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Australian Linux Trademark Holds Water

ScuttleMonkey posted about 9 years ago | from the trademarks-hard-at-work dept.

Slashback 408

Seft writes "The Inquirer is running a story in response to the recent Linux trademark news in Australia which was previously covered on Slashdot. The story was dismissed as a hoax by many, but now it seems that Linus Torvalds is dead serious." John 'Maddog' Hall stated for the article that the move was not about getting a slice of anyone's action but purely to protect the quality of products that utilize the Linux name.

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feh (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13354494)

utterly inane. pissed frost.

Lesson 1: Proof read (5, Funny)

AndyFewt (694753) | about 9 years ago | (#13354498)

Well someone didnt proof read their article or have absolutely no idea about what linux and open source is. From TFA:
Letters demanding US$5000 for use of the Linux name were originally dismissed as a hoax. But according to the Sydney Morning Herald, the
Open Sauce king is dead serious.
Open SAUCE king? Sounds like something I'd put on my cheeseburger and I definitely don't want Linus on my cheeseburger.

Re:Lesson 1: Proof read (5, Funny)

Sketch (2817) | about 9 years ago | (#13354516)

Not to mention "If Linux patented Linux that would certainly happen."

Quick, someone check the kernel changelogs to see if someone checked in any self-patenting code!

Re:Lesson 1: Proof read (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13354583)

I submitted
kernel.patent(){
  patent(self);
}


but it was rejected by the "No C++" rule

Re:Lesson 1: Proof read (2, Funny)

Mark Hood (1630) | about 9 years ago | (#13354699)

Must have been something stolen from SCO, right? :)

Mark

maybe he is moving... (1)

domipheus (751857) | about 9 years ago | (#13354522)

.. into the open condiment industry. After open source beer [voresoel.dk] it one of many a possibility ;)

Re:maybe he is moving... (1)

AndyFewt (694753) | about 9 years ago | (#13354555)

Possibly, but I think people would still remember him as the open source king even if he got into open sauce since the sauce would be open source too. Would have to be some damn good sauce too. Oh, almighty CowboyNeal, save me from the opening of various sources and sauces!!

Re:Lesson 1: Proof read (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13354523)

It's an Inquirer "in the know" joke.

Re:Lesson 1: Proof read (1)

advocate_one (662832) | about 9 years ago | (#13354691)

It's an Inquirer "in the know" joke.

yes... far nicer than the wintroll "open sores" one...

Re:Lesson 1: Proof read (1)

BenjyD (316700) | about 9 years ago | (#13354570)

pun (pn) pronunciation
n.

A play on words, sometimes on different senses of the same word and sometimes on the similar sense or sound of different words.
intr.v., punned, punning, puns.

To make puns or a pun.

Oh god, 4chan is invading australia (-1, Offtopic)

utopianfiat (774016) | about 9 years ago | (#13354592)

zomg sauce plz

(this is an ass post, it is made of ass and poo, and some post)

Re:Oh god, 4chan is invading australia (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13354656)

A big gaping vagina the size of a hallway

sauce plz

Re:Oh god, 4chan is invading australia (1)

Pope (17780) | about 9 years ago | (#13354676)

Tell me, my prince, what can I do for you?

Re:Lesson 1: Proof read (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13354594)

one can only imagine what this 'Linus sauce' would be made of...

Re:Lesson 1: Proof read (1)

Andrewkov (140579) | about 9 years ago | (#13354597)

I always thought Linus was a bit saucey...

Lesson 2: Sense of Humour Needed (2, Interesting)

GanryuMVP (886598) | about 9 years ago | (#13354603)

"Open Sauce" is a pun on "Open Source". The inquirer does that with almost everything. The Inquirer is generally pretty pro linux and linus but i'm sure they'll be slammed into the ground for daring to question linux/linus this one time. Seriously if Linus' plan is to show that companies acknowledge his trademark why not just ask for $1 each off them.

Re:Lesson 2: Sense of Humour Needed (1)

bedroll (806612) | about 9 years ago | (#13354692)

Just reading the initial reactions from the community I'd say that people are concentrating much more on the trademarking scheme than they are on lambasting those who dare criticize the scheme's participants. Perhaps we should save the knee-jerk "any open source criticism will be flamed to death" responses.

Re:Lesson 2: Sense of Humour Needed (4, Insightful)

Klivian (850755) | about 9 years ago | (#13354729)

why not just ask for $1

Because setting up, administrating and defending a trademark are not free. You have to cover the actual cost. Or are you suggesting that Linus should pay out of his own pocket the expenses involved for dealing with commercial entities using his trademark.

Re:Lesson 1: Proof read (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13354609)

Sounds like a wordfilter from 4chan

(zing)

Re:Lesson 1: Proof read (1, Insightful)

dtfinch (661405) | about 9 years ago | (#13354616)

It passes the spell check.

Re:Lesson 1: Proof read (2, Funny)

Dr. Evil (3501) | about 9 years ago | (#13354619)

The author needs to close their bottle o' sauce during working hours.

Re:Lesson 1: Proof read (0)

phlegmofdiscontent (459470) | about 9 years ago | (#13354665)

mmmmmmmmm, open sauce club sandwich......

I know, that was dumb. I'm sorry....

Guess they use MS Word afterall (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13354715)

That's the danger of using automatic correction future.

