Bulgaria is country where the Copyright is respected… not! or how Samsung bully their customers with the help of Bulgarian customs

samsung memory

Many people looking from aside think that running business it trivial. They probably think – what so difficult once you have the money you buy components for X manufacture something and sell it for Y and make profit (Y-X), so simple anyone with money can do it! The reality is different, every day you have to fight and solve small and big challenges.

For 25+ years I had so many issues I could write a book, some are funny, some are scary, many may seems even unreal and impossible. Specially at the beginning when the communist system collapsed and Bulgaria took the path to the democracy it was challenging to run business and take all risks, many times we were on the edge to go broke (our first big customer send us $10 000 electronic components for his order which were stolen at Sofia airport – we had no money to cover these components cost except to sell my parents home 🙂 ) but I may write these stories one day I’m telling you it will be big book 🙂

For these 25+ years I though almost nothing can surprise me – but Bulgarian Customs and Samsung did it last week!

We use lot of electronic components from different vendors. Integrated circuits, resistors, capacitors, we have over 6000 different types of components we use for our boards in stock. For OLinuXino we use DDR3 memories from Samsung, Hynix, Micron etc.

We never ever had problem to import these components, everything was working flawless… until now.

We source the memories from many different suppliers. We made order and the memories were shipped and February 11 we got message from the carrier that the parcel is in Sofia and we have to arrange the customs clearance.
We paid all taxes and duties in advance and start waiting the ICs to be released and delivered then we got this odd message from the customs broker:

The customs require from you document, which authorize you to import goods with Samsung brand. Please provide such document to release your goods.
Also these goods need to be check if they are original and produced by Samsung or they if found fake would be destroyed for our account?!?

This is the first time we ever heard that we need such document, we import integrated circuits form many different brands and I’m pretty sure there is no permission necessary to import ICs.

I check again EU TARIC web site and for the Tariff code 85423290 which classifies the ICs there is no requirement to have any such permission document!

I asked the customs to issue me in written what law requires such permission, so I can have things in written and can contact lawer to consult me, but without any reply, they do not issue such written document but neither release our goods.

The carrier told me that Samsung as trademark holder found some way officially to bribe the Bulgarian customs and now when the customs officer see carton with Samsung on it stops the parcel and require such “permission” document.

As I wanted to handle this ASAP (every day we lose means we can’t produce our boards without these memory chips) I contacted Samsung Bulgaria technical support as trademark holder and explained them the situation. The people from the call center were very kind … and ignorant – they were trained to help people who can’t use their phones and TVs, but quickly gave me phone to the B2B manager of Samsung Bulgaria who could eventually help me. I called him several times, but the phone was not answering after few hours trying the phone was pickup by his assistant who told me that this mister is on trip but after she hear what the problem is told me that even if he was here he couldn’t help me, but will forward my message to the one who deal with trademark and customs.

To be honest people at Samsung were nice and really wanted to help, but just didn’t know how 🙂 One hour later I got call back by the manager who inspects the goods at custom to see if they are original and if they come from authorized distributor or not. I explained him the situation and as I guess he was doing these checks only on white and home appliances, not for components. He said such document “permission” could be issued by Samsung legal department which is in … Romania 🙂 Several days passed meantime without any sign that the problem will be solved soon.

We had no other option but to wait and finally yesterday we got call from the carrier that customs officer and Samsung representative want to open the parcels and to check the content. I told them that these are moisture sensitive devices and gave them instructions how to open and how to handle. Interesting fact is that they wanted to have my permission and instructions in written (aha!). One of the problems is that if the memories are on trays and these trays are not closed tight after the “inspection” they may slip during the transport and the balls of the memory chips to get smashed which make them useless for production.
The check obviously went good as today we receive the parcels.

Here is the carton with the samsung on outside which alerted the watchful customs officers:



here is how the one parcel with ICs looked after the “inspection”:


Our parcels were held 8 days on the customs, without anyone to give us written official statement why it’s held and based on which law they require these documents, so we could later defend our interest for lost profits damage in court. The parcels value with the taxes paid was exceeding  $60K and inside there were also Flash memories from Hynix and industrial DDR3 memories from Micron, the Samsung memories were just one position out of three.

Integrated circuits are raw components used in production.

It’s non sense Samsung to sell these and later to not allow you to import them and use them.

