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$30K Worth of Multimeters Must Be Destroyed Because They're Yellow

Soulskill posted about 6 months ago | from the school-buses-on-high-alert dept.

News 653

An anonymous reader points out a post at the blog of Sparkfun, a hobbyist electronics retailer. They recently received a letter from U.S. Customs saying a shipment of 2,000 multimeters was being barred from entry into the country. The reason? Trademark law. A company named Fluke holds a trademark on multimeters that have a 'contrasting yellow border.' Sparkfun's multimeters are a yellowish orange, but it was enough for Customs to stop the shipment. Returning the shipment is not an option because of import taxes in China, so the multimeters must now be destroyed. At $15 per item, it'll cost Sparkfun $30,000, plus the $150/hr fee for destroying them. Sparkfun had no idea about the trademark, and doesn't mind changing the color, but they say restrictions like these are a flaw in the trademark system. "Small business does not have the resources to stay abreast of all trademarks for all the products they don't carry. If you’re going to put the onus on the little guy to avoid infringing IP then you shouldn't need an army of consultants or attorneys to find this information."

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Did Fluke request this? (5, Insightful)

ZorinLynx (31751) | about 6 months ago | (#46525771)

Did Fluke actually request this? Or did Customs do this of their own volition?

If it's the latter, Fluke should step up and allow them to make a one time exception for this shipment. It would generate considerably goodwill for the company and show that they're not bullies keeping the little guy down.

If they DID request this, then fuck them all with a chainsaw, seriously.

Re:Did Fluke request this? (4, Informative)

alen (225700) | about 6 months ago | (#46525833)

i don't know, but if you look at the pictures of both the sparkfun literally copied the color scheme

i don't know if they designed it or just sell some chinese copy, but they could at least have changed the colors

Re:Did Fluke request this? (5, Funny)

kevink707 (1331815) | about 6 months ago | (#46525995)

If you do an image search for multimeters there aren't many colors left which don't copy one already in existence. I'd suggest Sparkfun try periwinkle.

Re:Did Fluke request this? (0, Troll)

Chris Mattern (191822) | about 6 months ago | (#46526059)

I gotta agree. The thing looks *exactly* like a Fluke multimeter. Exact same color, exact same appearance. Typical Chinese knockoff--I'm amazed they thought they could get away with it.

Re:Did Fluke request this? (3, Informative)

saleenS281 (859657) | about 6 months ago | (#46526103)

Not to mention I find it nearly IMPOSSIBLE a company that's getting into the multimeter business had no idea that they were making a product that looks identical to one of, if not THE biggest player in the market segment. You know these things were destined for ebay "multimeter, just like fluke only cheaper!"

Re:Did Fluke request this? (5, Informative)

retchdog (1319261) | about 6 months ago | (#46525837)

The thing is, allowing trademark violations to go unchallenged for no particular reason at all (in law, being kind is not a reason) will dilute the mark just as if they did nothing, or even worse. So, there is heavy incentive for them not to allow it, and they probably wouldn't.

Re:Did Fluke request this? (2, Informative)

Qzukk (229616) | about 6 months ago | (#46526099)

The thing is, allowing trademark violations to go unchallenged for no particular reason at all (in law, being kind is not a reason)

That's why you don't let it go "unchallenged", you license the trademark to them for one time use selling this specific lot of multimeters. I'm sure a real lawyer could come up with the correct language to use here to make everyone happy.

Re:Did Fluke request this? (4, Insightful)

Pope Raymond Lama (57277) | about 6 months ago | (#46525899)

If it's the latter, Fluke should step up and allow them to make a one time exception for this shipment. It would generate considerably goodwill for the company and show that they're not bullies keeping the little guy down.

You are new to this "capitalism" thing, aren't you?

Re:Did Fluke request this? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46525979)

That's not how it works. A simple letter or a C&D would be just as effective.

Re:Did Fluke request this? (4, Funny)

Sponge Bath (413667) | about 6 months ago | (#46525997)

You are new to this "capitalism" thing, aren't you?

Why yes, I am. Please, trustworthy sir, can you watch my stuff while I learn the basics?

Re:Did Fluke request this? (3, Funny)

bobbied (2522392) | about 6 months ago | (#46526101)

Sure, hold my BitCoins for me..

Re:Did Fluke request this? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46525913)

You cannot make exceptions in Trademark law. You must defend your mark. It is a stipulation of getting it in the first place.

