HOW TO SPOT A COUNTERFEIT PRODUCT (AND WHY IT’S IMPORTANT)
We recently spoke with Sara Therner, Trademark & Licensing Manager here at Arduino, about the importance of recognising counterfeit products and what process to follow if you come across one. An expert in all things trademark, Sara has previously worked on international
projects concerning the EU, energy, and Intelligent Energy.
Arduino Education: Hello Sara! Thank you for taking the time to chat with us. Can we start with you telling us a little about yourself and what your current job involves?
Sara Therner: No problem at all. I joined Arduino in 2014 as a Project Manager, and have had a couple of different roles within the company since then. I have touched upon almost every aspect of Arduino, apart from the actual hardware and software development.
For the last two and a half years my focus has been our trademarks, and this is really the most exciting thing I have worked with at Arduino. My job today has so many levels and I never know what my workday will look like. I spend a lot of time on locating and removing counterfeit products from the market, but I also work with our partners and resellers on proper trademark 1 usage, collaborate with different marketplaces, make sure our trademark portfolio is updated, and advise others who email me with questions or concerns.
AE: Wow, it sounds like some complicated stuff! Let’s start with the basics: what are trademarks?
ST: A trademark is a word or a logo that is legally registered to be used to represent a company or a product. Trademarks are applied per country or geographical region (for example, the EU). Even though Arduino doesn’t have many different trademarks, we have over 300 registrations to get worldwide coverage.
AE: So, why are trademarks so important for a company like us?
ST: They’re incredibly important as Arduino is open source, which means that we share our design files and encourage others to further develop and build upon our existing products. As counterfeits are not documented, we cannot ensure the quality of materials used, and we don’t know how they’ve been made. In turn, that means we can’t guarantee they’ll be safe for our customers to use, and obviously, safety is something that’s really important to us all. Additionally, Arduino products are made with sustainability in mind, and again, we don’t know how manufacturing these counterfeit products may be impacting the environment, nor do we know where the products have come from or who’s made them – for example, it’s possible they could have been made in poor working conditions.
Our trademarks are very important mainly for two different reasons. Firstly, it’s a common misunderstanding that since we are open source, our name and logo can be used freely. This has led to a number of products that are compatible with Arduino technology using the word Arduino in their name. This is not only damaging because it is a violation of our trademark, but it’s also misleading to customers, who may believe that they are purchasing an Arduino product.
Secondly, we have an issue with counterfeits. Since we share our design files, anyone can make a direct copy of our boards. This is allowed, even though we’d rather see our designs being developed into something else. The bottom line here is that it is ok to copy our boards.
It’s when our trademarks are placed directly on a copy of our boards that it becomes a counterfeit, which is an illegal product. This is concerning to me, not only from a legal point of view but also because I care about our customers and users. I feel really bad for those who contact our Tech Support and ask why their “Arduino” doesn’t work, and we have to tell them that they have been fooled.
As I mentioned before, we also want customers to have a great experience, to know that the products they’re using are safe, and to know that they’re manufactured to excellent standards of practice. Using original Arduino products is the way to do that.AE: Do you see many Arduino counterfeits?
ST: Yes, but the numbers are decreasing. I am very happy and confident that we are not only removing counterfeit products but also, thanks to good collaboration with different online marketplaces, we manage to prevent these counterfeit products from returning.
AE: What happens when you find a counterfeit?
ST: It depends on where it is located. Larger online marketplaces, such as Amazon and Alibaba, have brand protection programs where you as a trademark owner can report counterfeits for removal. If the counterfeit is sold though a smaller online store, we contact the store and ask them to remove the product.
AE: How do you spot a counterfeit?
ST: There are a couple of key factors to look for on the board: color, silk design, logo and components. Counterfeit boards are often deep blue, whereas a true Arduino board is our signature teal. They’re often more similar to old versions of Arduino boards, so if you see a board with the Italian map on the back, it’s a good idea to take a closer look at it. The shape of the logo and the font used on other text is, for me, the easiest way to detect a counterfeit. The text is usually not as sharp and detailed on a counterfeit board. Finally look at the overall execution, for instance sloping components.
AE: That’s incredibly helpful information. Is there anything else you’d like to add?
ST: I receive a lot of emails regarding how to properly use our trademarks when, for instance, writing a book, developing a product, making a poster for an event or setting up a social media fan page. I’m really happy when people reach out to me about these things, and anyone is welcome to contact me with questions or concerns.
Article source: Arduino Education