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Trademarks Considered Harmful To Open Source

kdawson posted more than 5 years ago | from the say-pretty-please dept.

Linux Business 226

An anonymous reader touts a blog posting up at PC World titled "Trademarks: The Hidden Menace." Keir Thomas asks why open source advocates are keen to suggest patent and copyright reform, yet completely ignore the issue of trademarks, which can be just as corrosive to the freedom that open source projects strive to embody. "Even within the Linux community, trademarking can be used as obstructively as copyright and patenting to further business ends. ... Is this how open source is supposed to work? Restricted redistribution? Tight control on who can compile software and still be able to call it by its proper name? ... Trademarking is almost totally incompatible with the essential freedom offered by open source. Trademarking is a way of severely limiting all activity on a particular product to that which you approve of. ... If an open source company embraces trademarks then it embraces this philosophy. On the one hand it advocates freedom, and [on] the other it takes it away."

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Trademarks helps some of OSS best organisations (5, Insightful)

levell (538346) | more than 5 years ago | (#27894189)

I disagree with the whole underlying point of the article. I think Mozilla should be able to stop someone taking their source, adding a whole bunch of unstable "improvements" as patches and calling it Firefox. It would damage a brand that is one of the best brands that FOSS currently has. It doesn't stop people getting the browser, if they don't Mozilla's restrictions they could call it, say, EarthHorse.

The article throws around terms like "restricted distribution" and "severely limiting all activity" but gives examples like CentOS where CentOS and Red Hat exist happily together but with Red Hat still able to build up a brand with some protections.

The article ends "just like patents and traditional copyright, it's totally incompatible with the spirit and ethos of open source software.". People here may not like the length that copyright lasts for but the GPL relies on the fundamental idea of copyright. Similarly there may be some issues with trademarks but if so they need patching not a whole sale revolution as this article seems to suggest.

Re:Trademarks helps some of OSS best organisations (1)

mizzouxc (985151) | more than 5 years ago | (#27894215)

Debian already does this with Iceweasal. I agree with the article. If you don't like restrictions, run Debian.

Re:Trademarks helps some of OSS best organisations (5, Insightful)

Daengbo (523424) | more than 5 years ago | (#27894749)

CentOS does the same thing with the whole of Red Hat. They just strip out the RH trademarks. Should they be allowed to call it Red Hat? No. Does removing the trademarks restrict their freedoms in any way? Also no.

Re:Trademarks helps some of OSS best organisations (3, Interesting)

xigxag (167441) | more than 5 years ago | (#27894935)

Debian may do this with Iceweasel, but Debian doesn't do this with Debian [debian.org] . Parens implicitly acknowledges that on some level, you need a way to establish and verify trust. Debian says, "We'll do the verification for you. If you trust us, you can trust the untrademarked software we use." In essence, Mozilla(TM) Firefox(TM) becomes "Debian(TM) Iceweasel."

Re:Trademarks helps some of OSS best organisations (4, Insightful)

rolfwind (528248) | more than 5 years ago | (#27894277)

I think trademarks are great as it stops the Microsoft's of the world to make it their own, which they could otherwise in a heartbeat. Imagine "Windows 7 integrated with Microsoft's new browser Firefox!" Which sounds great (90%+ marketshare) until you realize that MS can fork it, and continue to embrace, extend, and extinguish it as their own while providing updates through their channels (getting around GPL because most people just don't care and will let the computer do anything for them automatically that it can, having the upgrade channels is a powerful thing) with most nontechy people never knowing.

I can't even imagine the scenario if the Linux trademark was like that as well.

Re:Trademarks helps some of OSS best organisations (5, Interesting)

blowdart (31458) | more than 5 years ago | (#27894963)

Except ... Rails. Rails is a trademark, so in theory we now need to write Rails(tm). Now I can understand the Ruby on Rails(tm) logo being trademarked, if you don't want it appropriated, but Hansson has gone a bit further.

On the use of the logo he's said [rubyinside.com]

So I only grant promotional use for products I'm directly involved with. Such as books that I've been part of the development process for or conferences where I have a say in the execution.

This steps out of protection and into control, he's been refusing to allow books [unspace.ca] to use the logo on their covers. He's even trademarked "Ruby on Rails [rubyonrails.org] ", taking the name of something he didn't invent or write and using that as part of his mark;

"Rails", "Ruby on Rails", and the Rails logo are trademarks of David Heinemeier Hansson.

Want to have a Ruby on Rails(tm) conference? Better not include the name of the platform in your conference name then, that would be violating Hansson's trade mark. Even more "interesting" is the Ruby on Rails(tm) logo was a community effort (although the wiki pages for that are now gone [rubyonrails.org] . The original logo [rubyonrails.org] was even open source. The money to register the trademarks came from the community, but the marks are in the hands of Hansson alone.

It's not trademarks that are the problem, it's the person who controls them. If, for example, the Rails(tm) marks were overseen by a committee (made up, as a starting point, of everyone that helped pay for them) then that would be more acceptable than the current situation.

Re:Trademarks helps some of OSS best organisations (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27895041)

Except ... Rails. Rails is a trademark, so in theory we now need to write Rails(tm).

Or better, R*ils.

Value of Trademarks is Psychological (2, Interesting)

reporter (666905) | more than 5 years ago | (#27894285)

The value of trademarks is psychological. Most people attribute value, warmth, and comfort to a name. Consider the name, "Toyota". Immediately, it engenders feelings of "high quality", "reliability", "lots of bang for the buck".

A while ago, the same factory produced a Toyota Corolla and a Geo Prizm. Chevrolet sold the Geo Prizm. Even though it was nearly identical to the Corolla, customers preferred the Corolla, and it had higher resale value than the Prizm.

Trademarks are important because the name itself -- a string of characters -- has financial value.

Re:Value of Trademarks is Psychological (2, Insightful)

siloko (1133863) | more than 5 years ago | (#27894325)

The value of trademarks is psychological. Most people attribute value, warmth, and comfort to a name.

