Fluke responds to our issue with US Customs seizing our shipment of multimeters over a trademark violation.
Yesterday, we wrote a fairly-lengthy post about an ongoing customs issue we were dealing with. Essentially, our $15 multimeter, which we source as a quality entry-level meter for DIY enthusiasts is in violation of a trademark held by Fluke Corporation.
The problem boils down to the fact that our $15 multimeter is yellow with a dark gray face, and Fluke's trademark speaks to that effect. We're still pretty upset that such a broad trademark can be enforced with little recourse for a company of SparkFun's size.
But things are changing quickly. We are working with a law firm specializing in customs law to try to split up the shipment and redirect the multimeters to various groups that are friendly to SparkFun but in countries where we don't violate Fluke's marks.
Additionally, Wes Pringle, President of Fluke, graciously reached out to me and explained they would be posting a response on their Facebook page. While we still have issues with the way United States' IP laws are designed and enforced, but Fluke's response was gracious. Here is what they had to say:
Over the last 24 hours, we’ve been watching the conversation around SparkFun. We’ve wanted to join the conversation sooner, but needed to make sure we had all the information in front of us so we could help find the best solution. Thank you for your patience.
Like any organization that designs and manufactures electronics, we actively work to stop lookalike products from making it to the marketplace. We do this to protect our company and the jobs of our employees. We also do so because it is a matter of safety for our customers. Our tools are used in high-energy industrial environments, where precision and safety is an absolute necessity.
I mention this because we firmly believe that we must be – and will continue to be – vigilant in protecting Fluke and our customers. One step in doing that was registering a trademark protecting the look and feel of our devices so our customers know that if it looks like a Fluke it’s a Fluke.
It’s important to know that once we’ve filed for and received trademark protection, US Customs has the responsibility to determine what to stop at the border, or what to seize. In this case, we first learned of this issue from SparkFun’s blog.
We understand how troubling this is for a small company serving the needs of DIY-ers and hobbyists. Here is what we are going to do.
Earlier today we contacted SparkFun and offered to provide a shipment of genuine Fluke equipment, free of charge for them to sell on their site or donate. The value of the equipment exceeds the value of the Customs-held shipment. SparkFun can resell the Fluke gear, recouping the cost of their impounded shipment, or donate it into the Maker community.
While we will continue to enforce our trademark, we are taking this one-time action because we believe in the work of SparkFun supporting the Maker and education communities. This is important to us. We have been supporters of the Maker community for years through the donation of over half a million dollars worth of tools and employee time to organizations like First Robotics.
We look forward to continuing our support of the community, of our customers, and of all the innovators out there.
Sincerely, Wes Pringle President, Fluke Corporation
Thank you Fluke! We would like to take you up on this offer. SparkFun is committed to education and will donate your meters through our outreach events at various school districts and educational conferences. We will be sure your meters make it into the hands of good people.
While our discontent with the current environment of IP law remains, we are encouraged by Fluke's handling of the situation and will continue to try to guide trademark law in a more business friendly way.
It's amazing what the power of good customers can do. Thank you SparkFun fans for getting change to happen faster and with fewer court fees. We'll keep sharing the lessons we learn. Get ready for a trademark free crowd-designed multimeter....
Yes, we're looking at carrying a Fluke meter, currently leaning towards the 117. But I ask these guys to go and pick their fave and I get a list a mile long of Fluke stuff that they want. "Oh! Oh! Oh! That! Daddy, get me that!!"
Anyway, it'll be a few weeks before we have anything to sell, I expect. But yes, we'll be carrying some Fluke gear.
The 117 is a great multi meter I use it on a daily basis working on helicopters in the military and I've been using them for over 5 years and never had a issue. They are very reliable.
Whatever you choose, I am +1 for auto-ranging! as a teacher, it does dumb things down a little for the kids, but it buys us LOTS of time by eliminating the "oh, oops" factor when i have to constantly troubleshoot their meters.
The 117 has auto range on it just a FYI incase they do get it
I'd really suggest you go with the 87. It's probably a little more expensive than the 117, but it's about the only meter you'll ever need. Measures anything imaginable and does a really good job at it.
Ok, maybe not anything. But darn close.
If you are going to offer a multimeter in the lower Fluke price range (~$150), you can get some truly amazing high-end multimeter from other sources at the same price. I haven't considered Fluke an option for years now.
The Fluke 117 isn't a Electronics DMM, it's a Electrican's DMM; no micro/milliAmps.
I'd go with the Brymen 257.
I have a Fluke multimeter and it works great. But when I'm at home, I use my pocket multimeter more than my large Fluke. I'd buy a pocket multimeter from Radio Shack but it looks like it violates Fluke's trademark. The old Micronta 22-171 was the best multimeter for hobby electronics I ever had. How does the Fluke 101 compare? I'd suggest leaning more towards something smaller & simpler for home hobbyist.
I clicked your link to try and see what you meant, but it gave me a 404. Seems like Fluke might have enforced their trademark...
You're probably right. The new Radio Shack meter is now grey with grey border. Definitely changed from the old grey with yellow border
Good job Fluke and thanks Sparkfun for donating! This is why we stick around.
Once again, an issue was resolved through simple communication, and a willingness on all parts to reach an equitable agreement. I thought that many of yesterday's responses seemed hyper-reactionary and extreme. I didn't engage in yesterday's blog, but instead sent a message to Mr. Pringle. I doubt he read it. I don';t know if it would have made a difference. But I explained the situation from my perspective. I didn't rant. I didn't threaten to boycott his products of company. And today, I sent another message, to say thank you for communication with Sparkfun. It was nice to see that in this age of instant news and knee-jerk reactions that are usually limited to 160 characters, a little level-headed communication alleviated a problem in fewer than 48 hours. I have known Sparkfun's openness and desire to reach out for years, and it was nice to see it from another, larger company as well. That being said, I too still have issue with the nature current IP laws, but that's a rant for another day.
I looked at the Sparkfun meter picture at the top of this post before reading about the problem. It didn't make me think of Fluke, and I've been using Fluke meters for 30 years. Simple as that.
But then, one of my Fluke multimeters is a beige 8840 bench meter. Another is a gray/brown model 75 handheld. Another is a greenish cased 88XX bench meter. For Fluke to now claim ownership of the color yellow is ludicrous. Are they going to claim the beige, and grey/brown, and green as well? When will they try to claim blue and pink?
I grow weary of corporations attempting to claim so much as theirs alone. When they try to claim colors, they go too far.
So what reason do you think they picked a yellow meter with a grey face? Is it because psychologically yellow and grey helps people do better electronics work? I'm sure it was chosen to mimic a Fluke, if not it would have been red like the rest of spark fun's products.
I'm not trying to knock Sparkfun - they are a great company - but whether it was a conscious decision or not its still the fluke color scheme.
It's mostly so that Knockoffs wouldn't look like they were made by Fluke. They would probably less strict if they could, but trademark law is really strict and weird.
Actually they claim a very specific dark gray with yellow surround. The fact that the copy meter's case is tapered just like the genuine one is icing on the cake. But don't let the facts get in the way of a good rant!
