going to go order palettes of the highest end equipment you can find, it won’t sell well to your target market. You instead dig around to find a low cost product of adequate quality to suit the needs of your target market while still turning a profit.

      Now think about the last time you built a computer, did you browse around for the best prices on the parts you thought you wanted? I should hope so, or you may have spent a lot more than you needed to. Analyzing Cost vs Profit(or benefit) is a core concept of businesses the world over. You don’t need to Most people do it regularly without even realizing it. Be it at the supermarket or for a large order. Now, without trying it first, if you can get cheese for $8 or the same amount for $3? Which would you rather spend?

      You could assume that the higher priced cheese is better.
      Or you could assume the lower priced cheese is just as good
      Or you could assume that the lower priced cheese is of lesser quality and make a judgement call on whether that cheese is still good enough for your sandwich or not.

      If you’re on a tight budget the latter option tends to be the most common. Now take someone who isn’t an electronics engineer and doesn’t really even work in that field (because if they did, they would be working in that field and not ordering parts from vendors to pay for the cheese in their sandwiches, now wouldn’t they?)

      the person placing the order was not a lawyer, they were not an engineer, they were in stocking, product procurement, or something along those lines. To expect them to check every possible trademark before placing the order is unreasonable. Hell, they may not have ever even used DMM. It is however, reasonable to assume that a company you’ve been using for years to send you the same product over and over- is legitimate and legal.

      Apparently in this case it was not. We cannot morally blame SparkFun for this unless the intention of selling a cheap knockoff was there- and I (along with most other readers here) don’t think it was.

      Is SparkFun a big enough company to have an on-staff trademark lawyer (or team of lawyers) to check all possible trademarks for the purchasing department before an order is sent out? Probably not, and even if they are- it’s unreasonable to expect as much unless the volume and variety they handle is really that large. (And whereas SparkFun itself is a retailer and not a large Vendor, I don’t think it is.)

      Hopefully you now have a little more understanding. If not, at the very least hopefully this well help someone else see this from a different perspective.

      Now on to the crux of the issue. As with many here, I do feel that ultimately the system itself is borked, i think this incident only serves to help illustrate that. Now Fluke has (presumably) turned a PR nightmare into a good-will gesture that allows them to not only defend their trademark as they are legally obligated to do, but also not be the bad guy in the eyes of the people for doing so. I say well done on Fluke’s end, and call it a lesson learned not only for SparkFun but for those of us whom were previously unaware of just how messed up the copyright and trademark systems really are.

      It’s my sincere hope that this incident will eventually lead to a positive change, but capitalism being what it is, I am doubtful.

  3. It is my understanding that it is more than just the colour(s) but the overall look and feel is (made to be?) like a Fluke.

    The solution (destruction) seems silly but I think the ban is fair.

    1. The overall look and feel is a MULTIMETER. A bloody multimeter! Flukes are bigger and have different shade of yellow and have a FLUKE trademark on the top. My Metex looks and feels similar to my Uni-Trend and that one is in turn pretty similar to the third one whose brand I don’t remember. They all look (and feel) quite similar, with a display on top, a selector knob in the middle, and aligned holes at the bottom. Despite that, I pick the right one for the job, the one with known-good calibration or the one with autoranging or the one that I can afford to send to early death if something goes wrong. And it does not matter that they have similar colors.

      There are only so many ways to make a multimeter. So the very principles of its functionality determine that they will look and feel in a similar way. Fluke or not.

        1. There were many different variants, especially in the Analog Age. All were however somewhat similar. I still keep some meters that are in bakelite casings, as the family inheritance, have buttons instead of rotary switches (though they also have an analog meter instead of a digital display), and have terminals on top. And are stored in felt-lined wooden boxes. None of these is Fluke, mostly Soviet and Eastern-Europe brands.

          However, over the years the designs converged to what is now known as a “multimeter” form factor. Apparently there are technical and ergonomic reasons for that.

