Fluke Issues Statement Regarding Sparkfun’s Impounded Multimeters

fluke-reponds-to-sparkfun-dmm-impounding

Fluke just issued a response to the impounding of multimeters headed for market in the United States. Yesterday SparkFun posted their story about US Customs officials seizing a shipment of 2000 multimeters because of trademark issues. The gist of the response is that this situation sucks and they want to do what they can to lessen the pain for those involved. Fluke is providing SparkFun with a shipment of genuine Fluke DMMs which they can sell to recoup their losses, or to donate. Of course SparkFun is planning to donate the meters to the maker community.

Anyone with a clue will have already noticed the problem with this solution. The impounded shipment of 2k meters will still be destroyed… eh. The waste is visceral. But good for Fluke for trying to do something positive.

Before we sign off let’s touch on the trademark issue for just a moment. We can’t really blame Fluke too much for this. The legal crux of the matter is you either defend your trademark in every case, or you don’t defend it at all. In this case it was the border agents defending the filing, but for ease of understanding we’ll not go into that. On the other hand, speaking in general business terms, the way things are set up it is advantageous to acquire a trademark specification that is as broad as possible because it helps to discourage competitors from coming to market. So trademark is good when it keep hucksters from trying to rip off consumers. But it is bad if applied too broadly as a way of defending a company’s market share.

Where does Fluke come down in all of this? Who knows. There is literally no right answer and that’s why the discussion around yesterday’s post was full of emphatic arguments. A Fluke meter is a cream-of-the-crop device and they have the right (and obligation) to ensure that reputation is not sullied. SparkFun serves a market that probably can’t afford a Fluke at this time but may some day in the future. And this is the reason we can feel okay about this outcome.

[via Twitter]

162 thoughts on “Fluke Issues Statement Regarding Sparkfun’s Impounded Multimeters

    1. Why is everyone applauding Fluke? The 2000 multimeters are still being destroyed, any future imports will continue to be destroyed.

      Thanks to this “one-time gesture” and SparkFun will get what, 100 Flukes instead of the original shipment 2000 OEM multimeters? How many Flukes does $30K buy?

      This just seems like Fluke trying to buy some goodwill for a “donation” of $30K..

      1. Good on Fluke for stepping up when they didnt even make the call to have the DMMs destroyed. The multimeters being destroyed were obviously designed to look like Flukes and therefore profit from Fluke’s great reputation. This form of copyright infringement requires strict enforcement.

        ^^ Stop crying about a few lost meters

        1. “Designed to look like Fluke’s”?

          Seriously?

          I would understand if the multimeters were branded “Fiuke”, “Flucke” etc but that’s definitely not the case here because they had a great big “SparkFun” logo on them and were sold in a big RED “Sparkfun” box.

          It’s also not copyright as you say. It was a trademark issue.

          But I guess when dealing with monkeys a handful of peanuts is enough.

          1. JM, you are incorrect. Your bar of of an imitation product is too high vs the legal definition. Whoever designed these meters knows (or should know) the law and decided to ignore it. Chose a different color scheme or risk having your stuff trashed.

      2. For what it’s worth, I think this is the fair thing to do, and those wasted DMM’s would appear as Fluke’s loss (in exchange of what they donated back to SparkFun.)

    2. What about Sparkfuns infringement on the Fluke noncontact temperature measurement device? And the USB thing Sparkfun sells with Fluke colors. I work in manufacturing and I can tell you it is damn hard to match colors as well as they copied Fluke without some real intention to do so. These guys are just trying to ride Flukes good reputation by knocking off their colors. Remember, Sparkfun could have come up with their own really cool colors and people would buy there tools based on a need and a price point. That would allow them to develop their brand without infringing on someone else’s good name or marketing efforts.

      1. Missing one key point: these meters in this color scheme were on the market YEARS before spark fun ever thought to order them, and is in fact the cheapest color scheme the manufacturer offers. You can blame spark fun for ordering yellow, or blame the manufacture for offering it in the first place, or fluke for copyrighting a broad color scheme with the general phrase “multimeter and test instruments with yellow and gray colors”

  1. I would’ve just sued sparkf**k for insulting my religious beliefs (Pope John Paul II will be saint soon).

  2. it seems as facebook is down so here is the full text

    Over the last 24 hours, we’ve been watching the conversation around SparkFun. We’ve wanted to join the conversation sooner, but needed to make sure we had all the information in front of us so we could help find the best solution. Thank you for your patience.

    Like any organization that designs and manufactures electronics, we actively work to stop lookalike products from making it to the marketplace. We do this to protect our company and the jobs of our employees. We also do so because it is a matter of safety for our customers. Our tools are used in high-energy industrial environments, where precision and safety is an absolute necessity.

