Arduino v. Arduino

Arduino LLC is suing Arduino Srl (the Italian version of an LLC). Sounds confusing? It gets juicier. What follows is a summary of the situation as we learned it from this article at MakeMagazin.de (google translatrix)

Arduino LLC is the company founded by [Massimo Banzi], [David Cuartielles], [David Mellis], [Tom Igoe] and [Gianluca Martino] in 2009 and is the owner of the Arduino trademark and gave us the designs, software, and community support that’s gotten the Arduino where it is. The boards were manufactured by a spinoff company, Smart Projects Srl, founded by the same [Gianluca Martino]. So far, so good.

Things got ugly in November when [Martino] and new CEO [Federico Musto] renamed Smart Projects to Arduino Srl and registered arduino.org (which is arguably a better domain name than the old arduino.cc). Whether or not this is a trademark infringement is waiting to be heard in the Massachussetts District Court.

According to this Italian Wired article, the cause of the split is that [Banzi] and the other three wanted to internationalize the brand and license production to other firms freely, while [Martino] and [Musto] at the company formerly known as Smart Projects want to list on the stock market and keep all production strictly in the Italian factory.

Naturally, a lot of the original Arduino’s Open Source Hardware credentials and ethos are hanging in the balance, not to mention its supply chain and dealer relationships. However the trademark suit comes out, we’re guessing it’s only going to be the first in a series of struggles. Get ready for the Arduino wars.

We’re not sure if this schism is at all related to the not-quite-open-source hardware design of the Yun, but it’s surely the case that the company is / the companies are going through some growing pains right now.

Thanks [Philip Steffan] for the pointer to the MakeMagazin.DE article. (And for writing it.)

104 thoughts on “Arduino v. Arduino

    1. Eu sou brasileiro, mas também rio das piadas dos italianos sobre eles próprios.
      I am brazilian, but I laugh with italian jokes about themselves.
      Io sono brasiliano, ma anche io rido de le scherzi de gli italiani su se stessi.

  1. Well, that explains why the person I was working with at Arduino on an arduino@heart product launch abruptly left the company, and why they’re no longer responding to any of my emails about finally getting an agreement signed, at least.

      1. Yes indeed. I’d been postponing the Kickstarter launch of my product for this; fortunately I’d just decided to give up on them and launch without the Arduino trademark anyway.

        1. Generally a good plan regardless. If you’re fast, if you’re smart, if you want to get things done in this world, the worst thing you could ever do is chain yourself to the reliability of others.

          My motto is; give someone with a “vested” interest one clear shot at giving you their input / agreement / whatever. Then proceed as if you’ll never hear from them again; 80% of the time, you’ll be right!

      2. Wilfred, that is sort of like working for IBM, when the local plant had layoffs, we heard it through the grapevine or read it in the evening newspaper. (Unless we, of course, were one of the victims of that “resource action”).

    1. Oh please don’t say that, I feared this at the mentioning of this story in the comments on the Yun article. I am also working on a product that I want to carry the Arduino at heart branding but IDK if that will be possible without delays due to this drama.

  2. So the real arduino killer is arduino.

    Sad to see another cornerstone of open source seem to enter troubled waters. If you remember back a few years Vaderbot also had its borderline period. Hopefully these guys love of what they do grounds them again and gets them thru this . In the end though usually desire for more money wins over nationalism.

  3. Maybe this also explains why Arduino.cc has recently poured quite a bit more work into the software lately, and finally released version 1.6.0 after more than 2 years of “beta” 1.5.x?

    Looks like Arduino.org forked the software a couple months ago. They have their own github repo and slightly different version. Browsing the commit log on github, it’s pretty clear they’ve been only “rebranding” the bootloaders, USB ID numbers and other fairly superficial changes.

    That’s a pretty stark contrast to the very substantial software development happening in Arduino.cc’s code.

    1. it wasn’t JUST arduino. Atmel has been working with them to develop 1.6, you can now find most of the arduino examples and devices are supported in Atmel Studio 6, a much better IDE.

    2. Paul, you of all people know well that for years now lord Banzi did little to improve the Arduino IDE. Many people like yourself made improvements and patches, and only in the last year or so has there been a meaningful effort to integrate these into the IDE. All the while people like Mikael have done way more for the cause of open-source software for arduino compatible hardware than Banzi and his minions, and without any ‘you should buy my hardware’ guilt trip.
      http://github.com/mikaelpatel/Cosa
      Banzi’s attitude is contrary to the open-source philosophy. Once the hardware became popular enough so that the Asian clone makers got into the market, Banzi started crying foul. The irony is that Arduino would be nothing without open-source hardware and software, having been based on the open-source Wiring software and hardware.