    2. So then all meters on the market are in violation.
      The same as how a mobile device with rectangular touchscreen shall not itself be rectangular.

  4. It looks just like a Fluke 17B but with out the buttons. SparkFun shouldn’t be surprised and shouldn’t be crying about it. It’s straight up Fluke industrial design. If SparkFun doesn’t recognize that then they have no place in the market because it’s pretty damn basic.

    1. It is too bad HAD do not show a picture of both.

      The packaged one above is obviously not a Fluke, but unpack it and it will more easilly be mistaken.

      It is sad that Sparkfun is making a deal out of this, it is even worse how many people they have convinced that is is a wrong-doing against Sparkfun.

        1. I think they look very similiar (and trademark law is not just about _exact_ copies). Even more so when you do not have a side-by-side comparrison. I see the case Fluke is making (and have to make, to protect their trademark). I happened to do a google search for Fluke and the SFE one came up too, it did look like just another Fluke in the image list.

          1. What did you drink that they look similar (above the “multimeter-similar”) to you? Namely similar enough to confuse between them? Share some of the booze, please? It must be pretty good.

        2. Looking at the two, they are not the same except for blind person. The Fluke have 3 buttons top left of the dial, 2 rectangular and 1 round. The Fluke have 4 probe connectors at bottom the Sparkfun only 3. The Sparkfun DMM dial handle have light gray sides the Fluke is all black. This sparkfun dial as a colored ring around the dial not the Fluke. At bottom edge the Sparkfun model show a black ridge not the Fluke.
          If this is pantone that can be copyrighted , in this case comparing the photo it is not the same yellow.

          How much difference it takes to be considered a different design?
          For a normal sight person it should be enough.

          By the way all this may be just a problem with an over zealous custom agent and have nothing to do with a Fluke complain. I don’t think Fluke keep personnal at custom.

    2. “It looks just like a Fluke 17B but with out the buttons.”

      really…

      Not.. even..close…

      Differences:
      The rubber accent trim on the SF meter is much thinner than the Fluke
      The dial rotates continuously around the SF meter and has several times more positions.
      They each have their own unique branding.
      The SF meter has 3 plain banana jacks, the Fluke meter has 4 and they are color coded for polarity.
      The fluke meter has UI buttons, the SF meter has none.

      Similarities:
      Ergonomic case for ease of holding.
      Yellow color
      Is a multimeter

  5. The whole device looks a LOT like a Fluke meter. Perhaps if they had changed it around a bit, so it didn’t look quite as much of a knock off they wouldn’t have said anything.
    Different colors on the face etc….
    Just saying it’s probably more than JUST the color yellow.

    1. Do you work in the industry? ALL meters have those same similarities–that’s basically what makes them a multimeter!

  6. Okay Fluke. Nice move. No single hobbyist in the world would buy a Fluke, firstly because he doesn’t need such advanced multimeter, second because he can’t afford it.
    Your business is in others business, not in the hobbyists.
    You screwed a company which target wasn’t even close to your business.
    This hurts to see, and seriously damn you for an attack like that!

    Fu*ke you suck!

    1. I like my Flukes, and will buy Fluke again in the future if I ever need to purchase one with more features or greater accuracy and precision, or durability. I also own about 7 $5 Horror Fright DMM’s, which I keep (basically everywhere) where precision and accuracy and durability do not stack up against “easily lost”.

  7. Do they also hold the monopoly on screens at the top end of a device with buttons ? This action, by flukes lawyers, is idiotic.

  8. Customs probably held these meters up because the color, shape, and overall design is reminiscent of a particular Fluke model.

    The $5 yellow meters at Harbor Freight seem to be coming through without a problem.

        1. Some of RadioShack’s meters also used to be Yellow. They switched to various non-yellow color schemes not too long ago.

  9. yeah i saw the sparkfun post this morning, have to side mostly with Fluke since if they don’t protect it , they loose it, no real choice. The market gets flooded with cheap fluke lookalikes, they have limited recourse. Fluke did come out with this colour scheme first, brand identity is important in todays market.