Blimey! I think I'm using trademarks wrong. The ones I use just let me identify a product. You get Value! and Warmth! and Comfort!, I want my money back!

Re:Value of Trademarks is Psychological (2, Interesting)

SlashWombat (1227578) | more than 5 years ago | (#27895071)

A better example is Toyota - Lexus. In Japan, many of the vehicles sold in the USA as Lexus's were sold in Japan as Toyota's. (Although, this is strictly no longer the case ... Also, the Toyota's in Japan were often more luxurious than the Lexus in the USA!)

Decoys, & why Bill Gates thought he was a geni (0, Flamebait)

Joseph_Daniel_Zukige (807773) | more than 5 years ago | (#27894329)

You guys are missing the point.

The guy who wrote this insane piece is at best a troll, most likely an expendable pawn.

The guys who want to tie down our "intellectual property" and use it, not just to take our money, but to control what we think, say, and do, are feeding us a decoy.

Watch the other hand.

Re:Decoys, & why Bill Gates thought he was a g (3, Insightful)

supernova_hq (1014429) | more than 5 years ago | (#27894703)

The guy who wrote this insane piece is at best a troll, most likely an expendable pawn.

And he was able to find another troll (kdawson) to post it on slashdot!

It's amazing, every time a stupid article is posted, I scroll to the top and guess who poasted it? kdawson!

Re:Decoys, & why Bill Gates thought he was a g (4, Funny)

im_thatoneguy (819432) | more than 5 years ago | (#27894931)

That's because kdawson doesn't believe in indentity protection. kdawson gave up his trademark and as such any troll is now free to post stories under his name.

Sincerely,
kdawson

Re:Decoys, & why Bill Gates thought he was a g (0, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27894945)

Quoth TFA:

Thunderbird became Icedove, for example (which is actually a better name IMHO).

At this point, I decided that the writer of this piece is a moron or a troll. Noting, of course, that the two possibilities are not mutually exclusive.

Re:Trademarks helps some of OSS best organisations (3, Insightful)

Trepidity (597) | more than 5 years ago | (#27894345)

I agree, but only to a certain extent. It's certainly reasonable to ask those who create forks to choose a different name rather than distributing using exactly the original name. However, it's not unreasonable, I don't think, for the fork to use some derived name that BOTH 1) makes clear it is not the original project; but 2) makes clear that it is derived from the original project. For example, the principal GNU Emacs fork is named XEmacs. Would it really be better for us all if GNU had taken a hard line on that and forced Lucid to choose a name for their fork that didn't contain the word "emacs" within it at all?

So, sure, it's fine in my book if Mozilla doesn't want a modified Firefox to be called just "Firefox". Maybe more distinction than Emacs/XEmacs is also reasonable; e.g. a GtkFirefox or something could imply that it's an official GTK version. But they seem to want to take this to the extent of trademark law, and not even allow derived names that are clearly distinguished, like DebianFox or something. I don't see how that really fits within free-software culture.

Re:Trademarks helps some of OSS best organisations (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27894921)

But Firefox is an internet facing application and gained his reputation through better stability, security and protection for the users' pc, users which are no more only highly technical savvy: while a power user may know the difference between Emacs and XEmacs, and place the blame where it's due, imagine what could have happened if Browzar could sell itself with the Secure Internet Explorer moniker.

Re:Trademarks helps some of OSS best organisations (1)

drolli (522659) | more than 5 years ago | (#27894441)

Exactly. The freedom which open source is about is the freedom to use you computer and your future computers in a way you tailor your system. Nobody will be able to force you to buy the next distributom from Redhat if you invest the time to make the required changes yourself. If it is GNU you may even redistribute this work.

If it is GPL, no matter hoe many trademarks there are associated with some project, you may redistribute it under another name.

Re:Trademarks helps some of OSS best organisations (2, Interesting)

k31 (98145) | more than 5 years ago | (#27894611)

I concur; if anything, Trademarks can be used to enforce branding/quality. A company trademark is like a personal signature.

What I still don't understand is why people are talking only about openness in software, and ignoring how closed hardware is becoming... try writing an alternative to the Award-Phoenix BIOS and you're see what I mean (yes, I know they're some projects to do just that, but look at how hard it is an how many NDAs would be involved if you wanted to support most hardware)....

Re:Trademarks helps some of OSS best organisations (5, Insightful)

wisty (1335733) | more than 5 years ago | (#27894673)

Trademarks do seem a little harmful to open source. It's a bit of a pain to explain why Firefox is the same thing as Ice Weasel. Inconsistent terminology can hurt a field - just look what happened to postmodernism.

But "Considered Harmful" is a bloody big call. That's comparing trademarks to "gotos". Ouch. Open source has other worries - like web applications (online data processing), proprietary devices (iPhones), companies turning GPL programs into XML wrapped libraries, the .net framework, walled garden communitites (facebook), and proprietary file / stream formats.

Trademarks? Big deal.

Re:Trademarks helps some of OSS best organisations (5, Insightful)

shutdown -p now (807394) | more than 5 years ago | (#27894755)

Trademarks do seem a little harmful to open source. It's a bit of a pain to explain why Firefox is the same thing as Ice Weasel.

Would you prefer having to explain why some random IE-based China-made shareware/adware browser that's called "Firefox Pro" isn't really Firefox at all?

Because that's pretty much where we'd be if it wasn't trademarked.

Re:Trademarks helps some of OSS best organisations (1)

damburger (981828) | more than 5 years ago | (#27894955)

Whats to stop a Chinese company doing that right now? IP isn't exactly strong over there.

Re:Trademarks helps some of OSS best organisations (1)

Hognoxious (631665) | more than 5 years ago | (#27895121)

The key phrase is "over there". I'd rather it didn't get like that over here.

