[Federico Musto] of Arduino SRL Discusses Arduino Legal Situation

Recently we had the opportunity to sit down and interview Arduino SRL’s CEO, [Federico Musto], over a nice dinner. His company is one half of the Arduino vs Arduino debacle which has pitted Arduino.cc against Arduino.org in a battle over the trademark on “Arduino”.

Given the tremendous amount of press coverage of [Massimo Banzi] and the Arduino LLC side of the story (Arduino.cc), we were very interested in hearing how the whole situation looks where [Frederico Musto] sit (Arduino.org). In the end, we came away with what we feel is a more balanced and complete picture of the situation, as well as interesting news about future products from the Arduino SRL camp. [Musto’s] take on the legal proceedings, both past and present, is nothing short of fascinating.

open-source-hardware-summit-speech-2011-8-1024

A Quick Refresher

Unless you’ve been sitting under a large chunk of fused silicon, you’ve probably read or heard something about the battle of the two Arduinos. Founder [Massimo Banzi] and the rest of the Arduino crew planned to make an affordable, accessible microcontroller/physical computing platform based on the software project (Wiring) of one of his students, [Hernando Barragán]. In 2004, [Gianluca Martino], one of the Arduino founders, and [Daniela Antonietti], later Arduino LLC CFO, founded Smart Projects SRL and started cranking out Arduino boards. That much of the history of the Arduino is non-controversial.

Money started flowing in, Arduino LLC was founded in the US in 2008, and tensions started building between the software-and-documentation side (Arduino LLC) and the board-building side (Smart Projects SRL). In 2014 Smart Projects (in Italy) changed its name to Arduino SRL, was bought by [Federico Musto], and all heck broke loose, not necessarily in that order.

The Past, According to [Musto]

The central issue of the Arduino schism is who owns the trademark to the “Arduino” brand. In the USA this is currently Arduino LLC, although Arduino SRL filed a petition to invalidate this trademark and this isn’t likely to be resolved until early 2016. (Naturally, Arduino LLC has mounted its own counter-suit in the States.)

In Italy, Switzerland, and probably the rest of the world, the trademark appears to belong to Smart Projects, now Arduino SRL. This is because Smart Projects filed for the trademark in Italy in December 2008, just months after the legal incorporation of Arduino LLC, which only got around to filing in the Spring of 2009. This is, naturally, also being contested in Italian courts by Arduino LLC.

That’s the mess. How did we get in it? Arduino LLC claims that [Gianluca Martino] didn’t inform them of the Italian trademark until it was granted in 2010. Why would one member of the Arduino core team go rogue and trademark the name without telling the others? [Federico Musto]’s telling of the tale makes [Gianluca]’s preemptive trademarking action seem a lot more plausible, if still not entirely above-board.

open-source-hardware-summit-speech-2011-16-102008 was the year of the big Arduino breakout. Sales had crossed over 100 boards per day and Smart Projects was having a hard time keeping up with demand. At this point, it started to look like there was real money to be made in Arduino, both for companies with scruples offering Arduino add-on shields, and for companies without scruples selling Arduino-branded knockoffs of the “official” boards. How to handle the clones and make money off of the Arduino brand was on everyone’s mind within the Arduino group, but there was disagreement about just how to do it.

Mopen-source-hardware-summit-speech-2011-9-1024eanwhile [Gianluca Martino] and [Daniela Antonietti] at Smart Projects had just built out their production line to keep up with demand for the boards. Funding these investments wasn’t easy. Among other sources of money, [Daniela Antonietti] had mortgaged her house to pay for a professional reflow oven. It probably seemed very important to [Martino] and [Antonietti] to safeguard their personal investments in the Arduino project from the waves of unauthorized clones. They took matters into their own hands, allegedly behind [Banzi]’s back, and trademarked “Arduino”.

Substantiating all the details of [Musto]’s version of [Gianluca]’s story is impossible and probably devolves fairly quickly into he-said, she-said and hearsay, so we’ll keep it short here. But anyone who’s worked in a team knows how a single individual can come to dominate a discussion, leaving other parties feeling marginalized and isolated, and we can also understand the temptation to act in defiance.

We can imagine how this feeling must be multiplied if a disproportionate percentage of your investment is in play. [Musto]’s telling of the story is that the financial risk undertaken by the Smart Projects team was under-appreciated by [Banzi], and that [Martino] was acting in the financial equivalent of self-defense as the only production-side interest within the Arduino five and as the CEO of Smart Projects.

Arduino certainly wouldn’t be where it is today if [Martino] and [Antonietti] hadn’t taken the risk to pony up the money and build out the one assembly line that was turning out Arduinos in 2008. The key to Arduino’s success was the merger of firmware and documentation with a hardware-based physical computing platform. Both parts are necessary, but building the hardware required more capital and involved real financial risk.

So is Arduino SRL or Arduino LLC the “real” Arduino? We think both are. Unfortunately, nobody’s asking us; the question is playing out in Italian and US courts.

Laundry List of Lawsuits

Lawsuits have been the order of the day, and it turns out we only knew about the tip of the iceberg. Previously, we’d reported on Arduino SRL’s petition to cancel Arduino LLC’s trademark in the USA and on Arduino LLC’s tit-for-tat suit to cancel Arduino SRL’s trademark in Italy. But [Federico Musto] laid out for us a laundry-list of legal cases that we had no idea about.

When [Musto] bought out [Gianluca Martino]’s share in Arduino LLC as well as the Arduino SRL, he wanted to see the accounting of the companies that he had a 20% stake in. By this time, there was so much bad blood between [Martino] and [Banzi] that according to [Musto], they refused to show him the books. He took both the US Arduino LLC and the Swiss-registered Arduino SA to court and won, in separate cases in the US and Switzerland.

