Recently, the US Customs and Border Protection department confiscated a shipment of cheap, digital multimeters headed for SparkFun because of a trademark claim from Fluke. It turns out that the yellow body combined with the dark grey face of the meters was trademarked by Fluke and has been for some time.
The generic meter in question
As I explained in my first article on the seizure, I was quite conflicted about how things should turn out. I sympathized with SparkFun for not having noticed the trademark and not intentionally attempting to infringe on it. I also sympathized with Fluke -- they have to protect their (yellow) image!
I was left without any good ideas for what the perfect resolution would be.
As it turns out, the people at Fluke are much better at this than I am. Their response to SparkFun was timely and very well thought out. They explained a bit of the seizure process, noting that they only found out about the seizure by reading SparkFun's blog! You can read the entire letter here, but the part that really struck me as genius was this bit at the end:
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.
So that's it. Yes, Fluke is going to continue to enforce its trademark, as it should. Yes, those generic multimeters are going to remain destroyed. However, Fluke is going to give SparkFun a shipment of legitimate Fluke meters to make up for it since people at Fluke have so much respect for SparkFun. Great move, Fluke, that was a really cool thing to do.
— Caleb Kraft, Chief Community Editor, EE Times
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