My Fluke 117 only looks vaguely like the Sparkfun meter when it's in it's yellow rubber protective cover. As I usually use it on the bench it's pure dark gray. My Fluke clamp on meter has no gray at all, it's just yellow and red. My previous Fluke was some sort of beige and had no yellow or gray. If Fluke is going to claim that the yellow/gray is their look they should make everything that color combo.
When I first saw the picture of the Sparkfun meter I never thought of Fluke and I've been using Fluke meters since the 70's. If long time Fluke customers don't recognize those colors as Fluke it's unlikely the general public would be confused.
Good points! I had the same reaction, my old Fluke meter (an 8060) is not yellow! I use it because it works. The SFE "Yellow Devil" meters are for a tighter budget and perhaps more appealing to novices. These SFE meters would be used and in demand because they work , not because they are "Fake Flukes". Let the market decide!
Hooray for Fluke and Sparkfun! I've been keeping a keen eyeball on this story and was wondering if there had been any direct communication between the two companies. It really does give me faith in the fact that people can find a solution to a problem in a reasonable way.
Sparkfun, I love watching how you are growing each week, with the latest products and ideas. I've got a tidy collection of your stuff at home, all of which works brilliantly. One day I plan on visiting the USA and I'd love one of my stops to be sparkfun HQ. (I'm not even sure that's allowed?)
Fluke, I've been a fan since I was knee high to a grasshopper. My dad taught me the benefit of quality tools, so much so that my hearts desire for a 21st birthday present was a Fluke 115 Multimeter. It served me well through university and is still very much in use at work and with my private electronics.
Well done to both of you for making sure that a lot of people are going to benefit from this situation and for keeping the maker spirit alive.
Feel free to stop by, we do public tours every Friday. Also, we love to hear about people who want multimeters for their 21st birthday!
I've always heard Fluke were top quality instruments and it was certainly decent of them to action on making some recompense, which it seems like SparkFun is likewise doing a super decent thing with those meters.
I think the real problem is the trademark, copywhatever, and patent laws. I can understand wanting to prevent blatant attempts to masquerade as some brand name or whatever, but what happened here (at least what I've read thus far) strikes me as just plain stupid.
Also, I'm not fond of the claiming "it's for your protection". Seems to me that's an over used PR claim used to justify draconian policies and actions (such as this). Doesn't, in my opinion, have a lot of substance.
This incident wasn't a Fluke, in terms of doing something like this :) To my mind, MSFT Windows 8's new drivers have to be certified BS would be another example of doing something outrageously heavy handed, claiming it was to protect customers from evil drivers. Like iOs/Apple doing everything possible to prevent developers from distributing an app outside of apples app page (which MSFT is eager to do as well for the new RT && Phone style apps).
I must be getting old or something, this stuff ends up winding me up like an 8 day clock and seems to be getting pretty bad over all.
It is an interesting point. Fluke created the (yellow) wrap around bumper for MMs. The key to the rightness or wrongness is that the Chinese meter maker went to extra expense to get the Fluke look. They used a more expensive two color plastic injection (fusing?) to create a Fluke look-alike where the yellow is not removable. It looks like the removable yellow boot. Would it fool someone who is shopping online and only sees pictures? Then copy the swoopy shape of a particular Fluke mode and make an injection tool. Extra cost and mimic shape and color. Why? Why spend the extra? If there is something to be gained or expected to be gained by this, what is it? Who is in the wrong here? The math is easy. Why is everyone getting different answers?
I completely agree that trademarking the color "yellow" is ridiculously broad and entirely too subjective, who decides exactly when a shade of yellow becomes orange or chartreuse? However, I did search for images of various Fluke multimeters and compared them side by side with the Sparkfun meters, they all retain some obvious differences and while it's apparent the Sparkfun meter isn't intended to be a counterfeit or knock off, there are a couple of models that are extremely similar beyond just the colors and could easily be confused. A little too similar to be an accident I think.
That said, and while I applaud Fluke for stepping up to make things right when far too many companies wouldn't have lifted a finger other than maybe to call their lawyer brigade, the trademark on yellow is garbage, having no opportunity for recourse is garbage, turning thousands of tools into garbage is garbage, and at the end of it all receiving a bill for the destruction of your property is bullshit.
So "too similar to be an accident" or "isn't intended to be a counterfeit or knock off", which one? Come on, it's only because SparkFun is a legitimate seller that this shipment wasn't just branded "FUKE" and stuck on eBay to tempt the unwary.
Get a clue over "trademark on yellow" also. If you read the claim it is for the dark gray meter with yellow surround. Nobody owns yellow and you can buy yellow meters from many manufacturers and rightly so, but Fluke is gray/yellow. If you think this is unusual or unfair just try importing jewellery in Tiffany blue boxes or starting a delivery company with a fleet of big brown trucks.
US trademarks lapse if they are not enforced. This means that if you don't enforce a trademark on Sparkfun's goods, then the entire trademark lapses. It makes sense that Fluke wouldn't want flukes pretending to be Fluke (counterfeit products) - they built a brand, and they want to protect it.
Hank Green explains it here:
Yay for everybody! Nate's post yesterday was very even handed. He did not get mad at Fluke, which would have been easy. The response from Wes Pringle and Fluke was equally first class. It's reassuring to see that there can be reason in the madness of the real world.
That's a first class response from Fluke. Sparkfun's doing the right thing too.
Wow, I am impressed with Fluke's response. Good points, and a generous offer, too!
I want to make a comment regarding the following statement:
We also do so because it is a matter of safety for our customers. Our tools are used in high-energy industrial environments, where precision and safety is an absolute necessity.
I'm sure this attitude seems perfectly reasonable to the execs at Fluke, but I find it insulting. Fluke's customers are smart people who will not mistake a copy from a real Fluke meter unless it is a counterfeit product, using the Fluke name and logo, a product name such as "87-V". In fact, I think just about anyone is smart enough to understand the difference between an original and a copycat or "clone" product as long as the copy has different company and product names on it.
Too much is being excused on the grounds of "safety". People in Britain complain about their government becoming a "nanny state", and it is happening in the USA and other countries, too. In my opinion, Fluke should not be a part of this, or take advantage of it.
Traditional trademark law allowed protecting the manufacturer's name and product name, along with an identifying logo. In my opinion, this is completely justifiable to avoid counterfeiting of products, and this degree of protection is completely sufficient by itself. Again in my opinion, considering the shape and color of a product to be a trademark is simply a corruption of the ideas behind trademarks, and can easily be abused, as has happened in this incident.
As with many other people, I find the modern idea of so-called "intellectual property" to be corrupt. It is for people (really, usually corporations) who are greedy and selfish, and are often unable to compete on fair terms, hiding under legal protections to survive or maximize profits, often using anti-competitive business practices. I have always thought of Fluke as an industry leader and a healthy business that has no need for this kind of thing.
I've read that Fluke was started by people from the WWII generation who were proud of the USA and being American. I suggest a re-examination of Fluke's corporate policy to help make America once again into a country that people -- including young engineers, can be proud of.
Never mind the Flake DMM, my eyes were immediately drawn to the Copperish Top battery.