    I mention this because we firmly believe that we must be – and will continue to be – vigilant in protecting Fluke and our customers. One step in doing that was registering a trademark protecting the look and feel of our devices so our customers know that if it looks like a Fluke it’s a Fluke.

    It’s important to know that once we’ve filed for and received trademark protection, US Customs has the responsibility to determine what to stop at the border, or what to seize. In this case, we first learned of this issue from SparkFun’s blog.

    We understand how troubling this is for a small company serving the needs of DIY-ers and hobbyists. Here is what we are going to do.

    Earlier today we contacted SparkFun and offered to provide a shipment of genuine Fluke equipment, free of charge for them to sell on their site or donate. The value of the equipment exceeds the value of the Customs-held shipment. SparkFun can resell the Fluke gear, recouping the cost of their impounded shipment, or donate it into the Maker community.

    While we will continue to enforce our trademark, we are taking this one-time action because we believe in the work of SparkFun supporting the Maker and education communities. This is important to us. We have been supporters of the Maker community for years through the donation of over half a million dollars worth of tools and employee time to organizations like First Robotics.

    We look forward to continuing our support of the community, of our customers, and of all the innovators out there.

    Sincerely,

    Wes Pringle
    President, Fluke Corporation

      1. No, it means that the wholesale value of the Fluke product exceeds what SparkFun paid for the impounded meters. There is an underlying problem here – someone at SparkFun knew he was buying a Fluke look-alike and if that person knew they were knock-offs he should be prosecuted.

          1. No, on the Fluke the yellow completely border the grey on the front. The Sparkfun does not, the yellow only borders the front panel on the sides, not the top and bottom edges. I think this might be a case of over-zealous customs/border agents.

          2. Yeah! Take Walmart on, you fuckers! If this ever became a court case, and it wasn’t just an issue of who has the most money, then Sparkfun would wipe the floor with them. There’s so so much evidence of this flimsy “trademark” going ignored in millions of stores around the world.

            Could Sparkfun claim for compensation if they won the case? As opposed to just the price they paid for the meters, which isn’t gonna be much compared to lawyers’ fees. It’s a shame, it’s the same way big copyright holders have been abusing the law, sending out indiscriminate threats and relying on it being too expensive for people to fight their corner.

          3. It’s never so simple and the issue extends way beyond these meters, so I’ll explain the issue another way.

            GE is a brand we all trust when it comes to light bulbs and you probably know that GE imports a lot of light bulbs from China. But the ones GE imports are at least tested to make sure they meet GE’s standards & they may even visit the facility in China and do an audit. The point I’m trying to make is you can buy one of their light bulbs and you can be confident that the brand is safe. And BTW, they aren’t doing this for your benefit, they are doing this for their benefit just like FLUKE is. They are protecting the trust you have in their brand.

            Now, let’s say you find “a deal” on-line or at the local flea market for GE brand CFL light bulbs that are 1/2 the LOWES or Home Depot price. You buy some, put them in your house and one fails & burns your house down. Through the investigation it’s discovered that these really aren’t GE bulbs at all, they are cheap Chinese knock-offs. I guarantee that GE won’t help you, neither will the real manufacturer or importer who are off stamping out and selling the next cheap Chinese knock-off.

            The point I’m trying to make is the GE’s and FLUKE’s of the world have an interest in delivering what they promise because at the end of the day all they have is their brand. But someone willing to make a knock-off of a product is motivated differently, he only wants to make a look-alike as cheap as possible. The product may look the same on the outside but I can garantee thet it’s different inside!

          4. Tom, this isn’t passing-off. The meters are NOT fakes. They’re marked “Sparkfun”, not Fluke. Sparkfun are the only people who were going to sell them, and they were doing it under their own name. They weren’t going to sit on a shelf next to Flukes, nor are they called “Flake” or “Fiuke”.

            The issue is that apparently meters with a yellow case and dark front panel, and some other cosmetic details, are only Fluke’s to make. Nobody’s claiming passing-off, or market confusion. Which is why it’s so stupid, and people are annoyed.

          5. @alexnking: That photo is clearly black surrounded by yellow. Nowhere near dark grey. Personal preference or not. So trademark does not apply there.

          6. Yes it does. We do not often have the luxury of a casual side by side comparison to judge things by.

        1. Horse feathers. They weren’t clones/lookalikes/knockoffs, nor were they labeled “Fluke” or some variation thereof. They were multimeters, with standard gray faces and yellow edges/sides. I’m 100% in favor of Fluke defending their IP within the system that we’re presently burdened with. But I’m also 100% opposed to someone calling something a lookalike when, in fact, it is not a lookalike. I’ve seen knockoffs, some of them good, some of them horrible. This was *not* a knockoff. The decision to enforce in this particular case wasn’t Flukes, it was the govt’s based on prior actions of Fluke against other companies that, G-d forbid, dared to make a multimeter with yellow edging and a gray face. If we could all just get our effing facts straight, we could actually have an effing discussion here. Short summary: Our present Patent/Trademark systems is badly, badly broken and *it* is what needs to be fixed.