Re:Trademarks helps some of OSS best organisations (1)

Sensiblemonkey (1539543) | more than 5 years ago | (#27894999)

Trademarks do seem a little harmful to open source. It's a bit of a pain to explain why Firefox is the same thing as Ice Weasel.

Ice Weasel isn't the same thing as Firefox; they don't share the exact same code base. Also, the last time I used it, Ice Weasel still had some really screwy bugs to contend with that are not present in FireFox. Which sorta of drives home the gp's point.

Re:Trademarks helps some of OSS best organisations (1)

Hognoxious (631665) | more than 5 years ago | (#27895103)

just look what happened to postmodernism.

What happened to postmodernism?

Re:Trademarks helps some of OSS best organisations (1)

RichardJenkins (1362463) | more than 5 years ago | (#27895213)

My $0.02:

What if MS released a copy of 'Mozilla Firefox' with a round of improvements which introduce stability or performance issues. If they bundled it with their OS (they could do it alongside IE and help resolve some of these anti-trust issues they have) they'd put most people off all Mozilla branded products in a heartbeat. Trademark protection is the only thing which guarantees you're really getting what it says on the box, I think it's a good thing you can't say "This is Mozilla Firefox" after you've changed the code.

On the other hand; there should always be provisions for using trademarks as references to products/companies as long as you're not misrepresenting yourself as being part of them. I cringe when I see CentOS referred to as being 'binary compatible with a prominent North American Linux distributor'. They should be able to say 'This is based on, but not the same as, Red Hat Enterprise Linux'. In this case they may have to go to some lengths to make clear what their relationship with Red Hat is. Even more importantly, if I write a comparison of MS Office and OpenOffice I should be able to be clear and unambiguous about the two products I am comparing.

Imagine a Microsoft Firefox (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27894715)

They could take IE and just rebrand it, then everyone who hears about Firefox would probably end up getting it.

Re:Trademarks helps some of OSS best organisations (4, Insightful)

impaledsunset (1337701) | more than 5 years ago | (#27894961)

Trademarks are a way to protect the brands of an organization and products. And to help the customers from being deceived. Open source is a tool that you use in creating your product or program, and free software is a way you treat your customers. How would trademarks hurt any of these is beyond me. Really.

Copyright and patent law might need a reform, and workarounds like we do with FOSS, but trademark doesn't. It's arguably doing it's job. When I get get X by company Y I'm given some assurance that this is indeed X by company Y, and not something else someone decided to call that way. I don't see any reason that one should want CentOS to call themselves "Red Hat Enterprise Linux". I would be very happy if they don't.

Nobody restricts distribution or anything. You were allowed to use and improve the technology, but there is no reason you should expect to use the name. Does anybody really want people using FOSS code to create malicious programs and then name them "Linux" and "Firefox"? If somebody wrote a book and put it under Creative Commons license he didn't give you the right to change the content of the book and claim that it is still written entirely by you.

Even if trademarks did hurt (and at worst they cause minor inconveniences), they play an important role which is a bit more important than someone's ability to "compile software and still be able to call it by its proper name". Sorry.

Re:Trademarks helps some of OSS best organisations (1)

msimm (580077) | more than 5 years ago | (#27894985)

"I think Mozilla should be able to stop someone taking their source, adding a whole bunch of unstable "improvements" as patches and calling it Firefox. It would damage a brand..."

Exactly. Without a way to protect your brand you could be exposing yourself to all sorts of litigation or liability. You mention a branded unstable Firefox scenario but there could also be flat-out misuse (other software using your brand, inappropriate products using the brand) or even purely malicious misuse like branding malware or inferior builds to undermine the product.

Anything can be obstructive, but if the free software movement had decided they wanted to challenge trademark they probably wouldn't have needed a PC World article to clue them in on it.

Re:Trademarks helps some of OSS best organisations (2, Insightful)

Hognoxious (631665) | more than 5 years ago | (#27895013)

The article throws around terms like "restricted distribution" and "severely limiting all activity" but gives examples like CentOS where CentOS and Red Hat exist happily together but with Red Hat still able to build up a brand with some protections.

Given the choice of running RHEL under a different name, having to pay mucho $£, or not being able to run it all I know which I'd choose.

The author of TFA is clearly deluded if he mentions CentOS - it's as good a counter example as you could find.

I wish... (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27894191)

someone would Trademark "First Post"

Re:I wish... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27894259)

One bright bit o' news: 3D Realms is now defunct. Duke Nukem' Forever is now Duke Nukem' Never. I wonder if we'll ever see a post-mortem analysis or if the people involved are simply going to clam up?

Copyright reform? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27894201)

Who in open source is pushing for copyright reform? That's the glue that connects source code to the GPL.

Re:Copyright reform? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27894207)

Who in open source is pushing for copyright reform? That's the glue that connects source code to the GPL.

BSD folks, to start.

Re:Copyright reform? (2, Informative)

mister_playboy (1474163) | more than 5 years ago | (#27894217)

In theory, the the idea of the GPL exists only in opposition to copyright... it is a "necessary evil" for an future good.

If there was no copyright, there would be no GPL... two sides of the same coin.

Re:Copyright reform? (2, Interesting)

argux (568146) | more than 5 years ago | (#27894247)

If copyright didn't exist, maybe we wouldn't need GPL.

Re:Copyright reform? (1)

mysidia (191772) | more than 5 years ago | (#27894341)

Then you could just distribute binaries.

Modify the source code however you like, sell the binaries, with purely technical restrictions (ala Product Activation, Genuine Advantage) to prevent people copying them, and frequent updates to obsolete any old cracked version.

Re:Copyright reform? (1)

m50d (797211) | more than 5 years ago | (#27894547)

That would force people doing that to make frequent updates to their software with genuine improvements, which is hardly the worst way things could go.

Re:Copyright reform? (1)

RichardJenkins (1362463) | more than 5 years ago | (#27895243)

The main point about the GPL isn't that it allows you to distribute and modify code; it's that it forces you to licence any derivative of GPL code that you distribute under the same terms.