      1. Massimo Banzi really don’t deserve so much of blame for Arduino’s early days of rejecting nearly all contributions. Towards the end of that dark period, Massimo actually put quite a lot of effort into reforming their process. In the last couple years, under Cristian Maglie’s leadership, things have improved dramatically.

        It’s easy to feel frustrated. I know I have at many times. It’s also easy to under-appreciate the tremendous pressures and number of little day-to-day issues in running a project like Arduino with a dual nature of open software and commercial hardware sales.

        I think Massimo is genuinely a good man who’s trying to do the best he can. Not every decision and direction he’s made was necessarily the best, but also I think he’s made a lot of good calls on very difficult subjects.

      1. +1 . With boards like the Pro Mini in under 2$, there’s no going back once you get one of these.

        I have an Arduino Nano which I bought for some 4$ and that thing has a CH340G USB-Serial converter. I’m so happy I brought one to experiment with. It *just* works (with Linux & Stino) and isn’t going to get bricked anytime soon like the FTDIs.

        1. Wow, those have dropped quite a bit.

          $2.04
          Buy It Now
          +$0.12 shipping

          Qty 1, delivered price of $2.16? Unofficial of course but when do we see UNO’s and MEGA’s start to drop in price?

        2. +1 on the “off-brand” producers being the final winners; when lawyers start arguing among themselves about technology, good things seldom happen for the actual user.

          As far as the CH340G goes, they work great BUT it would be nice if they actually told you about these as you got them since they require a sorta-hard-to-find driver download to work with the IDE on Windows.

          1. I bought a bunch of those AVR+CH340G boards and they worked great in linux. Then i went to use it with a Windows7 machine and the driver kept BSOD’ing Windows. At least they’re still good to use as I2C IO expanders.

          2. I ordered one that came with CH340G (i was so happy not FTDI or FTDI clone) and i was preparing by downloading drivers (even though i was not sure at that point what chip it came with), but i didn’t need them. Win 7 installed the driver for the CH340G, so i was up and running immediately.

  4. All good things implode into a cloud of greed. Not really that surprising.. I just wish that other small processors like the MSP430 had the buttloads of libraries, documentation and guides that the arduino project has.

    1. “All good things implode into a cloud of greed.” Spoken like someone who doesn’t actually have any experience as anything other than a wage earner–and doesn’t recognize their own greed. Greed is what drives virtually the entire human race. It is a good thing, since it provides the motivation to create and DO things. You know like creating those ‘buttloads of libraries, documentation, etc…’

      Whether the ‘greed’ is for money, recognition, etc… The desire to receive SOMETHING in exchange for our labor is universal. It is the primary motivation for the vast majority of our technology.

    2. TI actually managed to get a rather good community going about four years ago when they released the $4.30 Launchpad. Unfortunately, TI has been completely inept working with this community and has now all but died.

      TI put all of their eggs into developing Energia, but managed to piss of the lead community contributor who left.

      TI did a good thing by trying to legitimize the gcc port by incorporating it into the mainline tree, but managed to piss off the lead (and pretty much only) mspgcc developer who has since stopped supporting his work. Meanwhile the legitimate port has been released with fundamental design issues and appears to have stagnated with no resolution in sight.

      All of TI’s community outreach people seem to have disappeared. Whether this is because they got fired as a result of incompetence or left because the people above them were clueless is still unknown.

      In any case, it is all rather sad because the MSP430 is my favorite small-system architecture.

      1. I thought I had kept half-an-eye on the MSP430 community, but I hadn’t noticed any of this. Can you point to some specific conversations on 43oh, TI, mspgcc, or Yahoo groups that have more details?

  5. One significant unanswered question: Who’s manufacturing the Arduino? Both sites claim to be; arduino.cc directs you to their own store, while arduino.org references distributors worldwide (Farnell, Mouser, etc).

    1. The power of Arduino is neither the IDE (plain terrible) nor the hardware which is nothing more than a few parts stuck around a data sheet circuit, its power is rather the vast library of functions, the bootloader which eases programming and the community that grew around the platform.

      1. That’s right – now. But Arduino had to get there first, and for getting there the cross-platform IDE and the simplicity of getting started (getting that LED blinking) was a great motivation that attracted the crowd necessary to create all those beautiful libraries.

          1. Obviously you haven’t tried any recent version of Arduino.

            I fixed unix select-paste in April 2013. My fix was quickly accepted into the Arduino code base. All recent versions have unix “middle button” select-paste working properly.

        1. This is very true and they will be in the history books for that, but that only goes so far. If they turn off the community with all this drama, they will be easily and quickly replaced.