The one in the packaging that might possibly be confused for this brand of battery
I am still concerned that these (and likely future) hobby meters are labelled as Cat III meters. On the post yesterday someone from sparkfun posted a message to the effect of "manufacturer can issue these ratings without independent third party certification" ... This does not seem like a responsible attitude for a company that deals with the hobbyist and DIY crowd. Cat III means that it can be used for high voltage 3 phase circuits close to mains -- this is what a hobbyist that googles for category ratings will find when he is wondering if he can use the meter to check out his dryer. At sparkfun you should hook these cheap meters up (incorrectly) to a multi-phase 240V (with a blast barrier and remote switch) and see if you would be ok holding one in your hands when it fails. If not, you should INSIST that your manufacturer put an ACCURATE rating on their meters. At the very least put warnings all over the ones you sell -- web site, stickers, packing flyers stating that it is NOT recommended to use these for Cat III work. Let me put it in business terms: contributing to the release of magic smoke from people is not good for PR.
This reminds me of a cool video I saw by the EEV blog guy, Dave Jones where he was blowing up DMMs with a 4000V source which was very entertaining. The Fluke had actual protection in it (an MOV) and didn't get toasted like some of the cheaper ones.
Let me clarify my comment. Manufactures can legally put Cat III on them with no independent third party verification. The marking is not nor is it intended to be a verification of a certain safety rating. The marking says the manufacture designed and tested them for a certain voltage rating. While CAT III tends to be called a safety rating it does not really determine safety since safety involves more than voltage. Currently we have no reason to believe that the manufacture did not design or test these at CAT III voltages, nor do we have the resources to test them. If you can provide a solid reason why you believe these are not CAT III we can talk to the manufacture about it and get them tested, relabeled, or discontinued (they might be discontinued anyway because of the color), but until them we can't test every feature of every product we sell, at some point we do have to trust the manufacture.
Exactly! Just like every piece of Chinese rubbish has the CE mark and every other certification they can copy, without being at all aware of what it means.
Just like the counterfeit Apple USB chargers off eBay (see http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=wi-b9k-0KfE) I think it might be very instructional for a lot of people to have a qualified engineer open and critique a $15 meter.
Crowd designed Multimeter... yay! My two cents.... better leads, buttons and a slider instead of a dial, self sensing voltage selector, continuity, a better flip stand, awesome documentation a kid could figure out, a hanger on the back to hang it up on at a workbench, and LED flashlight (detachable optional), and just a thought.... GPS location for when your co workers use it and never return it, maybe even a self destruct tied into an rfid if the meter gets beyond a certain footage away from your desk? Just a thought LOL. But seriously, I think a crowd designed MM would be great!
Oh and bluetooth, everything is better with bluetooth ;)
And dont forget... It HAS TO BE YELLOW, so all my friends will THINK I can afford a Fluke! ;-) No.. wait.. that might be a problem..
Make a wide range of color schemes and allow us to choose which one on checkout? Make the MM's in-house and allow us to design the color scheme?
Translucent case with RGB LEDs inside that are connected to PWM channels so the user can select his or her own color. Password protect the color setting so when someone else borrows your meter you will see it in use from across the shop floor.
Translucent case with RGB LEDs inside
How about completely transparent? That way you can visually check the fuse without taking it apart. Also, because I like seeing the insides of things.
Why not post the design files so I can have mine 3d printed in any color scheme I want? Order the boards, assemble with features and functionality I need. I can make it look like a Fluke, or a Tricorder if I wanted.
What about Velleman, Harbor Freight, Elenco, Electronic Express, and Jameco and all those other folks who cater to us Makers and electronics enthusiasts? Who speaks for them? Didn't they get screwed over by Fluke too?
If those companies tried or try in future to import the same Chinese knockoffs I hope they receive the same treatment. But it isn't being screwed by Fluke. It's falling foul of the law of the USA, a law protecting an American company that has made electronic equipment since 1948, the company that made the first gray/yellow multimeter (70 series). Decades of producing great meters mean that professional engineers see gray/yellow and think Fluke, simple as that. If anyone's getting screwed it's by a Chinese copycat manufacturer who didn't have to make something that looks like a Fluke but did all they could to do exactly that.
If the product they manufactured was worth anything in its own right, if it wasn't just a basic meter like tens of thousands of others, if the safety certification on the front was worth the ink it is printed with, they wouldn't have to copy someone else's product. But they do. I hope they get stopped at every border they try to cross with their dodgy crap until they stop trying to take a free ride on Fluke's image.
If anything I'm more likely to buy another Fluke product now especially given their generous response to SparkFun. Not that my 115 has ever skipped a beat or ever seems likely to.
Another Fluke corporate lawyer speaks out. You are very brave. By the way just how much do those Armani suits you guys wear cost?
This still leaves a bad taste in my mouth. I was looking forward to maybe shelling out the big bucks for my own legendary fluke instrument once I advanced in my electronics knowledge base, but now I think I'll look to another high quality manufacturer. Fluke has "jumped the shark."
I wouldn't let this stop you from buying a Fluke if you've always wanted one. They're serious about what they do and that's resulted in some very VERY top notch engineering.
That said, I grew up using a Sperry meter and Sperry Instruments make a good DMM, too. Also, bonus, they look just like a Fluke! Well, okay, the colors are inverted.
I'm with you, Nate. I worked in an Engineering dept. for 10 years developing quality consumer electronics, and it's disheartening to see a competitor steal a product design and have it manufactured at sub-par quality at a cheaper price. It hurts the company who paid to engineer, develop, and support quality hardware when another company 'stands on the shoulders of giants' to duplicate an idea and drag it through the mud. Sure it drives innovation and offers lower cost versions to the market, but copycat products are very often a let-down, break or underperform, and cause market confusion. I see both sides, and the law is messy, but in this case I think I side with Fluke who strives to make the best product and doesn't want their good name tarnished by inferior look-alike copies. A gray line, indeed.
I agree.. The apology is good, but kind of smacks of the "I'm sorry" you get from a 6 year old caught with their hand in the cookie jar. In my mind, the minute a company tries to stay "on top" by hindering competition rather than improving their own product, it's time to start considering selling that company short. I hope I'm wrong, as I too have loved my fluke meters over the years. I hope this puts them back on the right track, and was not just a public relations maneuver.
This won't be a popular opinion, but I feel Fluke is not only justified, but obligated to protect their intellectual property rights. The Sparkfun meter in question is obviously designed to be a look-alike to take advantage of Fluke's excellent reputation. With so many better colors to choose from, I just don't see this as a coincidental color choice, not to mention the dial and jack positions.
I'll continue to support Sparkfun and I really like the assortment of interesting gadgets they supply, but this meter issue is a mistake on Sparkfun's part and they need to learn from it as I'm sure they have. Sparkfun is, I hope, better than this.
(Edited to add name, this was not intended to be anonymous)
I have been in the business of Electrical Engineering for three decades. Fluke was a recognized brand in this industry before I got here and likely will be long after the worms eat my remains. Fluke products have a distinctive look and always have. Different product series have had different looks over the years but the “Yellow Rubber Bumper” of the 70 series is about as iconic as a design element on a piece of test equipment can be. When the look of your product melds with your brand name you need to protect them both. People, even highly educated and rational people, form options based on images. Even if you know it’s a knock –off, a meter with that “Yellow Rubber Bumper” look falsely gets some of the credit Fluke has honestly earned just by subconscious association of imagery. It is theft by deception.