Re:Did Fluke request this? (5, Insightful)

asmkm22 (1902712) | about 6 months ago | (#46525921)

It seems unlikely that Fluke would have even known about the shipment, much less been in a position to request it. Also, I seriously doubt the company would benefit from much "goodwill" over the ordeal. Their target market is kind of niche, and not exactly prone to making buying decisions based on Facebook polls or whatever. Plus, letting a possibly-inferior product that can be mistaken for their own loose in the wild would mean much more in potential damages to their rep than any "goodwill" gained from the exemption.

Sparkfun does bring up a good point, however. They didn't really do anything "wrong" yet still get hit with a financial loss big enough to sink a lot of businesses. There currently is no system in place for them to have been able to vet the order beforehand for possible trademark violations, aside from retaining lawyers to check out every product they want to order. That may very well be SOP for large companies with deep pockets and lawyers on staff, but it's entirely unlikely that any small business could afford it, much less realize it's something they need to do.

At the end of the day, it's just another roadblock on a road that's already full of them, for anyone looking to start or expand their business.

Re:Did Fluke request this? (2)

shobadobs (264600) | about 6 months ago | (#46525933)

If you just offer one-time exceptions whenever anybody whines, they'll have no incentive to not obey trademarks in the future. There is a huge difference between Flukes and cheap $15 multimeters, and it was completely unnecessary for these multimeters to copy Fluke's trademarked color scheme. They aren't exactly some no-name brand. The color scheme of these devices was chosen to mimic that of Fluke's. It's a clear cut case of trademark violation.e

Imaginary property gone berserk (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46525773)

This is a typical example of the consequences of 'intellectual property' extremism that harms society for no good reason.

Re:Imaginary property gone berserk (0, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46525937)

I do not see a net harm to society here..

$30,000 is not comparable to the harm that could be done when a technitian reaches for his trusted Fluke multimeter and grabs this POS imposter in its place.

How can you trademark a color? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46525777)

Sounds like Bullshit to me.

Re:How can you trademark a color? (4, Insightful)

Krojack (575051) | about 6 months ago | (#46525809)

Ask Apple how you can trademark rounded corners. I'm sure they have lots of insight on this.

Re:How can you trademark a color? (2)

NotDrWho (3543773) | about 6 months ago | (#46525831)

You can TRADEMARK just about anything. Copyrighting and patenting are harder, of course, but that's not what we're talking about here. Shit, you can even trademark a common word (like "Apple," as it applies to computers anyway) .

Re: How can you trademark a color? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46525845)

You dont think coca-cola would be upset if a product came out called coka-cola in a red and white can?

Re: How can you trademark a color? (1, Insightful)

jedidiah (1196) | about 6 months ago | (#46525941)

> You dont think coca-cola would be upset if a product came out called coka-cola in a red and white can?

Except this wasn't anything like that.

Coke Inc. Certainly shouldn't be able to "own" the colors red and white.

Although Coke does have a distinctive enough bottle design to qualify for a genuine trademark. Ironically you overlooked it in your rush to fellate your corporate masters.

There are plenty red/white can products (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46526083)

"Fluke" brand wasn't used or anything similar.

Anyone should be able to sell a product in a red and white can.

Re:How can you trademark a color? (1)

alen (225700) | about 6 months ago | (#46525855)

never went shopping for interior paint with a woman have you?

evening twinkle, green aurora and the hundreds of other crazy names they make up

Re:How can you trademark a color? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46525885)

Apparently you can't post at the top level as an anonymous coward, so here's a repeat
http://memegenerator.net/instance/47413433

Re:How can you trademark a color? (1)

anglico (1232406) | about 6 months ago | (#46525973)

I was told that UPS Brown is trademarked, unsure of the validity of the statement though. This came about when someone had a scratch on their truck and I said just go to the hardware store and buy brown paint, the mechanic pulled out a can of paint and said "you can't its trademarked".

Re:How can you trademark a color? (1)

Purity Of Essence (1007601) | about 6 months ago | (#46526011)

It's called "trade dress" and it isn't uncommon. Seven Towns claims ownership of its Rubik's Cube color scheme for example. Recently Apple successfully sued Samsung on trade dress grounds for the visual similarity of their products. It's look-and-feel infringement. If the claimant has a powerful enough brand and can show enough similarities, they can easily prevent competitors from diluting their trademark with a trade dress infringement argument.