          1. Sadly the only Person *confused* by it all was the customs Agent that had them siezed and actually it is THEIR JOB to know the difference. Who knows, maybe they had never seen a multimeter before and though the entire *design* was too similar. Two companies, both with very reasonable concerns and some *dimwit* manages to mess it up for both and get perfectly good material destroyed in the process.

    1. The way this is written, Sparkfun are going to have to donate the meters, or look like dicks, even though Fluke have cost them lots of money with a really feeble case. So Sparkfun are still out of pocket. If they sold them, which I think they’re morally entitled to, it’d just give Fluke the chance to smarmily claim the moral high ground, Sparkfun becoming “the bastards who won’t give us our free multimeters” to the public.

      It would have been honourable to not mention Sparkfun’s option of giving them away. Of course they have the option, anyone can give away anything. But this is challenging them to do it. PR dirt, and emotional blackmail, appealing to the worst aspects of mankind.

      If Sparkfun had offered to give the meters away without this “suggestion”, then THEY’D come out of this looking like the decent guys.

      Can Fluke write a “gift” like this off against tax? As public-relations spending?

      1. of cause they can write it off it’s a business expense, so in the end fluke got some cheap PR and Sparkfun lost 2000 multimeters they would have sold at $15 each

      2. +1, you nailed it man, just the implication forced Sparkfun’s hand, they just made Sparkfun lose the money from the 2000 units, plus made themselves look good. Wouldn’t have the honorable thing to do was contact Sparkfun privately and resolve the matter, then allow Sparkfun to issue a statement. This is corporate takedown 101

          1. I’d be surprised if Fluke couldn’t get them un-seized, if they wanted to. Even then there’s the larger issue of trademarking a yellow and “dark” meter being ridiculous.

    2. What they should have done is alert the manufacturers, major importers (sf had been importing long before fluke trademarked yellow) BEFORE enforcement began.

      Silent trademarkibg when you know so many in the market are using it is just being a dick. Its

  3. It’s time to get a Fluke!
    I have a BK 390 that will last forever, but if Sparkfun has a sale that will help makers I’m all for it. Nice work on Fluke, I hope Sparkfun handles this well.

    1. See, now that they have some added notoriety Fluke and SparkFun should partner. I envision a “Buy your first genuine Fluke from SparkFun” campaign where they donate a portion of the proceeds toward hacker/maker programs for kids.

  4. Fluke is a corporation. They don’t have human feelings. This is a cold calculated solution to the bad press they were getting. They repair the image damage AND they boost their image at the same time. Win. Win. What this says about Fluke is that they make rational marketing decisions based on reality and not ego. For that, I give them a thumbs up.

    1. Ah, they did something bad, then greased their way out of it. That doesn’t deserve credit. Yes, it’s what a cynical bunch of dicks would do in the name of PR. But it doesn’t make them good human beings.

      Big companies are always fucking the small man over. They don’t need your approval or encouragement.

      1. No, Customs made the call, Fluke made amends.

        I’m totally against what is going on with how this was enforced but they didn’t just “grease their way out.” That would have been issuing a statement that “we(fluke) have no control of what customs enforces” and be done with it. They made an effort to correct the situation that was presented, and a pretty good one at that.

        Calling this anything else is to ‘look a gift horse in the mouth’.

        1. > No, Customs made the call, Fluke made amends.

          All in all in this situation, it is absolutely *noone fault*, when fluke actually *tried* to fill a BS trademark? Then *renewed*? (so intentionally made the error *twice*).
          The real problem is *that*.
          (Sidenote: a lesser problem is that the trademark is so screwed that they actually succeed.)

          The real “amend” would have been to file a trademark *correction*, and they get to the bottom of this issue.

          And a sincere apology towards the word as a whole, they tried to trademark two primary colors (grey, yellow).

          1. Is John Deere’s color scheme also a BS trademark? Or Fiskars and their iconic orange handled scissors?

            Is the trademark system *really* the “lesser” problem in all this? Or the primary one?

            (Also, grey is not a primary color)

      2. Did something bad? No. Fluke defended their trademark look in a legal manner. Sparkfun is the company who decided to make this into a political PR battle, rather than the true situation — they brought a product to a new market without due legal research. Anyone can tell you it looks like a Fluke meter, and it finally caught up with them. Good on Fluke for this response.

        1. If you bothered to read Sparkfun’s original statement they’ve been selling the same metre since 2008 thus it isn’t a new product.