Re:Lesson 1: Proof read (1)

aardwulf (583280) | about 9 years ago | (#13354735)

"Sauce" has nothing to do with The Register's punny spellings. It has everything to do with being the fonetical[sic] spelling of the Austrialian pronunciation of the word "Source".

All Open Source is good, Linus is god. (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13354499)

All Open Source is good, Linus is god.

Rabid (2, Funny)

thc69 (98798) | about 9 years ago | (#13354502)

'Maddog'
It's coming right for us! Quick, somebody shoot it!

Re:Rabid (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13354686)

He's got 20/20 vision

Jeremy Malcolm was unfairly mobbed... (1, Insightful)

fostware (551290) | about 9 years ago | (#13354504)

Does this mean Leon B can get his account back now?

More at Groklaw (3, Interesting)

DarkkOne (741046) | about 9 years ago | (#13354510)

At Groklaw they've got a pretty clear writeup as to everything behind it.

Re:More at Groklaw (5, Informative)

freshman_a (136603) | about 9 years ago | (#13354567)

I assume you're talking about this:

http://www.groklaw.net/article.php?story=200508160 92029989 [groklaw.net]

Very interesting read, IMHO.

Re:More at Groklaw (1)

DarkkOne (741046) | about 9 years ago | (#13354644)

Thanks. I saw the post, figured since it'd shown up back on the front page mentioning the writeup at Groklaw early on would help sidestep some argument, then forgot to include the link apparently.

Niggers love Linux (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13354514)

For all the Niggers out there! Long Live Linux

Re:Niggers love Linux (0, Offtopic)

dgos78 (881140) | about 9 years ago | (#13354551)

WTF?! Where did this racism come from?

Re:Niggers love Linux (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13354582)

Don't bite. These retards have been on /. for years now. They're a bunch of skinny white European idiots who think their GNAA stuff is funny. Feel free to ignore them. Nearly everyone else does. Hehehe... I rooted one of their member's servers.

Uh huh. (2, Insightful)

Colin Smith (2679) | about 9 years ago | (#13354517)

So, it's not about money, it's about control.

 

Re:Uh huh. (5, Insightful)

awkScooby (741257) | about 9 years ago | (#13354601)

It's about loosing your trademark if you don't defend it. Linus holds the trademark "Linux", so it's up to him to take actions to protect that trademark. If that means "control," then yes, it's about control.

It helps to show that you've made a good faith effort in defending your trademark if you have documentation showing how you've licensed the trademark, and if you've gone after people who have not licensed that trademark.

If Linus does nothing, Microsoft could call the next version of Windows Linux (not that I believe that would happen), and nobody could do a thing about it. Knowing the Patent Office, Microsoft would then be granted the Linux trademark, and would charge $10 per copy... Chaos would ensue, etc.

Wierd (1)

hotdrop (907046) | about 9 years ago | (#13354518)

Thats pretty wierd but im sure the story is just wrong or the writer has misconceptions.

Linux Mark Website (2, Informative)

Frankie70 (803801) | about 9 years ago | (#13354625)

Check here [linuxmark.org]

Re:Linux Mark Website (3, Informative)

Frankie70 (803801) | about 9 years ago | (#13354654)

Actually the fees are detailed here [linuxmark.org]

Not so free after all (3, Funny)

xtracto (837672) | about 9 years ago | (#13354527)

So this means, that Linux is not so free after all uh?

Maybe Linus thought of a new proffit plan:

1. Post a crappy kernel in Usenet and say it is free
      as in freedom
2. Wait until everybody uses it
3. Enforce trademarks
4. Proffit

Re:Not so free after all (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13354545)

Where the hell are you from that you spell 'profit' with two F's?

Re:Not so free after all (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13354634)

fffffffffuck... sorry my mistake.. :)

xtracto

Re:Not so free after all (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13354670)

Where the hell are you from that you spell 'profit' with two F's?

Leonardo, New Jersey.

Re:Not so free after all (2)

gambit3 (463693) | about 9 years ago | (#13354586)

hmm... isn't that generally what the makers of mp3 did?

http://www.iis.fraunhofer.de/pub_rel/presse/2005/m p3/index.html [fraunhofer.de]

Re:Not so free after all (5, Informative)

Knuckles (8964) | about 9 years ago | (#13354655)

No, there it was about patents [chillingeffects.org] .

Geez, people, learn to distinguish Copyright - Patent - Trademark - Trade Secret! It's not that hard and pretty important if you want to discuss stuff. I thought cognitive sciences has shown that most people can keep ca. 5 items in their mind at any time.

Re:Not so free after all (2, Informative)

rholliday (754515) | about 9 years ago | (#13354661)

Well, Linux is still free apparently, just not calling it that. It does seem a little odd coming from F/OSS, but it's not unprecedented to own the name but not the content.

Red Hat et al already do this (1)

Lifewish (724999) | about 9 years ago | (#13354770)

It's the case with most of the commercial Linux distributions that the code itself is Free, but the trademarks aren't. Linux is still free as anyone who wants to can fork the entire codebase, just as long as they use a different name.

Re:Not so free after all (1)

Klivian (850755) | about 9 years ago | (#13354784)

Well, Linux is still free apparently, just not calling it that

Wrong, you can call it Linux as much as you want for free, as you always have done. It's nice if you acknowledge the trademark with a "Linux is trademark of Linus etc." as you would any other trademark, but that's nothing new either. What you cannot do is calling your company/publication/product "Super Linux" or something like it.