It would be impossible for me to say if SF was duplicitous in the intended deception. I don’t and can’t know what they thought in their minds or felt in their hearts when placing the order. What I can say is that if they didn’t know what a Fluke 70 series DMM looked like then they are not actual Electrical Engineers. Having developed many products and having familiarity with offshore CMs, I know SF approved a “First Article” of the product before it was released to production. They should have known better. Don’t build the SparkFun brand on deception if you want to succeed in the long run. Renounce the foreign CM who made you a co-conspirator or admit it was all your idea to start with.
If you have an ideological conflict with the US IP laws then either defy them and gladly suffer the consequences of your actions when your stuff get confiscated or respect the law and work to change it through the available legal means, including public advocacy. Don’t try to have it both ways. That just makes you look like a hypocritical jerk.
I'm impressed to see Fluke donate replacement units to help cover those that were held by customs. They did not need to do that.
I think I'll look at buying a Fluke DMM
I am glad that Fluke is taking at least a little step to resolve this unfortunate situation. I applaude both sparkfun and Fluke for developing a reasonable bandage to this 20 guage shotgun problem. I have used Fluke meters since 1979. After graduating from College with a degree in civil engineering. Civil engineers dabble in electronics also. I have had various Fluke multimeters.
Yet sadly in 2014, and liking in San francisco, it is extremely diffult to get a Fluke multimeter. I have an old clunky Fluke 8010M that still works great. Yet, I eeded a battery powered multimeter for use in the field. I could not wait several weeks for a Fluke to arrive by mail order. I luckly found a Velleman DVM850BL which is more of a rip off of a Fluke handheld meter than youer substitute. I think that the real solution to this problem would be for Fluke to create a less expensive meter that contain fewer functions for those who do not need a lot of versitility.
As far as safety, the only meters that were better than Flukes were those vintage analog multimeters manfactured by Simpson.
I also have a Velleman DVM850BL in yellow and gray trade dress and agree that it appears to be more "Flukey" than the SparkFun meter at issue here. I notice however that Velleman has changed to a green boot and I wonder when they did that, and why.
But really, I write to agree with your larger point, I too wish that Fluke would sell a meter more directed to the electronics hobbyist, something in the $40-60 range that would handle the general low voltage chores, transistor testing and so on that the hobbyist needs.
WAT? Heard of Amazon? Jameco? Free overnight shipping? Hell, I even know a little shop in San Rafael that will sell you a Fluke over the counter if you'd like a nice trip out of the fog.
You're maybe in the easiest place in the entire universe to get your choice of multimeters quickly and cheaply.
Here's what made me mad. And I don't have any idea if the culprits were SparkFun fans or just people mad at "evil corporate America" or "Capitalism" or whatever... but some of the comments made on the Fluke site were mean, nasty, or just plain vulgar. C'mon folks. At least be nice on your first attempt. Would you walk up to the CEO of Fluke and say these things to his face? Especially now, after learning that they weren't the responsible party and they were protecting their trademark per the laws of this country? (USA! USA! USA!)
To be fair there were a number of respectful posts as well. But the nasty language was quite visible. There is a place for having a foul mouth, I suppose. But a corporate Facebook page is not it.
Actually yes, If I happened to find myself sitting next to Mr. Pringle at the sushi bar I certainly would have given him a good dose of discord. But how likely is that? Next best thing, vent on his Facebook page, especially since there didn't seem to be any other means of registering my distaste. It got results, didn't it? CEO's are tough and they put on their big boy/girl pantaloons each and every morning. Don't feel bad. He can take it and maybe he'll think about consequences next time before he let's his overpaid lawyers run his company.
AD8BC has got a reasonable point. There's already too much ugliness on the internet. Our own comment guidelines for SparkFun expect civility.
I'm about as foul-mouthed as they come, in my outside-of-work hours, and I think there's plenty of corporate behavior out there that deserves an angry response, but as a group it seems like we'd do well to think more about how we can encourage people to treat others with some basic decency even (maybe especially) if they're partisans of our side in some dispute.
I can vouch for this... brennen can have a pretty foul mouth. He also cleans up nicely when he wants to.
He also cleans up nicely
You take that back.
That was very generous of Fluke. I'm just curious on the USPTO page it says "Mark Drawing Type: 2 - AN ILLUSTRATION DRAWING WITHOUT ANY WORDS(S)/ LETTER(S)/NUMBER(S)". Does that mean you can call the meter "Fluke", but it just can't be yellow?
Although, to be fair another thought just occurred to me. What if another vendor were to co-op Sparkfun's very distinctive and very much beloved Red Box, what would Sparkfun do? Food for thought.
I have been in the marketing department here at SparkFun a long time and I get TONS of questions about how we make the boxes and who we source them from. I'm always honest and take pride in the fact that folks love the red boxes so much that they want their own.
When I answer the questions about the boxes, I'm always clear that the box itself it not trademarked and that anyone, anywhere, is welcome to copy it. I do try try to remind whoever is asking that the logo is trademarked, however.
In my humble way, I have open sourced the little red boxes, kinda. ;)
SparkFun holds only one trademark and that's on our name and logo. If somebody were to start up SparkFun Electronics and sell stuff using our name and logo then they would be confronted directly, probably by Nate or Trevor. Whether or not lawyers would ever get involved all efforts would first be made to settle our differences (or sames as it were) directly and personally.
As to others knocking off SparkFun's style: that's happened before. I vaguely remember other examples but the end result is usually the same: tend not to care and just keep innovating.
There goes the company name for statically operated bedroom toys.
As far as I know, the red boxes aren't a registered SparkFun trademark. And they shouldn't be, because it would go against what they just said about overly-broad trademarks. It would be a different story altogether if the other boxes had a SparkFun logo on them, because that is trademarked. But you shouldn't be able to just say "We own the rights to all red boxes."
I think as long as the box itself is red, but it doesn't say "Sparkfun", or "5parkfun" ("5" instead of "S") then it should be fine.. The consumer is not stupid, although the more we're "protected" and forget the old saying of "buyer beware", the dumber we get. All the more reason NOT to rely on government to "protect" us in these ways..
If the issue is protecting customers then would it make it legal to sell this DIY kit if it is written on them that they are not by FLUKE company and are for hobby purpose and not for industrial use ?
No. The meters already have a SparkFun logo on them and CBP is being very strict about the meters not entering the US without changing the color of the housing, which SparkFun can't afford to do on such short notice.
I can testify to Fluke's educational interests. Though long ago, they donated a 408B power supply to a custom instrument I was building at a university. In fact it was delivered by John Fluke Jr. Check the specs on this thing and you will see why they like to protect their image. http://www-esd.fnal.gov/esd/catalog/main/fluke/408b-spec.htm
Those are some incredible specs! 0–6000 V with 5 mV resolution and 0.001% regulation. Can be stored at -200° C. Wow.
I noticed, when doing robot inspection at a recent FIRST Robotics tournament, that almost every team had a Fluke DMM in the pits. I suspected then, and the letter above confirms, that they do support educational activities like FIRST.
where's the "free crowd-designed multimeter…." spoken of? herein?
