Fake cases — make sure yours is the real deal

We’ve had some reports of people finding cases that pretend to be official Raspberry Pi products online — these are fakes, they’re violating our trademark, they’re not made very well, and they’re costing you and us money that would otherwise go to fund the Raspberry Pi Foundation’s charitable work. (Reminder, for those who are new to this stuff: we’re a not-for-profit, which means that every penny we makes goes to support our work in education, and that none of us gets to own a yacht.)

Making sure your accessories are legit

If you want to be certain that the Raspberry Pi accessories you buy are the real thing, make sure you’re purchasing from one of our Authorised Resellers: if you buy via our website, you’ll automatically be directed to the Authorised Resellers in your region. Lots of other vendors also sell the official case, so if you’re wondering whether yours is the real thing, we’ve found there are some easy ways to tell the difference.

A wellwisher sent us one of the fake cases (elegantly photographed by Fiacre above), which we passed around the office with a great deal of wincing, imagining what you guys might say if you got your hands on one and thought we’d made it. They’re really not very nice; the moulding’s awful, the fit’s bad, the colour’s off, and we’d be embarrassed if we had made something like this ourselves.

Asking the experts

We thought we’d ask the good people at T-Zero, who did all the work on the tooling and injection moulding for the real case (which is a considerably harder job than we’d imagined at first — you can read about the very bumpy road we had before finding T-Zero, who are amazing partners, in this post from days of yore), why the fake cases look so hideous. Simon Oliver, Grand Poobah of Plastics, wrote back:

Basically, what you are witnessing is very cheaply and quickly made tooling. The flash is just poor toolmaking. The rounded edges are due to the toolmaking method of milling everything, which is quick and cheap, but you can’t get definition of sharp corners because you have to have a radius in places. I have tried to explain it below, and you have to think in reverse for the tool.

Milling artifacts

Can you imagine how many electrodes are needed for the logo? The leaves around the top have to be laser-cut into an electrode to get the definition. See screen grabs of the tool and moulding — look how many sharp corners there are!

CAD representations of logo and tool

To properly make a tool for something this complicated, you need more electrodes than someone quickly copying a case like this would find economical. The official Raspberry Pi case needed 140 electrodes to produce the tool.

Electrodes

A few of the electrodes that went to make the injection moulding tool for the official case

 

Reverse-engineering by digitising existing components in a CAD will also loose definition, particularly in sharp corners, as the moulding process will form a small radius even if the tool is a sharp corner.

Plastic shrinks away from a 90 degree corner, leaving a smallish radius in any case. So your data from digitising will have a radius, and then [the producers] compound it by milling the lot.

Finally, the colour is off! It took ages to get your Raspberry Pi red correct. A lot of suppliers can’t repeat it; the current supplier had five attempts!

Thanks, Simon; and to everybody reading this, we hope it arms you with the confidence to make sure you’re buying a genuine product!

FYI

Before panic ensues, please note: we love third-party cases designed for Raspberry Pi. So much so that we sell a few of them in our store here in Cambridge.

The internet is full of innovative cases you can purchase, as well as wonderful 3D-printable alternatives you can make yourself, and as long as they aren’t breaking any trademark rules — using our logo, copying the work of others, pretending to be official when they’re not — that’s great!

If you’ve designed a case for any of the Raspberry Pi models, share it with us in the comments below, as we’d love to see your work. And if you see a case, or any other Raspberry Pi accessory, for sale that you think is breaking trademark rules or attempting to imitate our official products, please let us know.

40 comments

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Two or three years ago, I put a black Pi 3 case on my Amazon wish list for Christmas. A family member purchased it for me. Unfortunately, it turned out to be fake, and a very terrible one at that. The fit was poor, hard to open and close and remove/replace pieces, etc. You could see tooling/die marks all over it, it was just plain ugly. And instead of the nice black on dark grey color, it was all solid ugly smoother (almost shiny) black. As I recall, the ports didn’t even line up well on the side. I mentioned to the family member about getting it returned and replaced, mainly because I didn’t want someone profiting against your name for such a horrible product…they didn’t understand and I was afraid of offending them if I pushed it much further, so I just let it go. Still irks me that someone got away with it, but what do you do… Thanks for putting the word out, good to let people know to be on the lookout and not blame you if they get a piece of junk clone. :-)

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I got a fake one off of e-bay a couple of years ago for one of my Pi3 boards. The finish was poor but I was lucky in that it was serviceable. I’m still using it.

