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Fluke Donates Multimeters To SparkFun As Goodwill Gesture

Soulskill posted about 5 months ago | from the companies-getting-along dept.

Hardware Hacking 250

Actually, I do RTFA writes "We recently heard about the confiscation of a delivery of multimeters to SparkFun for infringing on Fluke's trademark. One common thread in the discussions was the theme that Fluke should have let that shipment through as a goodwill gesture to SparkFun and the Maker community. Well, Fluke did one better. They announced they were sending more than $30k worth of official multimeters to SparkFun for them to do whatever they want with. SparkFun is most likely going to give them away. A great example of win-win-win?"

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Good PR Move (5, Insightful)

Cpt_Kirks (37296) | about 5 months ago | (#46544995)

Fluke moves from villain to hero.

$30K is cheap for good PR.

Re:Good PR Move (1, Redundant)

Spiridios (2406474) | about 5 months ago | (#46545061)

Fluke moves from villain to hero.

$30K is cheap for good PR.

While I agree it's good PR and great thing for Fluke to do, one wonders at the price of Fluke vs the price of those knockoffs, how many Flukes will Sparkfun actually get? It's obviously not a 1:1 replacement, and probably shouldn't be, but Sparkfun might still be coming out negative on this if they were planning on selling those original meters.

Re:Good PR Move (1)

SQLGuru (980662) | about 5 months ago | (#46545129)

I didn't read the article, but the summary says MORE THAN 30K. Maybe they matched them 1:1 which lead to the extra valuation.

Re:Good PR Move (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46545159)

According to Ars Technica, it's a greater value of Fluke meters than the knockoffs that they were originally going to get. Sparkfun can sell them at a discount and still get their money back.

Re:Good PR Move (5, Insightful)

Godai (104143) | about 5 months ago | (#46545167)

I think Sparkfun is out either way from what I understand. They're planning on giving the Fluke ones away to educational institutions, but they seem much happier about this than just flat out losing the $30k worth of meters.

Re:Good PR Move (4, Insightful)

Obfuscant (592200) | about 5 months ago | (#46545301)

I think Sparkfun is out either way from what I understand. They're planning on giving the Fluke ones away...

Sparkfun is out only because they CHOOSE to give stuff away. Don't cry for them, they're being made whole by the generosity of a large evil corporation, or at least that was the opinion most people had of Fluke yesterday. It's Fluke who is out either way. Either Fluke becomes this evil company that is simply trying to keep its trademark and a few people stop buying from them, or they hand out $30k and the same people who would buy from them anyway keep buying from them.

And Fluke is out for support, too. Those people who get free Fluke meters from Sparcfun aren't going to call Sparcfun when they need help with the meter. They're going to call Fluke because Fluke's name is on them.

I think that's a pretty sweet deal for Sparcfun. They violated a trademark and they're not suffering one bit from it. The company whose trademark they infringed is the one losing money.

Re:Good PR Move (4, Insightful)

Sarten-X (1102295) | about 5 months ago | (#46545429)

I think that's a pretty sweet deal for Sparcfun. They violated a trademark and they're not suffering one bit from it. The company whose trademark they infringed is the one losing money.

...but Fluke apparently considers it worth the cost to be the good guy.

Re:Good PR Move (1)

Obfuscant (592200) | about 5 months ago | (#46545497)

...but Fluke apparently considers it worth the cost to be the good guy.

Yep. And because of that, there is no need for pity for Sparkfun.

Re:Good PR Move (1)

Sarten-X (1102295) | about 5 months ago | (#46545647)

I'm just saying there's no need to feel sorry for Fluke, either. They chose to give away the multimeters and play the hero.

Re:Good PR Move (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46545499)

I don't think that Sparkfun was intentionally trying to get fluke lookalike DMMs, and I'm very sure that Fluke agrees with me. Yeah, Fluke got put in a rough spot by this mess, but nobody was malicious. So Fluke spends a bit of their advertising budget to buy their way out. They benefit because they keep their trademark and they get their products into the hands of tomorrow's engineers, technicians and hobbyists. Sparkfun gets to make a great big gesture about IP law and an actual choice about donating equipment (which they do pretty often anyways - this won't kill them). This is what we call 'win win.'

Since they're donating the DMMs, technically both companies are losing about 30K. Given their respective sizes, Sparkfun is making the larger sacrifice, I think.

Re:Good PR Move (0, Flamebait)

Aaden42 (198257) | about 5 months ago | (#46545571)

Calling support for a multimeter? What planet are you from? Short of it breaking and needing a replacement under warranty, you plug it in, spin the dial to the mode you want, and away you go.

Do people call Sears for tech support on a Craftsman wrench? I’ll grant a multimeter is *slightly* more complicated of a tool, but really only slightly to someone who’s the least bit experienced in that area of tech. I think I got my first MM when I was six years old. Took Dad about 10 minutes to show me how to measure voltage and resistance, and that was when you had to set the range yourself.

Re:Good PR Move (1)

Talderas (1212466) | about 5 months ago | (#46545641)

Do people call Sears for tech support on a Craftsman wrench?

If you remove Sears as a prerequisite I can give you a strong yes response.

