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The Courts

Sparc Sends SparkFun Electronics C&D Letter 219

moogied writes ", a electronics component provider, has been sent a cease and desist letter by Sparc in response to the lengthy trademark process that SparkFun is participating in. The letter states 'Because the dominant portion of the SparkFun mark, namely, SPARK, is phonetically identical and nearly visually identical to SI's SPARC mark, and because it is used in connection with identical goods, we believe confusion is likely to occur among the relevant purchasing group.' has provided the entire contents of the letter, with a breakdown of points it feels are most relevant."
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Sparc Sends SparkFun Electronics C&D Letter

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  • well now (Score:3, Funny)

    by poetmatt ( 793785 ) on Friday October 23, 2009 @04:03PM (#29850667) Journal

    guess who won't be buying any more sparc servers?

    • Re:well now (Score:5, Funny)

      by Rob the Bold ( 788862 ) on Friday October 23, 2009 @04:09PM (#29850773)

      guess who won't be buying any more sparc servers?

      Unless you mean on eBay, I'd say: "Everyone".

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Animixer ( 134376 )

      guess who won't be buying any more sparc servers?

      Someone who is not interested in supporting Open Source processors?

      SPARC is an organization that licenses processor designs (Scalable Processor ARChitecture), provides docs, and even licenses a keyboard interface design (this part is low cost). I'm not sure what they charge, it may be just a fee for making sure your processor conforms to the sparcv9 spec or similar and you can put the SPARC stamp on your box. I have not heard of them being unreasonable before. It's an independent body. Sun and Fujitsu/S

      • It helps to read the article. Spark says they use Sparc servers and are down the street from them. I do not doubt however, that they may threaten business or something as a result. Suing your customers (especially via something that won't likely hold water in court) doesn't earn business.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Bobb9000 ( 796960 )
          You're right, it does help to read the article. Sparkfun doesn't sell anything that could remotely be considered a competitor to SPARC. They're a hobbyist electronics kit store. Unless you consider something like this [] to be a competing product to a SPARC server?
          • you think that thing competes with a Sparc server? I suppose next you're going to think they should sue those people who made an ethernet jack server thing if it were the same name?

    • Wait, don't you mean "Spark" servers?
    • Sparkfun police spoil everything!

      Sparc are no fun!

      Sparks fly at Sparc!

      No more Sparkfun!

      Sparc missing from this relationship!

      Sparkfun fight begins!

    • guess who won't be buying any more sparc servers?

      Good choice. Might I interest you in some SparkFun servers? I know the name looks exactly the same, but it's different if you look closely.

  • Ich liebe SparC-fun (Score:2, Informative)

    by cellurl ( 906920 ) *
    I love spark-fun. I bought cheap GPS modules from them. They have a nack for bulk-buying cool stuff that inventors need. They also respond to criticism and suggestions. Heck, I should work for them, don't you think?
    • by bugnuts ( 94678 )

      Heck, I should work for them, don't you think?

      Two problems:
      First they might get sued :-)

      Second, your address is currently <speedup@wikis[ ] ['pee' in gap]>.

      That's just gross.

  • I could buy some of the parts from SparkFun, and perhaps some of the PCBs. But that's where the "identical goods" argument ends. Has Sparc ever done a teardown of a Wii controller with analysis of the components? Do they sell solder stations? Is Sparc even around anymore? I must've forgotten about them.
    • I knew SMI still sold SPARC-based servers and systems, and I'd like to know more about what role Sparc International plays, but Google won't let me into for fear of malware. Yikes.
  • by gandhi_2 ( 1108023 ) on Friday October 23, 2009 @04:10PM (#29850781) Homepage

    ...slashdot readers are bringing to it's knees as we speak.

    Stand back, SPARC, we'll take care of this!

    • by bugnuts ( 94678 )


      Well, at least network mirror [] can help for those not interested in destroying sparkfun.

    • Perhaps they're running Sparc servers?

    • by nietsch ( 112711 )

      I had no problem reading their post about this, nor did I have any problem firing off an angry mail to K&L.


      hi Christine,

      your mailbox will probably be clogged, but please lay off you frivolous
      trademark claims towards Sparkfun, representing Sparc International. You are
      insulting both their customer base suggesting they would confuse one with the
      other. My advise to Sun/Sparc Inc is to cancel your contract, as you
      obviously have not

  • Sun should lose (Score:5, Insightful)

    by mcgrew ( 92797 ) * on Friday October 23, 2009 @04:10PM (#29850785) Homepage Journal

    Come on, now. They have SPARK in the name; they're an electronics company. The name is a playful moniker and nobody would ever confuse them with Sparc.