Mandating the same freedoms for derivatives is a central tenet of GNU philosophy (I suggest reading about the Emacs fork which drove RMS to write the GPL in the first place), and a very important one. If Linux was released under a BSD style licence I'd bet my life that a proprietary closed source fork would have become dominant.

The thing about this is - it relies on copyright law to force this. It's a brilliantly creative use of the law. If you have time, consider reading the GPL FAQ - it's very interesting.

Re:Copyright reform? (3, Insightful)

noidentity (188756) | more than 5 years ago | (#27894283)

In theory, the the idea of the GPL exists only in opposition to copyright... it is a "necessary evil" for an future good. If there was no copyright, there would be no GPL... two sides of the same coin.

Nope, you're confusing that with BSD-style licenses. BSD-style = do what you want with the source, including releasing products without source code. GPL = if you release product using source, you must release source you used to build product. Without copyright, BSD-style is all you'd have.

Re:Copyright reform? (1)

mister_playboy (1474163) | more than 5 years ago | (#27894661)

The GPL exists to force work that builds upon it to be GPL, as well. It directly opposes copyright by forcing that which builds upon it to be copyleft.

BSD has no such rules. It doesn't oppose copyright, rather' it simply doesn't care one way or the other You can "build either copyright or copyleft works upon it.

Perhaps that makes my point more clear.

Re:Copyright reform? (1)

moon3 (1530265) | more than 5 years ago | (#27894815)

BSD code is truly free no matter what you use (or misuse) it for.

Stating that GPL mean free software is like saying that Patriot act protects freedom in America.

Re:Copyright reform? (1)

Requiem18th (742389) | more than 5 years ago | (#27895159)

Bullshit, GPL code is 100% free to use, 100% free to build upon for internal use and 99% free to build upon and distribute. It's only restriction is on restricting other's freedom.

  Does BSD licensing provides more freedoms?

  Actually not, not freedoms in plural, in practice it only gives you one (1) more freedom, there is only one single reason why someone looking for an open source license would choose BSD over GPL, to keep the freedom to restrict your users freedom at some point, directly or by a third party.

  You can choose whatever suits you but comparing the GPL with the PATRIOT Act is nothing more than FUD.

Re:Copyright reform? (1)

Insanity Defense (1232008) | more than 5 years ago | (#27895207)

The GPL exists to force work that builds upon it to be GPL, as well. It directly opposes copyright by forcing that which builds upon it to be copyleft.

Without copyright the GPL is unenforceable. It requires copyright to exist. To be pro GPL you need to be pro copyright. You can still want changes to the current copyright system however.

Re:Copyright reform? (1)

supernova_hq (1014429) | more than 5 years ago | (#27894675)

Note quite, but almost. You only need to provide the parts of the program that are derivatives of the original work.

Eg. You make a game and want to use the Quake3 engine. You decide that you want the graphics and physics parts, but write your own networking part. As long as the networking code and the quake3 code, as a separate executable called by the engine for example, then you only need to release the physics and graphics part of your application.

Re:Copyright reform? (1)

shutdown -p now (807394) | more than 5 years ago | (#27894765)

I think GP meant a bit different thing. Historically, the reason why GPL appeared in the first place was because of copyrights on software. RMS himself said that if copyright was gone, there would be no need for GPL.

Wrong (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27895021)

And he'd be wrong about that, because then how could you force people to release the source code for the programs they derived from your open source app? Obviously he didn't really really mean it, because the GPL could have been written to only mandate permission to reverse engineer and derive. But it wouldn't have been nearly as useful. Richard's irritation from copyright law served as the inspiration for the GPL, but terminating copyright isn't the sole goal of the GPL, as you can easily confirm by reading it.

Re:Wrong (1)

Alex Belits (437) | more than 5 years ago | (#27895153)

But without copyright, what is the point of releasing binaries and not providing source? Users will distribute binaries to each other (no copyright -> no one has to buy or license them from you), AND won't contribute to your development, AND you will have to update your binaries for every new platform because no one else can produce the binaries.

Re:Copyright reform? (1)

timmarhy (659436) | more than 5 years ago | (#27895007)

almost - if you've made CHANGES, you have to include the source. pretty redundant if every single OSS project out there released the source of all the libraries it used

Re:Copyright reform? (1)

the_one(2) (1117139) | more than 5 years ago | (#27895167)

This is not strictly true. You have to be able to provide ALL source code. I assume you could just point those who want the source code to each projects webpage though.

Re:Copyright reform? (1)

Insanity Defense (1232008) | more than 5 years ago | (#27895189)

There seems to be an assumption in this thread that copyright reform means copyright elimination. People can be pro reform while still being pro copyright. Reforming copyright can be as simple as changing the term from the current excessively long (IMO) time to a shorter one more in tune with the idea of "a limited time". They can also be in favour of a better system to get copyrights declared abandoned so abandoned materials can enter the public domain.

There are other aspects that people might like to see changed. Why does a photo of the Mona Lisa (just of the painting nothing else) deserve a copyright when the original is centuries out of protection? Why could I edit an old bible to correct punctuation errors and get a new copyright?

There are of course others who want copyright to last forever. A Senator for example wanted to legalize copyright vigilantes destroying computers that they believe contain unauthorized copies of their copyrighted materials. These too are reformers who are still pro copyright.

So you see people may well be pro copyright and still want changes

It's not about Freedom (5, Insightful)

GameGod0 (680382) | more than 5 years ago | (#27894233)

It's about protecting your users, and protecting your project.

Take a large, reputable open source project like Audacity. If some scammer comes along and bundles their own version of Audacity with some spyware and tries to distribute it under the Audacity name, this is damaging to both users and the reputation of the software. Audacity's defense against people like this is their trademark. Nobody will confuse real "Audacity" with any ripoff, because nobody else can use the name.

