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Linux Trademark Fun Continues

CmdrTaco posted about 9 years ago | from the stuff-to-read dept.

The Almighty Buck 337

Orre noted an article running on internetnews about LMI's efforts to license the Linux trademark to companies that use it. Prices range from $200 to $5k for companies with over a million bucks in revenue.

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Why charge for it? (4, Interesting)

benna (614220) | about 9 years ago | (#13378531)

Why not just create a blanket license which says for what purposes the Linux trademark is allowed to be used, and be done with it. No need to charge companies for it, if, as Linus says, it isn't about the money. It seems to me this would satisfy the requirement that Linus police his trademark.

Re:Why charge for it? (4, Informative)

enodev (692876) | about 9 years ago | (#13378545)

because lmi tries to get self sufficient. currently they lose money (lawyers, etc.).

Re:Why charge for it? (-1, Offtopic)

Hamilton Publius (909539) | about 9 years ago | (#13378813)

Gerhard Schroder's suggestion to "take the military option off the table" in dealing with Iran's advancing nuclear program should be dismissed. No amount of "negotiations" and "incentives" will persuade the Iranian mullahs to give up their quest for nuclear weapons.

Iran's claim that their reactors will be used for civilian purposes is absurd. Iran has more oil to generate electricity than it could possibly consume. Moreover, Iran's desire to destroy the United States (the "Great Satan") has been made clear by more than two decades of "Death to America" chanting in state-controlled mosques.

The Iranian mullahs are ideologically committed to spreading Islam throughout the world by force, and they will not abandon their murderous goal for political "concessions" or financial aid. Even the threat of war against Iran is unlikely to stop the mullahs from developing nuclear weapons. Deterrence only works against those who value their own lives. As the hordes of Islamic fanatics who blew themselves up in recent years have amply demonstrated, these people value death, not life. We can't risk our existence on the mullahs being an exception.

Iran is an avowed enemy of the United Sates and a major state sponsor of terrorism. It finances, trains, shelters and equips terrorists from organizations like Al-Qaeda, Hamas, Hezbollah, Slashdot and Islamic Jihad. Iran is currently waging a proxy war against the United States in Iraq and killing American soldiers by the dozens.

Once Iran gets hold of nuclear weapons, the United States will be an easy target for blackmail and a likely target for mass destruction. We cannot let that happen.

Re:Why charge for it? (5, Insightful)

Q2Serpent (216415) | about 9 years ago | (#13378549)

It may not be about the money, but it still costs plenty to keep a trademark. Some money needs to be charged just to break even.

Re:Why charge for it? (4, Insightful)

maxwell demon (590494) | about 9 years ago | (#13378662)

But why charging non-profit uses?
I don't have a problem with companies earning money with Linux based products to have to pay for using the trademark. But non-profit uses should be cost-free.

Re:Why charge for it? (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13378841)

In spirit I agree with you but legally speaking...no dice. You can't call your own burgers "Big Macs", even if you plan to give them to charity.

Re:Why charge for it? (2, Interesting)

xappax (876447) | about 9 years ago | (#13378743)

I agree that LMI needs and deserves money, and that it's fair to ask businesses who are making a profit off of linux to chip in, but there's a bigger problem than the fees that's unresolved.

If Linus is the trademark holder, then like he says, we're relying on his personal judgement to "protect Linux" rather than using it as some kind of "legalistic enforcement tool". I know he's a good guy, but if we just trusted everyone to be good guys, we wouldn't need stuff like the GNU license.

What happens if he changes his mind? What happens if he gets sucked into a weirdo-cult? What happens if he dies and his heir is a greedy scumbag?

If we're really serious about making Linux a decentralized movement, open to reinterpretation by anyone, we need to remove points of control like this one and put them in the hands of trusted organizations or legal agreements.

Re:Why charge for it? (3, Funny)

DrMowinckel (899236) | about 9 years ago | (#13378826)

What happens if he gets sucked into a weirdo-cult? You mean, as in the F(L)OSS Community?

Re:Why charge for it? (1)

Lussarn (105276) | about 9 years ago | (#13378819)

Apple tries to dodge OpenGroups Unix trademark with "It's Unixbased"

Maybe these poor companies do the same, "It's Linuxbased".

Re:Why charge for it? (1)

wiredlogic (135348) | about 9 years ago | (#13378906)

Some money needs to be charged just to break even.

Then why the discrimination against larger companies? There should just be a flat rate to cover costs.

