Arduino vs. Arduino: What We Know About The Open-Source Hardware Fork

The original founders of Arduino—the popular programmable DIY electronics kit—appear to have had a falling out. And that might bring about what could be the world’s first open-source hardware fork, a sort of developer schism that’s much more common in the software world.

At the moment, two different websites display the Arduino logo and branding. There’s Arduino.cc, Arduino’s original site. Now there’s also Arduino.org, which prominently displays the text “the adventure continues,” as if it has been passed the torch.

Arduino.org is already selling the latest Arduino board model, Zero Pro. Meanwhile, Arduino.cc displays the Zero as “coming soon.” It’s evident that the two websites are operating separately under different guidance.

I’ve attempted to get comment from Arduino for the past week, to no avail. All I got back was a request not to publish an article until Arduino founder, inventor, and CEO Massimo Banzi delivers a statement. Banzi has spoken to the Italian press to refute rumors that he was no longer in charge of the project, but has kept quiet since.

See also: Arduino’s Massimo Banzi: How We Helped Make The Maker Movement

Forks are more common in open-source software because they’re relatively easy. All you have to do is download the software source code from a project and start making your own changes to it—for instance, the way dissident developers split off the JavaScript framework IO.js from Node.js.

Fork That Hardware

Arduino, of course, isn’t just software code—it’s also a physical microcontroller that runs that code. In order to fork that, both parties would need to have some control over the manufacture of the boards. 

Unsurprisingly, in this case they do. Arduino co-founder Gianluca Martino set up a company that has been the main supplier of Arduino products for years. Martino’s company has now changed its name from Smart Projects to Arduino, and launched the Arduino.org site to go with it. 

Needless to say, this decision hasn’t gone over well with some of the other founders. Two legal proceedingsa trademark case in the U.S. and a lawsuit in Italy—are currently underway to determine who gets to use the Arduino trademark. In the U.S. case, filed in January 2015 and publicly available on the website of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, both companies claim to have been using the Arduino trademark before that other. 

As the process continues, makers will still be able to get their hands on Arduino boards, as neither side has ceased production. While Martino is in talks with Panasonic and Bosch to expand Arduino board manufacturing, Banzi is speaking with Intel and has made public his designs to expand Arduino manufacturing even to China.

This possible fork indicates an increasing amount of money to be made in the hardware hacking Internet of Things sector, a potential fortune big enough to drive founders apart. A hardware fork can’t be good for the Arduino brand, but it’s clear from all the lawyering that the schism runs deep.

Photo by hdaniel

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