Jason J. Gullickson

Jason J. Gullickson

Cloning Open-Source Hardware

“Cloning” is a term used to describe the process of creating a product by simply copying an existing Open-Source design without making any changes. Typically this is done in a way that reduces the cost of the product through less expensive manufacturing processes.

This is generally frowned on by the open-source community, and is considered by some to be an abuse of the freedoms provided by open-source licensing.

I have mixed feelings about this stuff, but I lean toward it being more important to increase access than it is to protect the profits of a specific company.

There’s two sustainable ways to look at this:

1.  The first is that I think people who can afford to support the original creators should do so, if nothing else it’s our way to reciprocate the advantages we have.

2.  The second is that good open-source hardware maintains competitive advantage through continual innovation, not hiding behind artificial protection mechanisms.  I don’t know what Arduino these boards are based on, but I doubt they are the latest tech from the Arduino team.  As long as Arduino keeps innovating, there will be a market of makers who can afford the new stuff to support them.

Profiting off legacy designs is an old-fashioned business model that was required in the days of years-long tooling and decades long design periods. Let’s move on, and in doing so empower those with fewer resources to become part of the community so they can come up with the next generation of open source tech.