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Statistically, with around 150 people working there, you should have at least 3 coworkers with some kind of a boat. And you earned it.

https://www.statista.com/statistics/530382/boat-ownership-numbers-united-kingdom-uk/

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“Liz, I need to talk to you about the boat I should be in possession of!”

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Pretty sure you can own a yacht:

https://www.bbc.com/news/technology-21848104

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I’m pretty sure all the cases I’ve bought on Amazon are fake and they’ve worked fine and look good.

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I designed some 3D printable cases:
https://www.thingiverse.com/J741/designs

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Talking about cases, what about having a proper case for the Pi 4? That plastic case is an oven. Make your own version of the FLIRC case with good signal reception.

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Yes, I did :-)
Better than FLIRC ;-)

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Of course, I have a genuine Pi Foundation plastic case, and it is exemplary in fit and finish, but a Pi board without add-on heat sinks in the official case will quickly go into overheat throttling for processor or GPU intensive tasks. On the other hand the Flirc case is also exemplary in quality and the fan-free integrated aluminum chassis and heat sink design allow board within to remain acceptably cool at normal room temperatures. It would be great if the Pi Foundation would make a fan-free metal case available. Fans are inevitably a problem because they make noise, attract dust and fail unless they are expensive magnetic bearing models.

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Yes, a Raspberry Pi thermal case with passive cooling would be nice. Though as there is an already excellent one on the market (and there may be patents) there will probably be other priorities.

I find WiFi with the flirc case works just fine.

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I have a pi4 in a flirc case the wifi is nowhere as good as my 3b+ in a plastic case. However with careful positioning even standing on its end it works and is just warm. As the pi4 is a huge upgrade on the previous versions its a compromise well worth making.

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I totally agree with you. ??

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I bought a model car kit (wheels are important), punched a few holes for wiring and ventilation. It’s still sitting on my desk containing Raspi3. I have a Raspi4 now, but I got myself a case with a fan on it.

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How am I going to notice that.

I buy my pis at micro center in the USA. Can I assume what I get at MC is legit?

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Micro Center is an official retailer, so any cases you get from them are probably legit.

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I live close to this to a retail store of this seller and have bought a fair amount of official Pi items in person at the retail location. The official Pi Foundation items on sale there appear to be legitimate first quality official items sold in correct packaging.

Fakes in general are a huge problem and even legitimate retailers may be cheated by distributors in the supply chain who themselves either intentionally or unwittingly sell fakes to retailers.

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You just do not send your products to Brazil, now your want to complain about fake boxes? Ah, come on boys!
First, do your part, sell products all over the world at good prices and only then will you be able to complain about your competitors.

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Well…those people aren’t competitors, they’re counterfeiters; there’s a moral distinction. You will never find us complaining about competitors: a lively and competitive market is what keeps companies innovating, and we welcome that. And we do sell Raspberry Pi in Brazil – check out https://www.filipeflop.com/categoria/raspberry-pi/.

Selling electronics in Brazil is always a very hard problem for organisations outside Brazil. There are a few reasons for this: the most difficult to crack is Brazil’s tariff system, which adds so much tax for anything made outside the country that it becomes almost completely uneconomical to try to sell it (we’re far from the only organisation to see this problem). Secondly, there are certification issues. In much the same way that electrical products in the USA must be FCC-approved in order to be produced or sold there, products sold in Brazil must be approved by Anatel. Anatel can take months or even years to certify a product, and that process is completely out of the manufacturer’s hands.

In short, if you want to complain at somebody, please complain to your government about anticompetitive practices and tariffs – they’re the people in a position to get you what you want!

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An interesting problem to be sure. I did the conversion to US currency and a Pi Zero W is essentially going for $28 on the Brazil site. While I can get one from CanaKit for $10. That’s quite the markup.

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The RPI Foundation is not complaining about legitimate alternative case manufacturers. There are many companies around the world making their own cases and marketing them as such. What is not legal is to produce a case that looks exactly like the official RPI one, and market and sell it as such.

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It’s helpful in identifying counterfeits that they have yellow circles all over them.

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I was thinking that – the differences are miniscule.

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For those who bought fake cases. You need to think about where the money is going…

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You get that people buying them wouldn’t have even known they were fake right?