This also protects the developers, who have worked hard to produce great software, and who deserve to have it recognized as something special on their resumes/CVs. Preserving the reputation (ie. name) of your software project helps ensure their contributions to the project aren't devalued.

Lastly, the Mozilla example in the article can easily be countered by the infamous OpenSSL/Debian fiasco, where a Debian packager incorrectly patched OpenSSL and created a vulnerability. This was certainly damaging for OpenSSL's reputation, even though it wasn't their fault. If Ubuntu decides to patch Firefox and introduces bugs, it's Firefox (NOT Ubuntu) who looks bad to users. IMO this is good justification for exercising ownership of your trademark.

Re:It's not about Freedom (1)

derGoldstein (1494129) | more than 5 years ago | (#27894507)

That last part has less to do with trademarks. Ubuntu could "make" Firefox less stable simply by poorly managing underlying infrastructure. It's not in their interest to do so, obviously, but if it were to happen, and they didn't make sure to properly test a new release using enough scenarios, then when Firefox crashes it would make Firefox look bad (unless users figure out that it was fine when it was running on the previous version of Ubuntu).

When it comes to dependencies, whoever is facing the user will usually look bad. If a some library updated their code and didn't make it very clear to their users that either internal or external structures/interfaces would be changing, then it's the the library's fault, but the users won't care, they'll blame whatever software it is that uses the library.
(and yes, it's the developer's responsibility to check prior to changing dependencies, but sometimes changes are subtle and the bugs won't reveal themselves until extremely specific scenarios take place)

Re:It's not about Freedom (2, Insightful)

m50d (797211) | more than 5 years ago | (#27894535)

Ubuntu could "make" Firefox less stable simply by poorly managing underlying infrastructure. It's not in their interest to do so, obviously, but if it were to happen, and they didn't make sure to properly test a new release using enough scenarios, then when Firefox crashes it would make Firefox look bad (unless users figure out that it was fine when it was running on the previous version of Ubuntu).

And they're already doing that with KDE.

Re:It's not about Freedom (1)

derGoldstein (1494129) | more than 5 years ago | (#27894633)

Windows does it with everything...

*ducks*

Re:It's not about Freedom (1)

Hadlock (143607) | more than 5 years ago | (#27894797)

Thanks for posting this. I came in here to say the same thing. I wish they had mod points for "close thread, this is the correct answer", I would give you all my mod points.

Re:It's not about Freedom (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27894823)

Misuse is not the only problem. I think it is also about competition. Let's not forget that a large part of the software is closed-source, and if open-source is to find any place in the "market", it needs to have brands fighting brands.

With many forks (which is one of FOSS's specialty), it is important to know associate a fork with a name/brand. If there were 100 forks, and finding which fork is whose was very hard, not many people would find using FOSS fun.

You would have to compile each plugin separately depending on your fork of Firefox. Package Managers would die, because no single distro will have over 10,000 users. So each user will have to compile each software (and the dependencies).

Trademarks ensure that the best are known. Its a way of filtering out the tried and tested versions from the random forks. It's the only way to earn a market share. You cannot have stats like:
MS IE 7: 40%
MS IE 6: 20%
PQR FF: .598
ABC FF: .256%
XYZ FF: .235%
RTS FF: .135%
How am I supposed to think FF is actually better than IE? And even if I do, I will be fed up of trying the many different forks, that I'll settle for the worst anyways.

Re:It's not about Freedom (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27894869)

Lastly, the Mozilla example in the article can easily be countered by the infamous OpenSSL/Debian fiasco, where a Debian packager incorrectly patched OpenSSL and created a vulnerability. This was certainly damaging for OpenSSL's reputation, even though it wasn't their fault. If Ubuntu decides to patch Firefox and introduces bugs, it's Firefox (NOT Ubuntu) who looks bad to users. IMO this is good justification for exercising ownership of your trademark.

This is a great point, and though it seems like it was meant to contradict the article, I think it really helps to underscore the problem.

First, trademarks are important. As parent said, they do a lot to protect producers and consumers alike by ensuring that the consumer knows they're getting the product they want from the producer they trust. Maintaining that trust/security is a great reason why Mozilla or The OpenSSL Project might have a problem with people distributing modified software bearing their trademarks.

But at the same time, free software is, by definition, meant to be modified and redistributed. Do we want every piece of software in every *nix distribution to have a different name? "I'm pretty sure Kommunikator is Konqueror-based, but I can't remember what Net-Browser really is. And is Internet Iguana an actual fork of Firefox or just a couple little distro-specific changes?"

If everyone took trademark enforcement as seriously as Mozilla, the Iceweasel/Icedove thing would be multiplied by every software suite and for every distro that needed to make even the slightest changes to improve the software or just make it fit into the distro better. I'm not sure which would be worse: the same software having a different name in each distro, or everyone else using Iceweasel/Icedove/whatever other less restrictive trademark to rebrand the software, which could lead to the original trademark being worthless and putting us back at square one.

So really, I think the article has a legitimate point, though maybe the author took it a bit far... and naturally many of the comments here have made the article sound even more extreme than it actually is. Trademark is a real contradiction for free software, and it's not clear how best to manage it. Is this current case-by-case system really the best we can do, or is there a better and more universal way to handle this problem through standard licensing or something?

Open source is about SOURCE (5, Insightful)

SuperKendall (25149) | more than 5 years ago | (#27894237)

Just because source is open does not give you the right to hijack the work of a team and call something by the same name.

It does give you the right to take the source and make something else with it, and that is great. But because so much of the reward of open source is working on something that many people get to use an enjoy, diminishing the power of trademark removes a strong element of motivation by allowing names to mean less through dilution.

That is my TRADEMARK (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27894477)

Cease and desist you kommie freeloading dole-sucking bastard!

Shakespeare said something about this... (4, Insightful)

dov_0 (1438253) | more than 5 years ago | (#27894245)

"A Rose by any other name is still as sweet."

