On this page on Arduino's website, it states


With open source electronics, what is the difference between a clone, and a counterfeit?

migrated from electronics.stackexchange.com Mar 14 '16 at 23:17

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    i think when it is COUNTERFEIT, it also uses the same name. like an imitation brand. but CLONE just copies the circuitry under another name. – user16307 Mar 14 '16 at 22:57
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    Why would you migrate this Nick... The distinction between clone and counterfeit is not specifically about the Arduino, the same thing could have been asked about the Raspberry Pi, the RepRap or SparkFun products, for example. – jms Mar 14 '16 at 23:25
  • I agree that my question should have been kept in electronics. It can apply to any device. If anything move it to open source as that is broad but related. – Eric Johnson Mar 15 '16 at 2:06
  • The question is based on Arduino and fits in Arduino.SE (Nobody would've migrated it towards EE.SE from Arduino.SE). And, EE.SE seems to have an aversion from any question where the word: "Arduino" is used. Which might be a good thing. Since it gives Arduino.SE a reason to live. But it does indeed feel a little odd or "agressive" to some extent. – Paul Mar 15 '16 at 17:20

This is not gospel, but here is what those terms are generally used to indicate (as I understand it):

  • compatible: a dev board which is compatible with the Arduino IDE/toolchain. The Arduino UNO uses an ATmega328 MCU, while other platforms may use different MCUs i.e. there are multiple MCUs that are compatible with the Arduino IDE. It may or may not have the same form factor. Keep in mind that this term can also be used for shields, "Arduino-compatible" shields are add-on boards that are meant to mate with an Arduino. The Sparkfun RedBoard is an example.

  • clone: a dev board which has the same (or very similar) circuitry as an Arduino and the same physical board/layout. They are branded differently, but are, for all intents and purposes, exactly the same as a real Arduino. These boards are permitted under the open-source licensing of the Arduino design. An Freeduino might be an example.

  • counterfeit: a dev board which is identical to an original Arduino, and is branded and sold as an original Arduino. As I understand it, the open-source licensing does not permit this, however, this does not deter the flood of shops churning out counterfeit Arduinos. A search on eBay or Aliexpress will turn up loads of examples; note the Arduino guide to spotting counterfeits, in general, the silkscreen is blue and the quality of assembly is not quite as good.

The difference between "compatible" and "clone" is a bit blurry, but it's not really important. The main difference between counterfeit and non-counterfeit is that counterfeit Arduinos are boards that are not sold by Arduino but are branded as such.


With open source electronics, what is the difference between a clone, and a counterfeit?

Counterfeit: the vendor says/implies that the Arduino board is produced by Arduino/Genuino, an "original", but it is not. The screen-print is the same, but looking closer at the components and PCB there are some differences. You think you can turn to Arduino/Genuino for product support but you cannot.

Clone: the vendor states that the board is a "compatible copy", uses all the open-source bill-of-material, schematics, etc, (or slightly changed for cheaper components) when produced, and it is obviously not produced by Arduino/Genuino. You know that you cannot turn to Arduino/Genuino for product support.

The punishment for selling and buying (!!) counterfeit fashion in Italy is very severe.

Counterfeiting is a trademark violation issue.


  • I'm not sure how the buying counterfeit fashion in Italy is related, but that's an interesting point. It might be usefull to note that originals or clones of known brands are often of a higher quality. But that counterfeit might be useable for hobby projects (but often not in a final product). – Paul Mar 15 '16 at 17:24
  • @Paul the fact counterfeits might be usable in an hobby project doesn't change the fact using, buying or selling counterfeits breaks the law. For hobby projects you should use cheap clones: never use counterfeits, just by buying them you are supporting thieves. – Roberto Lo Giacco Apr 3 '16 at 21:31
  • @Roberto it's completely legal to copy the Arduino hardware. But not to copy the brand(name) I believe. – Paul Apr 3 '16 at 21:35
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    @Paul that's correct and it's exactly what distinguishes a clone from a counterfeit. What I'm saying it's ok to buy cheap clones (which is something I often do), but I strongly advice against counterfeits, no matter if it's for hobby projects or not. – Roberto Lo Giacco Apr 3 '16 at 22:30

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