Re:Why charge for it? (4, Informative)

n0-0p (325773) | about 9 years ago | (#13378652)

There are several reasons why that approach won't work. This groklaw post [groklaw.net] covers the issues very thoroughly.

No $, No Legal Protection (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13378689)

You cannot create a trademark and let people use it for free. The way to show that a trademark is valid and to insure that it remains valid is to charge for it. If you allow people to use your trademark with no charge, the legal system will no longer recognize the trademark and in this case all protection of the mark Linux would disappear.

This is why Linus has to charge (and also why he charges such a low amount).

Re:Why charge for it? (2, Insightful)

Iriel (810009) | about 9 years ago | (#13378695)

While this isn't always the case, the nice thing about paying for something is the paper trail it leaves behind. When you pay for the license to use the Linux trademark, there is a financial transaction that leaves a veritable homing beacon on your product for the purposes of 'policing' the trademark. Most /. readers have probably already seen, by now, a large number of creative and technology content given the OS wrong license with the appropriate legal battles as a result. This is just a man protecting the name he made.

As it has already been pointed out, trademarks aren't cheap and the name is the only thing that Linux himself actually "owns" in the truest sense of the word. As such, he has a right to charge for the right for people for using his trademark. There are plenty of companies that use the linux technology without the Linux name, afterall. It's not as if he's charging to use the kernel, just the word Linux in your product title.

So I guess... (2, Funny)

Nuclear Elephant (700938) | about 9 years ago | (#13378536)

Prices range from $200 to $5k for companies with over a million bucks in revenue.

So I guess that's free as in 'freedom' then?

Re:So I guess... (1)

10Ghz (453478) | about 9 years ago | (#13378586)

This is not about software, this is about trademarks

Re:So I guess... (1)

Nuclear Elephant (700938) | about 9 years ago | (#13378639)

This is not about software, this is about trademarks

Ah. then we need a third category: Free as in Trademarks.

Re:So I guess... (5, Informative)

gnasher719 (869701) | about 9 years ago | (#13378661)

As has been explained at great lengths on groklaw, you are absolutely free for example to make a Linux distribution named "Knoppix" without having to pay anything, and obviously you are allowed to say "Knoppix is a Linux (R) distribution. Linux (R) is a registered trademark of the owner of the Linux trademark."

You are not allowed to create a distribution and call it "Knoppix Linux" without paying for the trademark. And Microsoft is not allowed to distribute "Microsoft Linux" without paying for the trademark. And once Linux takes over the computing world, Microsoft will not be allowed to rename "Vista" to "Linux" and distribute it as "Microsoft Linux" at all, in order to retain a tiny bit of market share, because Linus can refuse to let anyone use "Linux" in a product name if it isn't Linux what they are selling.

Re:So I guess... (4, Informative)

squiggleslash (241428) | about 9 years ago | (#13378721)

Yup.

Probably worth mentioning, because some people seem to think it's an issue: it's not necessary to infringe upon a trademark to make a program work the way you want it to work. There's nothing inherently wrong with trademarks, either in theory or in practice, in fact, when properly used they provide a useful way of ensuring people can't pass off their stuff as something else.

Not that they're impossible to abuse, but I don't see any evidence Linus is abusing them. Actually, I'd go further than that: At the moment, Linus isn't making any money from the operation, seeing it as something that should be self-funding and non-profit. I know a lot of people are defending him against supposed charges that this is not what's happening, as if there'd be something wrong if it was a profitable operation.

But if he wants to make a profit from it, I'm not going to criticise him for that. He did some initial work that, while it may be overrated (the GNU tools form a bigger, more complicated, and IMNSHO, more useful part of the end user operating system than his kernel), was useful to many people and captured a lot of mindshare. He associated a corruption of his name to that program. And he has managed that project for more than a decade. In the view of most free software people, and I'm one of them, it would be unethical for him to be rewarded by crippling the program itself, preventing people from being able to improve it and to help one another. But making money from the mindshare aspect, from being able to say "This is Linux, the Real Thing. The version officially blessed by Linus Torvalds, as you can see from the name"? That's fine by me. That's actually beneficial to everyone.