The problem with trademarks is that if a company stops enforcing one, they lose it. That's why they aren't granting you a license, but giving you a 1-time donation of Fluke meters. Legally, they are still enforcing their trademark, but they are also doing the ethically right thing.
If they tighten their definition to a specific shade of yellow, then someone could make a meter just a tad darker, and claim that the trademark isn't being enforced like that.
Short story short, copyright law makes it really easy to give out licenses without losing all of your rights. Trademark law makes it hard to give out a license and keep your trademark.
Hank Green (from the vlogbrothers/scishow/Crash Course) explains this well in relation to the React World scandal here: https://medium.com/@hankgreen/the-trouble-with-trademarks-dcd8af3bede3#.91rf5utzh
Why sparkfun doesn't carry at least one lower end fluke meter blows my mind. I mean, sure do the open source meter. That would be FANTASTIC and build it to a great spec, but offer the fluke. I would of already bought a fluke from sparkfun if they carried them. or better yet, get fluke to make one with a read stripe in the cover, or with a sparkfun logo on the back, now that'd be awesome. Take two very cool companies and put them together. BAM, problem solved. Now get it done. :)
Ancient history at this point, but I was curious; have you ever gotten ahold of the manufacturer of these $15 units and checked if you could get them with a red boot for future orders? It'd honestly fit the SparkFun look better, and starving hobbyists like me could use these units still.
Wow!! As a test professional, I've always viewed Fluke as the standard. Now I'm even more impressed with them a a great corporate citizen. This sounds like a great start for a partnership. We wonder where our next generation of engineers is coming from. SparkFun and Fluke can answer this with "We grow our own."
Companies give a lot of thought to what color/shade/hue a product will be made available. I challenge SparkFun to dig deep, do some soul searching and then offer us an honest answer to the simple question: of all the infinite combinations available on the color wheel, what was the intention in/motivation for purposely choosing something so similar to a Fluke?
I just bought one of these Sparkfun meters at MicroCenter!
I'm very impressed with the way Fluke is handling this situation. It's very rare for a company to do this kind of thing.
I have a Radioshack DMM that meets this description..
That is awesome! To agree, FIRST Robotics does get equipment from them by donation. It's good to here that Fluke is showing Gracious Professionalism by donating to SparkFun.
South - Africa. I managed to buy a genuine 117 secondhand for R600.00 from our Local Cash Crusaders store. That's around US $ 60. A bargain me thinks ? But looking forward to getting some offers on Fluke equipment from Sparkfun anyways..
Greetings from sunny South - Africa ..
When I was younger, I probably would have been up-in-arms over this, on the side of Sparkfun, but now that I am fifty-seven and have over thirty-five years in the engineering business, mostly in the automotive world, I have a differing opinion. Having watched the demise of the U.S. auto industry, at their own hands, and through the stealing of patents and innovations by the Japanese, Chinese...and now the Koreans and Indians, I have to side with Fluke. No, I am not a pro-union zealot, I am a non-union, invented here person. If we want jobs here, we have to protect what we make and what we invent. Fluke is doing that and getting grief for what is rightfully theirs. Have you ever seen the side of a Caterpillar of John Deere heavy equipment piece....protected by hundreds of patents? Why do you think this is necessary? I am very happy that the two companies could talk and settle what is rightfully, a 100% correct response by the customs agents AND what is 100% correct in the Fluke's best interest. After all, they trademarked it, it is rightfully theirs and THEY need to protect their company AND their employees. They did not have to offer Sparkfun anything, .....but they did. What a great company Fluke is. We should ALL thank them....AND, we should ALL than Sparkfun for their decisions and response.
I've owned 2 Flukes for over 20 years. Both Fluke and Sparkfun are standup companies. SF and customers (of which I am one), don't begrudge Fluke for trying to protect their IP. The copycats wouldn't use the look and feel if they didn't intend to take advantage of Fluke's strong branding.
But kudo's to both of you for dealing with it in a cool manner and circumventing the lawyers ( .. circumventing lawyers - THATs what keeps costs down! : -) )
On the community designed meter...I'd like a continuity tone that is or could be made loud. I use my meter mostly on the bench with security cameras and micro-controllers but I work where it is always noisy. In addition, a backlit display and a hold function.
I used a Fluke LAN meter back in the day and it was fantastic but as an individual, I don't think I could ever afford any of the current Fluke products. Money can go a long way toward changing lives here. I get the whole 'yeah they cost more, but you'll never have to buy another...' but that argument is hard to make when you work with hungry kids.
Scott, PdP, Haiti
The whole issue ridicules is considering one can still buy a "fake" other places on the internet. Does Fluke really think we don't know this multimeter is not the same quality as a Fluke? And really, other than color it doesn't look like a Fluke.
Kudos to Fluke. I'm truly impressed by the company. And also by Sparkfun. Well done all around!
if they succeed with this then they could go after other companies like stanley tools because of the black and yellow of dewalt and many other companies who use the similar looking multi piece ocean wave logo like ultimate chopper, weight watchers, akamai and so on .
what you could do is arrange with the chinese makers to direct to consumer mail because i doubt the mail is as closely monitored.
also use the gift declaration to avoid customs.
another way is to open up a sparkfun in another country and have the item shipped.
you can also send the meters to a company to gut them and then using 3d printer make a new shell and then make the meter a kit sort of like http://www.adafruit.com/products/609 if you ever bought one it comes with the blastic shell and the board and you snap the board into the shell and close it up do the same with the meter.
in no way does the meters look like flukes.
check with fluke and ask if you could have the colors reversed so it is yellow face and black body
Fluke deserves a round of applause for this. As a frequent purchaser of test gear, Fluke just got a +1
On the crowd-designed multimeter...bluetooth connection to cell phone so I can hook up meeter under the hood and see display on my phone when I turn the key in the cab.
It is so nice to hear about a company operating in a common sense and generous manner. Well Done!
What do you think about the Vichy on EBay ?
Check out the Vichy DMM on EBay :..
Wow. This is incredible. I'm blown away by their response and generosity. I went from saying I'd never buy Fluke again, to being their biggest fan. What an amazing thing to do. How do you give a standing ovation in a blog comment?
I use a cheap meter and have used low cost multi-meters for years. No sweat if I accidentally drop it on the shop concrete floor or fry it by mistake. However, I use a Fluke non-cheap meter when I absolutely cannot afford to fry myself. My Fluke is also, when tested critically, the most accurate digital multi-meter I have. I also use a very old used Tektronix O-Scope. I might replace it with a new lower cost import if it ever dies. It may outlast me, though.
I would VERY much like to see a meter in the stark red and white SFE livery, personally.