Re:Good PR Move (4, Insightful)

Obfuscant (592200) | about 5 months ago | (#46545755)

Calling support for a multimeter? What planet are you from? Short of it breaking and needing a replacement under warranty, you plug it in, spin the dial to the mode you want, and away you go.

And when it breaks, or behaves in a way you don't expect, are you going to call Sparkfun or Fluke? Fluke, of course.

Do people call Sears for tech support on a Craftsman wrench? I'll grant a multimeter is *slightly* more complicated of a tool,

A good quality multimeter is a LOT more complicated a tool than a wrench.

but really only slightly to someone who's the least bit experienced in that area of tech.

You expect your multimeter to be as reliable as a wrench, but that doesn't mean it is as simple as a wrench inside. Especially if those meters are being given out to DIY/school users. "Why doesn't my meter read Amps anymore? What do you mean there's a fuse? Where is the fuse? How do I replace it?"

I have a Keithley that reads negative voltage. That means if I test a nine volt battery, the display reads negative nine with the red lead on positive. Such a simple device, huh? How could it possibly fail in that mode? It took looking at the schematic, but sure enough, there's an inverting buffer that isn't anymore. That's in a device you think is almost as simple as a wrench.

I think I got my first MM when I was six years old. Took Dad about 10 minutes to show me how to measure voltage and resistance, and that was when you had to set the range yourself.

And as a six year old did you really learn not to try measuring the resistance of the mains? Or did you learn that by blowing up a meter? Even if your Dad told you not to, you never forgot and did it anyway? Sure. Or you never tried to see how many amps the mains could provide and blew the fuse? Or even just over-amped from an unexpected measurement and done the same?

I've had so many cheap crap multimeters die that I've lost count. I've also bought used meters by the box because they were all "failed", and some of them were really just a blown fuse, or some a bad battery lead. But they were ALL discarded and new ones put in their place because of those simple problems, by people who were using them to teach electronics. They didn't know how to fix their own meters, and I don't expect the recipients of the donations from Fluke will know, either.

Re:Good PR Move (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46545799)

I have a Keithley that reads negative voltage. That means if I test a nine volt battery, the display reads negative nine with the red lead on positive. Such a simple device, huh? How could it possibly fail in that mode? It took looking at the schematic, but sure enough, there's an inverting buffer that isn't anymore. That's in a device you think is almost as simple as a wrench.

How old is this Keithley, and is it still under warranty? Maybe you should have bought a Fluke instead.

Re:Good PR Move (3)

kimvette (919543) | about 5 months ago | (#46545743)

I stick with Fluke - or if in a pinch and need to buy locally (i.e., if I left my Fluke DMM and testers behind), Extech, but I try to avoid the Extech stuff at least as primary tools. It (Extech) might be one of the best of the cheap meters, but they are still short of the quality and reliability of Fluke's products.

Re:Good PR Move (4, Interesting)

suutar (1860506) | about 5 months ago | (#46545767)

It's not a total loss. I'm now substantially more likely to shell out for a Fluke next time I need a multimeter.

Re:Good PR Move (1)

MadCow42 (243108) | about 5 months ago | (#46545507)

It's good PR for Sparkfun too. They're getting way more value already than $30k of publicity usually gives you.

Re:Good PR Move (1)

Obfuscant (592200) | about 5 months ago | (#46545443)

It's obviously not a 1:1 replacement, and probably shouldn't be, but Sparkfun might still be coming out negative on this if they were planning on selling those original meters.

Of course Sparkfun was going to sell the original Chinese knock-offs. And they could just as well sell the better Fluke meters and they'd come out in the exact same place. Probably ahead of the game since they'd not have to stock so many meters (less shelf/warehouse space), or ship so many meters (less fixed costs to shipping). But they CHOOSE to give them away, so any losses Sparkfun has at this point are from their own choices, not the fault of Fluke (who didn't impound the original shipment) or the Chinese knock-off manufacturer.

The question is, did Sparkfun learn anything from this or will they make another order from the same Chinese company for the same meters and hope Customs doesn't catch them? After all, they got away with it for some time.

Re:Good PR Move (2)

cruff (171569) | about 5 months ago | (#46545673)

The question is, did Sparkfun learn anything from this or will they make another order from the same Chinese company for the same meters and hope Customs doesn't catch them? After all, they got away with it for some time.

I thought they stated they will carry the same cheaper meters, but with the Sparkfun red housing substituted instead.

Re:Good PR Move (1)

kimvette (919543) | about 5 months ago | (#46545619)

It is probably a 1:3 - 1:5 replacement for equivalent functionality but far better accuracy and reliability.

Re:Good PR Move (0)

kimvette (919543) | about 5 months ago | (#46545633)

I still maintain there is no confusing those cheapass multimeters for a Fluke, regardless of coloration.

Re:Good PR Move (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46545765)

Fluke devices can range from a few hundred to a few thousand a piece, depending on what all you are getting. They're solid devices, too.

Their software is absolutely awful, though, IMO.

Re:Good PR Move (4, Insightful)

bigpat (158134) | about 5 months ago | (#46545253)

Still. No way Fluke should have been given that trademark. This isn't a "mark" it is the design of the product itself.