  5. looking at the customs document they can export the meters so couldnt sparkfun just export to canada and then import to usa?

    or export them to cuba and then get a rumrunner boat and smuggle them into the usa? or have the chinese factory ship them one at a time by mail using gift declaration and from private individual (factory employee mails them under their own name as if it was an ebay item)?

    1. It doesn’t matter how they got them into the country, Sparkfun can’t sell them without the risk of legal action from Fluke. And that legal action would be mandatory on Flukes part because that’s how trademarks work. Even if they didn’t want to sue, they have to or they give up the rights to the trademark.

      1. they arent even labeled as fluke so how can fluke even have a case?

        sparkfun can include the meter only as a freebee as part of an electronics starter kit and probably get away with it since they are not selling them.

        1. The trademark Fluke received was a trade dress mark which was the dark grey face surrounded by a yellow accent/border. Which really describes Fluke’s design pretty well.

          1. > Which really describes Fluke’s design pretty well.

            And 99% of every other DMM on the planet, and 90% which predates 2000, when the trademark was issued first.

            I have some Maxwell products, some of it predate 2000, and all of them has a yellow border around black (shade of grey). One of it kind of orange, but you know its a shade of yellow. Some fluke meter has dark orange as border, so they are taking the yellow definition kind of broad too.

            If you are interested here are a full product palette:

            http://www.maxwell-digital.com/index.php?tld=en&page=p_list&d1=act&d2=multimeters

            (all of it has a yellow protecting jacket, with one exception which has red)

  6. The solution is keeping things specific instead of vague. It’s an absolute necessity in science. You can’t spec your modules to be connected by a bunch of blue wires and expect it to work. But spec a 28-AWG flat ribbon cable with 8-pin IDC female connectors on each end, and you’ll know exactly what you’re getting.

    I have no problem with Fluke protecting it’s brand – i.e. anyone trying to sell something with the fluke name on it should be stopped. And if they want to trademark similar names like “floke” and “fleke” that’s fine too.

    If you support trademarking colors, would you still support it if I set up a patent troll company and trademark red and black meters, and green and black, and white and green… ? Then I’ll put a white picket fence in front of my house, trademark them, then go around demanding license fees from everyone with white picket fences.

      1. The fence argument forgets about “prior art”, but patent trolling in general is a vast, massive business. Companies exist that do nothing but file, and buy up, nice broad patents, or patents that have cracks in them that might lead to being able to sue Apple or whoever for a billion or so. It’s a jackpot-searching business. Let me be the hundred millionth person to point out international patent laws need overhauling. It’s not even necessarily big business who’re abusing it most (although Monsanto are on their way to owning even the letters D N and A), the whole thing’s a crazy crapshoot that nobody has a fair chance with.

        1. This is about trademarks not patents. Prior art doesn’t matter. Providing the trademark is distinct in the marketplace and doesn’t infringe an existing mark then you’re good, even if there were items in the past that looked similar.

      2. In contrary, you don’t.

        The point is they succeed trademarking two colors WITHOUT any logo, form or text.

        All they have made was: drew a brick (thats the multimeter) and say in the text grey surrounded by yellow.

        Now a “picket fence” by your definition is not a knock-off, but it is not near clear in the trademark text. Some of the “picket fence” got a rectangular shape, so it can be confused with a Fluke product.

        Now that’s scary. An actual Fluke product (by their definition) can be confused with a picket fence. Only a matter of taste of color choosing, and boom it became a Fluke product.

        1. My mistake, the trademark text clearly says: Electronic tests and measuring instruments … *namely digital multimeters* in Class 9. (international class).

          So a picket fence does not apply sadly.

          Another observation:
          The trademark text says it applies to the color combination *IF* the multimeter got a *holster*.

          BUT as far as I see, there is no holster on Sparkfun’s multimeter, so the trademark should not apply there.

          That’s it, here is your backdoor.
          Even an intentionally broadly worded text can be screwed:)
          Shame on you Fluke.

  7. It’s a nice gesture, although I am unsure how I feel about the situation.

    Were they held to be destroyed at the boarder because they were yellow, or because their design was similar to Fluke’s AND they were yellow?

    If it is only because of the color, I question how one could enforce a color, or possibly even a NEAR color as they were supposedly yellow-orange. It’d be like saying Ferrari is the only company that can make red cars.

    1. The meters were not just yellow – they were black-faced with yellow borders. This is the essence of the trademark. It was no accident that somebody in China chose black face with a yellow border for their devices, even if they don’t say “Fluke” anywhere on them. Fluke worked long and hard to earn their reputation, and I think they played this very well. Maybe the folks at Sparkfun and elsewhere will think twice before ordering obvious knock-offs. All it takes is for everybody buying these in quantity to say “no — change the color or go pound sand,” and the problem goes away.