    When I was in the USAF they called the electricians "spark chasers". ANY electronics company should be able to have "spark" in their name. For Sun to lay claim to a common word that describes the first thing anybody thinks of when they think of electricity (when Sin's is spelled differently) is ludicrous. It's like the ApleFrosting company suing anybody who sells any kind of apple product wit "apple" in the name.

    I lost a lot of my esteem for Sun with this. I wonder if it has anything to do with Oracle?

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by mcgrew ( 92797 ) *

      I swear that typoo was unintentional...

    • In after some FUD (Score:5, Informative)

      by PaintyThePirate ( 682047 ) on Friday October 23, 2009 @04:20PM (#29850947) Homepage
      Sun has nothing to do with this. SPARC International owns the trademark, not Sun.
    • "When I was in the USAF they called the electricians "spark chasers"."

      They still do, but Sun isn't likely to sue an outfit with Predator UAVs... :)


  • Sun: "Because the dominant portion of the SparkFun mark, namely, SPARK, is phonetically identical and nearly visually identical to SI's SPARC mark, and because it is used in connection with identical goods, we believe confusion is likely to occur among the relevant purchasing group."

    And here I thought that dominant portion of SparkFun was "Fun"!
    • by Matheus ( 586080 )

      RTFA (heck RTFS)

      This has *nothing* to do with Sun. They are the 'other' SPARC that has no bearing on this particular battle (although would have been a better target if it weren't for the fact they've been around WAY longer than the SPARC mark benchmark and have more lawyers)

      • Sun aren't 'the other SPARC' they, like Fujitsu, use the SPARC trademark under license from SPARC International, a group founded by Sun to promote SPARC chips and to handle licensing of the trademark, designs, and other things related to SPARC chips. SI would not sue Sun for trademark violation because Sun licenses the trademark from SI.
  • The counter-suit should be interesting. Hey, maybe SPARC would like to hire Darl to take care of that? I hear he's looking for work now.

  • by bugs2squash ( 1132591 ) on Friday October 23, 2009 @04:16PM (#29850871)
    That the dominant part of SPARC is not fun.
  • FARC (Score:4, Funny)

    by Hatta ( 162192 ) on Friday October 23, 2009 @04:18PM (#29850911) Journal

    So when is the FARC [] going to send [] a C&D?

  • by Dunbal ( 464142 ) on Friday October 23, 2009 @04:19PM (#29850929)

    I can't wait for IBM to sue BMW because after all, both of them share the letters "BM" and that might confuse a lot of people. Disney could probably have a go at McDonald's because after all, Donald is the name of a famous Disney character....

          Hopefully Sparkfun won't get a retarded judge, and this will be laughed out of court.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Culture20 ( 968837 )
      Those examples are from different markets. I'd say a better example would be "Al's Restaurant" and "Joe's Restaurant"; they both have "Restaurant", and might confuse people... if the people in question are suffering from dementia.
    • by vitaflo ( 20507 )

      Or better, for PARC to sue SPARC. At least they're the same industry, "sound similar", use all caps in the name, etc. But that's right, it's just easier to go after the little guy.

    • You do know that "BM" also stands for "bowel movement," right?

      Just checking :)

      /snark off
  • Umm (Score:2, Insightful)

    by mewsenews ( 251487 )

    IANAL, but Sparc International has a legal obligation to protect its trademark, correct? They may not want to pick on SparkFun but if they don't demonstrably protect their trademark, they can lose it.

    How do you protect your trademark without sending out C&Ds?

    • Re:Umm (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Rob the Bold ( 788862 ) on Friday October 23, 2009 @04:27PM (#29851079)

      IANAL, but Sparc International has a legal obligation to protect its trademark, correct? They may not want to pick on SparkFun but if they don't demonstrably protect their trademark, they can lose it.

      How do you protect your trademark without sending out C&Ds?

      In my perfect world (I put that in because otherwise some /. smartass will tell me how things really are, thanks) you wouldn't need to "protect" your trademark against obviously non-infringing non-assaults. And also in my perfect world, you would be penalized for sending out frivolous C&Ds when you should have known better. Again, in my ideal world, a panel of people with common sense would decide when you would have known better. Furthermore, in my perfect world, you will all agree with me and get together and take up a collection to buy me a fully functional animatronic Natalie Portman.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Pharmboy ( 216950 )

      How do you protect your trademark without sending out C&Ds?

      You can license it, but more importantly, you have to decide what infringes and what doesn't. If the name of the company was "SparkServ" or similar, then the standard of "is likely to create confusion in the marketplace" applies. Additionally, if there are other details in the use of "SparkFun" as a trademark that would cause confusion (ie: ripping off the look and feel of the registered mark) then you have a case.