    I also think its a bit disingenuous to claim its just/mostly because of the yellow, it also looks a lot like a fluke, and that is not a coincidence.

    1. I think a lot of people jumped the gun, and without half the information sided with sparkfun (and i find it a bit insulting that sparkfun would abuse its goodwill like that). And now they even have a campaign going against Fluke…

      They should own up to making a mistake (intentional or not) and move on.

    2. Ever seen apple knock-offs? I can assure you there are more iphone knock-offs and direct copy-paste design work out there yet apple seems to be doing just fine, don’t they? That’s because it’s the buyer’s responsibility to know what they are buying. I don’t go to http://www.superfastsmartphones.china to look for my next iPhone.

      They don’t mislead anybody, they don’t impersonate or use Fluke’s logo/text, and they don’t have a website that lies and claims to be selling Fluke products.

  10. Okay Fluke. Nice move. No single hobbyist in the world would buy a Fluke, firstly because he doesn’t need such advanced multimeter, second because he can’t afford it.
    Your business is in others business, not in the hobbyists.
    You screwed a company which target wasn’t even close to your business.
    This hurts to see, and seriously damn you for an attack like that!

  11. Who says they have to destroy them? From the looks of the package, wouldn’t be easy to take them out, throw a bit of dye to darken the yellow and then repackage them for sale? Since it would be a different color “yellow”, that should clear them from trademark infringement.

    1. My understanding is that they are stuck in customs. they cannot (cheaply) be returned to china and they cannot enter the US. So they cannot be modified like that (though it might be possible to send them to a 3rd country and do whatever there, but i dont know for sure)

    2. What if Sparkfun decided to counter with… writing them off, and GIVING them away to university and college students?
      ie. ‘Here, this ought to last you a few years, make good use of it. Enjoy!’.
      Every time they use it they are reminded of Sparkfun.
      Fluke would _not_ be impressed ;)

      1. I don’t think SF has the option of “giving them away” at least in any areas that are covered by, or in agreement with, US trade laws. Sending them to Namibia or the Central African Republic would be very expensive.

      2. They are not on posession and likely never will be. Only recourse is to return to sender, destroy by customs agents, or pay warehouse fees while battling Fluke in court.

    3. First, Customs stated they must be destroyed or sent back to the manufacturer (who won’t accept them/import fees to China are more than the meters are worth). Second, they ALREADY are significantly different colors. The SparkFun meters are more of an orange. Fluke is Yellow. HUGE difference.

  12. Sparkfun really should have had more sense than to produce a product with similar functions _so_ close in appearance to a major manufacturer’s product.

    This is actually quite common in copyright-trademark law. There are no hard and fast criteria, but there is the ‘smell test’ (is something fishy going on?)

    If you come out with an artificial sweetner in pink packets are you infringing on Sweet & Low?
    If you come out with a rectangular shaped flat computer is that a ripoff of an iPad?
    If you come out with a snowman toy which looks suspiciously like Olaf from Frozen does that count?
    How about the Ghostbusters logo which looks awfully similar to one of Casper’s antagonists?
    If you use three concentric red circles as the logo for a retail store does that make you think of the Target logo?

    There are more choices than destroy or return to China. A nice solution (IMHO of course) which would make both parties happy would be a out-of-court negotiation where neither side admits any fault and Sparkfun puts stickers on each meter (and notices on their webpage) that these meters are not associated with Fluke, and an under-the-table payment of 50 cents per unit sold. Or make it a public announcement with Fluke donating the proceeds to STEM education for electronics education for high school students.

    1. “If you come out with a rectangular shaped flat computer is that a ripoff of an iPad?”

      Seeing how there were MANY tablets out WELL BEFORE the CrApple iTurd ever existed makes me say this is the stupidest comment ever.