      1. > hey were black-faced with yellow borders.

        Then it should not apply. The trademark clearly says: “dark grey” and “yellow”.

        Black is not dark grey.

    2. They violated a trade dress trademark Fluke owns, which is for a dark face and a yellow border accent. It’s not just that they’re yellow it’s the combination. The red car thing is off too, it’s more like if Ferrari predominantly made black cars with red fenders and they were the only ones allowed to make that.

    3. ” It’d be like saying Ferrari is the only company that can make red cars.”

      Ferrari does have a trademark on a specific shade of red.

  8. “we believe in the work of SparkFun supporting the Maker ” Since when has SparkFun changed from supporting the hardware hacker community to the pussy maker community?

    1. When they started selling Arduinos and referring to Arduinos in every damn “New product” video they publish. It’s not “you can use this sensor with any micro”, it’s “you can easily hook this up to your Arduino” now.

    2. What are you, five years old? “big tough hacker vs pussy maker” sounds like something a spoiled brat says on the playground.

  9. Those meters did look an awful lot like a couple Fluke models. So I’m not blaming Fluke at all with any of this. Although I’m not going to assume any malice on the part of the manufacturer, or Sparkfun either. Unless other evidence is presented I’m just going to figure it was a tragic coincidence.

    It is too bad Sparkfun cannot take the guts out of the meters and offer those for sale to hobbyists. I know I’ve made power supplies and wanted to put digital displays on them. I’m not the type to go breaking a perfectly good meter to do it though. I’ve still thought about it with those cheap HF meters.

  10. A decent meter might cost some coins, but they do last a long time if you take care of it. It is an investment if you are serious about electronics.

  11. So the problem is the ENCLOSURE? Right? So disassemble and destroy the enclosure, hack the inner parts. How hard is it to come up with this solution???

      1. you go ahead and supply the paint, supplies, and manpower, in the limited window of time available, and do so inside the warehouse zone where the meters are being held. Good luck with that.

        1. Instead of doing so in the warehouse zone, they could send them out into international water and paint the on board the ship.

    1. Don’t be silly, why should something good come out of this whole mess? No, destroy it all and stuff land fills with it, much better.

      Sometimes I fucking hate humanity.

      1. Sparkfun could. There’s a time between them being stopped and being destroyed, they could arrange for them to be shipped anywhere else.

  12. When I see a yellow and black multimeter or device with those colors shaped like a multimeter, I first think Fluke. Every engineer reading this does. Fluke trademarked that appearance. I don’t understand how people don’t see what the problem is. Fluke has put huge amounts of dollars and effort to create some of the best test equipment in the industry and were first with a lot of test instrumentation. They have every right to trademark yellow with black trim looking DMM. That’s exactly what trademarks are for.
    I see this as Sparkfun being disingenuous. They could have gone with red like many other retailers but chose black with yellow knowing exactly what that meant. How do I know? Sparkfun uses this equipment daily and knows that every wannabe engineer wants to get a Fluke but either can’t afford it or doesn’t need that level of sophistication. Compare what Sparkfun is offering to other electronics retail and you’ll see most only offer red. At least any site that doesn’t want to bring a trademark dispute.
    Sad to see that Fluke has to do damage control on something that is quite plain to see.

    1. At first trademarks were about name and logo. Now it is trade dress. What is next ? It only tell us how bigs corporations dictate politics.

    2. It’s a matter of personal view. Personally, I think this is all very silly, I cannot begin to comprehend how people think it’s OK to trademark the color of a case.

      If they were selling fake Fluke-branded multimeters I would agree with the trademark infringement, but in this specific case it’s very hard to mistake those Sparkfun-branded multimeters with any of the fluke models. In their statement they are essentially saying we are a bunch of imbeciles that don’t know how to read labels.

      Yellow is good because it contrasts well with the environment and makes the instrument easy to find. Now I know why my U1273AX is closer to orange than yellow… I’m glad I went with Agilent instead of Fluke, better value for money and they don’t usually behave like dicks.

      By the way, fluke multimeters have rounded corners, maybe Apple will sue them too…

  13. Aside from the legal nonsense, it’d be nice, environmentally, if they could be remanufactured in China with a different casing. Just to save all the effort and material. Give the money to charity or something. Maybe Sparkfun could give them as a gift to Fluke who could then arrange it all.

    The “message” this sends out would be confusing, but there’s too many stupid “messages” in the world as it is, along with too much pollution. Sure it’ll never happen, because it’s straightforward and sensible.

    1. Second thoughts… donate them to some school in a poor country, and write it all off against tax, if they feel they must.

