Imitation is the highest form of flattery.

I’m proud to admit that I think the Arduino concept is so good that I have patterned everything I am doing after them. A little over a year ago I knew that I wanted to start making Open Source hardware designs. So I dove into the Arduino site and learned everything I could about how they are doing things. I wanted to figure out how I could build on top of the good Arduino work in a way that provided exciting new options to the community but was different enough to not compete with the Arduino or just be another knock off. What I learned from the Arduino site is that the real key to the Arduino is in how easy it makes it to get started with micros. As I see it, the essence of the Arduino is boiled down to this. Someone looking at the Arduino for the first time is drawn in by the potential of what they can do with it. The software makes the hardware so easy to use that they look at it and think, “Wow, I can do this and this and this with it.” I realized that anything I attempt to do should embrace this simple concept.

I also realized that I wanted to open up that same potential for the FPGA world. I wanted to bring that same Open Source spark to the FPGA community by making an Open Source FPGA design. My intention from the beginning has been to follow in the Arduino’s footsteps and make the Arduino for the FPGA world. I made my hardware design, the Papilio One, simple and expandable just like the Arduino. But I knew that there was much more than just making a hardware board, I also needed to make it easy to use like the Arduino is. I figured adopting the Arduino IDE is best for everyone since there is no need to reinvent the wheel . So my next step was to implement a Soft Processor that could run on the FPGA and provide compatibility with the Arduino IDE. The Open Source AVR8 soft processor which is compatible with the Atmega103 was ported to the Papilio. Finally, the Arduino IDE was modified to support the FPGA board and the AVR8 soft processor. After a couple months of tweaking I was finally to a state with everything where I finally felt comfortable in saying that it is easy to use just like the Arduino is easy to use. To prove how easy it is to use I made a kit to show a real world example. Every time I ran into a question about how I should be doing something I always turned to the example of the Arduino. How much should it cost? I did a price analysis of the Arduino components and made my markup the same percentage as the markup for the Arduino. What kind of license? Creative Commons, just like the Arduino. But this is where I am getting stuck and was hoping for some advice.

The problem is that my experience in co-designing the Open Bench Logic Sniffer has exposed a big problem with releasing Open Source designs without a non-commercial clause. There are a lot of motivations for why I want to design Open Source hardware but one of the realities I face is that I need to be able to feed my family with sales of the hardware. What I learned from the Open Bench Logic Sniffer is that there is a big difference between the percentage that I think is fair for what someone who wants to manufacture and sell my design is and what they think. A Creative Commons license without some kind of protection can lead to a situation where others are making way more money than I am and I cannot feed my family and continue to make new designs.

Now, the Arduino seems to address this issue by Trademarking the Arduino name. I’ve taken the approach so far of using the Creative Commons Non-Commercial clause, but there is a big shortcoming with the Non-Commercial clause. The beauty of the Open Source community is that good people like the Arduino team release their work so that people like myself can come along and build something new on top of it. The non-commercial clause has the unwanted side affect of breaking that chain. Just like I am building on top of the Arduino work, I want people to be able to build off my work whether it is commercial or not. The non-commercial clause means they have to ask my permission and I have to grant them a new license before they can do commercial derivative works. This side affect is not really my intention for the non-commercial clause, all I want is to ensure that others can’t just manufacture and sell my design without my approval. I want people to build on top of my work and make new things but I don’t want people to just start selling my unmodified designs without making an arrangement that we both feel is fair. A straight Creative Commons license means that any negotiations with hardware manufacturers is pretty one sided, they get to decide what is fair and my opinion is just that, an opinion.

So after this long winded explanation I finally get to my question. If the Arduino team was starting over, knowing then what they know now, would they still take the trademark route or are there other alternatives that are better? I greatly appreciate not only the excellent example to follow but any advice on this matter.

Jack Gassett

i dont think you can get a patent on someone else’s idea ::slight_smile:

That avr soft core as already some years, have you really writed yourself?

