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Arduino Trademark Issue


The Arduino team has created a fantastic product and shared it with the world. I thank them greatly and admire their efforts. The package they have developed is and will continue to be a great way for people to get started in microcontrollers. My hat is off to them for some very fine work. But the full meaning of “Open” with the Arduino project is in debate. There has been some discussion on this isue in two recent Arduino forum topics, here and here.

I am sure that this trademark and open source hardware/software issue will be resolved. Until it is, I will do what I can to help clarify the issues. I need to start by explaining that we have been calling the Bare Bones Board made by Modern Devices Company, the “Bare Bones Arduino.” It is suggested that they be called the “Bare Bones Board Arduino-Compatible.”

“Bare Bones Board Arduino-Compatible” is a mouth full I know. It is intended to point out that these boards are not supported by the Arduino Team. Why not just call their version the “Official Arduino” and let the rest of us use “Arduino” without the “Official”?

This is a good time to explain that while the Bare Bones Boards Arduino-Compatible (:>) is not supported by the official Arduino Team, they are very fine boards and are fully and completely compatible with the Arduino software platform. In fact, I personally feel that the Bare Bones Boards are better for hobbyist because they work well with solderless breadboards. I have played with both and prefer the Bare Bones Boards.

I will, as time permits, be changing all references to “Bare Bones Arduino.” I will try calling them the “Arduino Compatible Bare Bones Board.” Maybe I should call them “Freeduino boards” after the recent movement to create a fully open hardware platform rather then adding “Arduino-Compatible.” Ultimately I believe that derivative Arduino boards will be called “Freeduino boards” as that name is easier to deal with.

Again, I want to point out that I am not upset with the Arduino team. They have done us all a great service. I am sure this trademark issue will get resolved. Until it does, it really is not too much to ask that hardware which is not “Official” be promoted as Arduino compatible.

Posted in Arduino, Development Tools, uC Hobby Site.

8 Responses

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  1. Daniel J says

    thanks Robert, I like to think of us all as developers. I just wish we could all have equal access to the direction of the project!


  2. Robert says

    Ah my mistake, you seemed so heavily involved you “had” to be one of the developers. But thanks for your work as well!

  3. Daniel J says

    Hi Robert:

    Just to clarify, I am not part of the official development team. IN fact I have only met one of them in person, David C a coupole of years ago.

    I got involved because I used the Arduino for teaching in so many of my classes that I figured I should give something back. Then I got addicted to both the idea and the wonderful community that open-source hardware represents, and have tried to support the project wherever possible since then.

    I do agree with you that the team model used by Arduino is overly controlled, and not so open to outside contributions to the “official” releases, mostly on the hardware side. that is what this whole discussion addresses.


  4. Robert says

    I think the main problem with Arduino is the majority of the development is done by David, Daniel and some others and their funding to continue purely comes from selling the Arduino boards. I believe this arose some time ago when Spark fun made their own Arduino board. Competition with Arduino boards would only hurt Arduino, not enhance it.

    I personally am fine with calling any complete boards I make Arduino Compatible, just so long as I can call my shield Arduino shield and Arduino projects. In a similar format to Firefox or Ubuntu.

  5. Daniel J says


    I would just like to encourage people to read the Arduino forum threads linked above, we have been having a somewhat healthy debate about all this! It’s good to see that the whole Arduino trademark issue is coming to the forefront for public discussion, especially since the closed ( i.e. not open-source) nature of the Arduino PCB files and the trademark (Arduino name) protection were not mentioned or explained by the team until only a month or so ago, while the project started about two years ago.

    That said, there are a lot of interesting developments around these issues, so check out the threads linked at the top of the article.

  6. David A. Mellis says

    As one of the members of the Arduino team, I wanted to explain a bit more about our reasoning. I should thank dfowler for his understanding and cooperation and for publishing this explanation.

    Most open-source projects maintain control of their name and identity: Linux, Debian, Ubuntu, Firefox, etc. are all trademarks and their use is regulated. This is done for many reasons, but I think the main one is to make it clear what is actually part of the project. If we didn’t put any restrictions on the name Arduino, people could use it to refer to closed, proprietary products, to products that don’t work with the Arduino software (or that appear to work with it, but in ways that are subtly incompatible with the official hardware), or simply to things that people won’t be able to find information about on the Arduino website. All of which we think are detrimental to the Arduino community.

    Paul Badger’s excellent Bare-Bones Board is evidence that you don’t need the name “Arduino” to create a successful Arduino-compatible product. In fact, he’s probably better off without it, since he’s now created an independent brand that people will recognize and respect as his work. We want to encourage people to make their own hardware (and are taking steps to make it even easier to do so), we just want to be clear what’s what. In that sense, I think we’re only following in the philosophy established by the larger open-source community and which seems to have served them well.

  7. dfowler says

    Perhaps they just want to make it clear that any other board design is Arduino compatible. To really be an Arduino the board has to be exactly the same as their official board.

    I expect this effort on their part will cause some ill will but I don’t think they are trying to do any harm. I know some of the Arduino compatible board makers. They are not “up in arms” over this. It is just a small bump in the road for the popular Arduino platform.

  8. Mike says

    In my opinion, it’s rather lame of them to promote open hardware development on one hand and then on the other, act like any other monopolistic company and deny the use of the name. If the device is 100% compatible, why not call it “Arduino”? Who cares if it’s not from the original group? The only thing I can think of is that maybe they’re planning to sell something or license something in the future and they want to protect the name.

    How can something be “open” and freely usable if you must comply with various restrictions on the names which only serve to obfuscate the various options and confuse the users?