    2. From what Sparkfun had to say about it, the decision to destroy the meters was a decision of a last resort. Although the meters came out of China the cost to send them back into China is ridiculous, because China would have taxed them as imports. Destroying the product was the lowest cost option.

      1. Wouldn’t the Chinese only tax them if they were imported for retail sale? If they’re shipped as components for manufacturing (which they are, they need new cases), wouldn’t that avoid the tax? Or at least incur a much lower rate of tax? Surely Chinese businesses have to import SOME materials or components.

  14. Comeon guys, make the China-vendor mould some replacement-shells in pink or green or whatever non-yellow color and make it a contest at the next makerfair or such: The ten fastest shell-exchangers get a Fluke for free and so on…

  15. So when a company wants to make red soles on shoes their exclusive right to sell the judge says no – it’s too restrictive on trade. But when a multmeter manufacturer wants to make a yellow colour scheme their exclusive right it’s OK?

    1. Someone would have to sue before a judge gets any say about this. Has anyone ever challenged Fluke’s trade dress?

  16. Sparkfun is hitting too low. Is it OK for people to clone Sparkfun website with look and feel? Fluke can actually not bother if Sparkfun did not cry-baby so wildly. So just donate away. People conveniently defended the use of yellow for the body, but there are so many variables to change s meter not to be look-alike. Sparkfun has no case, it just makes themselves look stupid and silly.

  17. By the logic of this patent it’ll be impossible for me to purchase my current multimeter in the US just because of color:

    http://www.monacor.de/en/product-detail-page/?artikelid=7978

    And considering the price, accuracy and features of it, then it is honestly a good bang-for-the-buck meter for anyone who uses a multimeter more than once every full moon.

    But hey, color scheme obviously means it is ripping off fluke, much like how making a smartphone that’s rectangle shaped with rounded corners are a infringement upon Apple’s patents.

  18. Yeah, that’s nice fluke. Good for your PR, bad for a small electronics retailer and the environment. Seems like a win.

  19. I don’t understand why companies are allowed to “own” color combinations, and I don’t accept the idea that because it’s legal, it’s OK. In my mind, it’s like manipulating your finances to avoid paying tax: legal, but odious. I won’t do business with a company that operates that way, and this gift to SparkFun changes nothing.

  20. Whatever how bads theses laws are Sparkfun can’t change it. They can only learn from it and be carefull next time.

      1. Here, here, Scott. Jacques, you sound French. Must we revive that old tit-for-tat? the industry should learn from this and FIX IT, not cower and posture and hire more lawyers to navigate the quagmire. They need to DRAIN THE SWAMP, not learn to navigate it better.

      2. No. What I’m saying is that alone they can’t fight again big bully and excpect to win. Figthing a fight you know beforehand you will loose don’t seem reasonable to me. Those things will change when most people will agree it’s unacceptable and act together to change it. By the way Sparkfun did the best they can, ringing the bell to alarm the community which forced Fluke to offer repair.

  21. This is just a company with a quality product line that is deliberately protecting it by giving it a distinct and separate appearance from everyone else’s and then patenting that appearance. I see no intent to foul anyone here, it’s just good sound business practice to try and protect your product line. Nothing happens till another company tries to “borrow” your customers by copying it. .

    If you disagree… then I have to ask if you would have been pleased if Ford produced a clone Corvette, or Chrysler copied the Mustang.

    For gosh sake… even cookie recipes are patented. And take a look at “decorative” patents…. a patent on the visual appearance only! All very valid.

    Protecting yourself is not an adverse action…. it causes nothing whatsoever to happen… till you’re attacked and wish to engage the protection the system was built to provide.

    This isn’t Fluke’s fault. It’s not Sparkfun’s either. REALLY stand-up of Fluke though to do what they are!

    1. Thing is that they don’t have a distinct and separate appearance to begin with. Almost every multimeter since the invention of the multimeter has looked like that.

    2. What it “reads” like is not so much an action initiated by Fluke (low trademark act aside) as an action by Customs to “protect the economy” based on a hypocritical (see “Free” Trade agreement) and corrupt Patents and Trademarks system that at least perpetuates a low international opinion of the US of A*, and at most will ulimately result in yet another blowback.
      Inovation is something to aspire to, stifling restrictive practices not so much.

      Disclaimer: I’m not a resident of the US of A*

  22. Wow. Some people may want to Google “Trade Dress”.
    Customs thought it looked enough like a Flukemeter to be a counterfeit,
    Sparkfun said “Uh, what? Colors matter? Crap.”
    Fluke said “Well, this sucks. We gotta enforce it or lose it forever.”
    The guys at Reddit said “Wow This sucks”
    Fluke said “Well, what can we do? We like these guys”
    The guys at HAD said “Wow This sucks”
    Fluke said “Hmmmm…Let’s help these guys out. Here’s some meters”
    Sparkfun said “Thanks!”
    The rest of said “Crap. Lawyers.”