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I would’ve liked an official case for my Pi 3A+, but the only one available doesn’t have a GPIO cutout like the Pi Zero has. Other than that, I’m happy with the FLIRC case for decent passive cooling on my other models.

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Have you tried putting the 3A+ in a 3B+ case? I have an older 3rd party original B+ case that works pretty well for an original A+. Can’t access the USB port easily, but otherwise works just fine. Looking at an official 3B case I have here beside of me, looks like it should work, only question is if it will be held down properly in the case as the USB/ethernet jacks seem to be the hold-down point on the 3B, but there is a little piece hanging in mid-air that looks like it might press down on the USB port on the 3A+. Even without, the side panel hole for the audio jack may hold on well enough to keep it in place.

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Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery?
But this is just a blatant ripoff.
Raspberry Pi is now a brand worth copying?

Congratulations, you have made it to the list of companies where even the plastic cases are now fakes.
Any idea who is making them and the country they are coming from?
Time for the Gov to chat to some embassy official?

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Just a quick question…. Do the white parts of genuine cases turn a yellowish (off white) color after a year or 2 of storage / use. Iv’e recently pulled my Pi 3 out of storage and noticed that the case had discolored. Oh and its never really seen much sunlight either. The fit and finish of the case are pretty good and nothing leads me to believe that it is a fake. I have compared it to my pi4 case which I know is genuine.

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That’s odd – we’re haven’t come across any yellowing like you describe. Would you mind emailing me at liz (at) raspberrypi (dot) org? We’ll swap it out for a new one if you post it to us; we’d like to have a look in case there’s a fault we’re not aware of.

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Sent you a mail

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Thanks – got it! For those following the saga with interest, it turned out that the yellowing case in question *was* a fake, from Ali Express.

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I have a legit case on my Pi 3 but I haven’t got a case on my Pi 4 because I forgot to buy one :P

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I’ve been looking for an excuse to buy a Pi4, and finally found what I think is an ultra-cool case. It doesn’t pretend to be anything but what it is: a design inspired by the Commodore Amiga 3000.
https://www.thingiverse.com/thing:4106551
You can buy the completed product, or the case, or I bought a hardware kit to complete the case you just printed and stuck a Pi in. I’m waiting for the kit to arrive from Switzerland (I live in Arizona), but but I have the Pi4 up and running while sitting in the case I printed. BTW thanks for changing the default wallpaper in Raspian–I like the temple, didn’t care much for the road! But I’ve been having fun configuring the new Pi to run the old Amiga software (a bit startling seeing it on a 32″ monitor; I think I had a 20″ TV back then for the Amiga). Well, if I actually want to do some work on this computer, I think I’ll probably use the modern Debian system!

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Thanks for calling this issue to our attention. It hadn’t occurred to me that there were counterfeit RPi products out there. With cheap competitors, you pays your money, you makes your choice. I would like to take this opportunity to mention that the Pi 4 case really really needs to be redesigned. It is a shame (bordering on a travesty) that the case doesn’t allow access to the GPIO pins — the very heart and soul of the Raspberry Pi! Perhaps some kind of multiple-shell design like the Zero case would be in order. And as many people have mentioned, there needs to be a better solution for handling the heat generated by the Pi 4.

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It does – that’s the whole reason the lid pops off! And please see https://www.raspberrypi.org/blog/thermal-testing-raspberry-pi-4/ on thermals.

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So confession time then.
Back in the dim distant past (about March 2011) my colleage was making and selling the first available case for the Pi model B. He’d got one of the first 2000 so was able to take exact measurements and laser cut it.
When mine arrived in early May 2011 I obviously wanted a case. A few more had appeared by then, but I knew his design worked. I added a second layer to the lid and cut the copyrighted Pi logo into it, before glueing the two layers with some coloured film between. I never sold any cases like this, and I think this is the only one like it so hopefully Liz and Eben can forgive me. I’m sorry.

Here’s a pic.
https://1drv.ms/u/s!ApxA-vt_6FwDnu4_1aYQyq8DTXrAxg?e=th559U

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That’s rather sweet! And don’t worry; as long as you’re not selling a case, you can put whatever you want on there. :)

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Sorry, 2012 obviously.

Thanks for being cool about it.

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Unfortunately the official cases are not fantastic. Give us something with space and ventilation suited for the PoE hat and another something suited for active cooling, without being too bulky. Something sturdy, like the slide case, but more practical. Although, I must admit the white slide case is quite nice for a Raspberry iPad accessory on the go.

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