I personally love SparkFun. I think it's a great company that really shines in the open-source arena. It does a lot of educational work and puts out really great products. When I saw this news item pop up on the SparkFun blog, I read it, but then needed to take a little while to digest and contemplate what was going on.
It appears that SparkFun has lost an entire shipment of 2,000 multimeters because the yellow case and dark face of the meter infringes on Fluke's trademark.
SparkFun's Generic Multimeter
My initial response, as a person who owned a small business for a while, was outrage. SparkFun was out $30,000 worth of product because an inspector deemed that it was yellow? That is insane. How can a company trademark yellow? What the heck is going on here?
After a taking a little while to think, and doing a little more research, I found myself empathizing with Fluke as well. Compare the Fluke 17B below to the SparkFun multimeter above. The similarity is hard to deny. Add on top of that the fact that SparkFun is now going public complaining about Fluke protecting its trademark, and it doesn't look great for SparkFun.
Then again, in SparkFun's defense, how many designs for multimeters can there possibly be? In the end I find that I can see the frustration from both sides, and ultimately I'm just happy not to have to be involved.
So, what do you think of the situation? Should Fluke settle on a specific shade of yellow as Tiffany's did with Tiffany Blue, as SparkFun points out? Is the fact that the face is gray enough of a similarity to justify the confiscation? Let us know your thoughts.
— Caleb Kraft, Chief Community Editor, EE Times
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