Cheap Chinese crap (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46525787)

it should all be turned away at our ports

Re:Cheap Chinese crap (2)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | about 6 months ago | (#46525909)

Apparently, US customs are simply fighting the yellow multimeter peril!

Innovate, but only if you have lawyers (3, Insightful)

NotDrWho (3543773) | about 6 months ago | (#46525791)

I dream of starting a company that can innovate with new products. But I suspect the reality would be a nightmare of lawyers and hassles instead.

Re:Innovate, but only if you have lawyers (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46526057)

Operate your company on the deep web, and don't sell hard products, sell designs.

With additive manufacturing, it's only a matter of time.

Re:Innovate, but only if you have lawyers (2)

asmkm22 (1902712) | about 6 months ago | (#46526109)

That's your problem. You're dreaming of starting a company, when you should be dreaming of that innovative new product. Once you have that, THEN you start the company.

Thugs (2)

damicatz (711271) | about 6 months ago | (#46525793)

The Department of Homeland Security is nothing but a bunch of thugs. Having dealt with them before on customs, this is basically some government employee flexing their muscles because they like the power and have nothing better to do. The appropriate amount of boot-licking and obsequiousness (and tribute payment) is required in order to get it through.

Re:Thugs (1, Insightful)

wcrowe (94389) | about 6 months ago | (#46525935)

Sadly, this is the kind of thing you usually only see in countries where government officials are corrupt. It is a warning sign of the direction the U.S. government is headed.

To be fair... (4, Insightful)

Kenja (541830) | about 6 months ago | (#46525799)

Those look a LOT like a Fluke multimeter, in more ways then just the color. I find it hard to believe that isn't intentional.

Re:To be fair... (0)

SmSlDoo (414128) | about 6 months ago | (#46525867)

I have to agree with you there, it does look like a fluke.

China is the reason that laws like these exist, knock-offs are a huge business for them. If you can make a product that looks like a fluke people may buy it just because they expect it to be a fluke.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Counterfeit_consumer_goods

Re:To be fair... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46526013)

China is the reason that laws like these exist, knock-offs are a huge business for them.

Wait, you mean to tell me these [modmyi.com] aren't actual Apple peripherals?

Re:To be fair... (0)

christianT (604736) | about 6 months ago | (#46525879)

I would have to agree with you on that. The summary refers to the Sparkfun multi-meter as "yellowins-orange" but in the picture it looks strikingly like the yellow that fluke uses. The grey face is pretty darn close to the grey Fluke uses too. I'd like to see a side by side comparison photo.

Re:To be fair... (1)

cold fjord (826450) | about 6 months ago | (#46525895)

I find it hard to believe that it couldn't be fixed by replacement cases.

Re:To be fair... (1)

damn_registrars (1103043) | about 6 months ago | (#46526071)

I find it hard to believe that it couldn't be fixed by replacement cases.

If these are $15 each, it would cost more in time (for the retail employee to change the case for each one before it is sold) than the likely profit margin. It is likely cheaper for the manufacturer to destroy them.

Re:To be fair... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46525903)

so you're saying it wasn't a fluke?

Re:To be fair... (5, Funny)

random735 (102808) | about 6 months ago | (#46525905)

oh come on. it's clearly just a fluke!

Re:To be fair... (0)

Rogue974 (657982) | about 6 months ago | (#46525919)

I agree they look like a Fluke. I saw the picture and thought it was a Fluke until I looked closer.

One of the commentators on the story brought up the fact that this meter looks enough like a fluke, but it not rated for the same power as a Fluke. I know I grab my Fluke, I am good up to a voltage way above the 120 or 220 I might use it on. That thing would probably burst into flames if used. So if that ends up on a workbench next to a good Fluke, gets used, blows up, then Fluke is blamed. I guess I can see why they would want to protect their image here.

The story statement of the yellow color being trademarked though makes me think of the apple rounded corners things, which I don't agree with. Not sure where to fall on this...so conflicted!!!

Re:To be fair... (4, Insightful)

hirschma (187820) | about 6 months ago | (#46525923)

Sparkfun must have known that those meters look almost exactly like a Fluke (because of the yellow, and a bunch of other reasons).

Sorry, but it is not an example of IP run amok. This is Sparkfun being disingenuous.

