USB PIDs For All

The USB Implementers’ Forum doesn’t make things easy for anyone building a product with a USB port. To sell anything with USB and have it work like USB should, you need to buy a USB Vendor ID, a $5000 license that grants you exclusive use of 65,536 USB Product IDs. Very few companies will ever release 65,000 products, and there are a lot of unused PIDs sitting around out there.

Now, someone has finally done the sensible thing and put an unused USB VID to work. pid.codes obtained the rights to a single VID – 0x1209 – and now they’re parceling off all the PIDs that remain to open source hardware projects.

This is not a project supported by the USB Implementers’ Forum, and is more of a legal game of chicken on the part of pid.codes. The only thing the USB-IF could do to stop this is revoke the original VID; useless, because they can’t reassign it to anyone else. The original owners of the VID, InterBiometrics, licensed their VID before transferring or sublicensing VIDs and PIDs was prohibited by the USB-IF.

You can get a PID by forking the pid.codes repo, claiming a PID, and sending a pull request. Once that’s accepted, that PID is yours forever.

USB Implementers Forum Says No to Open Source

For the longest time. one of the major barriers to hobbyists and very small companies selling hardware with a USB port is the USB Implementers Forum. Each USB device sold requires a vendor ID (VID) and a product ID (PID) to be certified as USB compliant. Adafruit, Sparkfun, and the other big guys in the hobbyist market have all paid the USB Implementers Forum for a USB VID, but that doesn’t help the guy in his garage hoping to sell a few hundred homebrew USB devices.

Arachnid Labs had an interesting idea to solve this problem. Since other USB device vendors such as Microchip and FTDI give away USB PIDs for free, a not for profit foundation could buy a VID, give PIDs away to foundation members making open source hardware, and we would all live in a magical world of homebrew devices that are certified as USB compliant.

This idea did not sit well with VTM Group, the people serving as the management, PR, legal, and membership and licensing department of the USB Implementers Forum. In a slightly disproportionate response, the VTM Group told Arachnid Labs to,

Please immediately cease and desist raising funds to purchase a unique USB VID for the purpose of transferring, reselling or sublicensing PIDs and delete all references to the USB-IF, VIDs and PIDs for transfer, resale or sublicense from your website and other marketing materials.

Interestingly, Arachnid Labs’ and scores of other requests for an open source USB VID haven’t hit the desk of anyone at the USB Implementers Forum, the people who are actually in charge of designating USB VIDs and PIDs. There are a number of ideas to get around VTM Group that include squatting on USB VID 0xF055, but we’re at a loss why there couldn’t be a foundation that gives out open source USB PIDs. Microchip, FTDI, and Openmoko do the same, so perhaps it’s time to email some key people at HP, Intel, and Microsoft