Remember that inclusion of a popup in the Arduino IDE that flagged all Arduino boards made by Arduino LLC SRL as being “unofficial”? Until the various trademark cases get resolved in court, this is possibly libellous. [Musto] told us that Arduino LLC only backed down from this position after Arduino SRL took legal action. (And we gave Arduino LLC credit for backing down off of a bad idea on their own.)

provvedimentoMost recently, Arduino LLC filed an injunction in Italy to prevent Arduino SRL from selling its Arduino boards due to trademark infringement. This was recently denied, and we’ve read the ruling from the court in Turin, Italy. It makes mention of the impossibility of Arduino LLC having controlled the Arduino brand as early as 2005, when Smart Projects was producing the boards under the Arduino name.

We’re not (Italian) lawyers, but the denial of the summary injunction in Italy seems to cast further doubt on Arduino LLC’s ability to prevail in Italy and use the Arduino trademark outside of the US. Hence the pivot to the “Genuino” brand name for sales of Arduino boards outside of the USA.

Overall, [Musto] expressed a bit of dismay at having walked into a full-blown feud when he bought Smart Projects from [Martino], and stressed the defensive nature of many of the lawsuits — responding to being barred from seeing the firms’ books and the IDE popup in particular. On the other hand, Arduino SRL did initiate proceedings against Arduino LLC in the USPTO case, and [Musto] also mentioned that his lawyers don’t like the “Genuino” brand and logo, and may be forced to take action against it.

In short, there have been a number of legal victories for Arduino SRL, but the two biggest cases are still outstanding. Both [Massimo Banzi] and [Federico Musto] have expressed their weariness at the continuing lawsuits, but both sides seem willing to file new ones. Until there’s a final decision reached in both Italy and the USA, we guess they’ll both have to suffer through.

Community Splits and Code Forks

It was also interesting to hear [Musto]’s side of the story behind arduino.org and the IDE’s code fork.

Because of their previous tight cooperation, [Gianluca Martino] and Smart Projects had all used the arduino.cc domain for their e-mail addresses. Arduino LLC, which had control of the domain, cut their e-mail off as in Fall 2014, leaving the entire Smart Projects / Arduino SRL team without business e-mail communications. They had to re-establish a domain and set up e-mail and business presences quickly once it was clear that Arduino LLC was going to try to shut them down. Hence arduino.org.

unnamed[Federico Musto] says he regrets the code fork, and wishes that Arduino SRL had just waited it out until the courts had forced Arduino LLC to remove their incendiary popup from the codebase. On the other hand, once Arduino LLC had shown that they were willing to play dirty with the IDE code, it hardly seems like a good idea to couple your livelihood to a (now-)rival firm that seems to be willing to single you out. (None of the truly counterfeit Arduino boards triggered the popup, only those made by Arduino SRL.)

In short, [Musto] explains a lot of the controversial actions on the part of Smart Projects / Arduino SRL as being a reaction to internal disagreements within the Arduino group, and subsequent aggressive actions by Arduino LLC. Contrary to the innocent picture of Arduino LLC painted by [Banzi], it’s clear that there’s been skulduggery on both sides of the aisle.

The Future

Until early 2016, when the USPTO ruling comes down, the two firms are in limbo. Ironically, this hasn’t really affected the end-hacker (read: us) at all. If anything, both firms have been doubling their efforts to sway us with not only their press propaganda, but also with their product and software offerings. How long will this last and what new stuff will the future bring? We asked [Musto] about Arduino SRL’s plans.

An Arduino Foundation?

Given that Arduino SRL and Arduino LLC may not ever settle their differences amicably, what is to become of the Arduino brand? [Musto] suggests a Solomonic solution: take control of “Arduino” out of the hands of any one person or company leave it up to a community-directed foundation.

[Musto] told us that he envisions an “Arduino Foundation” with clear and open balance sheets and a democratic governance structure. Think Mozilla Foundation mashed-up with Debian’s governance. The Foundation would be open to all stakeholders in the Arduino community. [Musto] said that he’s currently in the middle of paperwork, and that there will probably be announcements forthcoming. We discussed how such a foundation could also be used to funnel some money back to the Arduino community, because after all a lot of the success of Arduino is due to the code contributions of users.

New Products, New IDE

[Federico Musto] describes himself as a “software guy” with a penchant for radio frequency hardware. Given the former, he said he’s surprised at how much time they’re spending on new physical product development, but his RF roots certainly show through. His design for what became the Arduino Yún, a Linux WiFi SOC combined with an AVR microcontroller, was [Musto]’s entrée into the Arduino universe, after all.

In this context, we asked [Musto] our $64k question: given that the Yún and similar boards face pressure from products like the ESP8266 from below and the Rasberry Pi from above, what is Arduino SRL’s direction going to be in the future. Bigger or smaller? Or staying in the middle? He replied that they have projects going at each scale.

logo_lininoOn the big end of things, we have the Yún and future Linux/microcontroller mashup devices, for which [Musto] and now Arduino SRL, is continuing development of its Linino distribution. Linino is an OpenWRT-based Linux distribution modified to play well with external microcontrollers. Linino’s killer feature, in our estimation, is the MCUIO subsystem, which gives low-level Linux driver access to the associated microcontroller(s) — pins on the micro appear as devices on the Linux filesystem. The marriage of a small embedded Linux with a microcontroller for I/O is clearly an interesting area right now, if only the communications between the two weren’t so difficult. MCUIO aims to change that.

On the smallest end of the spectrum, Arduino SRL is working on a new product line of tiny (think littleBits) interconnected devices, to be programmed using a visual, drag-and-drop interface. They’re also (all?) going to be wireless. This project is still in the beginning stages, but [Musto] suggested that he’d be interested in an early alpha release if folks were interested in developing code for the platform. We can’t wait to see it working.

ArduinoUnoSMD-flat-org

Uno-plus

And then in the middle of things, [Federico Musto] mentioned that there would be a forthcoming “Uno-plus” board with a yet-to-be-disclosed ARM chip on board coming out in the fall. The goal is essentially a supercharged Arduino form-factor board at a reasonable price.