Re:Shakespeare said something about this... (2, Insightful)

Yetihehe (971185) | more than 5 years ago | (#27894901)

Well, not really. Giving names to something can alter perception. Blindfold someone and give him rose oil to sniff, saying it's perfumed sludge.

Re:Shakespeare said something about this... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27894941)

Blindfold someone and give him rose oil to sniff, saying it's perfumed sludge.

Do you tell them it is perfumed sludge before or after they smell it?

Re:Shakespeare said something about this... (1)

dov_0 (1438253) | more than 5 years ago | (#27894965)

The basic thing is this - and before any of you pedants out there spot my misquotation, I know - people should be allowed to defend their name, investment and reputation. Trademarks are very good for that purpose, in fact I have one for my business name. If someone wants to take their code and change it in a way that could potentially damage the functionality of it, then why should the original developers wear it? On the other hand, good code is good code and it should be available. I think the present system, eg Firefox, works quite well.

Re:Shakespeare said something about this... (1)

youn (1516637) | more than 5 years ago | (#27895275)

You may say I am pedant... but if someone calls a rose an apple, or calls slashdot CNN, I'll give him a smack over the head... common sense :)

I agree with you though... I believe in trademarks and the right to defend them... someone who modifies firefox should do so under a different name... I guess if someone takes salt, puts it in meat, cooks an elaborate dish.. and still calls it salt, I'll smack him over the head too :)

Re:Shakespeare said something about this... (1)

RichardJenkins (1362463) | more than 5 years ago | (#27895271)

I'm no Shakespeare, but it seems to me if someone hadn't seen a rose, and you gave them a pile of manure to smell calling it a rose - they wouldn't be to keen to smell the roses in the future.

Likewise, if I give you a non-functional crappy piece of software, and called it MS Windows - you wouldn't be too keen to try the *real* windows, would you?

Trademarks != (Copyright || DRM) (4, Informative)

jskora (1319299) | more than 5 years ago | (#27894251)

DRM and copyright protect stuff, technology or data or ideas. Trademark, on the other hand protects a name, an identity.

Kleenex has not been the only brand of facial tissues for a very long time, the name is protected but not the concept. RedHat and CentOS, as already mentioned, are a perfect example of this working, the name RedHat is protected but the open source code is not.

Brand means more in some cases and than in others, as consumers and techies are at times very brand loyal. But when things become commodity items, consumers look less at brand than function, need, and appeal.

Re:Trademarks != (Copyright || DRM) (3, Informative)

Actually, I do RTFA (1058596) | more than 5 years ago | (#27894407)

DRM and copyright protect stuff, technology or data or ideas

Patents protect ideas. Copyright protects the expression of ideas (and boat hulls). DRM is an extralegal enforcement of copyright.

But, you are right. Trademarks only protect identity.

Trademarks get lost when the identity does. A long time ago a Zipper, was a Zipper(tm). But it became so associated with the idea, that they lost the trademark.

That's | not || Or why women can't code (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27894843)

Bitwise OR is stupido, you stupid lady/.

This is ridiculous. (4, Informative)

darkmeridian (119044) | more than 5 years ago | (#27894261)

Trademarks are meant to protect the origin of a commercial good. This allows consumers to recognize a product and remember its quality or lack thereof. It's necessary to have trademarks in open source software. Imagine if anyone could create a browser and call it Firefox. Mozilla Firefox is going to get stomped down by "forks" that introduce all sorts of spyware in the source code. Without the protection of trademarks, Mozilla would have to sit idly by as its market share gets split up.

Re:This is ridiculous. (4, Insightful)

noidentity (188756) | more than 5 years ago | (#27894293)

After reading that article, I agree, and am going to start my own website and magazine called PC World.

Re:This is ridiculous. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27895109)

And boost their reputation?

Why?

Re:This is ridiculous. (1)

Sir_Lewk (967686) | more than 5 years ago | (#27894413)

Imagine if anyone could create a browser and call it Firefox. Mozilla Firefox is going to get stomped down by "forks" that introduce all sorts of spyware in the source code.

If they were going to do that, I can't imagine trademark law would stop them.

It's about the code (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27894305)

Trademarks don't run on computers.

GAIM (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27894319)

GAIM felt this already, that is why it is called Pidgin.

open source is for dick suckers (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27894361)

fucking homosexual faggots need to die of the aids and die fast. you're wasting resources that can be used by real human beings instead of complete fucking homos. homosexuals are a drain on society and deserve to be buried like the corpses of road kill.

if you're a faggot just understand that you have no place as a functional human being unless you give up the rump roasting and dick smoking. you should be ashamed of yourself.

Trademark = Signature (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27894375)

I disagree, the problem with copyrights and patents is that they restrict the distribution and development of the 'protected' ideas.

The only restriction a trademark places is that you can't represent yourself as something or someone you're not.

I doubt the author would be happy to find the movie he rented for his children Trademarked as "Disney's the Lion King" was actually hardcore porn.

This sounds like sour grapes that some developers can't coast off the work of others.

Try the new Microsoft browser Firefox Pro! (1)

distantbody (852269) | more than 5 years ago | (#27894379)

...The trademark allows Mozilla to protect Firefox's reputation. Anybody can still redistribute any derivative of the worst quality under a different name. As for the GPL: it is there to stop anyone from impeding access to the original or derivative code.

The person does not know what he is talking about (1)

houghi (78078) | more than 5 years ago | (#27894419)

Trademarks are not a bad thing. It makes it clear what you can expect. If I download firefox, I would like to know what I am getting (for better or for worse). Now If I would make a fork that has a completely different aproach and won't work with certain plugins (like Adblock), you will think that Firefox is bad. Well it is, but it is my version, not the one somebody else made.

So I do understand the need for trademarks. Now how do companies deal with trademarks is a different question.

