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Capitalism: How it works, episode 2
  • See episode 1 at

    Law is the will of the ruling class transformed into legal regulations.

    So, we continue to expose how laws are used in capitalism.

    Fluke story

    Sparkfun started sourcing a really great high-quality $15 multimeter back in 2008. This price-point enables countless beginners to get their feet wet in electronics. Fast forward six years and many thousands of multimeters sold. On March 7th, we were notified by the Department of Homeland Security/US Customs and Border Protection that our latest shipment of 2,000 multimeters was being inspected.

    This is to advise you that the following articles have been excluded from entry into the United States pursuant to US International Trade Commission Exclusion Order 337-TA-588. 337-TA-588 is formally titled: “Certain Digital Multimeters, and Products with Multimeter Functionality.” This is 162 pages of companies that have been brought under scrutiny by the US International Trade Commission because these companies were selling digital multimeters and products with multimeter functionality that have a contrasting color combination of a dark-colored body or face and a contrasting yellow border, frame, molding, overlay, holster or perimeter. Fluke filed for a trademark in 2000 and received it in late 2003. Fluke’s trademark number is 2796480.

    Sparkfun ultimeters are actually kind of orange, not Fluke yellow. The document from the Department of Homeland Security is matter of fact. Where is no opportunity for recourse or appeals process.

    They had two options, ship them back or have them destroyed. Having them destroyed costs $150 per hour with no indication of how much time it will take to destroy 2,000 units. Returning them has been ruled out by the manufacturer in China because the import taxes in China are steep.

    So, perfect example of capitalism in action. Where specific capitalists push their interests using power of whole ruling class above interests of society. Demand to destroy perfect good products, just because they can. Minor market players also suffer, but it is competition, someone always wins. :-)

    What Fluke wrote in regard to this? Check it out

    Like any organization that designs and manufactures electronics, we actively work to stop lookalike products from making it to the marketplace. We do this to protect our company and the jobs of our employees. We also do so because it is a matter of safety for our customers (really?).

    I mention this because we firmly believe that we must be – and will continue to be – vigilant in protecting Fluke and our customers. One step in doing that was registering a trademark protecting the look and feel of our devices so our customers know that if it looks like a Fluke it’s a Fluke (they are illiterate, as you protect color scheme?).

    It’s important to know that once we’ve filed for and received trademark protection, US Customs has the responsibility to determine what to stop at the border, or what to seize.

    and final part is just hilarious

    Earlier today we contacted SparkFun and offered to provide a shipment of genuine Fluke equipment, free of charge for them to sell on their site or donate. The value of the equipment exceeds the value of the Customs-held shipment. SparkFun can resell the Fluke gear, recouping the cost of their impounded shipment, or donate it into the Maker community.

    What have values, donations or such have to do with this? Yes, it can act as good PR move, but damage caused to society have nothing to do with it.


    Do not worry, European firms are also not better. They really like to file for design protections after patents expired. But this is for 3rd episode.

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  • Disgusting.