Re:To be fair... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46525929)

In the sense that they look like a multimeter? Or that nearly all multimeters are grey with a yellow border?

Re:To be fair... (1)

christianT (604736) | about 6 months ago | (#46526085)

My entire life until I was introduced to Fluke, multi-meters were black. A quick google image search brings up lots of yellow multi-meters that aren't by Fluke, but most of them are quite apparently NOT by Fluke and you can tell at a glance. No grey face plate, different color of yellow. The one this story refers to is a very clear Fluke knock-off attempt.
https://www.google.com/search?... [google.com]

Re:To be fair... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46525931)

So do the radioshack ones. So does any device with a dial and a digital display, and two jacks for wires. What would you recommend they do to modify the design on this multimeter which is meant to be sold at low cost in order to keep it looking like a standard multimeter?

Re:To be fair... (4, Insightful)

Rudisaurus (675580) | about 6 months ago | (#46525951)

Totally agree. What's more, you can't be in the multimeter business and NOT be aware of Fluke; they've been prominent players and frontrunners in that business for literally decades. Sparkfun had to be aware of Fluke's product line, but they went ahead and chose a yellowish-orange border colour anyway. "Army of consultants or attorneys" indeed! Serves 'em right.

Re:To be fair... (1)

TheCarp (96830) | about 6 months ago | (#46526039)

So once all the easily distinguishable case colors are taken, nobody else should be able to enter the multimeter business?

Should sparkfun check every product it decides to buy and resell against competitors lines to be sure they don't share a color scheme, lest they infringe a trade mark?

Re:To be fair... (1)

Chris Mattern (191822) | about 6 months ago | (#46526111)

So once all the easily distinguishable case colors are taken, nobody else should be able to enter the multimeter business?

That would be like worrying about all the positive integers being taken. There's just too many choices. Unless, of course, you *want* to look just like a Fluke...

Re:To be fair... (3, Insightful)

Krojack (575051) | about 6 months ago | (#46525953)

The only Fluke I see it looking sorta similar to is this one [circuitspecialists.com] . SparkFun offered to change the color. Also it's a multimeter, how much different can it look so it doesn't look like others. That's kinda like Ford suing every auto manufacturer for making cars with 4 wheels.

Re:To be fair... (1)

Bing Tsher E (943915) | about 6 months ago | (#46525961)

The yellow/orange colored Fluke gear is junk, anyways. The crap meter the maintenance guy carries around. The good Fluke stuff is still in tan or teal colored enclosures

Re:To be fair... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46526075)

The good Fluke stuff is still in tan or teal colored enclosures

What are you thinking of here? All Fluke portable digital multi-meters are yellow with the exception of a red isolated model.

Re:To be fair... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46525963)

No knowing anything about Fluke's manufacturing/supply chain, but what if their Chinese supplier is selling to someone else? Hypothetically, if that were the case, who then should be on the hook?

Re:To be fair... (4, Insightful)

ThatAblaze (1723456) | about 6 months ago | (#46525965)

Yes, it sounds like typical corporate strategy to me "lets just go ahead and break the rules, we'll pay if we get caught, and if not profit!"

Re:To be fair... (4, Insightful)

fermion (181285) | about 6 months ago | (#46526025)

Sparkfun had no idea about the trademark, and doesn't mind changing the color, but they say restrictions like these are a flaw in the trademark system.

I wonder what kind of electronics person does not know fluke and the trademark, at least anyone who has a passing relationship to the business.

This is where trademark laws works, and the way it is supposed to work. Fluke has spent 50 years developing good tools for people who need of want good tools. Some upstart like Sparkfun decides to superficially mimic this work, and then claims 'we did not know'.

Here is the thing with small business. You are allowed and encouraged to take risks, you are allowed to try to work under the radar, but sometimes you make a mistake and you have to pay. There are rules, and if you are going to play the game, it is important to know the rules. They can be complex, even arbitrary, which is why kids do not do the real work.

Re:To be fair... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46526047)

I call dibs on black, blue and green ones. It's fun to see all of you opposing competition. In Communist USA, Fluke can be the ONLY company making yellow meters!

fluke (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46525801)

sounds like an isolated incident.

*sigh* (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46525805)

This is why we can't have nice things.

Why not take out Trademarks (2)

wisnoskij (1206448) | about 6 months ago | (#46525815)

For blue, red, green, purple, white, black, tan, clear, brown, striped, poka dotted, etc. multimeters, and de-facto own all the rights to create all multimeters?