The software continues to be free. Sure, my version will have to be called "Squiggix". Your version will have to be called "Nuclearelephantix". The fact we can't call them Linux, we can't claim they're the real thing without actually funding the project, is hardly damaging to our freedom. And it certainly helps Linus, should he ever want to, to make sure his name is only a[tt]ached to versions he has control over (a key artistic moral right - nobody should have to be associated with something they didn't endorse), and helps end users choose on the basis of active support for Linux, and the stamp of approval of a known person.

Re:So I guess... (0)

Phil06 (877749) | about 9 years ago | (#13378761)

Free as in blow job (it's free but you probably had to buy her some jewelry)

Re:So I guess... (1)

kleinux (320571) | about 9 years ago | (#13378817)

Prices range from $200 to $5k for companies with over a million bucks in revenue.


So I guess that's free as in 'freedom' then?

No, freedom costs a buck o' five.

This is a good idea (5, Insightful)

TurdTapper (608491) | about 9 years ago | (#13378538)

I don't see anything wrong with this. He is protecting the name and still allowing it to be accessible to your every day developers/programmers.

If a company has more than 1 million in revenue, 5k is pocket change. While 200 dollars is well within range of a couple of guys programming in their basement. And this also allows some protection for those guys in their basement if someone tries to take their name. They might not have the money for a legal battle, but for 200 bucks they can insure their name.

Re:This is a good idea (1, Funny)

duffbeer703 (177751) | about 9 years ago | (#13378645)

Plus, if you can't cough up $200, two guys in a basement have the option of just changing their product's name so that it doesn't claim to be "Linux".

A product called "Two Guys in a Basement OS" or "Two Guys in a Basement OS, Powered by Linux" would not require a trademark license.

Re:This is a good idea (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13378671)

isn't tis a bit much from the man who wrote less than 2% of the code????

Re:This is a good idea (3, Insightful)

GigsVT (208848) | about 9 years ago | (#13378690)

If a company has more than 1 million in revenue, 5k is pocket change.

Bullshit.

1 million in revenue means 10k is a good 1% profit. Such a company has to give up 0.5% of their profits for the year just to license something they thought was free.

A scam is a scam no matter who is running it.

Re:This is a good idea (2, Insightful)

Evil Adrian (253301) | about 9 years ago | (#13378716)

They've been trying to protect the trademark since 2000, it's common knowledge.

If you didn't realize you had to license the name, TOO BAD. You totally deserve to get burned if you don't do your homework before you go into business.

Re:This is a good idea (1)

GigsVT (208848) | about 9 years ago | (#13378795)

And if suddenly all the projects that have trademarked names want to start charging?

This is a mess waiting to happen.

Guy: "Hi, I'm using Ubuntu OS"

Otherguy: "What's that?"

Guy: "It's this OS, it's kinda like Red Hat OS and BSD, but different"

Otherguy: "Well what are you doing with it?"

Guy: "I'm using this image editing program called Cripple, it's like Retard is on Red Hat OS, and Amputee from Debian" ....

You can see how this can be very damaging to the entire open source movement.

Re:This is a good idea (1)

gowen (141411) | about 9 years ago | (#13378856)

Meanwhile, back in the reality occupied by people who are aware of how trademark law operates:

Guy: "Hi, I'm using Ubuntu OS"
Otherguy: "What's that?"
Guy: It's a Linux distribuition. See here on the packet where it says "Powered By Linux"...
Otherguy: Oh, cool

Re:This is a good idea (1)

GigsVT (208848) | about 9 years ago | (#13378907)

What makes you think they would allow you to put "Powered by Linux" on there?

Re:This is a good idea (1)

Androclese (627848) | about 9 years ago | (#13378912)

Then they have three options:

1) Change the product name so it does not say Linux, possibly losing their $100k in profit.

2) Keep Linux in the name, pay the license to use the name Linux (which belongs to Linus, not anybody else), and make $95k in profit.

3) Call it a scam, don't pay for a license, get sued, be hated by the Linux community, and go out of business making $0 profit.

Re:This is a good idea (1, Insightful)

A_Known_Coward (513453) | about 9 years ago | (#13378712)

No, I disagree with you.

The spirit of Open Source is openness FOR ALL. When it is applied to certain organization just because they can afford it, you break the spirit of openness.

If you want to stifle the growth of Linux and Open Source in general, this is a sure bet to get it done.

Re:This is a good idea (1)

hotdiggitydawg (881316) | about 9 years ago | (#13378802)

That's fine, if you live in some parallel utopia.