We talked a lot about WiFi versus sub-GHz radios for IoT projects. Our experience is that the current crop of WiFi devices (the Hackaday-darling ESP8266 included) are power hogs, and not something you can run off batteries. [Musto] mentioned some new WiFi devices he’d seen, that aren’t yet in production, that will significantly help the WiFi power budget when they become available. Arduino SRL is looking to incorporate them into an IoT-style device when possible. Stay tuned.

dl78Hardware aside, both Arduino LLC and Arduino SRL are coming out with new IDEs, and they look a lot better than the previous incarnations. The Arduino SRL version is based on Javascript and Node.js, and uses Adobe’s Brackets editor. In short, it’s all caught up with today’s new hotnesses for web coders, which is probably a good thing. (Finally, code completion!) It’s still in alpha, but you’re welcome to check it out.

Conclusion

The Arduino vs Arduino courtroom drama makes for good popcorn time for us, and it’s undoubtedly nerve-wracking for the twin Arduini and all directly involved. But we’re also glad to see that both companies are continuing to innovate on the hardware and software fronts.

In retrospect, our question of market niche was off-base. Arduino SRL’s focus isn’t on a device scale as much as on the general merging of wireless technologies with microcontrollers, and developing the support software for Linux/microcontroller integration in a wireless context. As far as Arduino LLC’s new product directions seem to be wired and/or wearable, we wonder if there isn’t room in the hacker economy for both firms to flourish despite the trademark woes?

107 thoughts on “[Federico Musto] of Arduino SRL Discusses Arduino Legal Situation

  1. Arduino is a strange biotope… too many different & divergent breeds of boards.

    The simple ones which easily can be built at home sure still will have their fans for many more years but all these new beasts that only share that disaster of an IDE (to my rescue, there is arduino-mk!!!) and the name Arduino… I think they are the beginning of Ardiuno’s decay.

    The DIY community loving the old 8bit breed type of boards easily can live without arduino.cc and arduino.org and all the newcomers of boards have extremely attractive competitors from other manufacturers…

    I see a future for ATMegas on my workbench, but I will not bet a ¢ on a future for Arduino-dot-whatsoever…

    1. Relatively early on in Arduino, Masimo stated that making the project free and open served as protection so that the project could continue even if his employer tried to shut it down. It is great to know that the project is safe despite the current feud, unlike other microcontroller boards that require web-services to program or other goofy things like that.

  2. I find myself curious if anyone would be discussing this at all if Smart Projects hadn’t changed it’s name (douche move? Probably). I am of the opinion that this crap would have stayed mostly out of the limelight had Smart Projects not done that.

    I am picturing a pair of 3 year olds fighting over a single toy while there is an entire toybox spilled out across the floor.

    1. Ya, but the motives here are different. I don’t think it was out of spite necessarily. Since Smart Projects invested all the money, did all the engineering and fabrication, and owned the trademark; I think they truely feel that they are the original Arduino.

      All in all though, these guys (both parties) are the dumbest smart people I have ever seen.

    2. Read enough of Marchese Banzi’s statements, and you’ll see how he turns into a 3yr old when people question his authority or opinion.
      Also read his statements about clones before the LLC v. SRL spat. Banzi was mostly using guilt (classic plea to emotion logical fallacy) to get people to buy the official hardware rather than clones. I could easily see the SRL folks saying they wanted to protect their investment, and Banzi saying he’ll educate the community to do the right thing. Given Banzi’s ego, it’s no surprise the SRL folks decided to let him do his attack of the clones preaching, while at the same time covering their asses with the trademark registration.

      If Banzi was removed then there likely would have been no problems between LLC and SRL. But as Donald Trump proves, egotistical assholes attract lots of fans. :-)

      1. I think you’re overlooking a couple of issues. Committees don’t create excellence they create compromise. Leaders with passion and vision create excellence. Secondly, I believe there are some strong cultural nuances at play here.

        1. Leaders with closed minds and lofty ideas create a mess, which is what we have here.

          Not sure who I support here, who’s telling the truth, or if the given timeline is correct. But if I am to believe the timeline is straight, then I do understand the smart projects side. Any Venture Capitalist would tell you, they need assurance that any money laid out is protected for their best interest, you do that with a trademark.

          Could they have gone about it differently, maybe a joint ownership (if that’s possible)? transparancy is the best form of business, any thing else leads to problems.

        2. While I hate to show up and Godwin the place, someone has to…

          > Leaders with passion and vision create excellence.

          Hitler had passion and a vision. As did Stalin. As does/did pretty much every dictator actually, since that’s generally how one of only two ways most people become a dictator: have enough passion and vision to convince equally impassioned people to back your take over. The other way is to be the poor idiot that gets used as a figure-shield by the people with some passion and vision.

          I’m obviously not suggesting that every leader with passion and vision will turn out to be a sociopath, serial killer or genocidal maniac. What I’m saying is that passion and vision don’t automatically produce good things… one could argue they produce great, efficient or impressive things, things of great scope, but those are not necessarily good things.
          It could be said Hitler waged a war of great conquest, was highly efficient at systematic murder, and accumulated an impressive number of victories and territorial gains before he became too greedy for even for someone as screwed up as he was. I very much hope that I never encounter anyone who would say that any of these things were good or examples of excellence.

          Perhaps Banzi does have passion, vision and probably a touch of idealism. And those are certainly qualities that people should look for in a leader. They are not, however, excuses for displays of undesirable negative traits… if judging someone you should judge them as a whole, not as their best or worst aspects.
          Banzi does seem to demonstrate some admirable ideas, but it seems he may also be a liar, fraud and manipulator. But since I don’t know the full story, I’m not going to brand him a good guy or a bad guy… right now both sides are at the allegations stage, hence the “may” and “seems” above.