That is another damning example of a big enough company being able to buy off the right lawyers to say some abusive use of the law is legally okay. A design patent might have been appropriate in this case, but those expire in 15 years and how long have they been selling two toned multi-meters? If it is more than 15 years then Sparkfun should have every right to sell something that looks similar.

Clearly they went for a trademark rather than the appropriate design patent so it wouldn't expire. But a trade mark is supposed to be exactly that: A word or mark on a product or marketing material that indicates the company or brand that is selling it. Like a Nike swoosh or the Apple with a bite out of it or even a word mark like IBM. It would be like Nike trying to trademark a two toned sneaker or Ford trying to trademark a black muscle car with a yellow stripe rather than just the swoosh or the word "Ford" in an oval.

Just because we can say that the government is at fault for awarding this trademark in the first place, doesn't mean we can absolve the company of an abuse of intellectual property law.

Yes, they got some bad press and figured it would effect their business, but I don't think they have made this right until they cancel or abandon this trademark altogether

Re:Good PR Move (5, Informative)

syzler (748241) | about 5 months ago | (#46545509)

Although the blog mentions, trademark [wikipedia.org] , I bet the multi-meters were actually infringing upon trade dress [wikipedia.org] of Fluke's multimeters. Trade mark reserves a specific logo/phrase/design. Trade dress protects the look and feel of the product. I learned a great deal about this distinction from Mattel when I created a Magic Eight Ball app for iOS when the iTunes app store first opened.

Re:Good PR Move (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46545741)

If T-Mobile can win in a lawsuit against AT&T over the color Magenta... then fluke can win in a much more clear cut lawsuit

How is this a good thing for SparkFun? (3, Interesting)

Immerman (2627577) | about 5 months ago | (#46545333)

So, SparkFun, a company in the business of selling multimeters, is now being gifted a large number of its competitors superior product. How is this a good thing? They've still lost a ton of money on their own shipment, and can't even give away the Fluke meters without likely reducing the demand for their own product, and probably making their product look bad in comparison as well. Maybe they could sell them to try to recoup some of their losses, but that risks damaging their public image.

Unless they can manage some seriously good PR spin, this looks to me kind of like SparkFun is receiving a very polite and well-spoken slap in the face by Fluke.

Re:How is this a good thing for SparkFun? (5, Insightful)

Sarten-X (1102295) | about 5 months ago | (#46545521)

SparkFun is in the business of selling DIY electronics. They're more like a modern Heath.

They're out the original shipment, but Fluke stepped in with an absolutely unnecessary act of goodwill. Now SparkFun's broken even, because they still have multimeters to sell to make their business, and the customers that would have bought the original ones still want multimeters, and now SparkFun has the Fluke brand, to boot...

But this is no longer in the hands of the inventory people. This is marketing. Sure, SparkFun could probably sell the multimeters at a very nice profit, but that's not their business. They're selling electronics in general, so they thrive on the repeat business rather than one-time equipment sales. Giving away these multimeters to loyal customers is a nice way to build their own brand loyalty.

Fluke looks like the good guy. SparkFun gets cheap viral marketing. Everybody's walking away happy.

Re:How is this a good thing for SparkFun? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46545625)

Except me. I'm not happy. I want a cheap MM. They would have sold me one. Now I have to spend more. The government granted fluke a monopoly on yellow rectangles that can measure electrical resistance. This isn't about bankers trying to trade derivatives with a 100x leverage, or stamping a product with a competitor's mark - this is the first day of micro-economics for Liberal Arts freshmen. Where the fuck are the republicans on this one? This is why we need them!

Re:How is this a good thing for SparkFun? (2)

fullmetal55 (698310) | about 5 months ago | (#46545771)

SparkFun and Fluke aren't even in the same league though, their customer bases are completely different. that's like saying Ferarri giving Chevrolet 30 cars to do with as they wish because of a mix-up on something that cost chev 300 cars, and Ferarri out of the goodness of their hearts (aka for good PR) gives them free cars, suddenly those 30 ferarris are going to reduce demand of Chevs?

of course not. the Market for people who buy Ferarris, is not the same as the guys who buy Chevs. same with the guys who buy Fluke Meters, and Cheap Chinese Meters... two completely different markets, two completely different price points. Why would I pay $400+ for a Fluke Multimeter when I can get a cheap one for $9.99 that meets my needs? And the other side of the coin, why pay $9.99 for one that doesn't meet my needs when I need the features and functionality of the $400+ Fluke? Two completely separate markets, now the higher end will always have the PWTMM (people with too much money) who go Meh, I can afford the $400 Fluke, I'll buy that instead of the $9.99 one, even though I'll only ever use 1% of what the cheap one can do, and way less than what the fluke can do... They are competitors in the same way Ferarri competes with Chevrolet. Someone who wants a Ferarri isn't going to consider a Chevrolet, and a guy looking at Chevrolet, is going to look longingly at the Ferarri, and then buy the Chevrolet, because he can't afford to have a car worth more than his house.

