Editorial – Arduino versus Arduino

updated 27/10/2015

Over the last few months a large split in the Arduino ecosystem has been made public with some interesting results, and possibly could be the start of the end of the project as we know it. After a few people asked me directly about my thoughts on the Arduino versus Arduino matter, I’ve decided to articulate them in this editorial.

From the beginning the Arduino team has consisted of Massimo Banzi, David Cuartielles, David Mellis, Tom Igoe, and Gianluca Martino – and over the years we have always thought of this core team as the people who brought us the Arduino world.

Furthermore the main manufacturer of the Arduino-branded boards in Italy – “Smart Projects S. r. L” belongs to team member Gianluca Martino, and this organisation paid royalties to the team for the right to manufacture the boards.

Moving on, in 2008 the five formed a company to hold the trademarks and so forth that would allow for more commercial opportunities with regards to licensing and so forth.

However as Massimo wrote in a recent Make: magazine article, Gianluca had registered the Arduino name in Italy amongst other nefarious actions.

To top this off, Massimo tells us that Smart Projects have stopped paying the royalties for over twelve months. This has been most disappointing as being the supplier to Arduino resellers across the globe, resellers thought they were doing the right thing by buying the real boards. A

And to add insult to injury, Smart Projects changed their name to Arduino S. r. L., and was sold by Gianluca Martino in 2014. This company has created their own Arduino website (ending with .org instead of .cc) – and even forked their own version of the IDE and given it a version number starting with 1.7, which is greater than the current 1.6.3. No doubt this will trap a few users into thinking that Arduino S. r. L. (which we’ll shorten to ASrL) is the legitimate supplier and site for Arduino. For more information about the later developments, read this article form Hackaday.

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So from what we can tell, the manufacturing member of the original Arduino team has gone off and tried to replicate the Arduino ecosystem under their own terms, allegedly misappropriating the Arduino name and trademark and denying royalties – and is currently still the only source of what have always been “genuine Arduino boards”.

Wow, what a mess.

More keen observers will realise that there isn’t anything wrong with reproducing their own Arduino-compatible boards thanks to the open-source nature of the hardware, and there must be a google of copies, compatibles and knock-offs in the market. And it’s ok to fork the IDE for modify, improve or bork it up to your own requirements as long as yout stick to the original software licence.

However the alleged royalty issue and trademark and name theft is not ok. So where does this leave the Arduino team now? From what I can learn, the rest of the original Arduino team are moving forward and will continue to innovate with new devices and projects which is admirable – and they have agreed to work with manufacturer/retailers such as adafruit to produce new boards (such as the Arduino Gemma).

At this point how does this affect you, as a potential or current Arduino enthusiast? That’s an excellent question. If you have always believed in supporting the Arduino team by purchasing genuine boards – it would seem this option is no longer available until the original team find a new manufacturing partner.

And how does this affect Arduino resellers? As an Arduino reseller ourselves (tronixlabs.com) we made our position as clear as we could at the time. Our position at Tronixlabs is that we want to continue to sell boards that benefit the Arduino team, however we’re a business that aims to meet the needs of all of our customers – and thus we offer compatibles as well.

We have contacted the Arduino team for guidance about future Arduino-branded boards and await their reply. What we do look forward to, however, is a cheaper reseller cost. The freight charge from Europe plus the board costs at the time were quite extraordinary.

Furthermore if Arduino S. r. L introduce a compelling product that people want – hey we’ll sell that as well. The following day Nate from Sparkfun made a similar statement. Whether they make their thoughts public or not, we’re confident that all resellers will take a similar stand, as you don’t want to specifically pick a side in case the other side has a great product that you want to sell. Then again, why would a manufacturer hold back their product to a retailer if said retailer offers products from the competition?

As Kent Brockman would say “… only time will tell”.

From this juncture we look forward to what the Arduino team has for us in the future with great interest… and we’re also following Arduino S. r. L as well to see what they come up with.

However don’t panic – for day to day use nothing has changed for us as enthusiasts. However – do we owe the Arduino team our support? Absolutely – so many people have benefited from their original idea and work for everyone’s benefit. If you feel so inclined, you can directly donate funds to the Arduino project via the IDE download page.

Finally, a great lesson can be learned from these recent events. If your team comes up with a great idea, product or service – before you get serious spend the time and resources required to formalise ownership of intellectual property, naming rights, copyrighted work, and so forth.

Update 27th October 2015

Not much has changed. The first “Genuino” boards are starting to appear in the EU at 20 Euro a pop, and the Mega and Micro are now available. We believe that the Arduino trademark is lost outside of the US and thus Genuino and Arduino.cc will co-exist from the same team. This has also been reflected on the arduino.cc website.

The smartest buying decision is for you is to choose what you need. If what you need isn’t available from arduino.cc – you can always make a cash donation for their efforts via the IDE download page.

We look forward to your thoughts and notes about the situation, which can be left in our moderated comment section. And finally a plug for my own store – tronixlabs.com – offering a growing range and Australia’s best value for supported hobbyist electronics from adafruit, DFRobot, Freetronics, Seeed Studio and much much more.

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As always, have fun and keep checking into tronixstuff.com. Why not follow things on twitterGoogle+, subscribe  for email updates or RSS using the links on the right-hand column, or join our forum – dedicated to the projects and related items on this website.

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John Boxall

Person. Founder and original author for tronixstuff.com. VK3FJBX

6 thoughts on “Editorial – Arduino versus Arduino

  1. Steve

    “Wow, what a mess”

    What an understatement. What a mess indeed.

    Gianluca Martino is probably a smart man, but he is a prick.

    Even the new company grabbing the .org TLD is bad enough. Once upon a time the .org was associated with “non-profit” organisations, it’s not any more but I can’t help thinking they’re trying to milk the Arduino name for more profit by using it.

    1. John Boxall Post author

      Hopefully the .org will be taken off them shortly. Here in Australia auDA is quite strict about it – they confiscated tronixstuff.org.au from me, let’s hope this happens in the US as well.

      1. Michael H

        It won’t matter. In the US, several for-profit websites have .org TLDs (Slashdot, for example).

  2. Henk Siewert

    Hallo John,

    First of all, thank you for your Arduino tutorials.
    When I started with the Arduino they ware a great help.

    But I have switched to TI LaunchPad and I am now building my own boards with the M430G2553.

    Now you can program this MCU with Energia it is a real competitor to the Arduino.

    Time to diversify to the TI LaunchPad?
    Everything you can do with a Arduino you can do with a LaunchPad. En then some more…

    Greeting from the Netherlands,
    Henk Siewert

  3. Erik

    You have one of the best websites about Arduino so I do hope you will change your mind and support the original founders of Arduino…

    If everyone WOULD take side with the GENUINE Arduino founders, the SRL crooks would be out of business in no-time!

    It is people like you and Sparkfun that give the Arduino SRL company support to continue their misbehavior onder the pathetic excuse to offer ‘ the people’ what they want. Unbelievable…

    I am one of ‘the people’ and I am willing to wait for Massimo and his team to produce their own products just like they did with the Arduino Zero.

    1. John Boxall Post author

      Thanks for your comment. It’s business. If a potential customer wants something from SRL our business will sell it to them. Tronixlabs also offers every Genuino product that is currently available to distributors (http://tronixlabs.com/brands/Genuino.html), and also sells the Adafruit-manufactured Arduino GEMMA. We have contacted Arduino.cc distribution contacts over and over however they never reply as they haven’t yet (after all this time) organised anything for outside of the US apart from a couple of China-market Genuino models we get from a China distributor.


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