          1. Wow, get a load of your debating technique, invoking the names of Hitler and Stalin in a corporate technology discussion. Yikes! My comments were intended to be in the same vain as Jay Leno’s for example when he talks about his favourite cars resulting from one man’s vision (like Mr. Lamborghini) not a committee. Ion musk would be a good modern day example of a visionary leader. All of these leaders come with as many warts and the next person and in fact many visionary inventors /entrepreneurs end up being terrible business people managers, perhaps that factor is at play here. Cheers.

          2. Woo comment depth limit ¬_¬

            Glenn, I agree it’s not generally good debate technique to Godwin, I did so only because I wanted to provide an unarguable example of how the generalisation is flawed.
            Elon Musk is certainly a good example of these traits resulting in someone most people would consider admirable, and I think for all his flaws Bill Gates might be another. The problem is that it gets murky when coming up with examples because these people are so essentially polarising.
            I personally think that Larry Page and Sergey Brin over at Google meet the grade of admirable, but I know plenty of people will argue that they’ve gone to the dark side.
            I personally think Steve Jobs, while definitely having vision and passion, was a terrible person for most of his life… I doubt that statement will stand long without someone criticising it but hopefully they’ll agree that his influence is a lot of the reason Apple produces such locked down products and sues the crap out of anyone that tries to compete.

            There’s also the matter of Sir Clive Sinclair… a man who no one can really doubt has passion and vision, yet screwed up repeatedly with such disasters as the Sinclair C5.

    3. But it is the NAME recognition! How many budding artists would buy a rose by any other name?
      If some one said “I did it with an Arduino board”, and their newbie friend wanted to duplicate what they had done,
      they might pause and think twice about buying a GEMduino, an AXTduino, a FARTduino, or a DuinDuino…

    4. This is not even half the story – more like 10%, the 10% that make glosses over the real dispute.

      “2008 was the year of the big Arduino breakout. Sales had crossed over 100 boards per day and Smart Projects was having a hard time keeping up with demand. At this point, it started to look like there was real money to be made in Arduino”

      ” In 2014 Smart Projects (in Italy) changed its name to Arduino SRL, was bought by [Federico Musto], and all heck broke loose”

      Those are the only two parts of Musto’s fairy tale that are likely to be true. The rest sounds too much like self-serving propaganda.

      e.g. even if Smart Projects had taken the trademark without telling Arduino LLC, why did they then consistently refuse to assign it to its rightful owner, Arduino LLC? “Manufactured under license from Arduino by SMART PROJECTS” is what it says on the packaging, no doubt who owns the trademark.

      It still reads like Foxconn saying “we own the “iPhone” trademark because we make the phones and we got bills to pay”.

      Musto saw a chance to capitalize on the dispute and make some money, he grabbed the opportunity with both fists. Should have asked him why he had to leave Red Hat, the truth of that never came out.

  3. So, if you boil this down to the essentials, somebody is mad because they released something under a license that permits commercial resale of derivative works and somebody decided to sell derivative works for profit? I get that you can’t ever completely eliminate the Richard Stallman types from the open source movement, but we’ve got to get rid of these anticapitalists who punish people for doing something the licenses permit. And while we’re at it, get rid of the people who think the Arduino IDE is good software. Ugh.

    1. Stallman is of the opinion that a license that prohibit commersial use can not be considered an open-source license. This topic is a major part of just about every speak he does. An ignorant capitalist you are.

  4. In french one would say: “beaucoup de bruit pour rien” (So much noise for nothing).

    There is so much good offers on the market right now, why bother about this.

      1. In Belgium we would say: “Een storm in een glas water” (A storm in a glass of water).
        Which is exactly what this is from our perspective. Even if one of them or even both .cc and .org got shut down, *duino would survive. It’s so widespread by now, you can’t kill it even if you wanted to.

  5. So they expect us to believe that you need to mortgage your house just to produce a silly two layer board? Italy is full of PCB assembly houses. I guess 500 Euros and a phone call is what it takes to start production . Why on earth somebody should buy his own assembly line is beyond my comprehension.

    1. I dunno if I comprehend it, but when volume of stuff to build changes orders of magnitude I can see it necessary to buy better equipment. The article makes it sound like some kind of risk but I wouldn’t be surprised if it paid off quickly.

    2. You’d be surprised how quickly in-house assembly crosses into profitable for reasonably technical people. Also… contract assembly is often more expensive than the parts for prototype quantities. If you want to use larger contract houses, they don’t even want to talk to you until you’re already big (or at least not small). If you’re targeting cheap boards, this matters a lot.

  6. “Contrary to the innocent picture of Arduino LLC painted by [Banzi], it’s clear that there’s been skulduggery on both sides of the aisle.”

    Other than refusing to open their books to a partner – which was clearly an ill-considered move – I haven’t heard of any skulduggery on Arduino LLC’s part yet, including in this article.

      1. Well, no, I don’t think that was “skulduggery” because it didn’t involve deception. Elliott makes a good point about disabling the email accounts without notice, though it seems far from clear to me what the _correct_ solution would have been in that situation.

    1. Maybe it’s just the Italian stereotype in me, (after all everybody knows stereotypes are true! B^)
      But opening “the books”?
      I’ve heard a lot of Italians have two jobs, one they report for tax purposes, and the other they don’t.

      Or,
      “What’s the difference between an American actuary and an Italian actuary?”
      The American actuary can tell you how many people will die this year, their ages, race, sex, income…
      The Italian actuary can name them.
      (rimshot!)

  7. I really don’t have patience for either side. Nor do I have patience for such a limited IDE or $30+ boards with 8 bit microcontrollers. If they were 32 bit uCs at that price, then I’d be more on board with it.