It is e.g. perfectly possible to re-distribute openSUSE as it is. It is also extremely easy to make your own openSUSE distribution that includes e.g. MPlayer, the codecs and libdvdcss and some other stuff that might be illegal or forbidden.

So what they say is to be able to do that to either contact them (If you are a magazine, they will be very helpfull and have often a special distro just for you) or to remove all the branding. I contacted them and their legal department where very appologetic in saying that they could not change anything about it due to the fact that they MUST react to any trademark issue.

So instead they made a toold that makes it easy to remove those trademarks, so it is now even easier to make something like CentOS but from SLE or openSUSE and even get the help from Novell to do so.

Your Mark (5, Insightful)

OnlyHalfEvil (1112299) | more than 5 years ago | (#27894423)

I take it all back, I think this is a dumb idea.
Signed,
Keir Thomas

What?
If trademarks are a restriction of freedom, then me using Keir's name to endorse my own ideas sounds like exactly the type of freedom he's arguing for. So what if it breeds confusion and implies an endorsement that doesn't actually exist?

Trademark is simply a compliment of attribution (1)

iamacat (583406) | more than 5 years ago | (#27894425)

Attribution - you can do anything you want with another person's work, but you can't pass it as your own
Trademark - you can do anything you want with another person's work, but you can't pass the derivative as his/hers.

I don't see what's the big deal. It's something that an honest person or business would be already doing even without any laws to the contrary.

Re:Trademark is simply a compliment of attribution (1)

Alex Belits (437) | more than 5 years ago | (#27895181)

Sometimes you WANT to give credit to the original developer, even though you made a minor modifications. For example, OS port to some hardware not supported by the original developers -- port may involve a minor amount of changes, so it would be misleading to call it by something other than the original name.

Its about forking, DUH! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27894431)

Trademark is no threat to FOSS because it fails to prevent forking. FOSS is about the right to fork.

Wow, Someone who doesn't understand Trademark (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27894433)

After reading the article the only thing I can say is that the author has no clue about how Trademarks work. The examples don't even make sense. The protection afforded by Trademarks to the consumer is important - more so than other forms of intellectual property. With open source, a trade mark does not prevent you from redistributing the product under a different name or a derivative name. Trademarks are one of the few forms of intellectual property that makes sense. Why is that? Because they evolved organically and were not constitutionalized.

In contrast, copyright has been steadily extended to the point where it no longer serves its original purpose of rewarding the creator. Now copyright rewards the business that buys it up and monetizes the product after the creator is dead. While patent has been extended as a concept to the point where it inhibits the creation of new ideas. Give us back an 8 year patent and a 13 year copyright.

This is the dumbest thing I've read on "IP" (3, Insightful)

Nick Ives (317) | more than 5 years ago | (#27894549)

This is what happens when people use the term "IP" - they get things like Trademark and Copyright totally confused.

With FOSS you're free to modify + redistribute. If the project you're redistributing is trademarked then you're going to have to change the name for your modified version.

In fact the GPL requires that modified versions be marked as changed; obviously the best way to comply with that is to change the name.

Strange point (1)

Andtalath (1074376) | more than 5 years ago | (#27894647)

What you are saying is that you want to see Microsoft Firefox being the name for IE.

Is that really a good idea?

He's just grinding an axe (1)

derGoldstein (1494129) | more than 5 years ago | (#27894747)

The reason for this article appears in the first sentence. He was irked that they weren't too happy that he went about using their trademark for personal financial gain, and decided to air it out in public.
If this guy really understands the topic that he himself is choosing to write about, he should be able to take a step back and realize what everyone commenting on this thread already knows: trademarks protect your own personal branch of the code. Even the most permissively licensed (BSD/MIT) project can have a trademarked name and logo. They're protecting their "fork" or "branch". This has nothing to do with open-source, it doesn't take away any of your freedoms.

I don't think it's a problem (1)

Toonol (1057698) | more than 5 years ago | (#27894753)

Zealous trademark enforcement can't shut anything down. No matter how crazy, say, Mozilla someday goes with a powerhungry IP grab, all they can do is stop you from representing your product as Firefox, identifying your product using their logo/name. You can still mention Firefox. Trademarks don't give a company control over a word. You could absolutely market "JoesBrowser" and say "this awesome browser is based on the excellent opensourced Firefox(tm) code, with only the atrocious Awesomebar(tm) stripped out."

Re:I don't think it's a problem (1)

SwashbucklingCowboy (727629) | more than 5 years ago | (#27895223)

Trademarks don't give a company control over a word.

Strictly speaking that's true. However, what open source project has the ability to fight a trademark battle with a company? There's a reason that on the CentOS web site it says "CentOS is an Enterprise-class Linux Distribution derived from sources freely provided to the public by a prominent North American Enterprise Linux vendor.", never mentioning Red Hat...

Main problem with Linux is that IE icon is missing (1)

spaceturtle (687994) | more than 5 years ago | (#27894771)

When reviewers review Linux they often say things like "Even I couldn't figure out how to install X with Linux, how could a novice user possibly learn how to use Linux". However computer novices don't try to install software. In my experience the main problem novices have with Linux is that they cannot find the Internet Explorer icon. Once you tell them to click the Firefox icon instead they have no problem.

I don't think that Trademarks are anything like copyrights. However they can be a PITA, and they could have potential for abuse. I don't think we should use the e.g. IE icon for firefox even though it would save new users some grief. However I agree that some uses of trademarks could be seen as abusive. I can see how Prohibitions on unmodified redistribution could be seen as abusive, for example.

Re:Main problem with Linux is that IE icon is miss (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27894887)

A pain in the ass? I'm sorry i'm not Microsoft defender (software either) but excuse Microsoft if they don't want Firefox being passed off as Internet Explorer. Would you or especially the folks at Mozilla appreciate if for Windows 7 they shipped IE 8 with a Firefox theme and used the Firefox Icon? No! Many here would be outraged. It might take a few extra minutes/days for first time Linux users to realize their browser is not the familiar Internet Explorer but committing trademark infringement just to take a shortcut is intellectually dishonest towards the users and towards Microsoft (who cares if you hate them, the same tm rules apply to all companies).