Actually, Linux itself is still free (5, Informative)

brokeninside (34168) | about 9 years ago | (#13354768)

It's only using the word 'Linux' in your company or product name that isn't free.

another trademark (1)

bart416 (900487) | about 9 years ago | (#13354532)

Yet another trademark. I'm getting tired of this.

Linus comment please... (2, Insightful)

genckas (660936) | about 9 years ago | (#13354533)

Linus should comment on this personaly, till that happens its just FUD.

Re:Linus comment please... (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13354563)

He has. If he doesn't protect the name "Linux", it can be used in anything, regardless of whether it has anything to do with the kernel. That means linux-gay-pron, linux-warez, et al. Such is the nature of trademarks.

Re:Linus comment please... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13354697)

It can still be used for anything. Anything but operating system kernels that is. So linux-gay-pr0n is a perfectly viable product name.

I'm scratching my head here... (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13354540)

The linked article was short, uninformative, and I actually have a hard time believing it.

Does anybody have a link to something a little more informative? Like Linus' blog or something?

What's really going on here?

(and the mind-reading anti-script picture is "writhe." Spooky.)

Re:I'm scratching my head here... (4, Funny)

El_Muerte_TDS (592157) | about 9 years ago | (#13354681)

I'll tell you more about this once I receive the money.

    -- the Open Sauce king

Re:I'm scratching my head here... (5, Informative)

ozmanjusri (601766) | about 9 years ago | (#13354689)

Does anybody have a link to something a little more informative?

A number of people have attempted to clarify this, including on Slashdot. I'll post the full text http://lists.linux.org.au/archives/linux-aus/2005- August/msg00084.html [linux.org.au] , since most people seem to dislike reading linked articles.

Subject: Re: Quick press enquiry re LinuxMark enforcement
From: Jon maddog Hall
Date: Wed, 17 Aug 2005 09:25:04 -0400
To: "David Braue"
Cc: maddog@li.org

David,

Your story is quite accurate, LAI is acting in Australia on behalf of LMI, and this is not a "scam".

Since 1995, when an unfortunate incident in the United States showed us that the world is not made of altruistic people and companies, Linux International has been defending the Linux Trademark. At that time an entity had obtained a US trademark on the word "Linux", and was trying to obtain twenty-five percent of the REVENUES of companies that had the word "Linux" in their name, or in their product names. Instead of all the member companies fighting this battle individually, Linux International fought it and won. Unfortunately it cost us a lot of money to do this, despite the pro bono efforts of Gerry Davis, of the law firm of Davis and Schroeder.

Linux International has been defending the Linux Trademark for the world, which due to the costs of registering and obtaining International Trade Marks is VERY expensive. Linux International has spent over 300,000 USD to do this over the years. LI is a non-profit and does not have very much revenue, so some of this money has come from my own personal checkbook. While I can not say how much money I have spent on defending the mark per se, I can tell you that I have spent about 250,000 USD of my own money in keeping LI alive. I am not looking for medals or a chest to pin them on. I am only stating this to show people that this is not a "scam", nor is anyone making any money off this other than the international legal and trademark community, and I am sure that they are necessary and justifiable fees. Certainly Jeremy Malcolm has seemed to be above board and conscientious in all of our dealings with him, as has Jonathan Oxer and the rest of the fine people at LAI.

After a while the board of Linux International recognized the advantage of forming a separate non-profit, the Linux Mark Institute (LMI). We need LMI to be self-funding, and following trademark laws in the 200 countries of the world is very expensive. In addition to the normal issues of a company obtaining a trademark of their own product, using their own name, we have issues such as:

o "Who owns the right to use 'Linux'"
o "Who (therefore) has the right to the broad name 'Linux University'?"
o "Can there be more than one "Linux University? If so, what should its name be?"
o "If I call my company 'Linux Experts', does this mean that I am the only group of 'Linux Experts' worldwide?....shouldn't everyone come to me because I called myself 'Linux Experts'?"

as well as the issues of people who wish to use the name in bad ways (as a pornography attractor or on items confusing to the Linux market).

We have tried to make the licensing as unobtrusive as possible, tailored to the amounts of money that people might be making off the use of the mark, and with an eye to keeping the cost to non-profits and user groups as low as possible. We also have to re-license the name periodically so we can protect against "name squatting" (ala URLs) and defunct entities who no longer need the name they registered.

The trademark laws of the world were not created in the days of the World Wide Web, or even the Internet, where unscrupulous people can take advantage of a good name for a good idea and create havoc for people who want to start legitimate industry in their territory under a mark that is registered in some other country. By protecting the mark of "Linux" in as many countries as possible, LMI makes this type of deliberate extortion MUCH more difficult and MUCH more expensive.

Believe me, I have LOTs of other, more pleasant, more lucrative things that I can do with my life than have to deal with this, but this is the albatross that has been hung about my neck, and which I resignedly bear because others do not want it and are off making lots more money than I make.

And for those who think that this is a "scam", none of the members of the board of LMI have made a single dime off their contributions of time and energy in this, nor do they intend on making any money.

Warmest regards,

maddog

Re:I'm scratching my head here... (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13354723)

Poor journalism. That's what's going on.

I'll wait until I hear a statement from Linus himself.

Nothing to see here folks. Move along.

Re:I'm scratching my head here... (3, Informative)

damiangerous (218679) | about 9 years ago | (#13354727)

How about Groklaw [groklaw.net] ? They have a writeup with pretty much everything there is to know.

