Sparkfun support will be closed from 3:00PM to 4:15PM on April 27th for a company-wide townhall meeting. We will resume regular hours on the 28th.
SparkFun gets a super fan. How do we deal with the copying of our images and designs without permission? We don't! Instead, we innovate that much faster.
Let's start with a quote to set the mood:
Originality is the art of concealing your sources. - Benjamin Franklin
We noticed GE Tech pop up back in September. Their site is by far the best 'lifting' of the SparkFun style that we've seen. By 'best' we mean that they were the most blatant with their out-right copying of our site.
Oh - and if all of you readers happen to ping their site beyond what they might be able to handle, above you can see a screenshot.
Look at those fun LED products: The Luxeon LED White 1Watt is 10% off. Looks like I'm on sale!
However, on their same product, that(!) is not my hand. So this proves they have a camera... I'm just saying...
I like that they kept the 'add to cart' buttons, but didn't like our 'out of stock' button, so they made their own. Well done!
The LED matrix - oh no! Please don't copy those pictures. They're from so long ago! Circa 2006 when I asked Owen Osborn (Owen was one of the two engineers that worked at SparkFun at the time) to 'just light it up for the picture'. Those naked pictures are so old you can see the white canvas cloth I used to take pictures on. So embarrassing!
I give GE-TH.com some credit! They are adding features as they go. They've got a "specials" side bar, google translation, and the ability to write a product review. This is a good thing: a little competition of features keeps us innovating new ones (you've seen the unicorns, right?).
They've even copied our problem with (weight loss training programmes) Spam! I'm glad they are enjoying comments to their post from watch movies online as much as we are.
This all started with an awesome heads up from our new friend Gregg. He sent us a 'what's on your mind' comment about some Ebay auctions going on in the UK. You can see the image of the product above, and if you can't get to the ebay auction any more, you can see a PDF of the auction here and here.
Arduino Pro Mini vs. Made in Nanjing - note the similar flames
Putting our SparkFun flame on the Nanjing Arduino Mini is a little too far. We do happen to have a trademark on that flame (we fought for it after all), but that's not the problem I see. What is confusing is that we didn't design the Arduino Stamp - Arduino did! We designed the Arduino Pro Mini so we would appreciate it if you would copy us correctly. I know, I'm splitting hairs.
In the end, we can't really protect our images (we hate water marks, don't you?), and trying to patent any of our products is just silly talk. We are both selling very similar items. Welcome to the global economy! You should buy everything you want from them. If it's a commodity item (USB cable, LED, desoldering pump, etc) then you'll probably do all right. They have some datasheets, some times, and they may even respond to the customer service email: firstname.lastname@example.org. They do seem to have pretty good feedback rating on ebay.
Imitation is the greatest form of flattery. - Charles Caleb Colton
So what can we do about this? We could live blissfully in denial, but that's no fun! Instead, we'd like to accept GE Tech's gracious flattery. We must be doing something right if folks are willing to copy us. I accept the compliment. Instead of wasting time protesting, we're going to keep teaching, innovating, and doing fun homepage posts that get spammed. And maybe in the process of being copied we'll learn something from each other.