Re:Why not take out Trademarks (1)

xfade551 (2627499) | about 6 months ago | (#46525971)

You have to exercise a Trademark in order to maintain possession of it. It may seem a ridiculous thing to trademark your color scheme, but at least Fluke is pretty damn consistent about keeping to that scheme.

Import taxes on something made in China? (0)

SuperKendall (25149) | about 6 months ago | (#46525819)

I'm not even going to comment about the main point of the story, because I can't get past what is ever more troubling to me - how is it if you make something in China, and have it shipped to you that refusing the shipment involves import taxes in any way?

The devices would have had to have been labeled as originating in China so there's no way there should be import taxes on the devices simply returning in the same shipment.

To me it sounds more like the manufacturer just didn't want to deal with the issue and made up that excuse. If I were the company I would press them much harder to take back the devices, so that they could just change out the body panel colors.

I wonder also if there would by any way to ask to go and modify the devices manually to get them to a state where entry was accepted - just going in with tape or paint could correct the issue.

Re:Import taxes on something made in China? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46525857)

Lead paint would work and would be perfect for a chinese knockoff like this

Remove the meters from their plastic case ... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46525821)

Remove the meters from their plastic case and sell them at a discount.

Lawyers make the rules (1)

Vinegar Joe (998110) | about 6 months ago | (#46525825)

So you have to hire them to know what they are.

How much would it cost to ship one small batch? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46525827)

And let the customs office do your research for you? Probably less than the army of consultants or attorneys.

Infringement (4, Insightful)

SandwhichMaster (1044184) | about 6 months ago | (#46525829)

I've trademarked black writing on a white background. Please destroy any materials that infringe on my IP

another idea (4, Insightful)

somepunk (720296) | about 6 months ago | (#46525835)

Ok, you can't send em back, and the gov't says they aren't legal here. Why not a third destination?

Prior Art (0)

Himmy32 (650060) | about 6 months ago | (#46525839)

Pretty sure I had a Dark Grey faced with yellow border cheap multimeter before 2000. But I don't suppose checking for prior art is too high on USPTO's checklist before granting trademarks like this. Trademark is all well and good, but this seems a little broad. Next thing you know someone is going to trademark red cars with black wheels.

This is now a multimeter review thread. (1)

Narcocide (102829) | about 6 months ago | (#46525847)

Which one should I get instead? Preferrably one that has already passed customs...

Re:This is now a multimeter review thread. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46525947)

Get a Fluke.

You're welcome! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46525849)

http://memegenerator.net/instance/47413433

Rolling in his grave (1)

Bing Tsher E (943915) | about 6 months ago | (#46525861)

John Fluke must be rolling in his grave. Then again, its been a long time since differential voltmeters were in common use. I've never seen one with a yellow painted cabinet.

Damn, donate them already (4, Interesting)

geekmux (1040042) | about 6 months ago | (#46525863)

Schools are struggling to find the funds to replace textbooks, let alone put their hands on some good hardware like this, and we can't find some way to donate this hardware instead of destroying it? Who cares if the legal document states that no one over the age of 18 is allowed to posses it, at least let someone get some use out of it.

Talk about stupid.

The multimeter maker is lucky. (1)

140Mandak262Jamuna (970587) | about 6 months ago | (#46525869)

If he had tried to make the multimeter in the "rounded rectangle" shape, with a form factor that will fit in one's palm, with a readable display facing the user, Apple would have sued zim for $30000 per infringement.

what about other yellow multimeters? (1)

CaptainPhoton (398343) | about 6 months ago | (#46525875)

If I google "yellow multimeter", there are a ton of non-Fluke meters that show up.

The meter I have in my lab looks just like a Fluke, but I bought it at Fry's in my poor college days.

It's too bad SparkFun's product got snagged, they are a favorite local supplier for the Denver/Boulder electronics industry. I drive to their will-call all the time when I need cables, dev boards, and such.

Anyway, how did all the other yellow meters get through customs??

Re:what about other yellow multimeters? (1)

xfade551 (2627499) | about 6 months ago | (#46526001)

It's the basically the yellow housing with the gray face that Fluke has trademarked. All yellow is not covered and a variety of brands make those.