I'll start by saying I do love Fluke equipment, but this is unfortunate, although I am glad to see Fluke respond so well. I carry several different Fluke meters with me every day for my job. I work all over the world and I really couldn't do my job without a good quality multimeter (aswell as a few other instrumentation testing tools). For the last 12 months I have worked on many projects in China. This is where I constantly encounter the "Flake" multimeter. The first time I held one I couldn't tell the difference between it and my workmates Fluke 179... until we turned it on. It took a few seconds to display anything, and the screen would only update every few seconds. We later discovered this particular copy had no fuses for current measurement and a few other scary things. I have to look after my meter, it has to be inspected on a regular basis and calibrated every 12 months (granted I am using it on some high energy supplies in countries that aren't the safest and then use the same meter for checking high precision instrumentation) What am I trying to say, I guess Fluke has got some real problems with copies and it is potentially dangerous for people like me who see the fluke brand and get that warm fuzzy trusting feeling and want to "Test all the things!!" but I dont see how or why a sparkfun branded meter would be considered a threat to Fluke's name, market or other people's safety. While I am sure the Sparkfun meter is great for the electronics enthusiast and definitely well priced (the first meter I had cost $14 about 16 years ago and was terrible) but anyone who decides to test a 1000V supply with a $15 meter should probably think twice.
I still don't think Sparkfun is a "small" company.... I mean, you guys distribute nationwide, and have a huge community base, as well as countless number of loyal customers. Doesn't seem very small to me!
I, personally, would rather have a red flame multimeter than a yellow flukish one. This sentiment is only reinforced when you stated you would donate ~$30k of equipment to education that was intended to recoup your loses. Brilliant. Education needs a resilient and safe meter more than a maker who knows better (in theory).
If you manage to redirect the shipment, please let us know where it ends up. I'd love to support you by buying through thouse groups if possible, and trust others would too.
Thumbs up for Fluke and SparkFun Electronics !!!
So I've used purely Fluke meters for many years now, and since they've all been the stock yellow cased multimeters, at first glance your meter does look like a Fluke (pun completely intended). Now, I don't think that's so much of an issue, I mean, it's a meter, and for me personally, I associate yellow meter case with fluke, but that's just because 9 out of 10 meters I see are just that, yellow Flukes. It seems like most of your customers wouldn't make that distinction, and the odds of your meter ever making into a 600v electrical house/distribution panel/etc seem very slim.
Basically, I understand how you could get the confused at a glance, but I don't think it's an issue, since it's rare that these two meters might cross paths. Certainly not such a big deal that it's worth confiscating 2,000 meters from a small company for...
Awesome. Well done Fluke and SparkFun. Let me know when SparkFun starts to carry Fluke. I'd be happy to purchase their great equipment from SparkFun to further show support for two classy companies.
I'm interested in knowing how the original complaint originated? Was it department of XYZ identifying the goods, or a complaint from Fluke? This is a difficult one IMHO. The Chinese have no qualms about exploiting other's IP, and don't see it as theft at all (or if they do, don't care). Being a country that makes stuff, but doesn't create much of it, their economy is heavily dependent on using other's ideas. Patenting a 'color combination' seems a bit ridiculous, and is heavily biased towards big businesses who can afford to patent this stuff (it's not cheap or easy either). At the same time, I can see people getting confused about the SparkFun meters, there's a definite 'look and feel' about it that looks Flukish. US IP laws, due to the power of big business, and the US's dominance in 'creating' as opposed to 'making' stuff, are considered draconian and exploitative by the rest of the world. Big Pharma's outrageous attempts to extend drug patents using sophistry are a much more important example of the misuse of these laws.
Interestingly, in a win for the little guy, Cadbury tried to patent an entire color: their 'purple' (#3B0083), and wanted to disallow anyone using the color, anywhere - in effect they were trying to patent a frequency in the electromagnetic spectrum. It might have been an ambit claim, but after spending millions on lawyers, they ended up having to restrict the patent to using the color with chocolate products. BP tried it on with green too, but more comprehensivly lost that one.
Anyway, hats off to SparkFun and Fluke - reasonable people getting to a reasonable outcome.
There are many items in this world that are recognized by their brand name and their distinctive appearance and style as a trademarked item.Wristwatches, perfumes, luggage and clothes are but a few items that over the years have been deliberately and intentional faked. Anyone who owns a certain brand of Swiss wristwatch KNOWS that a $100 "knockoff" is not the real item even if it has that expensive brands name on the item.
I own two Fluke meters as well as a number of cheaper "hobby meters." I can tell the difference in quality and performance between the Fluke and the other; as would nearly all users who have used both.
Sparkfun was not trying to make "knockoff" Fluke meters. even if there was a similar appearance. Even if there is a similar appearance, they are not be sold as "Fluke" meters with the Fluke name on it. I applaud Fluke's understanding of this fact through their willingness work with Sparkfun to resolve this. Those of us who want to own a high quality DMM would buy a brand name item and not an item of ten percent of the cost of that quality item and believe it has the same quality. The engineering company that I work for knows this and will only buy brand name test equipment even though there are some impressive alternatives in the market place. They buy Fluke, Agilent, Tektronix and others because their philosophy is that high quality products only come from high quality companies and high quality companies take time to develop that quality. It is the performance of the company and how they stand behind their product that is a major source of that quality. I believe Fluke knows this and doesn't see a "bargain" meter as a threat to their business. Each has its place in the market, just like Rolex and Timex products and seldom does one take market share from the other.
I just funded this: http://www.dragoninnovation.com/projects/34-mooshimeter
It just seemed to make so much sense, and had a lot of flexibility for application (independent on-robot power metering anyone?). I'm not an EE, but the specs sounded reasonable to me.
I have a fluke 87, and run a bunch of the network testing stuff. Like the former, the latter I will reserve comment about until the firmware upgrade...
Thanks for the link, that looks extremely cool! Since it is BLE I bet you could interface it to more than just smartphones.
For 30 years I looked at the price of Fluke meters and said "How could they possibly be worth so much more than other meters that do the same thing?"
Then I used one. Then I bought one! Just couldn't believe the difference in how they feel and respond to user input.
I'll be buying another one - now I'll probably get it from SparkFun! (I need data logging and a PC connection)
I am very very pleased to see the response by Fluke. They have jumped up a notch in my and my company's assessment of them as a vendor. Well done Fluke and SparkFun.
I am impressed by Fluke's response. Glad to see there are companies that will work things out.
You guys should do more than donate high end fluke multimeters. Hold a raffle. Then use that money to make even more of your entry level multimeters, then donate that instead.
I'm sure people don't mind if you use some of it to offset your losses, perhaps indirectly through increased volume discount on making more multimeters.
For the most part, I hate most of what IP is all about. I mean software patent for "back and store"? Give me a break. However, it looks like the manufacturer of this voltmeter definitely crossed a line. The sad thing is that they are not being held responsible. What is even more reprehensible is that DHS seems to have nothing better to do than to enforce obscure trademarks. I guess they got tired of feeling up nuns at the airport.
By not holding them responsible, there is no incentive for them to do anything about it and Sparkfun cannot be expected to know all of the IP that exists in every category in which they do business. Fluke has reacted in the best of corporate ethics in this.
I'm with Fluke on this one. What if I started selling electronic kits with bright red packaging and labeled Parkphun? What is ridiculous, are patents and copyrights for things that any decently skilled person could invent on their own, such as most 3D printing technology, then allowing them to be extended beyond infinity. The bad people are the companies that make money on their patents instead_of useful products like multi-meters you can pass to the next generation, rather than to a land-fill after using for a week or two. It's up to us to decide if our purchases are investments or just spending. A $15 meter made by slave labor seems worse than simple spending. In my view, finding a used Fluke on eBay is a much better investment. Even better, finding a broken one and figuring out how to fix it.