  13. Phil how about mazda’s original logo that looked like the ghost logo from filmation’s ghostbusters?

    sparkfun is not trying to knock off fluke otherwise they would use a word that means fluke like coincidence or whale’s blowhole or something.

  14. According to the US International Trade Commission Exclusion Order 337-TA-588 mentioned in the letter, any meter with a dark face and contrasting yellow body is prohibited from importation. There are NO other criteria. It doesn’t matter what shade of color, whether the control layout looks like any existing Fluke, or the overall shape of the meter.

    So a hypothetical meter with a triangular shape, colored dark fuschia and yellow-orange, with nothing but one big button on the face that when pressed *speaks* the voltage (no display), would be considered to fool people into thinking it was a Fluke?

    Regardless of whether THIS meter actually closely resembles some existing Fluke in numerous specific details, that’s still way too freakin’ broad of a trademark.

    Fluke stays afloat by their reputation, and this does tarnish it somewhat. I’d say it doesn’t matter one bit to their bottom line whether their competition comes in yellow or some other color, as no one who would consider buying a Fluke would ever mistake a Chinese clone for the real deal. Plus even existing Fluke users sometimes like to use a cheaper meter in situations where a meter might likely be damaged, lost, or stolen; and for them, I’d say being able to get a meter that resembles a Fluke (especially in control layout) is a good thing.

  15. I’m definitely on the side of Fluke. Sparkfun went and selected a chinese meter that looks like common Fluke meters. They ordered a bunch of them. And customs did their job to not allow them into the country. Cry me a river, Sparkfun. You have more money then you know what to do with; you can handle a $30k mistake. Or will that blow your $5M building budget?

    Despite having been a Sparkfun customer long enough that I have a three digit customer code, I’m not impressed with Nathan’s whining. And I am not impressed with his comments that he has never owned a Fluke. With all that money that he has, he should buy one and realize how much more effort and money Fluke has put into developing their products and their market than random China factory that copies them.

    -Jim

    1. Your last comment proves a point, these cheap DMMs are completely different products with different markets and use. I don’t care what the law says, its total bullshit. So sparkfun imports the next batch as grey on red instead of yellow so its perfectly legal. Whoop-dee-shit. What the hell does that prove? That the government is good at wasting everyone’s time and money? We already knew that.

  16. I’m going to trademake red cars with black tires. Fluke makes good products but you won’t catch me buying from them, I think they are overpriced.

  17. Well, I am not going to shop at sparkfun ever again.

    They are trying to bully fluke here. Plain and simple.

    Argue about the ethics of look-A-likes if you want, but you can’t defend sparkfuns tactics here

    1. One side has overbroad trademark laws enforced by men with guns.
      The other side, forced to react, has to resort to mobilizing people armed only with their own voices.
      Who’s the bully here?

        1. Try to get your hands on the crates under their tender care and they will turn their guns at you even if the stuff is yours and you paid for it. The implicit threat of force if you dare to disobey is there. That’s why they have their man-toys. Sorry.

  18. It has been found that it’s not possible to “trademark” a color, as found in some 48+ cases. One that I am intimately aware of is, International Jensen, Incorporated, Plaintiff-Appellant, v. Metrosound U.S.A., Inc., Dba L.A. Sound, Defendant-Appellee., 4 F.3d 819 (9th Cir. 1993)”.

  19. You know what really surprises me about this whole thing…

    $30,000 of cheap multimeters. Wow! There is a market for that? I knew the ‘maker movement’ or whatever term is used outside of the O’reily circles is big but I didn’t know it was that big. I mean Sparkfun is only a piece of the pie here. I see those cheap red meters that Harbor Freight gives away everywhere I go! And thats one one of several other competitors. These are really only beginer/hobbyist level tools right? How many 100s of thousands of beginners must be buying their first meters to inspire Sparkfun to buy so many?

    If making/hacking is that popular now I really wish I had been born 20 years later!!! And here as a kid I thought my problem was being born 20 years too late! I guess these things go in long cycles and I was born into a hole.