Re:what about other yellow multimeters? (1)

jklovanc (1603149) | about 6 months ago | (#46526105)

The Mark isn't just for the yellow. The multimeter also has to have a grey face. You also need to check the location of the web site and manufacture location. For example I found this [tmart.com] . It sure looks like a Fluke knockoff. But wait, the website [tmart.com] is in the UK. Any multimeter manufactured in the US would also not go through customs.

Also, a lot of things slip by customs. Nobody is perfect and they deal with a lot of traffic.

To be fair (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46525881)

Trademark law is to protect you and me, its not there to protect businesses. In places like China, trademark is not enforced like it is in the USA, and fake goods are common and that hurts the consumer. For example, fake condoms are common in China which are not adequately quality controlled which can greatly affect one's life.

This is unfortunate that sparkfun is having this problem, but all in all I prefer high standards in trademark laws and I think any rational person can see that the pros vastly outweigh the cons.

Re:To be fair (-1)

jedidiah (1196) | about 6 months ago | (#46526021)

> and I think any rational person can see that the pros vastly outweigh the cons.

You are a corporate toadie and a moron. There is nothing "obvious" about this situation in rational terms. This is a pathetically weak trademark that never should have been granted. This action does NOTHING to protect the consumer. This is just another example of overly expansive notions of "intellectual property" being used to stifle competition and to AVOID focusing on or improving the product.

Bullshit like this will cause progress to grind to a halt because it does nothing but service the interest of entrenched players.

The abuse of a weak trademark benefits no one but a company willing to ignore their real point for existing.

Make them in the US? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46525883)

Maybe if they made them in the US or at least somewhere than a bottom-dollar (bottom-yaun) factory in China, this wouldn't have been an issue.

Almost any country in the world (Japan, Germany, UK, US, Australia, Singapore) can make good products. China gets the business because they can make stuff cheap.

Ironic the "fair trade" laws... the DMMs can't be sent back to China because of Chinese import duties. Imagine the political ramifications if the US had the same import laws as China did... including the demand for a domestic partner with 51% control of all ventures.

A little market research goes a long way.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46525889)

Sure everyone likes to blame the big guys.. but seriously a little market research goes a long way.

1. look at current competitors in the field.
2. notice how all of their multimeter have a particular look that matches their company logo.
3. pause and think... hmm maybe I shouldn't make my product look like theirs....
4. ???
5. profit.

Didn't know about Fluke? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46525897)

Yellow Fluke multimeters have been around for a long, long time. I find it very hard to believe they "didn't know Fluke had a trademark"

Re:Didn't know about Fluke? (1)

Dcnjoe60 (682885) | about 6 months ago | (#46526091)

Yellow Fluke multimeters have been around for a long, long time. I find it very hard to believe they "didn't know Fluke had a trademark"

It's not that they didn't know Fluke had a trademark. It is whether they new Fluke had trademarked the color yellow, which from their own trademark document, they have not. It specifically states: "Color is not claimed as a feature of the mark"

lawyer (2)

Spazmania (174582) | about 6 months ago | (#46525911)

If they haven't talked to an intellectual property lawyer yet, they should do so immediately. Safety yellow on an electrical testing device is incredibly generic.

millions of original natives destroyed... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46525915)

because they were trusting? http://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=unrepentant&sm=3 plus the book of death & debt zionic nazi genociders had already patentdead 'owning' everything. we unchosen settlers never saw us coming

I don't entirely disagree (4, Insightful)

SirDrinksAlot (226001) | about 6 months ago | (#46525917)

Sorry, I like SparkFun and all but this does look a lot like Fluke industrial design. Ok so the colour isn't EXACTLY the same shade of yellow, but if you removed the branding from it and asked somebody what brand it looks like they'll say Fluke assuming they've poked around the market any or are in the industry. Granted it would be cool of Fluke saying something like "OK This ONE time" since SparkFun is all about hobbyists who might eventually become Fluke customers. SparkFun should have thought of this before ordering a container full of them, pleading ignorance that your multimeter is DAMN CLOSE to somebody else's product and not expect trouble is dubious at best. It looks a lot like a Fluke 17b with out the buttons.

Woot! (1)

lecithin (745575) | about 6 months ago | (#46525939)

Destroyed? Hello No...

These will be on Woot in a few weeks, re branded of course.

sporkfun? (2)

retchdog (1319261) | about 6 months ago | (#46525945)

I notice that SparkFun Electronics is a registered trademark. I'm sure they'd have no problem with my competing companies, SporkFun electronics and Sp@rkFun Electronics.