          I have no problem with them making money on an open-source project. Honestly, I think their business model is pretty ingenious for that reason. But they are better off just enjoying their share of the market, coming up with new models leveraging off their own name, and not waste their time attacking others for clones and spinoffs. They just come out of that looking like assholes.

    2. Arduino is literally just porting C in a standard way to a host of micro-controllers and small ARM cores. It’s not hard to do at all; it’s literally just a common bootloader written in platform X’s language of choice. Essentially the same thing as LUA for ESP (except running compiled vs running interpreted).

      If the community wanted a drama and politics free version of arduino, then it would only take a few developers a few months to complete for a range of MCUs and ARMs.

  6. Well… maybe this explains a question I had.
    How does Arduino really make money? Sure they sell lots of dev boards, but the chip and firmware are free to use.
    Do you have to pay trademark fees to say: Arduino Inside? How much does that set you back?

    1. You can pay Arduino 3-5% of wholesale for an “Arduino at Heart” certification, which lets you use that logo, and comes with some promotion from them, etc. That is, if they ever get around to signing the contract they send you.

  7. Let’s talk about what is the essence of Arduino? First it is hardware platform which is nothing special. The majority of people begin doing boardduino after the first few designs.

    So, then we have the bootloader. I haven’t delved too deeply into the bootloader in quite a while, but I don’t recall it being anything special. STK500 based, right?

    And of course, you have the Arduino IDE and core files. Much of the core files have had so much contribution from the community, it would be very difficult to ever try to close source it. And most of the useful libraries are written by the community. So that leaves the IDE, which many people stop using once they take the training wheels off.

    So, at the core, Arduino is a bootloader which allows easy uploading of code, and a toolchain with incorporated libraries. Not something that couldn’t be easily duplicated.

    The staggered and oddly spaced headers were an immediate sign for me that the intention was to monetize this as much as possible right from the beginning. There is no other reason for it, imo.

    I do hope that Arduino understands how easily they can be replaced. The community that has been contributing for years could have their own core, bootloader, and libraries up and running in a very short time. There are several IDE options already out there now.

    With the way Arduino has attacked people and companies in the past, it shows the spirit for truly open-source is not really there. It’s almost as if they want to call it open-source, but you’d better not compete in any way and want to control everything. The spirit of open-source just isn’t there to me. And again, the product itself is really nothing special.

    It will be their death knell to do anything to piss off their community. They would be better off just enjoying the chunk of market they are getting and stop making moves to look greedy.

    1. The Arduino IDE is just a rebranded fork of the Wiring IDE, which in turn is derived from something called Processing. Most of the core libraries were forked from Wiring too. About the only thing Arduino contributed was the brand and the hardware platform; even their core mission (allowing users with little programming experience to create interactive projects) is a clone of Wiring’s.

  8. Off topic, but related:
    I could of sworn that there was a recent article about a totally new Arduino IDE, but I can’t find it. Am I crazy? Any suggestions for a simple IDE that is better than the current one, but much lighter weight than Eclipse or Visual Studio? It looks like I could use Notepad++ pretty easily, anything similar that can do git and a serial monitor window?

      1. I have the PIC version, both the dev system and compiler, not cheap but well worth every Euro I paid for it. Not sure if I will get the AVR version though since that platform is much better integrated in OSS dev systems than the PIC one.

    1. I replied in the wrong place before. There’s also UECIDE. It’s very flexible and easy to use. Also compiles code very fasst as it re-uses previously compiled libary oject files – making code recompiles almost instant. It’s also supposed to support chipKIT and Launchpad in addition addition to the Arduino platform. I haven’t tried those, but It does support Arduino / Teensy / Digistump by just selecting the boards you want to work with.

      http://UECIDE.org

  9. the moral of the story is that if you want a successful company, hire a good lawyer, it’s more important to your success than the reflow oven or the pick and place equipment. Your friends might be your best friends and you’ve known them since childhood but they will turn on you and throw you in the gutter when the money starts to flow if they get a chance. get a lawyer!

  10. historically, the bigger company wins any lawsuit for anything.
    take redbull for example.

    it was BEER years and years before energy-drink was even an idea.

    then some teenage facebook BS comes along and has the stones to
    sue the beer brewery for using the same name!?!?!

    they were here FIRST!!!
    the energy-drink company stole from them!

    and children???
    are you kidding me?
    you need an ID and be of age to buy alcohol from an alcohol-selling store.
    its not like the grocery store sells alcoholic-beer, only non-alcoholic beer
    and coolers (half a % alcohol)
    theres no mistakes, ever.
    they only sell BEER at a BEER store duhhh )(*$%()@#%)&9wq8

    or did you actually think a 7 year old would walk into a beer store
    and expect them to sell an energy drink containing no alcohol.

    what kind of judge rules like this? this is not the law?!?!?!
    that judge should be ashamed, while in jail for bribery.

    but unfortunately, this seems like the new-norm.