  20. Maybe off topic

    Do you remember when Fluke has build full yellow body models, I have A Wavetek HD160 formerly an Beckman Industrial and a FieldPiece HB75, never heard of any complaints or pursuits between thems ???

    It was the contrary, full yellow body with black rubber protective case at the time.

    The trademark war has gone nuts. SparkFun is not to blame, but the Chineese manufacturer IS to blame.

  21. I never thought I’d say this, but I now consider Fluke to be in the same league as Apple and Sony: A company that is so moneysucking greedy that they don’t care who they hurt (including their own customers) in an effort to protect their vague idea of their own uniqueness.

    I hope they will do the right thing, but somehow I doubt it.

  22. While it seems petty, Fluke has won several cases on trademark violation for their meters. I think this will be no different.
    Sparkfun is trying to target a small hobbyist market with affordable meters. Fluke is more of a high end professional electronics and sciences brand, and mostly very pricy.

    My only guess is fluke knows about the manufacturer of these meters and has a beef with them, targeting shipments of any of their meters into the us. Sparkfun is ending up on the losing end though.

  23. If this was the over way around, Fluke had their stock stuck in customs because of a Sparkfun trademark like “red usb cables”, people here would be making out that Sparkfun are in the right. It’s fine if you’re rooting for the little guy but all of the “oh but this product looks the same as this and there’s no problem” is just bullshit.

    These meters look like Fluke meters from a quick glance. They’ve been made to look like Fluke meters. Fluke apparently have a trademark that they violate so Fluke are within their right to ask for the import of these meters to be blocked. If you don’t like bad trademarks you should be hassling the trademark office to get their shit together. Not hassling companies for exercising their rights.

    1. I somehow doubt they would. In any case, Sparkfun apparently has a policy of not trademarking stuff like this that they have no interest in changing.

  24. Sparkfun’s claims that they’ll be suffering a $30,000 financial loss as a result of this are thoroughly disingenuous – unless they purchased the meters for more than they intended to sell them.

    They claim to have 2000 meters in holding. The meters probably cost them $1 or less. Anyone with basic arithmetic skills should be able to see that the figures don’t weigh up, and Sparkfun is deliberately inflating the “financial loss” metric to garner support for their (quite frankly) ignoble cause.

    Who’s doing their PR, Bre Pettis?

    1. The loss reflects the retail value of the meters, not their wholesale investment in the product. This is perfectly normal and acceptable industry practice when quoting loss figures, as it notes the loss of future profit as well as initial outlay.

      1. According to Sparkfun’s website, the retail value of the meters varies between $11.96 to $14.95 dependent upon how many one purchases. Which value is the correct one to use? Even at full “retail value” that’s a discrepancy of $100, and at the lowest “retail value” a discrepancy of $6,080.

        None of these figures pulled out of thin air account for Sparkfun’s true loss of earnings. To do that, one would have to look at the lead time to purchase more meters, how many on average were sold per day, the average profit for each meter, and then offset against the true price of the ones in hold. Everything else is just a figment of their imagination, artificially inflated to get the sucker public to do their bidding.

  25. It ironic tho think that in China there is no copyright and patents. This is a dictature but there is more freedom to market than in North America and Europe where there is a 1000 laws to forbid this and that.

    1. Good for cheap cloned goods that somebody else invented, absolutely terrible for R&D I’d think. And of course it sucks money away from the non-Chinese companies who actually invent things.

      Patents do have a decent, genuine purpose, as do trademarks and copyright. It’s just cases like this that are ridiculous. The system’s been abused and exploited by big companies, just like most other laws nowadays. And nobody does anything about it because money buys politicians.

  26. Sparkfun has way bigger problems. Apparently they buy things and then turn around and sell them for exactly the same amount they bought them for. See their last paragraph where they say they’re eating $30,000 by having the 2000 meters destroyed. Here’s a biz tip for you Sparkfun, next time buy DMM’s for like $5 and then sell them for $15, you’ll make this thing called “profit” and maybe then you could hire a purchasing agent that wasn’t a complete moron.