I wouldn't have immediately gone to "Fluke" when I saw that--missing the hardened/shockproof exterior and supple leads. The grey background just makes sense from a human-interface design, as that generates a nice contrast to the symbols in many lighting conditions. Still, protecting brand-recognition is very important (see "Kleenex") as has to be vigorously pursued to back later, more serious claims.
Fluke's response seems balanced, frankly. Vigorously defend the brand, but don't "smash the little guy". They seems to have generated a win-win: maybe good PR for them, protected the brand where they can, provided in-kind compensation to SparkFun. Quite a hassle to re-export the Sparkfun meters, but they could still generate revenue extra-US.
More costly is the redesign of the Sparkfun meter. Can I suggest a nice "Sparkfun red" exterior, with a grippy rubberized casing? Inset the "spark" logo in the rubber, and you add friction (meters need to stay in place) and brand to the device.
Was this process started by flukes legal dept or their marketing guys. Round here a fluke is something that happens by chance.
This is all great from a macro perspective, but I want to buy a multimeter. I LIKE the meter you guys imported, but I'd LIKE it even better if I COULD buy a Fluke meter from SparkFun. Any chance of a future deal between SparkFun and Fluke where we can buy the genuine article from SparkFun?
I'm doing ebike research and working with multi-cell LiPo packs, where accurate voltage measurements are critical. I use el-cheapo little red multimeters. They work, but I'm fearful and nervous about the accuracy, as I have two of these meters and they disagree to the tune of 0.2vdc, which is potentially a big problem with high-energy LiPo. I have other measuring equipment that shows LiPo voltage - it would be great to know that equipment is working OK by having a Fluke to compare against.
You guys at SF well know how good Fluke equipment is. No, it's not cheap stuff, but it's accurate and solid. No one ever had to apologize or worry about accuracy of their Fluke meter.
Kudos to both Sparkfun and Fluke for being stand-up organizations! It's been said many times here in these comments, but I'll say it again- it's wonderful what can happen when people act responsibly, considerately, and with compassion for others. Too often something like this would cause the parties to circle the wagons and start slugging it out in court. I'm happy with Fluke's response, and also their gentle suggestion to donate the extra value to the Maker community. Likewise, I'm glad that Sparkfun is acting on that suggestion, although I'm sure they would have done something similar of their own accord. Both of these companies have just earned a very loyal customer.
How can our School Districts recently formed Robotics Team get one of these Fluke multimeters?
WATT!?, I mean, WHAT!? They donated genuine Fluke equipment!?!? Oh my!!! Well done, Fluke!!!!
Since I was a child, Fluke has had the highest name brand appeal. I always wanted to buy one but they were too costly for me. The real issue about using cheap meters or great meters is the impedance. Cheap meters have a greater affect on what they are measuring. For some things like, "what is the voltage on this battery?", cheap meters are fine. When you are troubleshooting analog circuits, cheap meters can be very troublesome. I have a handful of cheap meters I have bought over the years, and recently I purchased a Fluke (on ebay). I have heard Fluke is very political, and I certainly understand they must protect their trademarks, if they expect to keep them. I am VERY impressed with how Fluke has responded to this. Frankly this was not the outcome I was expecting. Fluke has gained a lot of karma points with me by this response. Being supportive of education and the Maker community is very important if we want to grow another generation of engineers. This is great "Institutional Advertising" Fluke. :-)
very good to hear about this generous and sincere response by Fluke... I can also understand their concerns. I have a Fluke myself, at school we have a Velleman that does the job and looks like a Fluke but isn't as nice as my Fluke (so sometimes I let my students use my Fluke in stead).
Thanks Fluke, nice of you guys to think about the community and SFE!
Browsing through the comments (but not every single one), while I despise the combination of a Draconian and moronic US Patent and Trademark Office, I do side with Fluke's rationale of safety.
I own a few cheap meters. And they work fine as long as you stick to low-voltage/low-power applications. But they are wholly unsuitable for mains-voltage work (e.g. when attempting to troubleshoot any plug-in piece of equipment), or for high-currents (e.g. LiPo battery packs). I've become a fan of Dave Jones' video blog and forums, and his teardowns of cheap meters ( http://youtu.be/gh1n_ELmpFI?t=8m56s or http://youtu.be/n3WGaiYF2sk?t=17m43s ) and his own near-death experience with a cheap meter ( https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ewyf9mzIfi0 ).
Basically, you get what you pay for. I think it's irresponsible and dangerous to hand a novice a cheap meter and let them go to town. I used to take those meters and test mains voltages, and if I happened to have the range set to anything but high-voltage AC, the meter could literally have blown up in my hand, and possibly electrocute me.
It might be nice if all the cheap meters in were red (a la Harmer Fright), but you just have to look at each one and make sure (a) you've got a good brand in your hand, and/or (b) you took it apart and verified High-Rupture Capacity (HRC) fuses, high-voltage isolation slots, and other good design decisions.
(Alternatively, +1 for a clear case!!!)
The first thing I thought when I saw that was that it was a knock off Fluke. I think the responsibility lies with buying meters that are most certainly Fluke knock offs then complaining about a seized shipment. It's no different than someone doing a "Funspark" site with a similar look. Like it or not Fluke is completely in the context of the law and those posters that are ranting should have an issue with the law, not Fluke. Some of those same posters comment that they have trademarked the use of yellow implying the color yellow as a whole. That is simply incorrect. They have trademarked the look and color scheme of the device with respect to the design. If that meter would have been red or black it wouldn't have been an issue. It's obvious that it's a Fluke look alike and Sparkfun should have known better regardless of how they feel abou the law.
I've been using Fluke equipment for about 4 decades and have found the company and its products to be exemplary. A 177 sets on my maker bench at home and in the shop we use everything from a 117 to a 190c as well as the network and protocol test devices. Fluke is a gold standard in test equipment and service.
That said, the Fluke line is pretty expensive (but you do get what you pay for) and I think a low cost, Sparkfun branded meter would be a fine addition. I'd buy one just to support Sparkfun.
Hmm... You guys wouldn't happen to be fans of a certain indie game developer struggling with similar circumstances, would you? Your newsletter suggests this to me :)
Damn, just reached over and grabbed my meter and got stung on the hand. Turns out it was a bumble bee and not a my Fluke at all. Confusing and painful!
To those who have a iphone 5C with yellow back-cover, please avoid using dark grey wallpaper, because it will make your phone look like FLUKE. Especially make sure you haven't download any DMM app from appstore, otherwise your "DMM" will be seized by DHS. Have a good day!
I am glad that fluke responsed in a good way, which turned a lose-lose to win-win situation.
Call me cynical, but I wonder how this would have panned out if there had not been a massive outcry on their own Facebook page???
Would Fluke still have 'done the right thing'?
Damage control in my mind.
I agree with the previous poster re: cookie jar...hand....
Amazing! Good to see two companies work together. Also, I love the idea of an open-source multimeter!
