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So then, nothing to be done about the needless destruction of the shipment of meters by customs? As Sparkfun said, Fluke could easily issue a temporary license to prevent that draconian waste.

If they think those meters are actually going to dilute their brand (hint: they really aren't), then make the importation license require Sparkfun to rework the meters domestically before distributing them.

As Fluke said, they want customers to know that if a product appears to be a Fluke, then they can safely use it in a high-voltage environment. The implication is that no, they are not going to permit them to enter the US.

It's very classy of them to make Sparkfun whole.

As I said, Sparkfun could rework them domestically to change their appearance, avoiding destruction and avoiding sending them back to China.

Also, does anyone have tips on how to get the smell out after accidentally using an overripe banana to "test" my breaker panel? I thought checking the color would be sufficiently safe :/

The great thing about comments like this one are that they help me identify whose opinion not to take seriously in the future.

Not being able to distinguish the difference between copying multiple distinctive elements of trade dress (yellow back AND yellow front border AND uniform grey front) and inadvertently using a particular color anywhere on the product is really quite an amazing feat.

Yep, any use of hyperbole forever invalidates everything someone says.

FWIW, there's only two "elements" (the back and border are one piece), and their distinctiveness is specified in terms of basic colors one learns in elementary school.

The ability to monopolize a general two-tone color scheme on a durable tool that someone may use every day is outright ridiculous.

It may be the case that the two pieces of plastic are "yellow back and border" and "grey front cover, " but having any other color on the back invalidates the infringement claim. If they had done a yellow border with grey sides and back, they would not have infringed. If they had done yellow back and grey front (with no border) they wouldn't have infringed. If the had done yellow front and grey back without border or yellow front and back with grey border they wouldn't have infringed.

There are all sorts of ways to make a yellow and grey multimeter that don't infringe on Fluke's trade dress. Fluke isn't monopolizing a general two-tone color scheme: They are monopolizing a specific arrangement of two colors, and that is an eminently reasonable thing to do.

This is a little like arguing "Well, copyright shouldn't exist because you shouldn't get a monopoly on just some general words." But that's a strawman--you can only obtain a copyright on a specific arrangement of general words.

Oh, did your banana have "CAT III Max 600V" stencilled on it? The $15 multimeter does. I suspect the cheap meter has about the same right to wear that label as the banana.

Does Sparkfun's product actually fail in 590V environments? That seems like a more serious concern tha branding.

I doubt it will fail in such environments (at least, for most of the time).

The problem with meeting CAT ratings is transient voltage spikes- I don't recall exact numbers, but some for some of the higher CAT ratings multimeters are required to withstand (meaning continue to operate, or fail in a safe way, with no harm to operator) several kilo-volts.

Cheaper multimeters just literally blow up: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M-FZP1U2dkM

Probably not, but if it does fail at 500V, I wouldn't want to be around. The short circuit current and energies available generally go up with the voltage, and who knows how well thought out its failure modes are.

Not that I'd like the CPSC anywhere near electronics, either. But given the amount of QA those meters probably (don't) receive and their intended market, Sparkfun should be responsible and either post their ongoing testing process, or probably just drop the rated voltage to 100V.

Probably not? Tear downs of cheap knock-off multimeters have shown that they very well can and will fail.

Try an orange box of white powder. Or spray an aerosol can with a floral color at it.

The safety argument is a bit weak. There's nothing stopping anyone at Fluke from shipping poorly performing devices with Fluke branding. This happened for instance with Pyrex, when they changed the glass so it wasn't as strong. Anyone counting on the Pyrex to not explode under certain conditions was in for a nasty surprise.

The argument about trademark needs to stand on its own, without the argument that the current owners of a trademark are going some safety critical job.

Pyrex brand owners trashed their own brand and hurt their customers. That's there choice, not someone else's.

Why wouldn't they dilute their brand? They've built up a reputation of building a high end product. If someone begins selling a product that looks nearly identical to their own, that's of inferior quality, how does that not affect their own reputation?

Because professional engineers choose test equipment based on functionality, and color schemes fall pretty low on the list. (yeah, this may be hard to believe if you have a primarily software background)

Sparkfun isn't a site for professional engineers, it's a site for hobbiests. Professional engineers typically don't buy shoddy gear which can end up blowing their arm off.

So we agree!

Professional engineers aren't the only people buying multimeters. Lots of people who work as electricians and wiring techs also buy multimeters, and many of them do buy by brand which is, conveniently, color scheme.

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