Yeah SparkFun lost a lot of money. It's not going to bankrupt them though, and they were willing to eat the loss, and they sell other products as well. All this does, is probably ends up giving them a charitable tax deduction for donating them to schools and other charitable organizations, which will help them a little bit with the loss of money come tax time. Also, this whole incident has brought them into a lot more people's minds, I personally have never heard of them. Now I know they're a electronic hobbyist company. I'm not their target market, although to be fair I have always wanted a fluke multimeter, just never wanted to pay the price for one.... I'm using my $9.99 Canadian Tire brand multimeter for all my multimeter needs. But if I were and hadn't heard of them, now I have. maybe I'd even send some business their way because I know they exist.

Also why would selling them damage their line of business? Which as near as I can tell is as a cheap knockoff reseller targeting hobbyists getting into the hobby, based on previous comments about their other product lines being cheap knockoffs too. It may open them up to a new market as a reseller for Fluke. Assuming they could strike a deal with Fluke to continue to be able to sell Fluke products. I highly doubt it's a slap in the face, nor was it intended as a slap in the face. you really have to reach to get there from what fluke did. Especially when they didn't HAVE to do anything since they didn't DO anything other than apply and get a trademark many years ago...

Re:Good PR Move (1)

hallkbrdz (896248) | about 5 months ago | (#46545471)

Well done Fluke.

Still use my 1985 Fluke 77 MM all the time.

Nice recover (-1, Redundant)

Ukab the Great (87152) | about 5 months ago | (#46545009)

From a dick move.

Re:Nice recover (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46545037)

That's what she said.

Re:Nice recover (5, Informative)

Anrego (830717) | about 5 months ago | (#46545115)

If you believe fluke's statement on the matter (personally I do), they didn't initiate this whole mess.

They didn't, but did, but didn't... (2, Insightful)

QuasiSteve (2042606) | about 5 months ago | (#46545317)

They didn't.. insofar as Fluke reps standing at ports waiting for a multimeter to pass by their eyes and go "Whoa, Nelly!" - or even getting a call in advance telling them that a shipment of DMMs was found that may or may not infringe.

They did... insofar as Fluke having registered for the trade dress in the first place.

They didn't... insofar as cheap knockoffs trying to copy Fluke's looks - regardless of intent there, Fluke rather they didn't - and since asking nicely tends not to work, trade dress it is.

A lot of people seem to have missed the issue in the original story anyway (even if it may have come across as an attack against Fluke based on e.g. the title).
SparkFun doesn't really mind Fluke's trade dress (other than believing it to be overly broad - they themselves deem the old SFE DMM's border to be more of an orange..). What they mind is the inflexibility of the system once you're confronted with such an issue. For example, SFE didn't appear to have any way to tell CBP that they believed the borders to be orange and thus not even run afoul of the trade dress to begin with and enter e.g. arbitration with either the CBP or with Fluke. There's also the matter of how the product gets destroyed, with only a quoted price per hour - but no indication of how long it would take. Responsible destruction would take a very long time, a shredder should take less than 30 minutes; either could easily be possible for the price cited. Then there's the whole option of 'either ship them away or have them destroyed' in the first place; No "you can store them here and adjust the product so it no longer infringes", and even if you could adjust them, the period in which you have to make that decision is rather short.

While it's easy enough to say that SFE should have done better in figuring out this could occur beforehand, that doesn't help once the issue does arise.
Some will shrug that off and say "well I guess if you have to learn the hard way...", others will contemplate the bureaucracy.

Note that this is pretty much a separate issue from whether or not the color combo should be something that you can get a trade mark/dress on in the first place, which most people focused on (next to the "if you copy a popular brand, you oughtta know this can happen" discussion).

Re:They didn't, but did, but didn't... (4, Insightful)

LordLimecat (1103839) | about 5 months ago | (#46545559)

They did... insofar as Fluke having registered for the trade dress in the first place.

People really need to stop blaming companies for participating in the current P&T system that we have. Until you enter "troll" territory (starting legal fights over clearly dubious P&Ts), registering trademarks and patents is just good business sense.

Want to make a change, stop blaming Fluke or whoever and push for patent / trademark reform.

Re:They didn't, but did, but didn't... (0)

QuasiSteve (2042606) | about 5 months ago | (#46545609)

I agree that one should push for reform.

However, does your stance extend to the copyright system?

Win Win Win Except... (1)

CamelTrader (311519) | about 5 months ago | (#46545015)

Except for the huge loss and waste of those sparkfun meters, which last I checked were still being destroyed.

Re:Win Win Win Except... (2)

Cpt_Kirks (37296) | about 5 months ago | (#46545063)

Sparkfun is trying to divert at least some of the meters to other countries, where the Fluke trademark does not apply.

Re:Win Win Win Except... (1)

CamelTrader (311519) | about 5 months ago | (#46545095)

That is great news, I hope they are able to do that.

Re:Win Win Win Except... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46545067)

Well, they still have to manage their trademark.
This way the chinese get their money, fluke gets their trademark, and sparkfun gets their multimeters.

Re:Win Win Win Except... (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46545141)

Their trademark, which is for "multimeter with yellow border", which they essentially stole from over 20 years of common publicly-available usage during which Fluke's own multimeters were typically grey?

'The Maker Community' (0)

kruach aum (1934852) | about 5 months ago | (#46545025)

along with the term 'creative' used as a noun to refer to a person just rubs me the wrong way. Like someone is getting away with something whenever those terms are used.