      This is like Darl McBride sui

      • I want to see how this plays out. Sparc International and SparkFun aren't direct competitors but they are both in the electronics biz. It's a bit of a stretch but I'd grant that there is the potential for confusion. I'd hope that Sparc sent the letter as a beginning for negotiations and is aiming to sign an agreement with SparkFun that allows both companies to feel that their trademarks are secure for future usage. If it ends with SparkFun being forced to change their name, that will be a pretty big black e

    • Re:Umm (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Just Some Guy ( 3352 ) <> on Friday October 23, 2009 @04:53PM (#29851465) Homepage Journal

      How do you protect your trademark without sending out C&Ds?

      Dang - I just posted the answer above. But to recap: you license it. Sell the "offending" party the right to continue using their name for the minimum dollar amount necessary to create a binding contract (which I think is traditionally $1). That way they're in the clear, and in the event that someone else infringes in the future, you can prove that you're aware and have dealt with other infringers in the past.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Bob9113 ( 14996 )

      How do you protect your trademark without sending out C&Ds?

      Contact the very nice folks at SparkFun and ask, "Pardon -- could you put a disclaimer on your 'About' page or 'FAQ' stating that you are not associated with Sparc? That way we have our 'You must defend your trademark' ass covered, but we don't have to be dicks about it."

  • by kclittle ( 625128 ) on Friday October 23, 2009 @04:22PM (#29850977)
    First SparkFun get a stupid cease & desist, *then* it gets slashdotted. Some days, it all just goes downhill from the git-go...
  • So SPARC now lays claim to http://www.*sparc*.* as well as http://www.*spark*.*

    Does this mean I can't register without getting a C&D letter?

  • by Simonetta ( 207550 ) on Friday October 23, 2009 @04:27PM (#29851073)

    So SPARC is something like SPARK...

      And some nitwit company that has seen its stock price fall a huge percentage because it spends far too much on psychotic lawyers than it does on R&D is filing a lawsuit about 'Spark' being close to 'sparc'. And this idiot lawyers have convinced someone that they 'own' the word 'spark'.

        Am I reading this correct? Please tell me that this is not Sun Microsystems! Founded by geniuses, creators and leaders in the workstation industry, the true visionary company of the valley.

        You would think that these guys would be too embarrassed to show their faces in the valley again after something as stupid as this.

        These guys have no shame.

        Since the world's population is bursting and there is available, why don't we just put all these dumb fucks out of their (and our) misery. "take out the trash, clean out the crusty, and let them spend the rest of their days walking through the streets of SoHo in the rain."

        What! There's a law against that too? Law or no law, sooner or later, it's going to be cheaper just to kill them all.

        It's a shame that with all their education and vested options, they still don't realize this.

    • by Leto-II ( 1509 )

      Please tell me that this is not Sun Microsystems!

      It's not Sun Microsystems, Inc. It's SPARC International, Inc.

      Sun is just a member company.

    • This is not Sun Microsystems!

      It is SPARC International.

      There are you happy now?

      Perhaps you are a bit quick on the draw with your unwarranted criticism.

  • by odin84gk ( 1162545 ) on Friday October 23, 2009 @04:28PM (#29851091)

    (Removed by user)

    I don't want all of my hacker/maker sites slashdotted at once!

  • by pem ( 1013437 ) on Friday October 23, 2009 @04:30PM (#29851119)
    SparkFun should be laughing all the way to the bank, once they get past the lawyerly nuisance.
  • by Buckbeak ( 591708 ) on Friday October 23, 2009 @04:49PM (#29851411)
    I've ordered from both companies, but not anymore. I will continue to support SparkFun, even if they are forced to change their name. Sun/Oracle can go to hell.
  • by jbezorg ( 1263978 ) on Friday October 23, 2009 @05:19PM (#29851817)

    ...what are they going to call sparkplugs now?

  • by alizard ( 107678 ) <alizard.ecis@com> on Friday October 23, 2009 @05:23PM (#29851857) Homepage
    electronic components has no difficulty differentiating "SPARC" from "SparkFun". While a SPARC CPU is in fact an electronic component, it is one that can only be used if one is building a specialized sort of computer (i.e. one that won't run x86 code and can't run any Windows / OSX apps). If one is going to design an electronic circuit with any hope of functioning, one has to know EXACTLY what components one is designing into it.

    The population of actual electronic component customers likely to mistake SPARC for SparkFun is exactly zero. There is NO public likely to be confused by this.
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by mysidia ( 191772 )

      hm.. Sparc International's an industry trade association setup by Sun some 10 years ago.

      Basically, SPARC members are the companies that make SPARC-compatible devices.