They could have done a lot better... (5, Interesting)

inflex (123318) | about 9 years ago | (#13354543)

When I received the letter re Linux it quite honestly scared the daylights out of me. There was this letter that started out saying "this is a notice, not a letter of demand" but then it goes on talking about moderately large sums of money and potential legal fees.

What was doubly annoying though was that the letter appeared to be sent out without checking to see if the recipient was applicable. None of the services or products that I had on my WWW site used the word "linux" in them, they simply happen to be able to /execute/ on linux too (so linux was listed as a "compatible OS".

I still consider the email to be bordering very close to spam.

Next time, a registered letter in the post after each site is checked for relevance would be a far more reputable manner of distribution.

Re:They could have done a lot better... (2, Interesting)

Dr. Evil (3501) | about 9 years ago | (#13354688)

Drop a line to Linus and ask him if it is real. There's some kind of stipulation regarding fair use of a trademark, e.g. to reference the product's name in your documentation.

The trademark, as I understand it, should only cover conducting trade under the mark "Linux"

This is very close to what Redhat is doing. You can't use "Redhat" unless you've paid. Then you use "Fedora"... and then to confuse things a bit, they add some copyrighted materials to Redhat which are not Open Source so, I suppose for legitimate reasons, you can't start describing "Fedora" as "Redhat"

I'd be surprised and disturbed if this were true. O.k., I'm already disturbed, but I'd be more disturbed.

$5k to use a trademark is peanuts for the people who have the money to abuse it, and has nothing to do with protecting the Linux name. Cease and Desist letters to companies using Linux in unblessed or dangerous products seems more and appropriate (e.g. maybe revoking the trademark for kernel forks or kernels with unacknowledged and unblessed patches)

Is Linus running low on cash?

Re:They could have done a lot better... (1)

gr8_phk (621180) | about 9 years ago | (#13354737)

So you are probably supposed to add the little circle-R when you say your stuff runs on Linux. You're right though, no need to pay anything ;-)

What's in a name? (1)

ArcherB (796902) | about 9 years ago | (#13354549)

Hall said that there was nothing to stop a company using Linux software without using the Linux name.

It's just the name. They don't want companies splattering the Linux name all over everything and releasing crap.

Torvalds has done what SCO tried.. (0)

Gopal.V (532678) | about 9 years ago | (#13354553)

Can we fault Linus ?.. no. After all he's not charging for the software, but the use of his trademark by these companies.

Bad PR ?... yes, it's the "Free software" that gets hit, with people not realizing that this is about trademarks. You guys like intellectual property when it belongs to you" should also surface soon about Trademarks and Patents. But it's another question whether after ~9 years of trademarking, this is the first enforcing attempt, which might cast a bad shadow over the case. Trademarks have to be defended on first notice of offence.

All in all, blatant misuse of power for little monetary gain and lot of bad PR (at least in the short term). Promote "Linux" and kill parts of "Free" and "community" in there.

After all, the road to hell is paved with noble intentions.

Re:Torvalds has done what SCO tried.. (1)

10Ghz (453478) | about 9 years ago | (#13354767)

After all he's not charging for the software, but the use of his trademark by these companies.


No he's not. He (or his representative) has not asked for any money from these companies. The letters said that they MIGHT be required to pay in the future, but that does not mean that they are asking for money now, or that they will ever ask for money.

Text from Sydney Morning Herald (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13354554)

... for those who don't want to register:

Linus backs trademark charge, says 'Maddog'
By Sam Varghese
August 19, 2005 - 1:48PM

Trademarking the Linux name and charging for its commercial use world-wide is supported by its creator Linus Torvalds, a senior Linux community figure from the US says.

A recent letter sent to nearly 90 Australian companies, demanding payment of a sub-licence fee that can range from $A200 to $A5000 for use of the Linux name, caused considerable confusion and prompted speculation the fee was a scam.

But in an attempt to clarify the situation in Australia, Jon 'Maddog' Hall, the executive director of Linux International in the US, said a community organisation called Linux Australia had been nominated to handle the trademark issue in this country.

The Linux Mark Institute (LMI) handles trademark issues in the US. In other countries it nominates local bodies to look after things, he said.

Linux is a popular, free open-source operating system that runs on a number of hardware platforms, including PCs and Macintoshes.

Hall said while Torvalds and the LMI did not object to people using the Linux name for legitimate purposes, there were some who tried to limit or block other peoples' business by creating bogus trademark registries.

"We are not blocking anyone's business. If there is a single business out there that is blocked by this issue, please have them contact me," he said.

When asked how open source advocates could fight against the legitimising of software patents and yet charge fees for a trademark, Mr Hall said you couldn't create a product covered by a patent unless you licences it; with a trademark you could change the name and still sell the product.

"You certainly could create and distribute a useful product without having 'Linux' in the trademarked name," he said. "Debian comes to mind. Red Hat Software is another."

Linux Australia president Jonathan Oxer said while patents could stop people from doing the same thing, such as writing a piece of software that was functionally equivalent, trademarks regulated people who wanted to use an identity. "In effect, it's a measure to prevent identity theft," he said.

"Patents can be anti-competitive (or at least anti-productive) in the software world by preventing other people competing on a level playing field. They are specifically intended to grant a limited monopoly."

