Fluke Issues Statement Regarding Sparkfun’s Impounded Multimeters


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]

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

  1. I wonder, perhaps they could allow the meters to be gutted?? After all, the issue is how the meters LOOK. So, gut them, and destroy the cases. After that, who cares. Perhaps Fluke or the OEM could come up with a fairly simple 3D printable case that can be supplied with these things. As long as it doesn’t LOOK like a Fluke, who cares what happens to them?

  2. Merely a pacifist PR move by Fluke. It doesn’t address the real issues at all. Fluke deliberately applied for an excessively broad trademark, and the government granted it. I may not be able to do anything about the government, but I can surely avoid giving Fluke any more of my money.

  3. I had fluke 179 and it crapped on me like the cheapest multimeter anyway, lock into low range @autorange and could not measure the value, it did that constantly just could not use it and it was new, i crossed Fluke and bought Uni trend (UT) UT61E is best for the money ($50), i had also UT 81E… highly reccommend both.
    Now use SANWA PC5000a (500000count yes five zeroes and best range selector light and tactile way better then fluke) and TPI also, TPI has 1mili-ohm! resolution 50000count you can trace shorts with it highly recommend (down:beeper is quiet and it is little bit bulky).

  4. Every day tons and tons of illegal drugs make their way into our country and wind up on our streets where some of them are sold to kids whose lives ultimately become ruined. Terrorist are able to freely come into our country where they plot and eventually commit acts of terror killing thousands of innocent people, but god forbid a yellow and black multimeter making it’s way into the country. We just can’t have that, because protecting corporate greed is so much more important than the lives of our children and innocent citizens! Kinda shows you how our priorities are a little out of whack.

    Anyway, perhaps what Sparkfun should do with these meters Fluke is donating is destroy them all as well. After all they look too much like sparfuns meters and might therefore “damage their reputation” by associating them with the name “Fluke” and corporate greed. This would also demonstrate the absolute absurdity of the whole fiasco and maybe they’d also get to claim it as a tax write just as I sure Fluke is doing with their “donation”.

  5. I’ve owned yellow meters with dark faces my entire life. And I am old. How can Fluke suddenly be granted the sole right to produce something that has been produced by many manufacturers since at least the 1970’s? It is almost a standard way of making lab equipement.

    I do believe that I am just going to scratch fluke off the list of approved vendors at this point.

  6. Ya can’t blame a corporation for wanting to protect their cooperate assets. Ya can blame the USPTO for being clueless enough to issue a trademark on a colored bezel.

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