    1. The are probably factoring the loss of potential income from the sale of the units and not the cost of them e.g. market value.

  27. I’m surprised the article supports Sparkfuns effort to rip off someone else’s trademark… Shame on you HAD. How about we do some unbiased reporting.

  28. This is stupid. Who cares what colour it is? It’s not a Fluke and everyone knows that.

    And for the record, my Fluke 73 is all grey and has no yellow anywhere except for the hold button!

  29. Sparkfun’s purchaser messed up. These meters are clearly cheap Fluke knock-offs. Why are we being solicited to rally to Sparkfun’s defense? Fire the purchaser, destroy the illegal goods and apologize for attempting to defraud customers with lookalike meters.

  30. My dad had an old fluke (before I broke it measuring static electricity…) that did not have the yellow border. I never associated the yellow border with fluke at all.

    I read this on HN yesterday and one of the guys there had a very valid point. Fluke makes very expensive and very good measuring tools. Tools that are chosen above anything else by almost all professionals. Fluke does not make consumer products. They make professional tools. Therefore, Fluke cannot be concerned that the masses are going to be confused by cheap knockoffs, because the masses are not interested in multi meters in the least! If an engineer goes to a shop to buy a fluke and he walks away with a cheap knockoff, then he does not deserve the title of engineer… As simple as that.

  31. For under $40.00 USD Sparkfun is OEM’ing these DMM just like dozens and dozens of other resellers. And at that price and package labeling no one is trying to ripoff Fluke. Yes, Fluke makes a lot of great products, but I for one, can not afford their products for hobby style work.

    Just search Alibaba for digital multimeter and other half of the results will be meters with grey faces and yellow cases… Yes, some of those do reference themselves as lookalike to some Fluke model, like this one:

    http://www.alibaba.com/product-detail/Digital-Multimeter-similar-to-Fluke-17B_520483283.html

    Some claim to be selling Flukes (not sure that is a real 117 or not):

    http://www.alibaba.com/product-detail/Fluke-117-Phase-Rotation-Indicator-Electrician_462530164.html

    Others might look like Flukes models, some not… At some point any DDM with a LCD screen, voltage selection dial, a few female probe connections can look look at Fluke. Add a grey face and yellow case and your screwed… Easy fix, just order a green one, or a red one, etc.. as there are LOTS of options as almost all of these vendors have the same product in different colors, avoid the ‘Fluke Yellow’ issue even if it is not legally a registered color.

    http://www.alibaba.com/product-detail/VC980-victor-multimeter-digital-multimeter-1000v_1427633034.html?s=p

    http://www.alibaba.com/product-detail/VC88-3-3-4-digits-logic_1489092777.html

    http://www.alibaba.com/product-detail/Top-sell-True-RMS-USB-digital_232519950.html

    http://www.alibaba.com/product-detail/Portable-AC-DC-Voltage-LCD-Digital_1424547307.html

    http://www.alibaba.com/product-detail/low-price-digital-multimeter_1239281028.html?s=p

    And the list goes on and on for Grey/Yellow combos.

  32. Since I’m here, I broke my multimeter last week, any thoughts on a good replacement? I’m a Hobbist that work mainly with Arduino, logic gates etc I wish they come with an extra set of crocodile clip leads :)

      1. it frequently shows up as a “free with any purchase” coupon. Don’t pay for it, find a coupon! HF coupons can be found in just about any hobbyist magazine that HF could sell some of their products to (home improvement, electronics, cars, metalwork, woodwork, etc…), most Sunday papers (nearly always in one of the coupon inserts), and even on their website. But yes. Get 1, get 10, get 25… they work, they’re durable, they’re compact, they’re expendable (something about measuring the draw of an automobile’s starter comes to mind here).