        1. “Autistic?” Says nothing of me and speaks volumes of you.
          So, no you don’t have a refence.
          And yes, you just make shit up.
          Then resort to ad hominen attacks (throw shit) when you have no argument. Pathetic and anal, the jackpot of juveniles.

  23. Danaher corp bought Fluke.

    Danaher corp bought Jacobs. They made nice drill chucks in the USA. Now they are made in asia and many people consider them junk.

    Danaher corp bought Nicholson hand files. They were US made. Now they are made overseas and are junk. Do a google search on the topic.

    I could go on. There is a trend here.

  24. All right, one thing I could use some explanation on:
    The story goes that these items came off the boat into the warehouse and customs noted them as trademark infringing and stopped them there, with no input from Fluke.

    So, how does customs identify “trademark infringing” items? How does a customs agent even know to flag something like this? There must be thousands of tons of random crap coming in daily: who spotted this one, and how, and would they likely catch every shipment, and …?

  25. I’m sorry, but this wasn’t their only option. They had the option to reach out to sparkfun, and license them to sell the product on a once-off short term license for a nominal fee. If you license your IP, you don’t need to defend it. It doesn’t set a precedent that another unlicensed operator can use. For instance, coca-cola licenses it’s products in Australia. That doesn’t mean some third party can knock off their trade dress.

  26. what i dont get was why sparkfun went through the trouble of having their logo printed on the case, but didnt bother to have the case made in sparkfun red.

    dont get me wrong i buy knockoffs exclusively. i couldn’t afford to hack if i didnt. but i kinda have to point my finger at sparkfun here. when i was trying to find a soldering station for cheap i found a hakko knockoff on ebay, sure enough spark fun had the same unit with their own logo on it for twice the price. of course i bought the knockoff.

  27. here is some ideas.

    1. impersonation: what if someone is able to impersonate or social engineer customs there is enough info between customs notice and fluke response they could trick customs into believing that fluke dropped the case and let the units through.

    2. send them to a workshop who can gut the units and make them into a kit form or even 3d scan the enclosure and then 3d print a new enclosure or post the cad files to tpb so we hackers can 3d print the enclosure.

    3. after gutting the units then sell the guts

  28. They patented a COLOR. Bullsh!t. How many more companies have to patent THEIR colors before there ARE NO MORE COLORS LEFT?! It’s ABSURD. They can patent their BRAND if they want. Those are meant to be UNIQUE. Not tyranically broad. Fuke, is not Fluke. If the consumer is that stupid… Hell… NO CONSUMER THAT IS IN THE MARKET TO BUY THE BEST MULTIMETER IN THE WORLD IS GOING TO MISTAKE A FUKE FOR A FLUKE. OR ANY OTHER YELLOW BOX MULTIMETER. You’re arguing just to argue. Patenting a color is absurd. FLUKE CAN DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT. They can send documents to the US PTO declaring the provisions of their trademark as applied to the color Yellow (with gray trim or however it is worded) to be hereby vacated, all other provisions including the “Fluke” name and the font, size ratio, perspective of the brand mark to be left in full effect. THAT is the ONLY proper choice.

  29. It seems to me that this might be one of those things where neither Fluke nor Sparkfun are at fault. Maybe the customs agents could use some discression in how they execute their responsiblities? Like the Police officer that doesn’t always give a ticket, I think it is clear that Fluke does not feel threatened by every *yellowish* multimeter, yet still wants to make sure their Trademark is protected. I’m not one to bash government agencies as a Routine, but in this case they seemed to have truely fluked up.

  30. “830″ hmm I seen a meter with this number on ebay before….
    it looks like in the process of ‘cleaning up’ a basic meter to make something that looks like a “real” meter, they made it look too much like a “real meter” ?
    good of fluke to help out in this,
    sad that everyone is getting upset about destruction of new product just now, when this happens every day in countries like japan, where mass lots of brand new product are destroyed every day.
    P.S. your gas car is only 30% efficient.

  31. The response here is amazing;
    - Fluke did nothing wrong, they didn’t even know the meters had been blocked until Sparkfun wet their pants about it.. and somehow they are the bad guys for having a trademark.. not a patent or a copyright as people that have no idea but are rooting for sparkfun keep saying .. a ***TRADEMARK***.
    - They have a legal trademark, they weren’t the ones to enforce the trademark and cause Sparkfun’s stock to be blocked but they offered to give Sparkfun a bunch of free stuff that’ll have to be donated makerspaces, kids etc… and they are still Evil Big Multimeter(TM)?
    - Sparkfun’s purchaser imported a bunch of meters that are probably dangerous if you use them for anything aside from measuring low voltage stuff and clearly intended to look like a Fluke at first glance (hint: this is why the customs guy blocked them.)… Sparkfun should make sure what they are importing isn’t likely to get blocked before importing it especially if the stock is worth as much as they say it is. It doesn’t matter if you agree with Fluke’s trademark or not. It exists, deal with it. Importing stuff that is likely to get blocked and then acting hard done by on social media shouldn’t be how they do business. This isn’t The Man trying to wipe out the little guy. This is the little guy not doing his homework.