Oxer said trademarks did not prevent fair competition. "They don't stop anyone else going into business and doing the exact same thing as an existing company. What they do prevent is someone stealing the name of an existing product or company and then using that name to their benefit."

Hall said while the LMI could, in some cases, refuse to grant a sub-licence for use of the name, Torvalds had the final say.

He is the owner of the mark, it is his name. But my experience has been that Linus views this as him holding the mark for the community," he said.

The highest fee in the US is $US5000. "While to some the $US5000 fee may seem like a lot to pay on $US1 million of revenue, we point out that it is only on the revenue generated by the trademarked product, not the whole company (unless the whole company is called 'Linux XXXXXXX'), and there is no upper limit to the revenue that could be made," Hall said.

"We are not trying to limit the use of the name Linux. We are only asking that people help us protect the quality of the Linux name, and ultimately their trademark by both giving proper attribution (everyone) and by helping us fund the cause (the actual sub-licence holders)," he said.

Re:Text from Sydney Morning Herald (1)

orasio (188021) | about 9 years ago | (#13354702)

"You certainly could create and distribute a useful product without having 'Linux' in the trademarked name," he said. "Debian comes to mind. Red Hat Software is another."

Ok, but Debian doesn't have the word "Linux" in its name, because it's not completely based on Linux, it's based on GNU, so you can run in with Linux or with GNU/Hurd, jokes aside.

Anyhow, this can only be good for free software, "Linux" being a overused word that overshadows the importance of other free software. If companies were forced to stop using "Linux", as a name, the concept of a "free software" distribution could become stronger (or not, of course).

The latest threat... (2, Funny)

burner (8666) | about 9 years ago | (#13354562)

If Linux patented Linux that would certainly happen.


Oh no! Recursive patents! I knew GNU's Not Unix was behind this!

Re:The latest threat... (2, Funny)

Mick Ohrberg (744441) | about 9 years ago | (#13354703)

Oh no! Recursive patents! I knew GNU's Not Unix was behind this!

I wonder if the enforcement emails were sent using PINE Is Not Elm?

Any apologies from the slashdot crowd? (5, Insightful)

Richard_at_work (517087) | about 9 years ago | (#13354566)

After all, some of the things said about the lawyer involved in this case were less than civilised or polite, and indeed a lot of posters had him mixed up with someone else of a similiar name. So, anyone willing to retract what they said?

Not handled well (1)

timeOday (582209) | about 9 years ago | (#13354568)

I don't know what's really going on here, but a move like this should have begun with an announcement from Linus himself, preferrably not in the press but somewhere like LKML. It risks coming off as a retreat from the open spirit of Linux. "Hey, if I wanted to get shaken down and sued, I might as well go with the old pro, Microsoft."

Greed.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13354585)

my favorite sin

Full text of the Sydney Morning Herald article (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13354590)

Linus backs trademark charge, says 'Maddog'
By Sam Varghese
August 19, 2005 - 1:48PM
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Trademarking the Linux name and charging for its commercial use world-wide is supported by its creator Linus Torvalds, a senior Linux community figure from the US says.

A recent letter sent to nearly 90 Australian companies, demanding payment of a sub-licence fee that can range from $A200 to $A5000 for use of the Linux name, caused considerable confusion and prompted speculation the fee was a scam.

But in an attempt to clarify the situation in Australia, Jon 'Maddog' Hall, the executive director of Linux International in the US, said a community organisation called Linux Australia had been nominated to handle the trademark issue in this country.

The Linux Mark Institute (LMI) handles trademark issues in the US. In other countries it nominates local bodies to look after things, he said.

Linux is a popular, free open-source operating system that runs on a number of hardware platforms, including PCs and Macintoshes.
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Hall said while Torvalds and the LMI did not object to people using the Linux name for legitimate purposes, there were some who tried to limit or block other peoples' business by creating bogus trademark registries.

"We are not blocking anyone's business. If there is a single business out there that is blocked by this issue, please have them contact me," he said.

When asked how open source advocates could fight against the legitimising of software patents and yet charge fees for a trademark, Mr Hall said you couldn't create a product covered by a patent unless you licences it; with a trademark you could change the name and still sell the product.

"You certainly could create and distribute a useful product without having 'Linux' in the trademarked name," he said. "Debian comes to mind. Red Hat Software is another."

Linux Australia president Jonathan Oxer said while patents could stop people from doing the same thing, such as writing a piece of software that was functionally equivalent, trademarks regulated people who wanted to use an identity. "In effect, it's a measure to prevent identity theft," he said.

"Patents can be anti-competitive (or at least anti-productive) in the software world by preventing other people competing on a level playing field. They are specifically intended to grant a limited monopoly."

Oxer said trademarks did not prevent fair competition. "They don't stop anyone else going into business and doing the exact same thing as an existing company. What they do prevent is someone stealing the name of an existing product or company and then using that name to their benefit."

Hall said while the LMI could, in some cases, refuse to grant a sub-licence for use of the name, Torvalds had the final say.

"He is the owner of the mark, it is his name. But my experience has been that Linus views this as him holding the mark for the community," he said.

The highest fee in the US is $US5000. "While to some the $US5000 fee may seem like a lot to pay on $US1 million of revenue, we point out that it is only on the revenue generated by the trademarked product, not the whole company (unless the whole company is called 'Linux XXXXXXX'), and there is no upper limit to the revenue that could be made," Hall said.