  33. The number of multimeters on the market, and that HAVE been on the market, for at least the last fifteen years that match the concept of “yellow and black” means that Fluke has absolutely no solid grounds for copyright on that…combination of colors.

    I’ve never owned a Fluke. And yet EVERY SINGLE meter I’ve ever owned was yellow, or black and yellow.

    There’s no basis for this. If Fluke is doing this intentionally, if they made the complaint, they are far, far, far to late for it to have any sort of justifiable base.

    1. >copyright on that

      Before arguing about their position you might want to get your own understanding right.. copyright doesn’t cover design etc.

  34. I am not pleased to hear Sparkfun is taking a loss.

    I am not pleased to hear that Fluke is having to protect their trademark color scheme which they developed with deliberate effort and has developed to an industry wide recognized standard. .

    I would be less pleased to grab a familiar yellow encased meter and trust it to measure the 480 3 phase mains only to discover microseconds later that it was a fatal mistake via a rip-off clone. I have experienced plasma. We are outside of the area where things are questionable here. There is a purpose being served and it is safety. Only a few hobbyists will appreciate the point but those of us living and dying by it in our profession will know.

    This is a most unfortunate situation and my condolences are forwarded…. but yes, keep them away from our hands. May I suggest red?

    1. Those of you still living in your profession will know not to hook up any cheap $15 meter to the 480 3 phase mains… (if they didn’t they probably deserve a darwin award by now)
      Anyone who expects a high quality Fluke DMM for $15 brand new should seriously consider a therapy to find their way back to reality.

      1. But didn’t you know the SPARKFUN multimeter has a false CATIII rating? Being killed by an electric SPARK is FUN?

    2. If you can’t tell one meter apart from another, just because they’re the same colour, you probably don’t have the attention to detail you need to be messing with mains voltage anyway.

      1. Selling cheap multimeter is not screwing. I have a Fluke and I have one of these cheap multimeter. When I bought the cheap one I knew what it was. They are not for the same usage.

  35. Have a look at the Flue 115, this meter copies several design features from that meter. The hourglass shape, the color change to imitate the indentation around the display, the lines pointing out the probe jacks, the logo and model name text style and placement etc.

    The only thing that isn’t very nearly the same is the control knob, and that’s the same as on many other meters. Had this been a generic square meter with yellow edges i would have agreed it was silly, but this meter is very clearly designed to look like a Fluke meter and that should be very obvious to the people at Sparkfun.

  36. Tricky bit here is that the traces carrying the sample voltage inside the meter, if they get too close together…. the meter turns to plasma and it crawls up the leads and back to the box. Then now with a plasma conducting and connected to the mains it spews outward and will vaporize anything in it’s path.

    This is really not an area to be screwing around in with such considerations as profit point. It is so easy to insure safety…. and so easy for a bean counter to just ignore.

  37. Okay, so if Sparkfun changes them to red, who is to say Cen-Tech won’t jump on their backs? Why haven’t they complained about anybody else, I see tons of meters that follow
    a) the same shape
    b) the same control and ergonomics
    c) the same colors, roughly

    Colors aren’t even specified in the trademark.

    Also, Fluke, is it really worth the trouble of losing tons of potential customers?
    Welp, guess the next generation will be buying Gossen and Agilent. In addition to the vague crap you have on the books, we associate your brand with the stench of corporate smugness, like Apple.

    1. Money! Sparkfun can’t fight back. They don’t have the money for it. Trademark and patents is all about money. Big corp. regularly take patents from individuals or small companies very aware that those can’t afford to fight back.

      And they are fast to pressure individuals and small companies when they fill threathen. The trademark and patent system only advantage bigs corporations and kill many innovatives startup.

    2. I know I will never..EVER buy anything from Fluke again.

      I’m about sick of these companies that act like this. Then everyone acts like they are just protecting themselves.. They are not. You protect yourself by selling a good product, a well made product, at a good price.. Not by manipulating trademark laws and trying to strong arm consumers.

      I vote Corporate Death Penalty for Fluke.

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