Re:'The Maker Community' (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46545059)

How often do you have these feelings, Kruach?

Re:'The Maker Community' (1)

kruach aum (1934852) | about 5 months ago | (#46545107)

Whenever Urza is still fictional.

This is what I would do. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46545035)

If I was Sparkfun, I would sell the Fluke meters on e-bay to make up for the $30,000 worth of shit I lost. It would help the bottom line, and take some sales away from Fluke.

Kind of an empty gesture (0, Flamebait)

barlevg (2111272) | about 5 months ago | (#46545041)

As the article notes, SparkFun isn't about to try to resell these guys, so SparkFun is still out their entire shipment. What would have been a lot more meaningful of Fluke to do would be to cancel the trademark. That being said, I love Fluke multimeters. Five years of physics labs really made me believe their unofficial motto, "If it works, it's a Fluke."

Re:Kind of an empty gesture (5, Insightful)

jo_ham (604554) | about 5 months ago | (#46545147)

As the article notes, SparkFun isn't about to try to resell these guys, so SparkFun is still out their entire shipment. What would have been a lot more meaningful of Fluke to do would be to cancel the trademark. That being said, I love Fluke multimeters. Five years of physics labs really made me believe their unofficial motto, "If it works, it's a Fluke."

Why should they cancel their trademark? In what world is that even remotely the right thing to do here?

The slashdot community is hilarious sometimes.

Re:Kind of an empty gesture (5, Insightful)

smooth wombat (796938) | about 5 months ago | (#46545193)

The slashdot community is hilarious sometimes.

Here's the way it works around here:

If I produce software, I want to get paid for it. If someone else produces software, I'll steal it.

When I make a product, no one else can make anything like it. When someone else makes a product like someone else, they're free to rip off the design because you can't copyright or trademark that shit.

Re:Kind of an empty gesture (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46545423)

That sounds about right.

Re:Kind of an empty gesture (4, Insightful)

LordLimecat (1103839) | about 5 months ago | (#46545567)

You forgot the part where it is appropriate to go to a grocery store, determine for yourself how much the goods on the shelves should cost, and leave that dollar amount on the shelf in lieu of paying what the grocer is asking.

But those bastards better not abuse the licensing terms on my software.

Re:Kind of an empty gesture (1)

CanHasDIY (1672858) | about 5 months ago | (#46545711)

The slashdot community is hilarious sometimes.

Here's the way it works around here:

If I produce anything, I demand to get paid for it. If someone else produces anything, I'll insist that it's my right to steal it.

Your original statement was a bit to specific, IMO.

Re:Kind of an empty gesture (4, Insightful)

barlevg (2111272) | about 5 months ago | (#46545355)

To be clear, I mean specifically the "multimeter with a yellow border = Fluke" trademark. As plenty of people in comments to the previous article noted, yellow is the natural color for a safety device.

Re:Kind of an empty gesture (0)

CanHasDIY (1672858) | about 5 months ago | (#46545727)

To be clear, I mean specifically the "multimeter with a yellow border = Fluke" trademark. As plenty of people in comments to the previous article noted, yellow is the natural color for a safety device.

Since when is a friggin' multimeter a "safety device?"

Re:Kind of an empty gesture (1)

hjf (703092) | about 5 months ago | (#46545793)

Road cones are orange. Fire extinguishers are red. Safety vests are fluorescent orange. Ground wires are green/yellow...

Re:Kind of an empty gesture (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46545577)

Why should they cancel their trademark? In what world is that even remotely the right thing to do here?

Because it's a bullshit trademark? If not that, then at least modify it to remove the "yellow" part. In this, and every world, color should play no part in trademarks, unless you happen to live in a world where there exists nothing except color. But that is not Earth. We have shapes and words and other things to designate a brand or service.

What I find hilarious (or not) is that you think Fluke has some sort of entitlement to its trademark, and that somehow being a doucheknob is the right thing to do. Companies only get a trademark because we (the people) allow them to. If you're going to trademark the color yellow and be a greedy dickhole and try to legislate competition out of the market, you don't deserve the trademark to begin with. So yes, the right thing to do is to not be a dick, and fix the trademark or release it. But then again, I'm not surprised they don't, because capitalists rarely do the right thing...

Re:Kind of an empty gesture (1)

Talderas (1212466) | about 5 months ago | (#46545785)

Except that Fluke's "trademark" is actually a trade dress and it's not for the color yellow it's for the colors yellow and dark grey applied in a specific pattern.

Re:Kind of an empty gesture (4, Informative)

ttucker (2884057) | about 5 months ago | (#46545189)

The cheep meters have more than a passing resemblance to Fluke ones, to the point that someone could actually pick one up and expect Fluke quality and safety, in the right environment.