    PS: around here, the beer store doesnt even sell non-alcoholic beer that i know of

  11. I tried the YUN a couple of times. It was put on the market way too early, and is still missing a few pieces of code to make it the Good Thing it ought to be. Is Arduino going to be a victim of it’s own success?

  12. Arduino is so big that two companies are suing each other over the spoils, and “an arduino” is now a standard building block, and the word is now the “Kleenex” of microcontroller boards …

    … and yet, they still have a horrific, shoddy, buddy build system.
    There are so so many options for build systems. Make, CMake, Ant, Maven, Gradle, SCons, etc. And Arduino refuses to use any of them.
    It wouldn’t even be hard to port it over. Hell, I am going to go and do it right now …

  13. All these people who don’t understand the difference between “I could do that” and “I could orchestrate support for a million clueless users of that, for the next decade.”

      1. And while doing all that, develop a sustainable business model that funds continued software & hardware & community development, in a market increasingly populated with loss-leader hardware from semiconductor manufacturers and rapidly produced clones from by major-name retailers (Seeed, Sparkfun, etc) and later by no-name Asian companies.

  14. I wonder how much this is precipitated by the Arduino Zero? The arduino.org half seems to be selling that already, at ~$45. I’m thinking that the arduino.cc folk might see that as a bit silly (given $35 Raspberry Pi and $20 Teensy3), thus the new interest in adding a broader base of manufacturers.

  15. It’s a fascinating development.

    It seems to be a catch 22, you need to claim to be open source to get any traction but you need to retain some level of IP to make enough money to keep doing what your doing.

    With open source hardware Arduino ends up following the ‘commodity economic model’ where advantage goes to lowest margin producer a.k.a China. Furthermore with the cloners in full swing any licensed manufacturer would at a disadvantage.

    All signs of Arduino historic inactivity point to the idea that they just have not been making enough money to push forward on what they have started. I think a certain amount of honesty is needed about this.

    So in the end Arduino has basically become a donation based business model – donate to us by buying our official (much more expensive ) hardware because you ‘care’ about us. Not sure how that will work out in the end.. do people really care?

    Others have seen the weakness in this business model and have stepped in. It’s unclear if this is good or bad but it’s certainly the market at work.

    In the long run a business model that provides the income needed to deliver continuous innovation ( as opposed to just fortuitously re-branding other peoples work ) is needed despite Utopian dreams of having others slaving away for your own personal gain.

    Maybe this means Arduino leadership (whoever that turns out to be!) needs to add more than just open-everything to the mix to secure an income stream. Or maybe it really is just a wikipedia donation model. But just please be clear about your goals. At least a commercial entity is a commercial entity. Can an open-source hardware be a genuine business – not so sure? I haven’t seen one in the wild as an example. By that I mean over the long run – not just a quick hit rebranding someone else’s work.

    If you find one Arduino LLC perhaps can learn from it. In the meantime maybe a wikipedia donation model makes it all clearer with Massimo doing one of those Jimmy Wales appeals adverts on the front page.

    Will be following with keen interest.

  16. never been one for militant vandalism and douchebaggery, but I reeeeally wanna DDOS arduino.org after this bullsh!t.
    its juvenile pandering at best, and an affront to arduino and the maker community at worst. and the inclusion of any ‘non-licensed boar warning’ makes me wanna take a rape shower and scrub my soul clean. its exactly what the REAL arduino is against!

  17. this all matter has been handled very poorly, i guess it all comes down to money losses and not really about the makers and hackers unfortunately….,

    when the arduino original brand is selling double the arduino clones one has to wonder why lot of people started to buy these instead of the original?!

    and stopping or trying to stop people to buy and used these is just a punch in the world of open source and open market. no wonder and after loosing for so many boards out there in the market they now want to go to US in the hope to try to change things… and by join the adafruit which is a great bunch of people of makers is a smart move..

    do not take me wrong i do support the arduino group but i do also support a lot of other arduino world boards and movements and i do not need them to be called arduino to buy and use them… what i need to is get a quality and a low cost board and if this is/was a success is because we all contribute one way or another…

    genuino brand just makes me laugh, is not about the word but the idea behind, which is a tricky way to force and overprice the boards…

    i guess only time will tell how this is move will be… but i already make my very own “houseino” board at $5 not bad at all ;)

    1. You’re missing the point. There is no “real”. The Arduino.org folks were the previous manufacturers of the boards. The Arduino.cc folks are now getting their boards made elsewhere. Them’s the facts. The rest is marketing spin and legal conflict.

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