February 4, 2011 AT 1:34 pm

Counterfeit Teensy USB Boards – not open source, “cloned” any way…

Counterfeit 1

Paul, maker of the Teensy writes

Counterfeit Teensy boards have appeared on the market. Counterfeit boards are not compatible with Teensy Loader and Teensyduino, and may not work with many projects. Counterfeits may be sold as “Teensy 2.0” but have hardware similar to version 1.0 (see below). PJRC does not provide technical support for counterfeit products! Please be careful to buy only genuine Teensy USB development boards.

Adafruit carries the real deal directly from Paul of course. We always support the maker and designer and our customers like that as well. There are likely clones of Paul’s work because there was/is a lot of demand for these because they can be used to jail break Playstation 3 units.

We thought we’d use this opportunity to discuss a related topic – open source hardware vs non-open source hardware. The Teensy is not open source hardware, while we wish it was, we respect Paul’s wishes to distribute any way he wants and retain any rights he wants. Some customers have complained about the Teensy not being open source hardware – and others have said that open source hardware is a “bad idea” because some can clone / counterfeit it so easy. So here we are, the Teensy is cloned / counterfeited and it’s not open source hardware. It doesn’t matter if something is OSHW or not – if someone wants to clone hardware they will.

Fake Teensy

We think that anything interesting may get cloned, if something is open source hardware it can be cloned too – but along the way you get community, contributions and more. Would the Teensy be cloned if it was OSHW, of course it could, but there would be an entire community who spent time and effort with a sense of ownership could help get these stores to buy directly or at least work out a licensing agreement with the makers. Maybe Paul has a trademark on the name and can work with the USA based sellers of the clones to get them to reconsider carrying the clones or changing the name. Any way, all guesses – please consider getting a real Teensy from us or Paul and supporting the maker.

We’re not sure what will happen with this example, but wanted to share it – for the people who say they will not do open source hardware because “it might” get cloned, here’s an example of hardware that was cloned that clearly was not OSHW.

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  1. Couldn’t agree more. It’s gonna get cloned anyways, if not the PCB directly, they can make their own PCB from your schematic without breaking any copyright (unless you have a utility patent on the circuit, even then, enforce it, I dare you).

    Look at the Bus Pirate, there are clones that are 100%, designs based on the same schematic but with different PCB, and designed based on the same core but a different pin count chip.

    Forget the knee jerk reaction and go 100% OS, it’s worth it. I figure the worst that happens is my IP becomes even more popular and standardized. What’s to lose? You’re still the driver and originator of the market.

  2. I love me some Open Source Hardware, but what a lot of laypeople don’t know is that releasing something as Open Source often takes extra work. At least to do it right. Just being production ready doesn’t make it OSH ready. Typically things need to be cleaned up, better documented, appropriate licenses attached to everything. Making sure you’re not including something that’s already under a more restrictive license. And if you want to look like you know what you’re doing a spelling and grammar check and a decent set of documentation. (Yeah, all of this stuff is good to have anyway, but how often does it really happen?)

    All of that takes time and effort, and no kit designers are rolling in the dough or have overwhelming free time.

    So, yeah, there are plenty of reasons to not release a project as Open Source. They’re good reasons, and worth respecting.

    However “because it’ll get cloned” isn’t one of them.

  3. So many ways to talk about this — one is that in a sea of cheap products one way to distinguish yourself is excellent support and documentation, which PJRC, Adafruit, Sparkfun, Make, Solorbotics, etc., etc., clearly provide. Whoever made this product is going to make less off of it than they would have because 1.) it doesn’t fit existing documentation. 2.) PJRC is using its communication channels to warn people away from it.

    On the other hand, I think PJRC should be somewhat relieved that the pseudo-clone is different enough to be distinguishable. That packaging implies that the board was manufactured to engage in an illegal activity in the U.S. and anybody who gets near it should be prepared to be Sony’s next target.

  4. its interesting, this is mainly a breakout board granted its a question of where the lines drawn between simple/obvious and clever.

    but these devices got massively popular because people are cracking the ps3 with them, which yeah fine some people are using for open source, but the rest are pirating games, I know people well yell foul and say the majority of these were for running your own code, but its rose coloured specs.

    also the bus pirate is open source.

    on the other hand theres a lot of ‘open source hardware’ that just gives you a pdf of a schematic, and plenty of people ride that marketing bandwagon too. if i gave out free code as a jpeg, it’d get flamed silly.

    /disclaimer: work in the video game industry :)

  5. I’d love to know how the fake boards “are not compatible with Teensy Loader and Teensyduino”. It seems such a simple board would be down right identical. Did the counter-fitters screw up? LOL!

  6. I may go off on a tangent here, I will try not to sing out of key.

    I’m not sure I totally agree with that line of thinking. Just because something can be counterfeited doesn’t mean I’m willing to facilitate the means for you to do so with ease. To me, THAT is a knee jerk reaction. As much as I’m unhappy about this gentleman’s design being compromised, I still support his decision not to go open source; that’s anyone’s choice. At least the counterfeiter had to put forth a little effort to make the design work, with no layout or schematics published. If someone wants to copy my design that I want to recoup some investment on and I’m not quite ready to release for improvement, then fine (not saying it’s right), but let them work for it a little. Some of us do this as a hobby and try to get it to fund itself because our 9-5’s don’t allow that kind of flexible spending, and our means of funding these ideas (which can spawn revenue for completely new ones) shouldn’t be frowned upon. Greed is usually not the reason for not using OSHW (in regard to hobby electronics, that is), and it’s kind of disheartening to read about people up in arms over a designers’ personal choice for their project (not referencing here, just so you know).

  7. Authentic Teensy Owner

    PJRC should open source their boot loader…

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