Re:Kind of an empty gesture (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46545663)

Despite the word "Sparkfun" stamped on the front, not "Fluke"? Is the right environment a dark room with no lights? You know, there are countless other products that look like other products. The way you deal with that is by not being a moron. Like a cop wouldn't store his replica 1911 next to his real 1911. If you're a serious electrician, and have a working procedure that allows you to have both a cheapo and quality multimeter on hand, but no procedure to validate that you have grabbed the right one, you are stupid. I'm not saying you deserve to get fried, but I'm also not not saying it

Re:Kind of an empty gesture (1)

BronsCon (927697) | about 5 months ago | (#46545515)

No, but they could, and perhaps (debatable) should retroactively license their trademark for this one shipment. Retroactive, because an agreement entered into today won't apply to prior shipments, otherwise, and limited to just this shipment, so SparkFun can't keep using the trademark. That would make Fluke look AWESOME, here, while letting SparkFun carry on without a huge loss. Hell, Fluke could even charge something along the lines of 1/3 of the cost of the shipment and still come out heroes.

No. (0, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46545055)

The winner is fascism, and the people are the loser. If you give with one hand what you have taken with your other, you're not behaving any more morally than I am sitting on my ass doing nothing.

Confiscate equipment because it has a particular word written on it? What the hell is wrong with society?

Re:No. (5, Interesting)

glasshole (3569269) | about 5 months ago | (#46545271)

Sometimes I can't tell if these posts or trolls or not. Why should anyone develop any product if someone else can just clone it and sell it cheaper? While I think copyright laws as they are, are completely nuts, there has to be something to protect against straight up physical counterfeiting.

30k Worth of Fluke? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46545089)

That's what like 3 of their multimeters?

$30K = 2K Sparkfun Multis = 100 Fluke Multis (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46545099)

Sad part is that $30K worth of Fluke devices means much less units than the 2000 Sparkfun was going to get. Even donating the Fluke meters would mean that less people would get multimeters. And that doesn't fix the cause, just the symptom. Trademarking a color combination and JUST that it's BS. One could conceivably trademark most color combos 1024.32 major primary colors x 32 major primary colors...enough to be able to claim trademarked color confusion.

Re:$30K = 2K Sparkfun Multis = 100 Fluke Multis (4, Insightful)

ttucker (2884057) | about 5 months ago | (#46545215)

Trademarking a color combination and JUST that it's BS.

It is bullshit to say this is only about the color combination. The knockoff ones look exactly like Fluke devices, and it is hardly accidental. Your argument makes it seem that some good faith is involved on the part of the manufacturer of the fake Fluke meters, and that the violation is trivial, but that is simply not the case.

Re:$30K = 2K Sparkfun Multis = 100 Fluke Multis (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46545585)

What the fuck do you use a multi-meter for anyway? It's completely utilitarian. The style is irrelevant to it's functioning.

Re:$30K = 2K Sparkfun Multis = 100 Fluke Multis (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46545695)

Clearly you have never used a piece of equipment made by Fluke. They are far superior to your average $10 meter in terms of reliability, precision, accuracy, and durability.

Re:$30K = 2K Sparkfun Multis = 100 Fluke Multis (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46545303)

Except you can't do that. Trademark has several really huge limitations associated with it. Some that would be relevent to your plan:
1) You have to be using something, or be able to present a buisness plan making it clear that it will be used in the future, to trademark it. If at some point you stop using it you have to abandon the trademark.
2) Trademarks are fairly limited in the things that they cover. For example someone else trademarking a yellow/grey electrical test equipment doesn't stop you from making a yellow/grey table saw.
3) Trademarks have to be distinctive. It would bve hard to argue that any one of your 1024 color combinations is distinctive when you are trying to register so many of them.

Re:$30K = 2K Sparkfun Multis = 100 Fluke Multis (1)

Njovich (553857) | about 5 months ago | (#46545555)

And of course, it may be 30k in lost revenue, but their actual cost per unit, including shipping, was probably closer to $5. I'd be surprised if they actually lost more than 10k on this.

One better? Well, sort of. (1, Interesting)

jeffb (2.718) (1189693) | about 5 months ago | (#46545103)

That original $30,000 shipment was apparently 2,000 multimeters. I'm guessing that $30,000 "worth" of Fluke meters, while a nice gift, will constitute a lot fewer units, meaning fewer makers will end up getting their hands on a meter.

Re:One better? Well, sort of. (3, Informative)

jo_ham (604554) | about 5 months ago | (#46545161)

The Ars Technica article notes that the shipment of meters from Fluke exceeds the value of the original dodgy multimeters.

Re:One better? Well, sort of. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46545365)

exceeds the value of the original dodgy multimeters

How much of that value is just perceived due to the brand name though?

Re:One better? Well, sort of. (1)

wisnoskij (1206448) | about 5 months ago | (#46545547)

Ya, which is marketing speak for as little extra as possible. Obviously it it not going to come out even.

When they say more than $30K, they do not mean $60K, they mean $30K and chance.

Re:One better? Well, sort of. (1)

retchdog (1319261) | about 5 months ago | (#46545191)

They could sell them, and then use that money to pay for a new non-infringing shipment of (inferior) multimeters.

Of course since it's important for them to appear altruistic, they'll probably just give away a smaller number of (superior) multimeters.

Re:One better? Well, sort of. (1)

hawguy (1600213) | about 5 months ago | (#46545311)

That original $30,000 shipment was apparently 2,000 multimeters. I'm guessing that $30,000 "worth" of Fluke meters, while a nice gift, will constitute a lot fewer units, meaning fewer makers will end up getting their hands on a meter.