BTW, most reviewers of first time Linux use are always going to bitch about how Linux is not as compatible with Windows as Windows is. There is little to nothing you can do about that since it is by definition to be as compatible without being Windows itself.

Idiots. (1)

todd10k (889348) | more than 5 years ago | (#27894807)

Advocates freedom, but then takes it away? Are you fucking kidding me? Open source is a good thing. ubuntu, redhat, gentoo. These are names we associate to particular operating systems. without trademark, we would have every fat greasy linux geek calling his own homebrew distro "Knoppix xtreme" or something equally banal. Trademark preserves the quality image we have in our minds of a particular product. I mean, let's take the DS and PSP for example. Their trademarks are ripped off blatently by chinese company's making extremly low quality, similar looking products. Eliminating trademarks on opensource product's will have the EXACT same effect. Every trademan, programmer, anyone who put's anysort of work into a product, either for self gratification or momey, deserves to have their product, if made to a high degree of quality and worksmanship, be considered good. he doe's not deserve for some charlatan to come along and call his lower quality and inferior product the same name to leech the reflected glory away from the original worksman, who im going to call bill. Bill has 3 kids and a mortgage, a nagging wife and a goldfish. if bill leaves boston travelling in a car at 60 miles an hour and tracey is travelling from new york in a time capsule travelling 120 miles an hour, how much wood will a wood chuck chuck if a wood chuck could chuck wood? To summarise: dont do school, stay in milk, drink drugs. I'm all for freedom and the open source way, but there's limit's, without those limit's,we wouldn't have limits, and we'd be limitless in our depravity. if we follow that particular line of thinking,pretty soon we'll have women riding horse's one leg on each side, salt in our lasagne and massive orgies in the street, thousands of naked bodies writhing in ecstasy, all on the cusp of losing complete sexual control.......................on second thought, down with trademark!

Android, anyone? (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27894847)

For all of you who still don't believe that trademarks are a powerful tool to prevent the spread of free software, ask yourselves: Why has only one company released a phone with Android OS, when it should be freely available as open source software?

Releasing something as open source, whilst retaining the trademark can give you all the good PR and still let you make exclusive deals.

Mostly misinformation (1)

pugugly (152978) | more than 5 years ago | (#27894871)

IANAL, but I am a layman that did papers on this in college - and the long and the short of it is this mostly sounds like a massive misunderstanding on several peoples parts about what can and cannot be done via Trademark.

Fundamentally, a trademark, used properly, means that if something you were using doesn't work as expected. you know who to blame. You may not be able to get satisfaction from Microsoft when Windows crashes, but you can at least be assured that when you say "Microsoft Windows just rolled over and *died*" People are reasonably sure who you are ticked at.

Yeah - if you've altered Firefox or Ubuntu or something else, and you give it away, then if it says Firefox, and it's not actually Mozilla's code, Mozilla has a right to be ticked that you altered it but didn't tell your end users they weren't actually using Firefox. But if you recompile your modified code and call it "Mike's fiery fox (A firefox based browser)" - they know the difference, and there's no copyright infringement.

All this amounts to is sign your oen name to your own work. That is *not* a big opensource conundrum.

Pug

Re:Mostly misinformation (1)

damburger (981828) | more than 5 years ago | (#27895011)

Sounds perfectly reasonable; in fact I noticed in the article that Ubuntu were fairly cool with the guy, and that taking down their logos may have been an overreaction on his part as they never threatened him with legal action.

No Mention of Shareaza ? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27895003)

Unprotected trademarks are a vulnerable means of attack.

It's worth pointing out that when corporate interests (Sony Records) objected to an open-source project (Shareaza P2P), they simply had a puppet company (iMesh) file for the trademark on the existing name.

The lesson is defensive trademarking.

His argument seems weak (1)

damburger (981828) | more than 5 years ago | (#27895009)

From the article:

What tends to happen is that open source companies have to walk a tightrope, and slightly strange rules on trademark get put in place. For example, Ubuntu is cool with community remixes using the trademark, but if you intend to make money from Ubuntu and want to include the word in your business title, you're going to need permission. It's not quite clear here how the former won't dilute the Ubuntu brand, while the latter possibly will. The "protecting brand identity" argument falls apart almost immediately upon examination.

It is clear; commercial projects operate with different motives than free projects. Commercial projects aim primarily to make users cough up cash, whilst free projects aim primarily to provide something useful to users. The difference in motivation often produces starkly different results.

Mozilla is even worse. If I create a new Linux distro, and include my own compiled Firefox binary, it's unlikely I would be able to call the browser "Firefox", or use the familiar fox logo, without getting permission from Mozilla. This could put me at a competitive disadvantage compared to other versions of Linux because my users would be using what appears to be unfamiliar software. It's worth mentioning that Mozilla's trademark rules also indicate they're not terribly happy about the unofficial redistribution of their binaries, either, and would prefer it if they were the exclusive source.

Yeah, Debian is really suffering because of that...

Linux is trademarked (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27895081)

So is the word "Linux" now considered harmful to open source?

The Answer (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27895129)

Keir Thomas needs to http://tinyurl.com/gxhq [tinyurl.com]

Look at the title (4, Insightful)

trifish (826353) | more than 5 years ago | (#27895143)

Can we please ask the Slashdot editors to avoid tabloid titles?

The title reads "Trademarks Considered Harmful To Open Source".

but it should read: "A Random [Uneducated] Guy Considers Trademarks Harmful To FOSS"

Thanks for listening.

Trademarks are good (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27895283)

Trademarks allow a company or person to sell a product or service and protect them from people who want to cash in on their reputation and tarnish it by providing an inferior product.

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