In the law, ignorance is not an excuse and hasn't been for centuries if not millennia. You are responsible for what you sell and, yes, for better or worse, colors have been trademarkable for a while now. I know of several examples like T-Mobile's magenta and Reese's orange, and I'm not even a retailer.

I have no doubt that SparkFun would exercise its trademark against infringers, so I have little sympathy for their case even if their violation was unintentional.

It was just a Fluke (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46525949)

Is Sparkfun claiming that the striking similarity to another companies long established product line is just a Fluke?

The sparkfun one is a knockoff (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46525989)

Plain and simple. It was designed to look like a fluke.

small business? (2)

YesIAmAScript (886271) | about 6 months ago | (#46526003)

If your small business can't keep track of enough stuff to keep from infringing IP, then buy from suppliers who will indemnify you for IP infringement. Or just buy from reputable retailers.

You decided to get some sketchy Chinese meters from a company skirting the law to try to save some money or raise margins. And now it bit you. It seems like this is how the system is supposed to work.

Baloney (3, Insightful)

dtmos (447842) | about 6 months ago | (#46526007)

Any "hobbyist electronics retailer" attempting to sell a multimeter in the US knows -- or should know -- what a Fluke multimeter looks like, and any businessman or businesswoman knows -- or should know -- that there will be problems trying to sell a product that looks like the product with a dominant share of the market.

Also, you don't need "an army of consultants or attorneys to find this information." Trademarks are freely available from the USPTO web site, in searchable form. Anybody can look them up.

Finally, most business contracts between a manufacturer and a distributor will have an indemnification clause, in which the manufacturer warrants that the product has no intellectual property issues and, should a claim be made against the distributor, the costs associated with such claims will be borne by the manufacturer. If Sparkfun's contract for the Fluke knock-offs didn't have such a clause, I'm sure their standard contract will in the future.

looks like hired goon stormtyper panic (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46526023)

from madison ave. for us

Grey meters inferior? (1)

fuckface (32611) | about 6 months ago | (#46526035)

I've owned multimeters but never heard the Fluke name before today. It sounds like their main feature is the color of the case rather than the gizmos inside. I think I'll go out of my way never to buy their products.

COPYING Fluke (0)

TheMiddleRoad (1153113) | about 6 months ago | (#46526037)

They're clearly trying to copy Fluke. No question. This is what trademark law is for. Even the narrowing at the bottom looks like Fluke. Screw Spark.

Hoding a grey and yellow multimeter in my hand (4, Insightful)

n1ywb (555767) | about 6 months ago | (#46526045)

I am holding in my hand at this very moment a grey faced yellow bodies multimeter which was made in china and sold at walmart. I guess laws only apply to the little guys.

Hard to Empathise (2)

CanHasDIY (1672858) | about 6 months ago | (#46526063)

It would be a hell of a lot easier to empathize with SparkFun, if they weren't being such whiny little bitches about the whole affair (which, FTR, is their own damn fault - Fluke's been around and using that same design scheme for decades).

Look - you didn't do your due diligence, and got yourself burned for it; suck it up, learn from your mistake, and move on with your lives.

From the actuall trademark document (4, Informative)

Dcnjoe60 (682885) | about 6 months ago | (#46526069)

This is indeed odd. From the actual document of the trademark owned by Fluke it specifically states: Color is not claimed as a feature of the mark. Either there is some other reason the items are being refused entry or Fluke is falsely claiming a trademark infraction, at least if it is because a similar color yellow was used.

Besides, isn't it up to the courts to determine trademark violations, not customs?

Death to all such cowards (1)

stink_eye (1582461) | about 6 months ago | (#46526077)

There is no room in scientific endevor for intellectual cowardice. If those multimeters are indeed 'yellow' they fully deserve their ignomious fate! It's no fluke that their cowardice has lead to their ultimate destruction...

Idea for Sparkfun (1)

EngineeringStudent (3003337) | about 6 months ago | (#46526093)

Maybe Sparkfun can ask Fluke for an event-based waiver in an open-letter. This gives Fluke the option to show themselves as a "good guy" in a very public way and not waste good tools or resources of a decent company.

It is an moment of humility to ask a question.
It is a lifetime of shame not to ask.

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