I guess the makers will have to get by on $10 eBay meters instead of $15 SparkFun meters (that coincidentally, *also* have the Fluke color scheme).

http://www.ebay.com/itm/Digita... [ebay.com]

Re:One better? Well, sort of. (1)

CanHasDIY (1672858) | about 5 months ago | (#46545763)

That original $30,000 shipment was apparently 2,000 multimeters. I'm guessing that $30,000 "worth" of Fluke meters, while a nice gift, will constitute a lot fewer units, meaning fewer makers will end up getting their hands on a meter.

I guess the makers will have to get by on $10 eBay meters instead of $15 SparkFun meters (that coincidentally, *also* have the Fluke color scheme).

http://www.ebay.com/itm/Digita... [ebay.com]

Or this $5 unit from Harbor Freight, [harborfreight.com] that also happens to have a spot for testing PNP and NPN transistors.

That is, $5 if you don't have one of the "free multimeter" coupons they put in the Sunday paper every other week.

The Makers. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46545133)

They will destroy us all. We must fight them, not assist them in their Plans.

So, they're sending like, 6 multimeters? (2)

RobotSpider (3489367) | about 5 months ago | (#46545169)

Used to be that you trademarked your logo and your model-name. But trademarking your colors, shapes, etc. is ridiculous. How is this different from Toyota AND Honda selling yellow cars? If it looks like a Fluke, and I pick it up and see SparkFun on it, I think, "Heh, they copied Fluke's design". It's not disingenuous. They're selling an inferior product for a much smaller price to people who don't need a $3000 Fluke meter to check their robot's power relay. They're not labeling it or branding it as a Fluke. How does this harm Fluke's IP?

Re:So, they're sending like, 6 multimeters? (2)

gewalker (57809) | about 5 months ago | (#46545485)

Unless you are getting multi-meters that "fell off the back of the truck" I don't think anyone is going to confuse a $3000 MM with a cheap knockoff. It's not like buying a fake Rolex, people don't drop 3 large for a MM unless they have very specific requirements, like drop-proof, water-proof, dust-proof, etc. for use in a heavy industrial environment. Most of Fluke's MM's can be purchased for a few hundred USD (depending on your definition of few).

I checked Fluke-Direct.com and there are 2 models over 1000 USD, an industrial strength RED one for $1500, and a bench model for 1065 USD. They had dozens of models less than 500 USD. Lowest price 130 USD.

Re:So, they're sending like, 6 multimeters? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46545681)

They're not labeling it or branding it as a Fluke. How does this harm Fluke's IP?

The same way if some one opened a fast-food restaurant that had "golden arcs" [wsj.com] instead of golden arches...

What Fluke multimeter costs $3K? (1)

Ellis D. Tripp (755736) | about 5 months ago | (#46545685)

Maybe a few high end benchtop ones, but all their handheld DMMs (which is what this whole issue is about) are well under the $3K level. You can buy an entry-level Fluke DMM for less than $150 last I checked. Most of the mainstream models are $300-$400.

And if you actually make your living using instruments like these, they are worth every penny you pay. Even if just for the security that the thing isn't going to blow up in your face when testing mains power...

its not all .. (1)

devilsandy (556014) | about 5 months ago | (#46545179)

Fluke did a good gesture and I applaud them. What happens to the 2000 multimeters that are held up ? if they get destroyed ... its not a win in my book.

smooth move (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46545209)

At least the did SOMETHING more than ignore the issue while stating some bullshit PR.
Dismissal is the most insidious abuse.

-- cassandra

Really, not that great. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46545213)

First of all, it's not a replacement: $30K of $15 multimeters is 2000 multimeters. $30K of Fluke multimeters is 200. SparkFun would have a lot harder time selling the Flukes to recoup its expenses.

And it's a huge waste of resources. They're still needlessly destroying perfectly good and useful tools.

The non-dick thing would be to grant them a one-off trademark license under condition they work as fast as commercially reasonable to change the colors. SF have been selling them for a while; it's not like 2000 more makes that huge a difference.

Then it would be "we care about our trademark, but don't mean to blindside you; we understand that the banhammer is overpowered for this case, and won't use it as long as you're not dicking us around,".

Re:Really, not that great. (1)

beltsbear (2489652) | about 5 months ago | (#46545445)

destruction is almost always a waste of resources. But Sparkfun is doing ok here. They have $30,000 worth of meters at retail, but they did not pay $30,000 for them. They probably paid $9000. They could sell the Flukes for at least $20,000, or sell some of them for the $9000 and donate the rest.

The cheapo meters should be sent to another country for donation though.

Fluke (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46545293)

not on my list anymore

Yellow isn't always Fluke (2)

benro03 (153441) | about 5 months ago | (#46545297)

I'm looking at a digital multimeter from Radio Shack that I bought about 5 years ago when they closed a store near me. It sure looks like the same shade of yellow...

Re:Yellow isn't always Fluke (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46545415)

Do a Google Image search for multimeter, you'll see that 90% of them are yellow with a gray face. It's the defacto standard.

Kudos to Fluke (1)

stox (131684) | about 5 months ago | (#46545395)

A great move in a difficult situation.