    That said, I don’t really buy this guy’s side of it when the packaging & included documentation for years said that the boards were made by Smart Objects SRL under license from Arduino.cc, so I don’t see where Smart Objects really could have legitimately held the trademark or owned any of the Arduino branding.

    1. The SRL claim is that, prior to the founding of Arduino LLC, they had put out the boards for 3-4 years (2005-2009) with the “Arduino” name on them. At this point, there was no trademark filed, so they’ve got good prima facie ownership of the brand. (Not a lawyer.)

      And they both _do_ have 32bit boards: the Zero is an ARM M0+ core, and the Due is an M3. (Someone should tell these folks that “due” means “two”.) The forthcoming “Uno+” from SRL will probably also make you smile.

      And then there’s Paul Stoffregen (PJRC)’s Teensy 3.x series boards. And theres STM’s Nucleo. And, and…

      The Arduino ecosystem is chockers with 32-bit machines but the Uno and the other 8-bitters still work just fine for many applications, which is why they’re still the top sellers and get the most press.

      Which is why your argument about 32 bits is 2x wrong: there _are_ 32-bit Arduinos, and there’s little demand for them b/c 1 bit is enough to blink an LED. :)

      1. A pity good prima facie ownership of the brand doesn’t count at all in Italy for Trademarks: what counts is the first who files it, even if you’ve used it for 30 years.

        1. SRL was also first to file in Italy. Still, there’s a pending suit, so it could go either way.

          In the USA, where LLC has the first trademark application, things are even more legally murky.

    2. I agree with lack of patience. I think the world is passing them by. It’s hard enough to be successful with everyone in an organization on the same page, let alone splitting and dealing with these kinds of spats.

      I don’t liken this debate to fighting three-year-olds – I think it’s more like a lazy teenager with a pretty good idea getting the rug pulled out from underneath by a greedier teenager with rich parents.

    1. You got us all wrong! We’re twice as bad as the other hacker-friendly news media sources — we’re trying to incite _two_ lynch mobs. (Street Fighter Voice) Fight!

      I kid. We’re stoked to have a sophisticated readership who appreciates it, so that we don’t have to go lowest-common-denominator, black/white journalism to get folks reading.

      To paraphrase Nate from Sparkfun: We’re not on either side; we’re on your side.

  8. I have an arduino board, actually my first one that I own. I like having it around, but thanks to this debacle, I really feel like sending in the board to PhotonicInduction and see him pop the stupid thing.

    Sure, it’s my first microcontroller board i’ve ever had, but really, arduino seems a million times more stupid than when i bought it.

  9. Official Arduino hardware is overrated & overpriced. The cheap Arduino board clones, Arduino ports such as ESP8266_Arduino/Energia/Maple/Stmduino/ChipKit e.t.c, the amazing Arduino community and Library support are the main reasons why Arduino continues to be relevant.

  10. It honestly sounds like LLC should have helped SRC with an investment for the reflow systems for mass board production, that the owners of SRC needed to mortgage their home I can see why they went out of their way to protect their investment. I’m guessing it just snowballed downhill from there though.

    1. But the only money that LLC had was what was coming in from SRC, right? What’s missing from both sides are financial details. Yes, actually manufacturing hardware is more expensive than writing software. But I’ve been assuming that Smart Projects was also keeping the bulk of the profits from the sales of the boards, with a “nominal” part sent off to Arduino LLC to support them.
      I’d also been assuming that “Smart Projects” was an existing Italian manufacturing company that was building arduino boards as part of their business. (Perhaps that is what they were hoping for?) If they were founded specifically to manufacture Arduinos, that does complicate the moral questions…

  11. Nice to hear the other side of the story, but I feel like there are a couple of strange things going on here…

    the line about envisioning a Arduino Foundation where everyone works together and then hinting that you are processing the paperwork for it while locked in a string of lawsuits with the original Arduino community doesn’t add up…

    I don’t see Arduino LLC folks participating in a foundation at this point, so it appears to be a 1-sided foundation.Starting a foundation at this point seems like an attempt to build a new community under the guise of democracy.

    I’m not trying to be 100% Arduino LLC here: I think there was some serious internal struggles and the team member who just happened to own the Italian patent and the manufacturing cashed in and walked away for some reason. I find it a little hard that the buyer was completely unaware of the infighting and I get the feeling he’s trying to make a buck on his investment.

    This/these cases should rightfully be retold to folks wanting to start up new businesses for years to come. Maybe you are a hobbyists and start selling, but one you do, get your ducks in order. Especially when you are selling an idea and licensing the manufacturing, you had better obtain the proper trademarks and patents.

    1. You’re right about the Foundation. Strategically, there’s little loss to SRL if control of the brand is given away, while it’s all that LLC has. I also guess that they’d be slow to join up, to say the least.

      But there’s bigger fish in the Arduino waters these days. Intel is the biggest, but it looks like Microsoft is starting to take Arduino seriously as well.

      Other chip manufacturers will doubtless also want to get on board. Atmel’s been the big winner from Arduino so far. I can’t imagine the other firms want to sit this one out.

      Total speculation on my part, but there you have it.

    1. I think the problem is that the Arduino system is probably the easiest for non-techie Artists to use. Looks at most of what Adafruit is doing anymore and they tend to be catering to the art crowd and adapting other uCs to the Arduino system.

      I suppose it’s probably good business to sell plug-and-play setups to artists.

      that said, I love the idea of a article or series on various alternatives for beginners or even next steps. I find a real jum from “Run this Arduino Library with these parts” to “Develop your own code for this other uC” so there has to be a middle ground I am missing.

      1. Your wish is my command!

        I just wrote up an “Embed with Elliot” column that’ll have a little bit of the “develop your own code” flavor to it, but it’s more focused on doing so by working through the Arduino codebase.

        Unfortunate spoiler: it’s going to involve learning C/C++ eventually.

  12. “Hey, murderer, did the big, bad victim make you feel bad, while you were stabbing him in the back? Tell us all about it, we want to hear your side of the story, expecially the part where you wore his skin as a jacket.”