"We are not trying to limit the use of the name Linux. We are only asking that people help us protect the quality of the Linux name, and ultimately their trademark by both giving proper attribution (everyone) and by helping us fund the cause (the actual sub-licence holders)," he said.

Not fair to very small projects (5, Interesting)

tvlinux (867035) | about 9 years ago | (#13354593)

IBM and Novell can afford $5000, a small linux project of just a few people $200 is a major burden.

It costs about $100 per TVLinux [tvlinux.org] show ( tapes, food, equipment), all paid by one person. TVLinux just wants to inform the TV public about open source and Linux. Do I drop 2-3 shows to pay for a "MARK". I think the rate should be $20-$50 for very small projects.

TVLinux

Re:Not fair to very small projects (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13354641)

I believe the fees are set by the gov, Standard trademark rules. Groklaw has a good writeup on this.

Re:Not fair to very small projects (1)

rholliday (754515) | about 9 years ago | (#13354751)

The rate is on a sliding scale.
Check the LMI Fees Page [linuxmark.org] to see where you fit. Based on your description, I'd say you're either non-profit or for profit tier 1, which would be $200.

The Groklaw article [groklaw.net] others have referenced mentions it, too.

Protective? Or restrictive.. (1)

onion2k (203094) | about 9 years ago | (#13354615)

the move was not about getting a slice of anyone's action but purely to protect the quality of products that utilize the Linux name

You have to wonder, if in some whacky parallel universe Microsoft decided to release some form of Linux toolset or even a distro of their own, whether or not they'd end up getting permission to use the name or not..

While I'm sure John Hall is right that they're interested in protecting Linux from shoddy rubbish, if they were presented with an opportunity to block Microsoft by using this copyright I'm reasonably sure they'd put their ethics aside to score points (or dollars) against Bill.

Re:Protective? Or restrictive.. (1)

orasio (188021) | about 9 years ago | (#13354740)

Not copyrights.
Copyright is about content.
Trademark is about names.

Trademarks say: you can't sell product with the name I registered. Of course, you can sell any product with any name I didn't register.

Copyrights say: you can't further distribute the product I made, unless I say you can.

Being that Linux is copylefted, there are no other restrictions to its further redistribution other than you can't distribute it less freely than you received it. So you can distribute Linux all you want, but you can't use the Linux trademark to promote it.

See the difference?
Trademarks are about names and promotion, and building a reputation, and copyrights are about content and its distribution.

Free as in speech (5, Insightful)

tezza (539307) | about 9 years ago | (#13354630)

This needs to be ammended to

Free as in Speech, as long as you don't use our Trademark.

But a lot of open source licenses have exactly this restriction, like the Apache License [apache.org]

6. Trademarks. This License does not grant permission to use the trade names, trademarks, service marks, or product names of the Licensor, except as required for reasonable and customary use in describing the origin of the Work and reproducing the content of the NOTICE file.

And lots of others too, mainly extending from the time when Open Source was driven from universities Berkely, MIT who didn't want their 'Trademark' abused.

Re:Free as in speech (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13354739)

Which is somewhat understandable. Consider the following scenario:

(Going back in time to when X windows was brand new)
You create a company which makes a Windowing System. Trying to feel clever, you name it MIT Windows, thinking to yourself: With Windows.

Now MIT gets flooded with questions about MIT Windows and asked for software support. Which is easily explaned, MIT has X Windows, so some people confuse X Windows from MIT with MIT Windows from Frob, inc. ...

This sucks (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13354666)

I will remove GNU Linux from all my computers if this is where its heading.

hmmm (-1, Flamebait)

rwven (663186) | about 9 years ago | (#13354675)

I know this will be modded down, but how is this not a step toward Microsoft-esque tactics? "Linux is all about freedom and open source!" BS.... If i was any one of those companies i'd just drop everything linux related and use a competing product just out of spite... This is pathetic... mod away.

Re:hmmm (1)

$RANDOMLUSER (804576) | about 9 years ago | (#13354755)

A trademark on a name is not the same as a trademark on the thing it names.

Re:hmmm (1)

rwven (663186) | about 9 years ago | (#13354785)

It's a question of intentions from someone who has supposedly had quite the opposite intentions before... If it was about the "quality" of products using the linux name it would have been $100 not $5000 to use the trademark... Linus, i believe, just made a nice sized hole in his whole idea of free software and opensource.

How does this protect quality (0, Troll)

mwvdlee (775178) | about 9 years ago | (#13354683)

John 'Maddog' Hall stated for the article that the move was not about getting a slice of anyone's action but purely to protect the quality of products that utilize the Linux name.


So how does paying money to some random entity protect quality? Why can't they just hand out trademark licenses for free to good Linux companies? I know they have expenses, but that still doesn't justify requiring payment for something which essentially belongs to the public.

Re:How does this protect quality (1)

Anita Coney (648748) | about 9 years ago | (#13354720)

I agree, if all it takes is money, then ANYONE could get use to the Linux name. Where's the quality in that crap?!

Wrong spirit... (1, Insightful)

Delphix (571159) | about 9 years ago | (#13354695)

Free Software doesn't mean you can ex post facto decide to get a trademark and then use it to charge a fee for use of the software. While it's quite a clever way to get around the GPL by restricting what people can do unless they pay, but it's certainly not consistant with the spirit of Free Software. Free Software doesn't mean you can do whatever you want with the software unless the author decides he doesn't like it.