If Canada is such a country I will be happy to help you out up here.
Nice outcome from both sides. There definitely is room for both in this world. While I would LOVE a $15.00 meter for personal use at home, I would not, and could not use one at work. When taking measurements that if wrong, could and would get yourself and your company fined by the federal government, would you use a $15.00 meter? I do take issue with the broad brush patent with color. This is crazy. If a meter is labeled FLUKE, I know the quality, regardless of color. Conversely, at $15.00 with a yellow and grey color scheme does not a FLUKE make. If you can sieze shipments for yellow/grey, what's stops any other color combo's? FLUKE would be better off dropping, or easing the restriction. When people refer the a DMM as a "FLUKE" generically as a whole, I think you don't have much to worry about.
Wow, school bus just went by. For a minute there I thought it was a great big Fluke! They should really do something about that!
"One step in doing that was registering a trademark protecting the look and feel of our devices so our customers know that if it looks like a Fluke it’s a Fluke."
Um, electronic engineers and techs tend to be smarter then the average bear. I think we can figure out if were holding a Fluke or not regardless of the color. That statement just says they think their customers are a bunch of idiots. And what exactly is the 'feel' of a Fluke? What exactly does yellow rubber feel like? Lawyers....what are you going to do?
So how does Walmart get all of their dark-on-yellow DMM's into the country? Just searching Digital Multimeter on walmart.com (http://www.walmart.com/search/search-ng.do?ic=16_0&Find=Find&search_query=digital+multimeter&Find=Find&search_constraint=0 ) yields 6 dark-on-yellow, 2 of which are actually Flukes. The Rolls and Sterens I don't think I would be able to distinguish in terms of color.
I have owned a few of these, which are more "black" than "gray" but still seem close enough: http://www.walmart.com/ip/Digital-Multimeter-10709/14521541
I guess it's alright for them because "Walmart and the Economy" or some other nonsense.
I have multiple calibrated Fluke 87s and they've always been dead-accurate and rock-solid. I can understand why Fluke absolutely HAS to protect their "look and feel" and why they have a "look and feel" to begin with - brand recognition is pretty important in areas where low-quality knockoffs can directly result in injury or death. You DO NOT want to trust your fingers to the insulation quality on a set of test leads when testing kilovolt/kiloamp circuits if it came from who-knows-where.
Glad to hear that even though they're a pretty big company Fluke is apparently still sane/reasonable. Seems like the bigger the company gets the more crazy they become. This was both a smart move from the PR perspective, and a sound means of enforcing your IP without kicking the little guy in the left nut to do it. And if that means some schools score high-end gear for free, it's a win for all involved.
That doesn't negate the fact that 2,000 units are getting destroyed. What a waste of materials.
My hat goes off to Fluke as this sounds like a reasonable compromise. Good on them.
Why does everyone feel it is so evil for a company to protect their brand? If trademarks etc. didn't exist, then there might not be a quality company called Fluke today. They might have gone under years ago as the cheap copies put them out of business.
I have to believe that if a sub-standard version of Sparkfun was launched, imitating Sparkfun's logo, coloring, design etc... you all would not be happy.
With that all said, don't continue to challenge the law that protects great companies. If the color of the meter is truly not important, then call your supplier and have it changed.
The issue is that the trademark is way too broad. I have no problem with them protecting against an exact lookalike. But in reality, these meters have NO similarities to Fluke other than being generally a yellowISH color. In fact, these are more orange than yellow. They need to specify the exact pantone in their trademark otherwise it is open to way too much interpretation (what if those deciding are even mildly color blind?) and therefore cannot be interpreted as valid (in a SANE legal environment).
You are obviously vision impaired or wilfully dishonest. Dark gray face, yellow surround, taper matching the Fluke case, it is obviously intended to look like a Fluke.
Yellow and orange are two very distinct different colors, my friend... Not visually impaired at all.
That's a lovely response. Patent trolling is one thing, but protecting your brand identity is something else altogether. I remain dismayed that such a broad trademark can even exist, but I guess that's just how it is. Still, it makes me wonder about things like this: http://www.amazon.com/Digital-VOLT-Meter-Voltmeter-Multimeter/dp/B005EK3NRS Yellow body, dark grey face, and a price that makes me seriously question its build quality.
Much as I hate to say it, the seized MMs were designed to look like Flukes. As someone else pointed out, it cost money for the manufacturers to do this. They could have easily made it another color.
I may not agree with our current IP laws, but both Customs and Fluke were acting within the law. And a company or individual has a right to protect its trademarks.
As has been pointed out before, a lot of tools are bright colors for various reasons. Bright colors are easy to identify, find, etc. It could have been deliberate, or could have been a matter of "a lot of meters are orange/yellow, let's use that color".
I am glad to hear that the multimeters will not have to be destroyed.
YES! That is a very nice way to solve a problem!
Love the way Fluke responded and that Sparkfun is donating the good quality meters to some good people!
Sparkfun: +1 for selling Fluke equipment & +1 for crowd designed (open hardware?) meter.
Fluke could easily resolve this issue by dropping their stupid and over broad trademark. It should have been tossed by the patent and trademark office but what do you really expect from lawyers and bureaucrats.
This is a great resolution! I am amazed it happened so quickly. I am floored when companies make decisions on short order. I agree that the laws need attention as it would have been very difficult to predict this problem without a massive legal team, or experience. This was a success because Fluke responded, but there are still other problems out there that will continue to happen.
Well done Sparkfun and Fluke. I will always use a Fluke when possible now and point to this incident as the example of how business and civility can co-exist! Wes, you are a model to be followed as a leader! Nate, you handled this situation with grace and poise. The outcome demonstrates the goodwill that flows from civil interaction!
So I guess SparkFun should send photos of every single item they import to US Customs for review, and assurances that this sort of thing won't happen again. That should keep them from meddling for a while ;-)
Hopefully there are no other DMM patents on red, blue, green or any other basic color, or else electronic newbies won't get affordable DMM to start learning. But most of all, thank Fluke's President for his positive response to this case.
Excellent handling by Fluke. Very rare for a company to take that sort of action when all that happened was they were protected by the rights previously granted to them. Also, excellent handling by Sparkfun in donating the units rather than selling them. Good will spawns good will. Can't get much better than that!
As for Fluke's products..... When I need to care about the results I get from a meter, I only use Fluke. Period.
So what happens to the originally seized meters?
But things are changing quickly. We are working with a law firm specializing in customs law to try to split up the shipment and redirect the multimeters to various groups that are friendly to SparkFun but in countries where we don’t violate Fluke’s marks.
Hope that answers your question.
So when do we get to buy the 15$ fluke meters!?!? ;)
Please read the article. They're donating the Fluke meters to schools.
I did read it, apparently I missed that line. You can thank me for giving you the opportunity to say "read the article". Your welcome.
Well done Wes & Nate... The world needs more folks willing to work things out vs just going to scorched earth war.
Also congratulations to the SparkFun community for getting attention on this.
Nate, any chance SparkFun will carry Fluke as a high end DMM option? If so, I would be happy to reorder Fluke equipment I cancelled yesterday from SparkFun, as well as a crowd designed SFE DMMs.