  13. Their “story” of the Code Fork seems inaccurate. What I remember (and should be supported by the lovely history that github keeps):
    1) .org releases Arduino Zero, along with a fork of the IDE that works with it.
    2) .org changes VID/PID on older Arduino designs (eg Uno) being shipped through major distributors, and supports the new VID in their fork.
    3) This means that the .cc IDE *STOPS WORKING* on new boards people have purchased from Mouser, Digikey, Element14, etc.
    4) .cc is forced to do an emergency fix for this. Fortunately (?), they’re in the middle of major new releases anyway (1.5.x beta becomes 1.6), so there’s an easy vehicle. Unfortunately, they insert (and soon remove) the dig at “unofficial” boards.
    5) Divergence continues. .cc has a “board manager” for new (and/or 3rd-party) boards. .org does “Arduino Studio”, adds new hardware (Ethernet2, etc) .cc adds their “Zero” and “Gemma”

    1. The .cc IDE didn’t previously care about the USB ID at all, because it worked with serial devices rather than USB devices, which is a higher-level abstraction. So the Arduino SRL devices worked fine without any patch, as did Chinese clones with completely different VID/PIDs and different USB-to-serial chips with totally different drivers from the official boards – and those clones even continued to work without a warning after the patch. The VID check was added for the sole purpose of detecting Arduino SRL’s boards and labelling them as counterfeit.

      1. (The windows .inf files for the “Arduino Drivers” broke when the VID changed. Derivatives with “pure” USB/Serial converters that had a separate driver weren’t affected.)

        1. I have Arduino’s that don’t even have USB to Serial built in. I use a third party USB to serial Bridge that has nothing to do with Arduino so at leat in some cases the VID PID must mean nothing. I suspect that there’s a bit ot trusth in both versions here.

        2. The IDE uses the VID/PID to display a friendly name for a serial port, but you can select every available serial port normally. However, as WestfW points out, at least on Windows the driver needs to know about all VID/PIDs to connect the correct driver to the board, which makes the serial port available in the first place.

  14. Why on earth they invested in their own equipment instead of outsourcing to a company with more experience at these volumes (10-100k! seriously!) is beyond me… pretty much a bunch of really silly business decisions held together only by name brand recognition

  15. Microsoft should just buy both Arduino companies.
    MS is already partnering with Arduino.cc. They know all about lawsuits. They’ve done hardware before (excellent mice), and they have a lot of spare RF engineers from Nokia. I bet that Musto is business-minded, and would be satisfied with a profitable sale.

    (now this is popcorn time).

    1. Crawling back onto chair … When people ask me about M$ I always say they make good hardware. I suspect that it’s actually re-branded but all the same I am using a M$ mouse and I have been using it for years.

      Back on topic. I thought M$ were getting behind a visual programming language for Iot devices. That may well fill the void left behind from all the Arduino infighting. (SueDuino?)

      There are a lot of alternatives to Arduino now that have a similar learning curve ie – simple interface.

      There are also a number of alternate boards aimed at beginners that have block style or visual languages.

      I’m not against Arduino, in fact I was just now coding a new clock that uses neopixels for a friend. Arduino’s are great for proof of concept work or just working out the protocol that ‘x’ module uses before moving to another uC or and/or different code. I have modded my Arduino IDE to work with many ATmega chips and some oddball chips as well. It’s a quick tool that is useful for dong the basics.

      But Arduino’s days are done now. Many players have been waiting to get a market hold like Arduino has had and the recent infighting has been the catalyst for others to jump at the opportunity. Sure, Arduino isn’t going to disappear overnight but they have not lost momentum so it’s only time before they fade away.

      1. “… they have not lost momentum so it’s only time before they fade away”
        should be
        “… they have * lost momentum so it’s only a matter of time before they fade away”

  16. RÖB is on the right track. Talk about killing the goose that lays the golden eggs…
    Back to PIC chip programming, and leave the kids to squabble. Too many good alternative products and environments now.

    1. I wonder what the UNO+ thing will be. A 32-bit processor in a Uno form-factor, isn’t this what the Arduino M0 / Zero already is? In any case, naming this new thing UNO+ will probably be terribly confusing to the end users, since it seems like a Uno with just a few extra additions, while it is really a fundamentally different board…

      1. Raspberry Pi boards came in regular and “+” versions, and no one was confused… not sure why it would be different for UNO and UNO+. Probably less confusing as there is no A and B option too…

        1. Sure, but looking at for example the rpi B and B+, the latter adds a few features and pins, but the CPU is still the same, the same software will still run on it, etc. Completely changing out the CPU architecture isn’t a minor change. In theory, the Arduino environment should abstract this all away and it should not matter, but in practice not everything works completely portably (especially some libraries use AVR-specific code). Right now, a lot of users don’t even realize there are fundamental differences between a Uno and a Due (the latter already has a 32-bit ARM) and I’m afraid that this will be even more so if a Uno+ is released with an ARM chip too.

  17. I’m sorry but it’s hard to side with either when they charge £25 for a board with £2 of components on it. They don’t do any advertising, it’s all community driven. I’m completely behind making money from your work, but they don’t have anywhere close to that much in over heads. End of.

    1. I can’t look into the Arduino financials, but don’t forget that designing and testing a board, as well as developing software for it takes a massive amount of work. And people are expensive, often more than components (all depending on scale, of course). Of course there is a lot of community software, but Arduino (at least .cc, not sure about .org) also invests signficant effort in streamlining community contributions and ensuring code quality.

    2. Certain people will pay a premium for stuff that works and is supported. Look at Apple products. I have several and at the end of the day when I’m done wrestling with my work PCs, I open the iPad and it works.