      My biggest issue with SPARC's sudden claim is that SparkFun has been around for 10 years, and well-known to the public.

      Basically, it seems like they have sat on their rights for a long time, and waited way too long before taking any action.

      They ought not to be allowed to proceed with their claim.

  • Clan McDonald (Score:3, Interesting)

    by the eric conspiracy ( 20178 ) on Friday October 23, 2009 @05:24PM (#29851873)

    The Guardians of Clan Donald
    (Na Dionadairean Clann Dhomhnuill)
    By authority of Lord Macdonald,
    Premier Clan Chief of Clan Donald.
    22 Dunecht Road, Westhill, Aberdeenshire, AB32 6RH.
    Tele: 01224 740073

    Lord Macdonald of Macdonald, premier clan chief of Clan Donald, has appointed Ronald W McDonald to be Sergeant-Major at Arms of the Guardians of Clan Donald: the linear descendant of the chief's bodyguard. It will be open to all Macdonalds and their septs, dependents, and descendants, who are in good standing in the community. Successful applicants will be enlisted as Sergeants at Arms and issued with a Warrant in the form of a Certificate which is suitable for framing. The cost of membership is £1 (postal orders please) or £2 sterling for overseas applicants.

    The Guardians of Clan Donald aim to uphold and protect the dignity and honour of the ancient and honourable name of Clan Donald by all legal means. One specific aim is to offer moral support to Mary Blair, proprietor of McMunchies, a small sandwich bar in Fenny Stratford, Buckinghamshire, who is being threatened with legal action by McDonald's Restaurants, the fast food chain, for daring to use the prefix "Mc" in the name of her shop. When interviewed in BBC2's "The Money Programme" a top trademark lawyer made it clear that McDonald's have not a legal leg to stand on. Instead they rely on their unlimited financial resources to bully small businesses who cannot afford to fight back.

    This type of business ethics might be good practice in the USA but it is singularly un-British. McDonald's have registered most names beginning with 'Mc' as trademarks, not with any intention of using them, but to try and stop anyone of that name setting up a restaurant. Even my own name Ronald McDonald has been registered as one of their trademarks. This is an attack on Scottish culture when even our very names are hijacked.

    It has been stated by government ministers that a person is fully entitled to use their own name for business. But McDonald's has grown so large it is supra-national, with an advertising budget bigger than the Gross National Product of many countries. It is time that the government took in hand this matter of bullying of small businesses by companies such as McDonald' s. Perhaps this might be a subject for debate by a future Scottish Parliament.

    If McDonald's persists in its action against McMunchies they are disgracing the ancient and honourable name of Macdonald. In the days when a clan chief had the power of pit and gallows the ultimate penalty for shaming the clan name was to be flung over a cliff but it seems unlikely that any executive of McDonald's Restaurants would volunteer for this!

    Injustice and bullying are matters that concerns everyone and not just those affiliated to one clan. To this end, the Guardians of Clan Donald have decided to launch a petition calling upon McDonald's Restaurants to drop their action against Mary Blair of McMunchies Sandwich Bar. Petitions should be sent to the Guardians of Clan Donald or direct to McDonald's Restaurants, 11-59 High Road, East Finchley, London N2 8AW. (Fax Number 0181-700 7050 Telephone 0181-700 7000). A personal letter, telephone call or fax to McDonald's condemning their action is also effective.

    Any assistance from the media would be much appreciated.

    Back to Media Page

    Press Index

  • Likely to cause confusion in the minds of purchasers? What are they smoking?

    I've bought bits off SparkFun in the past. It never even occurred to me that there was a vague similarity between them and SPARC international until I heard about the C&D letter. Not even a moron would confuse Sparc International and SparkFun. Different logos, only tangentally related markets (they both are involved in the pushing around of electrons, but one designs CPUs, the other has instructions on how to solder tricky packa

  • I visit [] and I find a company that sells electronic parts and kits and things of that nature. I attempt to visit [] and I get gigantic warnings from both Google and from Mozilla/Firefox telling me it's an "attack site" and it may "harm my computer". I see no basis for their lawsuit; Sparkfun obviously sells electronics, obviously creates malware. Case closed.
  • Will they be suing Sun Microsystems, or will Sun be suing them?

  • Geez I know Sparc has been slowly dying for last decade but this is getting kinda desperate.

  • I deal with a lot of technically clueless attorneys. They really have no idea about technology other than the fact that the computer is a black box that they use to word process, and email, and occasionally listen to case based audio files.

    In the case of the SPARC v. Sparkfun it's just some attorneys with a hair across their ass.

e-credibility: the non-guaranteeable likelihood that the electronic data you're seeing is genuine rather than somebody's made-up crap. - Karl Lehenbauer