The Bulgarian customs have no capacity and competence to see if one chip is original or not by just looking at it and it’s packing, without special technical knowledge and trained personal and equipment, then why is this whole procedure necessary?

We lost 8 days for some non sense procedure. What we can do from now on?

At least we can try to avoid Samsung integrated circuits if possible and to use Micron and Hynix instead, the prices are same on the stock exchange, just other companies do not bully their customers.

I start to think was it good idea to bet on Samsung SMT placement machines too? What will happen if the machines arrive and Bulgarian customs arrest them to check if they are not fake or original Samsung machines – this is totally crazy as they cost a lot of $$$ to take such risk. Or what happens if your machine breaks and stop your production and you need spare parts which are held on the customs to check if they are “original” and you can’t use your assembly machines for weeks waiting someone from Samsung to go to the customs and bless the parts release from the customs?  After this accident now I look at anything with brand Samsung as trouble which we have to stay away from.

It wouldn’t be so ridiculous if in Bulgaria one was really carrying about copyright, but everybody knows that here copyright still means nothing, people download movies from local Bulgarian torrent servers which every kid knows and no one can stop these torrent servers as they obviously profit enough from advertisement to pay to whom it needs for protection. Internet providers do not cut the access to these servers as otherwise they would have no customers – the competition among internet providers here is huge and no one will take the risk to stop the access to these servers. These servers do IP filtering so no one outside Bulgaria can access them, but if you have local IP you can download any movie or software without single issue and at top download speed.


TL-DR; Samsung pays to Bulgarian customs to stop goods with their brand and then you are at their mercy. We will try to avoid importing/using Samsung products in future.

Can Open Source desing be COPYRIGHT?


I admit I confused these two not long time ago, and because I guess many others may be also confused and mix these things I will try to explain what I learned about it.

I still do remember August 2011, there were few months since we launched our Open Source Hardware design Pinguino and I got e-mail from customer of ours in Australia who pointed me to some Australian blogger who also does some online electronics talk show on his web site.

So this guy IIRC his name was Dave was commenting our Pinguino design, well actually it was hard to tell he was commenting, as he was yelling around 10 minutes and as English is not my native language I was able to catch just some words like: “shame” , “olimex”, “open source”, “copyright?!?”.

What Dave was very annoyed was the fact that we put COPYRIGHT(C) text on our board silkscreen next to OSHW logo and according to him this is mutually exclusively i.e. Open Source Hardware Design can’t have COPYRIGHT message at all.

Well I will admit I was not open source nor licensee expert so I was confused for a while too.

SO I told our developers to put “DESIGNED BY” instead of “COPYRIGHT” to our new projects which we release under Open Source Hardware Licensee. There were not so many Open Source Hardware designs to take as reference anyway and on Arduino Board (which is still most popular Open Source Hardware design)  was written “Designed in Italy” so I assumed this is the correct way to do it.

Recently we finish STM32-H407 board and I got in touch with Garry Bulmer, we start discussing these issues and he explained to me what is the connection with Copyright and Open Source, which I accept as it have quite logic in it.

Garry said: When you design or develop something as an AUTHOR you have the COPYRIGHT on this, PERIOD.

Then you as COPYRIGHT owner can LICENSEE this product of yours under whatever LICENSEE you want i.e. GPL, BSD, CC-BY etc.

You CAN’T LICENSEE something under any terms IF you are not the author who have the COPYRIGHT.

Thinking logically this is perfectly true.

That you create something which you release under Open Source Licensee do not waive your COPYRIGHT as AUTHOR of the project. So it’s perfectly OK you as Author and Copyright holder to put on your products the COPYRIGHT text even if you licensee it under Open Source Licensee.

If you want your product to be closed source you can write “COPYRIGHT(C) 2012 by YOURNAME Ltd, All rights reserved” this means you have the rights for this product and one want to licensee it have to contact you and to negotiate the licensee terms under which you will licensee the product to him.

If you want to create Open source project and licensee it under Creative Commons Share-Alike Licensee you can put on your board: “COPYRIGHT(C) 2012 by YOURNAME Ltd, released under CC-SA-3.0 Open source licensee” and this will be enough.

In both cases the COPYRIGHT text identify you as the AUTHOR and COPYRIGHT holder of this design, but this is not in conflict with the fact that in second case you Licensee your work under open source licensee terms.

NOTICE: I’m not lawer and this is just my point of view, your comments are welcome!