      Thy are cheaper alternatives, but the pricing of a product is more than it’s components. I think Arduino thrives on the Art market when people are willing to pay the $$ for a product that works and has plug and play functionality for their projects. Sure, tinkerers can use the cheaper clone, but they are not always reliable, or have some bad soldering. the same things goes for the “novelty” market where someone want to buy a kit as a gift. They tent to want to make sure the board will at least work for the included demos.

      That said, for tinkering, I have not had issues with any cheap boards I have gotten aside from a few not wanting to take solder for headers.

      I’m not really sure that Arduino is really about learning Microcontrollers. It’s more like Lego for adults: building blocks for the imagination.

    3. I just don’t really feel 25 pounds is unfair for what you get when you purchase an Arduino microcontroller. Perhaps if it was a £2 pile of smd parts and an atmega chip it wouldn’t be worth as much. But someone layed it out nicely, put it on a board, added multiple ways to communicate with it, allowed you to power it very easily, gave you a handy IDE to use (which a lot of people are ripping on, compared to other tools to program microcontrollers it is incredible), annnnd threw in support to enable a community that will help you do anything you could dream of. There are a huge number of people getting into electronics now solely because they have heard the word “Arduino” somewhere, so I personally think they did something very good, and that it is well worth the price.

  18. I really appreciate your pursuing and posting a story from perspective of the other side. As outsiders, I don’t think we can ever really know who’s “right” in this situation. With so much press given to the Banzi side and so many nerds leaping to judgment, presenting the Musto side is a classy move on your part.

    From my perspective as an average nerd using Arduino for all kinds of things, until and unless (either) official Arduino starts producing cheap hardware, their relevancy has passed. If I were an Italian, I suppose it might be more important to me to support my fellow countrymen. As an American, I’m buying foreign whether I pay way too much for official hardware or get a deal on a Chinese knockoff. I like the idea of supporting creators/originators, but they’ve made plenty of dough (or, at least, had the opportunity to do so) at the prices they’ve been charging, and I’ve bought more than my share of their overpriced boards. Even with an unusually high amount of DOA hardware, the clones offer far more value.

    My new favorite thing is disposable, embeddable, suitable-for-virtually-all-purposes ~$2 Arduino Pro Mini clones. The shield concept is sorta-great for newbies, but it doesn’t take long to run up against the limitations of that approach. I’m much happier with a tiny, standardized brain module I can build around.

    1. I have a similar story. I have purchased a range of official boards and many many clones. I had one official board DOA and have never had a problem with the cheap clones. I use Nanos though as there a a little more breadboard friendly.

      I do like to support the creator but since I work in China and have access to very very cheap clones it simply does not make sense to buy original Arduinos any more.

      I am also one of the people that started with the Arduino. I now dabble with a range of different chips but would have never got in to microprocessors if it weren’t for the Arduino.

  19. And after all Arduino is incredible poorly designed board what fly only because of critical mass. How brain dead these guys was when they design that pcb where each hole is unlined to each other and spaces between pin headers are different. And dimensions are not whole numbers at metric or imperial system. If there is Italians behind this design it explains a lot.

  20. I think this (“Remember that inclusion of a popup in the Arduino IDE that flagged all Arduino boards made by Arduino LLC as being “unofficial”?”) needs to be corrected from “Arduino LLC” to “Arduino SRL.”

      1. Yeah, I see how one can misread it now. The author intended it to be read as “boards made by ____,” not “popup made by _____.” So, the popup flags boards made by Arduino SRL as being unofficial. Per his comment below, and looking at the article, I see his fixed it now. But, I do see how your alternate reading makes it read otherwise.

  21. Great real life story! But indeed seems like lawyers are again the only real winners here indeed. In the end both SRL/LLC got their hands full in paperwork and lawsuits and in return the competition (duino clones, pi’s, esp8266 etc. etc.) got more breathing room to catch up or rather eat up potential new customers/revenue from both SRL and LLC’s market. Somehow this seems so weird/twisted doesn’t it? Maybe there’s a ‘no cure no pay deal’ in the states. But pretty sure that’s not the case in Italy. So regardless if LLC or SRL go belly up or win or lose : the only ones sure to get paid either way are the Italian lawyers ?! Then again without any trademarks china and/or clones are free to roam and sell illegal copies. Ugh dunno, seems like an impossible puzzle currently. Still in any case thanks for making both the arduino and the IDE. It made the step to working with microcontrollers so much easier for engineers and aspiring kids around the world!

  22. Interesting article but again, as most of the other articles about Arduino, it misses a critical point by not mentioning the real pioneers that made Arduino possible:
    – Processing was developed by Casey Reas and Ben Fry and provides the IDE all the boards are using.
    – Wiring was developed as a thesis by Hernando Barragán and provided the framework used by all the boards.
    Arduino.ORG pays tribute to both of them openly, while Arduino.CC stays mum.

    1. I agree that Arduino.cc should make this *more clear* that they acknowledge Wiring and Processing, but they do indeed acknowledge them. This is from the bottom of their GitHub readme here: https://github.com/arduino/Arduino

      “Credits

      Arduino is an open source project, supported by many.

      The Arduino team is composed of Massimo Banzi, David Cuartielles, Tom Igoe, Gianluca Martino, Daniela Antonietti, and David A. Mellis.

      Arduino uses the GNU avr-gcc toolchain, avrdude, avr-libc, and code from Processing and Wiring.

      Icon and about image designed by ToDo”

      Additionally, if you look at the huge amount of work that went into making the gcc toolchain and avr-libc, and even processing, it seems to me, and I’ve read elsewhere states by others, that the wiring contribution, ***though significant and ingenious in making Arduino easy to use,*** is the smallest contribution of the above-named entities. This is because its core functions (ie: the bulk of what you see on Arduino’s main reference page: https://www.arduino.cc/en/Reference/HomePage), can be duplicated by an experienced programmer in just a few days, if only written for a single chip (ex: ATmega328).