If it's true that Linus is behind this, then it's time to fork the kernel and remove all references to the word "Linux"...

I dont like it (2, Insightful)

peope (584706) | about 9 years ago | (#13354713)

The mark has been in use for a very long time without any intervention by the said trademark holder.

This is like submarine patents.. everybody can use it and then suddenly you have to pay royalties.

I dont care if it is Linus or Ghandhi that does bad things.. This is a bad thing. Shame on you.

Awesom35 fp (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13354731)

racist? How is else up their aases May be hurting the as it is licensed Users With Large Subscribers. Please before playing to ARCHITECTURE. MY influence, the already dead. It is

Linus really approves of Jeremy Malcolm? (1, Interesting)

artifex2004 (766107) | about 9 years ago | (#13354738)

An awful lot of people in the previous ./ coverage [slashdot.org] had problems with this [google.com] .

donald trump said... (2, Funny)

TarryTops (888130) | about 9 years ago | (#13354741)

Never get down on your knees , begging your client/customer to accept his great product. Let that beotch come to you! Mark Fleury has learnt it. and Lot's of other Open Sauce fired chicklets are following suit. It(some rights issues) will generate friction but eventually will give *that OS*(I don;t want him to sue me..heh heh) more credibility( by exercising control).

Trademarks are a GOOD THING. (2, Informative)

Theovon (109752) | about 9 years ago | (#13354743)

It's amazing how uninformed so many slashdot posts on this are. Or maybe it's not amazing. If I interpret this correctly, the fee is $5000 per million revenue on a product that uses the trademark. If I don't sell $1million, I don't pay $5000. Furthermore, this has absolutely no effect on Free Software. As long as you comply with the GPL license, you can rename the Linux kernel and do whatever you want with it.

Linux is a very important identity for the software industry, and I'm glad someone out there is doing something to protect it from being vandalized and abused.

This just in.. (2, Funny)

th0mas.sixbit.org (780570) | about 9 years ago | (#13354744)

New Linux Tactics throws Slashdot Moderation into Chaos

(AP, Teh Intarnet) Before today moderation was simple: "-1 Against OSS/Linux", "+1 For Linux". "-1 Anti Free Software", "+1 Pro Free Software". But after a quick turnaround trademark infringement score in the late quarter, slashdot moderation is thrown into chaos. "I just don't get it" states TripMaster Monkey, a slashdot regular. "It's definitely +1 for Linux.. I mean, they're getting money and ensuring a quality product.. but.. It's definitely anti-free-software." The common moderation tactic during events such as these is to use "0 I do not know what the crowd is telling me to do" to ensure no one gets hurt. More on this as it develops..

It is about trademark protection (3, Informative)

Zapdos (70654) | about 9 years ago | (#13354752)

The Linux trademark is simply being protected. For example, if you name your business, or try to trademark the name "Linux World" then you are asked to pay the fee. This fee is an acknowledgement that Linus owns the "Linux" trademark. This will allow the term "Linux" to stay open, and not be confused by someone's trademark of "Linux Smack Daddy LLC."

Another IMDB... (0, Flamebait)

Alomex (148003) | about 9 years ago | (#13354758)

Well, looks line Linux is about to pull an IMDB on us and start making money on the volunteers work. IMHO all successful open source projects will eventually end up being comercially owned and operated one way or another. The temptation is too big and the number of people who would like to profit from it is just too large.

Still a hoax (0)

jurt1235 (834677) | about 9 years ago | (#13354760)

It is opensource which matters here. A lot of quality projects without any funding will not be able to use the name linux anywmore this way since they just do not have $5000, or do not want to pay that.

Also $5000 does not garantee that their is a quality product. If you want to make sure that the Linux name is only connected to quality products, you do not reach that by asking money. THen you only garantee that some company gives you money. You will have to do a quality assurance program over the software to know if it then qualifies for your $5000 label. For a bit more extensive product this is not possible for only AU$5000. (Spent 100 hours on quality survey and you really start loosing money).

Mentioning what your product runs on or contains is not illegal either. In case of Linux, it is under the GPL, so if I do not tell what is in there, I am violating the GPL, if I tell what is in the product, I am violating the trademark.

Besides all that, having a trademark on a commonly used word is also pretty useless, as Microsoft found out the hard way in several countries: MS Windows (R) can be trademarked, but Windows could not since it is a too general word. Several countries even have laws about this kind of actions, and producers have to take care that their productname does not become a synonym for the group of products.

Response from Maddog and LMI (-1, Redundant)

lma (109377) | about 9 years ago | (#13354763)

I'm on the board of LMI, along with Maddog. Here's the actual text of the email Maddog sent as explanation to David Brae. I posted this as part of the previous Slashdot thread on this topic here http://slashdot.org/comments.pl?sid=159125&cid=133 34472 [slashdot.org] :

From: Jon maddog Hall
To: David Braue

David,

Your story is quite accurate, LAI is acting in Australia on behalf of LMI, and this is not a "scam".

Since 1995, when an unfortunate incident in the United States showed us that the world is not made of altruistic people and companies, Linux International has been defending the Linux Trademark. At that time an entity had obtained a US trademark on the word "Linux", and was trying to obtain twenty-five percent of the REVENUES of companies that had the word "Linux" in their name, or in their product names. Instead of all the member companies fighting this battle individually, Linux International fought it and won. Unfortunately it cost us a lot of money to do this, despite the pro bono efforts of Gerry Davis, of the law firm of Davis and Schroeder.