I’m sorry if it comes across like I wrote the AVR8 core myself. I did not, I made some major modifications to make it run out of BRAM and to allow code to be merged into the bitstream but I did not write it. I guess saying that I implemented it maybe leaves it open to interpretation but Ruslan Lepetenok is the author that deserves the credit. It was never my intention to take credit for his work.


second source manufacturing is a inevitable outcome of open source hardware, people only buy “genuine” hardware out of a wish to support the developer.

Now, suppose you use the non commercial licence, do you think the Chinese sellers that make fake i-phones by day will give a damn? Using an incompatible non FSF approved license like that will only impede legitimate derivative makers, whilst the “cloners” will churn out cheap copies regardless.

Most hardware manufacturers will just manufacture your designs, they don’t sell products to the public because that isn’t their business, they aren’t set up for the marketing and distribution for that. So I doubt you will have any problems in your “negotiations”.


Jack Gassett…

1st I would like to said thank’s about your great articels at electronics journal and magazine in the past(the FPGA articels).At that time the FPGA still very expensive here.
Luckly I had XCS10 dev.board from Xilinx.Unfortunedly the FPGA and CPLD still very rare here.
Recently I’m asked about CPLD modification for OBLS at dangerous prototypes.

What Jack Gasset doing lately very well.
The OBLS,Papillo and Bus Pirate very cool.

I’m just suggest that why didn’t penetrated at another region.
Not only from Seedstudio at China and GFactory at India.
Maybe at South Asia&pasific(included Australia&NZ) also Africa and South America.
So Jack Gasset gadgets became “standard” of low cost test bench.



Thank you for the encouraging words, I’ve spent the last year down in my basement working on the technical side of the OpenBench Logic Sniffer and the Papilio projects. Now that they are finally to a state where most of the technical work is done I’m starting to try and open dialog more and figure out issues like the non-commercial vs. trademark problem. What I’m finding is that I need to have pretty thick skin! A lot of responses seem to be pretty critical so I really appreciate a positive post. I kind of assumed that people would be happy about an Open Source FPGA board that is easy to use. So I’m a little surprised by comments like the one about patenting other peoples ideas. I’m talking about Trademarking the Papilio name not patenting the Arduino “idea”. I don’t feel like I am ripping off the Arduino idea, I’m recognizing that it is a good idea that people like and am trying to apply it somewhere else that might provide the same types of benefits for people. An idea is just that, an idea, there has still been a tremendous amount of work, a years worth of my full time work, involved with making the Papilio a reality. It would be different if I just made some changes to the published Arduino board but that is not the case here. I created a new board from scratch in a niche that has nothing like it and am embracing existing Open Source projects to make it as useful as possible.

Maybe I’ve somehow come across as abrasive or trying to overly promote my work and if that is the case then I apologize. My intention with this post has been to let the Arduino team know about the work I’m doing, I know I would want to be informed, and to solicit some advice on the Trademarking issue.

On a side note, I wasn’t personally involved with the development of the Bus Pirate. That is the awesome work of Ian Lesnet over at Dangerous Prototypes. Ian and I partnered together to make the OpenBench Logic Sniffer, he did the microcontroller side and I did the FPGA side. With Open Source it is so easy for the lines to get blurred about who did what. Everyone is building on the work of others and it can get confusing. The exciting thing is that the end result can be really cool new things like an Open Source Logic Analyzer and FPGA development board.

Jack Gassett

Great project, I for one would love to play with some FPGAs but for the life of me I can’t think of a project that would use one. One of my pet areas is development tools and a logic analyser would be a logical choice, but I think that’s well covered :slight_smile:

Emulators are another pet area of mine, maybe the equivelant of the “bond out” chips we used to have to gain access to the internal busses for hardware break points etc.

As for the CC license, I was going to go for BY-SA-NC but just couldn’t see how to implement it. For example if a one-man band wanted to knock up 20 of my widgets to sell then I’ve got no problems with that. But if HP take the idea and make 1000s then I should get something for it. But how would I enforce it, especially if the design is ripped off by someone outside my country.

In the end I decided what the heck and I am releasing everything I do under BY-SA, realistically what are the chances that something I do will be the next Arduino anyway :slight_smile:

I do have one advantage though, and that is I don’t have to feed a family.