    2. I still agree that Arduino.cc should make this link more visible on their front page, but they certainly aren’t mum about the contributions of Wiring and Processing. I just opened up Arduino 1.6.5-r2, and as it opened, on the image that pops up while you’re waiting for it to open, it says the following: “LEARN MORE ABOUT THE CONTRIBUTORS OF ARDUINO.CC on arduino.cc/credits.” I went to that page, and right up front, in the 2nd paragraph, it says:

      “Arduino was initially developed at the Interaction Design Institute Ivrea, in northern Italy. It derives from Wiring, a platform built by Hernando Barragan as his master’s thesis at Interaction-Ivrea. Hernando was advised by Massimo and Casey Reas. Wiring and, in turn, Arduino build on previous work by both Massimo and Casey — Massimo’s Programma2003 electronics prototyping platform and the Processing platform by Casey and Ben Fry. Early versions of both Wiring and Arduino also relied upon Pascal Stang’s avrlib libraries.”
      Source: https://www.arduino.cc/en/Main/Credits

      Arduino.cc isn’t mum on the issue of Wiring being a part of Arduino’s beginning, they’ve just moved past it is all…and Wiring supporters haven’t.–they are sad because even though they (Wiring itself) contributed to Arduino’s beginning, Wiring never took off like Arduino did, and it is dying/dead.

      I heard of Wiring the first time from that credits link above, about 3 yrs ago….weeks after I discovered Arduino. I went to the forums (http://forum.wiring.co/) to see if they were alive and well, and they were….about the same as they are now…pretty much dead. They just never took off. The world has moved on, so I must too. I’ve got to go where the community and support is, and that’s Arduino.cc. Oh, and over the last 3 yrs, Arduino.cc has increased its forum size and community support something like 8x, if I were to throw out an educated guess. Wiring…has it even grown at all since then?

  23. Something to say about “Among other sources of money, [Daniela Antonietti] had mortgaged her house to pay for a professional reflow oven.”

    Money is the root of all evil and lending money is the worst that corrupts the economic system. Aah, how obvious. See “Money as Debt” to understand!

  24. Who is to blame? The one who lifted the framework out of the educational open source realm into the commecrcial realm. There are many out there doing the same thing and I am not talking about Asian white label ‘counterfeits’. They don’t have any blood on their hands by selling ‘Arduino compatible’ boards. It’s open source right? But once you decide to use a common name and brand it you’re acting in mischief, period.

  25. Exactly, you are right.
    Casey Reas, Ben Fry and Hernando Barragan are unknown for Banzi.

    What is Arduino (LCC or SRL) ?
    – Language: a Wiring copy. Wiring was released in 2004, Arduino in 2005.
    – Boards: copy of Atmel demo-board,including Zero or M0-pro which are “adaptation” of Atmel Xplained Sam21.
    Arduino single invention: the 160 mils spaced connectors . !!!!!!!!!

    “Arduino” it’s just a volunteer comunity who has written most librairies.
    Arduino belongs neither to Banzi nor Musso, Arduino is ours and they should remember it.
    For these reasons I like the idea of Musso to create a foundation that would have the advantage of opening Arduino to other founder.
    The future of Atmel is uncertain since its owner announced he wanted to sell his share of the company.

    Another point Banzi, without realizing it, offered to Arduino LCC to Limor “Ladyada” Fried.
    Limor is a great technician and also a great businesswoman.
    She will not have failed to secure its investment with contracts issued by his lawyers.
    Now the real boss of LCC Arduino is Limor.

  26. Rename the whole mess to Hard-Whino , then dissolve it in muriatic acid.
    It’s time to move on beyond single source , underpowered 8 bit controllers like the AVR and move to the industry standard : ARM Cortex. Chips are available from many manufacturers and the ecosystem is much larger. You can get a 32 bit machine running at 70 MHZ + for 32 cents these days.

    1. 32 cents huh? Let’s see some links please.
      I’m ready to make the leap to 32-bit ARM but I’m pretty lost when I look at them. I’m good with the AVR, including using the timers/counters, pin-change and timer (output compare, overflow) interrupts directly, direct pin input/output manipulation, but when I open up a datasheet for a non-AVR chip, whether Atmel or something else, I’m pretty lost.

      I also recently downloaded Atmel Studio. It’s so weird in there. I don’t even know where to begin.

      1. Without commenting on the 32 Cents per chip issue …

        I have bought some of these –
        http://www.cypress.com/documentation/development-kitsboards/psoc-4-cy8ckit-049-4xxx-prototyping-kits

        They have an ARM Cortex M0 32 Bit CPU @ 48Mhz (42xx) or 24MHz (41xx) with a complete Programmable System On a Chip (PSOC) for $5USD and cheap shipping. Looks like you can’t go wrong.

        I ma having some trouble getting the correct version of the IDE software but all manufacturers seem to be lax at keeping their web sites up to date.

  27. Let’s do the math here…

    From the article, they say they were selling 100 boards a day in 2008.

    100 boards at $5 profit a board = $500 a day
    20K a month profit.

    Nobody mortgages their house when they are making 250K profit a year on one product, and that figure is rising.

    Assuming the sales hit 1000 boards a day (say, in 2011?):

    1000 boards at $5 profit a board = $5000 a day
    200K a month profit.
    2.4 Million a year in profit.

    There’s big money at stake here.

      1. > Uh, really? Why not?

        Because if you have that much cash rolling in, and it is consistently growing, and you are an established company (as Smart projects is/was), the bank will give you a loan.

    1. Growing so fast that you can’t afford to manufacture what you can sell is a very real problem that leads to all sorts of creative funding. If the numbers are big enough, this is one time to try to acquire venture funding. Otherwise, this is PRECISELY the time that you mortgage your house (but it’s not as risky as the phrase sounds.) (Note that in many places, mortgaging your house is one of the lowest-cost sources of funding that you can get.)

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