Linux International has been defending the Linux Trademark for the world, which due to the costs of registering and obtaining International Trade Marks is VERY expensive. Linux International has spent over 300,000 USD to do this over the years. LI is a non-profit and does not have very much revenue, so some of this money has come from my own personal checkbook. While I can not say how much money I have spent on defending the mark per se, I can tell you that I have spent about 250,000 USD of my own money in keeping LI alive. I am not looking for medals or a chest to pin them on. I am only stating this to show people that this is not a "scam", nor is anyone making any money off this other than the international legal and trademark community, and I am sure that they are necessary and justifiable fees. Certainly Jeremy Malcolm has seemed to be above board and conscientious in all of our dealings with him, as has Jonathan Oxer and the rest of the fine people at LAI.

After a while the board of Linux International recognized the advantage of forming a separate non-profit, the Linux Mark Institute (LMI). We need LMI to be self-funding, and following trademark laws in the 200 countries of the world is very expensive. In addition to the normal issues of a company obtaining a trademark of their own product, using their own name, we have issues such as:

o "Who owns the right to use 'Linux'"
o "Who (therefore) has the right to the broad name 'Linux University'?"
o "Can there be more than one "Linux University? If so, what should its name
                be?"
o "If I call my company 'Linux Experts', does this mean that I am the only
                group of 'Linux Experts' worldwide?....shouldn't everyone come to me
                because I called myself 'Linux Experts'?"

as well as the issues of people who wish to use the name in bad ways (as a pornography attractor or on items confusing to the Linux market).

We have tried to make the licensing as unobtrusive as possible, tailored to the amounts of money that people might be making off the use of the mark, and with an eye to keeping the cost to non-profits and user groups as low as possible. We also have to re-license the name periodically so we can protect against "name squatting" (ala URLs) and defunct entities who no longer need the name they registered.

The trademark laws of the world were not created in the days of the World Wide Web, or even the Internet, where unscrupulous people can take advantage of a good name for a good idea and create havoc for people who want to start legitimate industry in their territory under a mark that is registered in some other country. By protecting the mark of "Linux" in as many countries as possible, LMI makes this type of deliberate extortion MUCH more difficult and MUCH more expensive.

Believe me, I have LOTs of other, more pleasant, more lucrative things that I can do with my life than have to deal with this, but this is the albatross that has been hung about my neck, and which I resignedly bear because others do not want it and are off making lots more money than I make.

Warmest regards,

maddog

It's fair but stupid (4, Informative)

pieterh (196118) | about 9 years ago | (#13354772)

By simple logic:

1. If the Linux(tm) mark is not looked after, it will become junk.

2. "Looking after a mark" means getting a trademark and enforcing it.

3. Enforcing a trademark means preventing others from abusing it (using it for contradictory purposes, trying to trademark it themselves, etc.) All these abuses have happened with Linux.

4. This kind of enforcement costs money, and often quite a large amount of money.

5. It's normal that the people who use the Linux mark in their business should pay this, proportionally. They benefit from a well-protected mark.

Lincensing and paying money for things we're used to getting for free is a bit sad, but in the real world. people do mean and unkind things when money is involved. This means: if you like Linux, if your business depends on it, and if you want the word to mean anything at all, you should be willing to pay for this.

Ultimately, though, Linux will become (IMO) the commodity OS just as TCP/IP became the commodity networking protocol. Within 5-10 years, no-one will pay much attention to this.

From this perspective, asking licensing fees, even small ones, will slow down adoption. It creates one more barrier for people who have Linux-related business ideas.

What I would have done is to license the mark and pursue those who abuse it, but allow free licensing for those who comply with certain criteria - especially non-commercial open source projects.

Tove Torvalds (1, Insightful)

Frankie70 (803801) | about 9 years ago | (#13354774)

wants a 10 carat Diamond Tennis Bracelet for the anniversary - that's where all this began.

Better to let it dilute! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13354799)

Maddog is a nice guy and I'm sure he has the right intentions, but spending 300.000,- USD on the trademark which isn't even registered in all countries and certainly not followed-up is an awfull lot of money. Where did that go? A simple trademark registration in one country costs about 200 USD...
But anyway...

Another poster's response that it's costly to spend 200,- USD for a volunteer is true! It should be maxium 5,- USD! It makes a big difference for a student/volunteer/third world engineer...

But it would be better to let it dilute and render every trademark protection in that sense impossible (including 'evil trademark use')! "Dilution" is an expensive word to call it when other people use your trademark without license, it renders a trademark unenforcable. Sure, it would mean that a porn site calling itself 'The Linux Gang Bang' wouldn't be a problem. But - seriously - do you really believe anybody would be interested in calling it like that? And what would be the problem with that?

Tradmark dilution is already there - virtually no Linux consulting shop has a license - nowhere, worldwide. Why has Maddog choosen this moment to change this and use Australia as a testing ground?

Is his VA Linux-stock-owned money running low? And is that the reason why Larry tried to push Slashdot to post Maddog's reply [linux.org.au] ?

Maybe we find out in a next episode of Slashdot ;-)

But if Linus really cares about the community, letting the trademark dilute is certainly the best option availble!

I heard the explanation (1)

ifwm (687373) | about 9 years ago | (#13354800)

and I don't believe them. Flame away if you want, but the explanation doesn't answer all of my questions, and I'm still not convinced.

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