    1. No, customs blocked the import because Fluke applied for and was a granted an ITC exclusion order over lookalikes. So they know very well what they are doing.

      1. >Fluke applied for and was a granted an ITC exclusion order over lookalikes.

        So Fluke asked for a block of *all* lookalikes with their legally registered trademarks. They didn’t ring up customs and say “what out for a shipment addressed to Sparkfun.. we want it blocked”. So Sparkfun making out that Fluke directly targeted their stock is a complete and utter lie. Even if Fluke did ring up customs to have that shipment blocked they are well with their rights to do so.

        And you don’t think it was up to Sparkfun to at least check if there was anything that might stop $30,000 worth of Fluke lookalikes coming into the US? And then instead of contacting Fluke and working it out they posted their side of the story on their blog and made Fluke out to be some terrible “trademark troll”. If anything this shows that Sparkfun need to get their shit together.

  32. What a load of USA garbage. If this was allowed we would have car manufactures all trying to invent new colors because one or two companies had trade marked all the other colors.
    Fluke should have done the right thing by telling US customs that it was OK for Sparkfun to receive those meters. But hey its the US – they will patent everything and anything even if they didnt invent it

  33. Since when do people, especially hackers, makers, etc. follow the law, because its the law. I can’t believe how many people are justifying the acts of the customs, or penalizing Sparkfun just because of a trademark and the laws surrounding it, whether or not it was a violation. These laws were written by man, why would any sane person follow blindly what someone else wrote down with ink onto paper. The government is not GOD, please stop worshiping it as one. People no smarter than I or you wrote those laws, not GOD, which means if you logically calculate a flaw in said law or system it is your moral and ethical right not to follow it, no man or woman is your master, nor should you allow them to be. A Fluke is a fluke because its a fluke, and Sparkfun is a Sparkfun because its a Sparkfun. Sparkfun did not try to clone or counterfeit a fluke device. The shipment didn’t label them as fluke, nor to be sold on the gray market as fluke. If fluke looks cool, what the hell is so wrong with other people copying them, does everyone really want to have to spend hundreds of dollars just to get a nice looking DMM? This same exact thing is going on between Samsung and Apple, now who the hell bought a Samsung thinking it was an Apple? Hmm, anyone? Thats correct no one, reality says Apple is in the wrong, morally, and ethically wrong. A company has the right to protect themselves from being cheated, swindled, scammed, or bamboozled, the is the reason behind why the law was introduced, now which one was being violated. Stop making the argument, “drrr. because thats what the law says”, get a clue.

  34. This little brouhaha reminds me of something that happened years ago.
    Back in the 1950s a fellow named Javan Keith open a surplus store in Nashville TN and named it Javanco.In the 80′s Keith’s son, Javan Jr took over the business and built it into a well known electronics supplier.
    In the mid 90s, while defending the Java trademark, Javanco was sent a cease and desist by a law firm representing Sun Micro-systems. The Nashville Scene newspaper had a nice article about it. http://www.nashvillescene.com/nashville/a-raizin-by-a-sun/Content?oid=1180499
    Apparently the law firm did an internet search for urls containing the string “java”.. In the end Javanco received an apology from Sun and a lot of people had a good laugh over it.

  35. If it wouldn’t be for FLUKE then Apple would be all over them, those meters have round corners, don’t they?

  36. No one EVER spent $15 on a multimeter and expected a FLUKE. Period. Just as no one EVER bought a Samsung phone and thought they were getting an iPhone.
    What bugs me is that MY customs agents at all ports are actively looking for crap like this? It is the customs agents call? Does FLUKE pay these guys? Sorry, not a Danaher fan, parent of Fluke, Tek, Keithley, etc. All bean counters, no engineers in management.

  37. The amount of ignorance here is astounding. The comments are full of people confusing trademark, patents and copyrights. They aren’t even close to the same thing. Even the article itself falls prey to a common myth:

    “Before we sign off let’s touch on the trademark issue for just a moment. We can’t really blame Fluke too much for this. The legal crux of the matter is you either defend your trademark in every case, or you don’t defend it at all.”

    This is simply NOT true.

    https://www.eff.org/deeplinks/2013/11/trademark-law-does-not-require-companies-tirelessly-censor-internet

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