Will The Real Commodore Please Stand Up?

The Commodore 64 is a much-loved 8-bit retro computer that first appeared in 1982 and finally faded away around a decade later. The Commodore company started by [Jack Tramiel] went on to make the Amiga, and eventually ceased trading some time in the late 1990s. All history, now kept alive only by enthusiasts, right? Well, not quite, as the C64 has been the subject of a number of revivals both miniature and full-sized over the years. The latest came in the form of a Kickstarter for the C64x, a seemingly legitimately-branded Commodore 64-shaped PC, but it seems that has now been paused due to a complaint from an Italian company claiming to be the real heirs of Commodore. So will the real Commodore please stand up?

The origin of the Kickstarter C64x breadbin C64 PC is well enough documented, having its roots in a legitimate 2010 offering for which the person behind the C64x appears to have gained the rights. The Italian company is also called Commodore and uses the familiar branding from the glory days to sell some Commodore-themed games, novelties, and a tablet computer, but its website is a little tight-lipped about how it came by the use of that IP. Could it have come upon those rights through the 1990s German owner of the brand, Escom? We’d be fascinated to know.

For those of us who kept the Commodore faith back in the day, this has a disappointing echo of the shambolic marketing that was a hallmark of the brand as it entered its period of decline. It’s clear that both parties believe their offering to legitimately bear the name, but to have competing entities take each other down does no favours either to the Commodore fandom or to themselves. Perhaps it’s time to remind all concerned that the fans care little about which of the Commodores considers themselves to be the rightful heir, but care a lot should such squabbles deprive them of new retro computers bearing the C= brand.

Here at Hackaday, the Commodore home computers are close to our hearts, as our colleague [Bil Herd] was responsible for more than one of them. Read his retrospective on the C64 at 40, and if that wasn’t enough, follow him on a tour of the abandoned Commodore offices.

27 thoughts on “Will The Real Commodore Please Stand Up?

    1. Fascinating video!

      So, to summarize: The German Escom acquired Commodore’s assets in 1995, but was bankrupt in 1996. In 1997, classic Dutch computer manufacturer Tulip acquired the name and used it in the early 2000’s for various gadgets (flash drives, MP3-players, etc.) and licensed it to the makers of the C64 Direct-to-TV (designed by the amazing Jeri Ellsworth).

      In 2004 Tulip sold the brand again to what would become Commodore International B.V. (a.k.a. C= Holdings). They too did a bunch of acquisitions and transfers which led to a dispute with a Hong Kong-based manufacturer called Asiarim, but eventually courts decided in 2013 that Commodore International B.V. is the legal owner.

      Meanwhile, all other IP from the original Commodore, including copyrights, patents and the Amiga trademark, were acquired from Escom by Gateway, famous manufacturer of cow-spotted computers, in 1997. Those rights would later transfer to a new company by former Gateway subcontractors called Amiga Inc in 2000, and then to KMOS Inc which promptly rebranded itself to Amiga Inc in 2005.

      The copyrights and trademarks of all classic Commodore and Amiga stuff (except the Commodore trademark) are now owned by Cloanto and C-A Acquisition Corp (now known as Amiga Corporation), both companies owned by Mike Battilana.

      The two Italian companies, “Commodore Business Machines” and “Commodore Engineering” have no relationship with the original Commodore or subsequent IP owners whatsoever. Instead, they just tried to register new trademarks with the Commodore name and/or C= logo, and then slap the logo on cheap white-label Chinese phones and tablets. And it seems they’ve mostly gotten away with it too, as the legal custodian of the original trademark (Commodore International B.V.) hasn’t actually done much with the brand, causing their trademark disputes with the Italians to fail.


      Commodore International B.V.: Owner of the original Commodore trademark and lazy IP squatter.
      Commodore Business Machines: Renegade trademark caper and brander of cheap tat.
      Commodore Engineering: ditto
      Cloanto / Amiga Corporation: Owner of Amiga trademark and all classic Commodore copyrights, including the classic ROMs


      Commodore International B.V. licensed the Commodore name to Commodore USA which produced the Commodore 64x in 2011, a x86 machine in a replica C64 shell. This new Kickstarter seemed to have acquired the assets from that Commodore USA, which I assume includes the Commodore trademark license form Commodore International B.V.
      Commodore Engineering, the completely unrelated Italian company that hoodwinked the trademark office, is now acting as an IP Troll.

      1. >designed by the amazing Jeri Ellsworth

        And paid in part with what she learned when building the C-One with Jens Schönfeld, of which the later never saw a cent for his contribution. I wonder how much C-One DNA is in the DTV. :)

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  2. This hearkens back to the ‘bad ole days’ parts of computing as well. Lost of people don’t remember with all our interchangeable parts and internet based standards just how proprietary and self immolating the computer market was back then. Every piiece you bought was its own island that had to have its own connector, dongle, power cable, proprietary software, and/or service agreement. Every single computerized gadget you could think of was conceived as a closed garden much like we mock Apple for nowadays, without the massive amount of content to actually make a compelling case for the convenience like they have for at least some piece of legitimacy.

    I loved my C64, and love that I still have one in the closet. Loved the Amiga series even more. But if they’re gonna just continue to push each other off a cliff even when given a chance for one of them to prosper… good riddance. If they don’t come to an agreement that gets hardware to users, may they both go broke and stop having to even consider such backbiting pettiness.

    1. I have one that I stuffed an RPi4 into. The keyboard is nice and the case is pretty adaptable as a mini-ITX case with some limitations on total height.

      I bought the VIC-20 badged version. And yes, my VIC-20 dust cover fits over it perfectly.

  3. These hardware ideas are dumb. Just use an emulator and be done with it. Nothing will replace real C64 hardware unless someone builds one using original retro electronics.

    1. the keyboard on a faithful C64 replica computer will line up perfectly with vintage C64 software, so there’s that

      and the new replica C64s tend to work well with HDMI displays and accept USB joy sticks and d-pads, so they give an sense of the authentic machine while conveniently working (out of the box) with the peripherals of modernity

      1. I get that perspective, but having owned a real VIC 20, C64 and C128D there’s really nothing that can replace the originals. These modern bastardizations even with the same cases and keyboard layouts are fundamentally just emulators. I’m OK with emulators and still develop with them on C128 CP/M for fun. To me this is the proper way to do it https://youtu.be/2TSffXvmx3M Everything else is just an emulator.

        1. There’s the ZX Spectrum Next, which is an FPGA implementation that explicitly leaves room for hacking and development of new peripherals. That seems like a pretty good way of doing things – you get your faithful recreation of a retrocomputer, but you also get a unique piece of hardware that isn’t just a PC in a box.

          1. I’m not sure why someone doesn’t just license the SID and VIC II. All the rest of the chips you can still get current versions of. This whole licensing of the name Commodore is bullshit to sell emulators.

  4. There’s someone over on FB that seems intent on repopulating the earth with variants of the C64. They quite impressive even laptop versions that at first look original for a moment until you recall that the C64 was a box that plugs into s CRT (screen).

    If future history …

    It’s C64’a … all the way down.

  5. It was super cool of them to wait until the open project was completed and entered production for them to complain. I also think it is funny they want to kill hardware that apparently runs their software. Either way, they should eat a fat dick.

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