It's a one-time jesture. (2)

JoeyRox (2711699) | about 5 months ago | (#46545435)

In other words, a fluke.

Message to Fluke (1)

byteherder (722785) | about 5 months ago | (#46545449)

Dear Fluke,

I use your multimeters and love them. Please allow SparkFun to have a one-time, royalty-free license to use your trademark for this batch of multimeters.

No one is going to confuse these multimeters with those of Fluke. And it will be a good-will gesture that those of us in the EE community would appreciate.

byteherder

Is that cost of production, wholesale, or retail? (1)

wisnoskij (1206448) | about 5 months ago | (#46545467)

Is that $30K cost of production, wholesale, or retail?

This last shipment was apparently $5 a multimeter, but they were probably going to sell them at over $40 a pop (random guess).

If these replacements are measured in retail price, it probably only cost the company a few hundred to manufacture them.

Only makes the problem worse (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46545479)

I may be wrong but if i understand correctly Spark fun will have to claim the flukes as income and would have to sell them much higher in price or donate them in turn.

This still does not solve of fluke trademarking COLORS in conjunction multimeters.

BTW why the hell have the allowed radio shack to carry yellow and grey meters ... oh wait the yellow and grey meters from various sources have been around for longer than the trademark which is likely due to Fluke being acquired by Danaher Corporation in 1998.

No Win-Win-Win Here... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46545541)

> A great example of win-win-win?

Nope. It's more like: The-government-screws-everything-up --- Sparkfun-didn't-get-the-multimeters-they-ordered --- Fluke-pays-$30K-to-fix-the-damage-the-government-caused.

When the government destroys $30K of cargo, somebody has to pay for it. So, for the government behaving the way governments do in terms of destroying personal property on a bureaucratic whim, I call that a lose.

Sparkfun got multimeters but not the ones they ordered. If you order a book on Amazon and they send you a different yet similar book, is that a win? I don't think so.

Finally, Fluke volunteers to pay the bill in what appears to be a generous PR move. It's actually a smart business decision that avoids legal liability in case Sparkfun sues, and avoids the possibility of getting dragged into a lawsuit between Sparkfun and the U.S. Customs "service". For them, this is simply the cheapest way out of this mess.

The real question is, did Fluke actually object to this shipment or did the government do this on their own? I'm not inclined to believe the U.S. Customs "service" has much knowledge of U.S. Trademark law or bothers to keep up with the rising tide of IP coming out of the USPTO.

Either way, to me this appears to be lose-lose-lose AND you get to pay for the damage while the government pats itself on the back for a job well done. What a cluster fuck. Seriously.

No easy way out. (1)

westlake (615356) | about 5 months ago | (#46545621)

There was never a chance of giving away the meters to an NPO, trade school, or public school. The hardware would inevitably be as suspect as the look-alike case. I am not convinced that there is a place for the $15 multimeter even in the makerbot movement.

Any shorthand description of Fluke and its product lines will read like corporate PR. but that can't be helped.

Fluke, a subsidiary of Danaher (maker of Craftsman tools), makes handheld electronic test tools used by electricians, HVAC technicians, and engineers to install, maintain, and service electrical and electronic equipment. Its multimeters, oscilloscopes, and other devices measure current, voltage resistance, frequency, pressure, temperature, and air quality. It also makes calibrators and calibration software, waveform generators, and power harmonics meters. Its Fluke Biomedical unit makes patient simulators, diagnostic imaging, and radiation safety products, among others.

Fluke Corporation Company Profile [yahoo.com]

The cheapest Fluke multimeter I could find online sells for about $150 and is CAT III rated for 600 volts.

This category refers to measurements on hard-wired equipment in fixed installations, distribution boards, and circuit breakers. Other examples are wiring, including cables, bus bars, junction boxes, switches, socket outlets in the fixed installation, and stationary motors with permanent connections to fixed installations.

What are Measurement Categories (CAT I, CAT II, etc...)? [ni.com]

All Hail E-Waste! (1)

YoungManKlaus (2773165) | about 5 months ago | (#46545623)

Because who cares about the environment, right?

diCck (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46545631)

i feel sorry for (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46545635)

the multimeter

capitalist asshole fucks

good on them.... (1)

nblender (741424) | about 5 months ago | (#46545683)

Fluke could have just as easily done nothing but they see the sparkfun community for what it is. A group of people who are technical hobbyists, a sizable number of which are probably in purchasing positions in their professional lives... I have both fluke's a Simpson, and some cheapy meters. I have cheapies in the toolboxes of my trucks where all I care about is "is this wire live" or "is there some continuity between here and ground"... I don't care about accuracy. I use my Fluke's when I want accuracy. At work we use Fluke's because they get sent out for calibration; not because they need it, but because lab policy dictates that it is so.

Win-win-win except for the environment (1)

xdancergirlx (872890) | about 5 months ago | (#46545761)

The environmental, material, and human costs that went into making and then destroying 2000 of these things matters too. What a waste!

Step up your game Sparkfun (5, Funny)

ThatsNotPudding (1045640) | about 5 months ago | (#46545809)

Next week, order some Chinese cars that look suspiciously like Bugatti Veyrons.
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