Back here in the Real World(TM) an unprotected trademark can be taken over by someone else. At the moment, Linus is protecting the trademark, still allowing anyone to use it (many people seem to miss this point), and giving preverence to those who officially licence it for a nominal fee. The alternative? The trademark goes unprotected and someone like SCO asserts that they own it instead... and any use of the word "Linux" anywhere suddenly requires a very hefty fee...

Re:This is a good idea (2, Insightful)

releppes (829336) | about 9 years ago | (#13378745)

With that arguement, you might just as well say an average income family of 40k/yr should have no problem renting Windows for $100/yr? And all the arguements of why BUY Windows when Linux is FREE would be moot.

Don't get me wrong, this whole trademark thing may be good. I just don't agree with your rationale.

I don't know how trademarks work in general, but one thing I was curious about was the comment in the artical about how anyone could create their own Linux name/product, but then be a possible target of someone else coming with a cease and desist letter. So with the trademark thing, say someone created their own Linux name/product but didn't opt for buying the Linux trademark. Say that product/company becomes very successful. Could some prick then go buy the Linux trademark for that product then play games with them?

Re:This is a good idea (1)

CKnight (92200) | about 9 years ago | (#13378832)

So with the trademark thing, say someone created their own Linux name/product but didn't opt for buying the Linux trademark. Say that product/company becomes very successful. Could some prick then go buy the Linux trademark for that product then play games with them? ...yes.

Re:This is a good idea (1)

GigsVT (208848) | about 9 years ago | (#13378842)

Actually at these rates, 40k/year would be paying $200/year. Half a percent of your income isn't "pocket change" for anyone.

Re:This is a good idea (1)

ray-auch (454705) | about 9 years ago | (#13378849)

"1 million in revenue" ($)

That is _gross_ revenue - not profit. That isn't a big company. In fact under some definitions it wouldn't even be big enough to qualify as "small" (as in SME).

It would probably be only 5 or 6 people (based on UK averages). Each of those people is going to have to find $1000 for this - plus there is stuff to sign, so add legal costs (for review etc.). Plus reprinting costs etc. for adding the required attributions.

If we are talking about an open source start-up (possibly loss-making), with people working for less so they can contribute back to the community, this must be a kick in the teeth.

Huh (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13378547)

Prices range from $200 to $5k for companies with over a million bucks in revenue.

I guess information wants to be free, but not as in beer.

Re:Huh (2, Informative)

tha_mink (518151) | about 9 years ago | (#13378699)

I guess information wants to be free, but not as in beer.

You can have Linux for free still, you just can't use the name in your product/service/name etc, without paying for the privilege. It's still free.

Re:Huh (4, Informative)

ucahg (898110) | about 9 years ago | (#13378718)

[i]I guess information wants to be free, but not as in beer.[/i]

A trademark is hardly 'Information' in the sense of the word that free software advocates would purport it.

Consider if Microsoft created a terrible linux distro purposely, and called it Ubuntu, and marketed it as Ubuntu (not assocaited with MS) on the web. The people over at the real Ubuntu would want to fight back. That's the power of the trademark, it protects your name and image, not your 'information'.

Dead Horse... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13378551)

... Please meet your beating....

Laws (2, Interesting)

kevin_conaway (585204) | about 9 years ago | (#13378556)

Who enforces these laws? Are they enforced by the country where the trademark is being used?

If I am in Swaziland and I start selling my own version of Linux, who is going to stop me? I suppose the community won't recognize it as an official "Linux" distribution?

Re:Laws (4, Informative)

duffbeer703 (177751) | about 9 years ago | (#13378598)

The trademark just means that you cannot call yourself "Linux".

If you call your distro "Swaziland Linux", you need to buy a license.

If you call your distro "Swazilandix" or "Swaziland Operating Environment", etc, you don't need any license at all.

If you start selling soda and call it KevinConaway Coke, you need a license from Coca-Cola. If you call it KevinConaway's Cola, you're ok.

Trademarks are different than patents or copyrights. They exist to protect the integrity of a brand -- not the ideas.

Re:Laws (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13378853)

And if I start selling coke and call it KevinConaway Coke, do I still need a license from Coca-Cola?

Re:Laws (1)

hotdiggitydawg (881316) | about 9 years ago | (#13378864)

If you call your distro "Swaziland Linux", you need to buy a license.

Wrong. You only need to buy a licence if you also want to register the trademark "Swaziland Linux". Of course, you could not licence it and not trademark your own name, but then there's nothing stopping someone else coming along and calling their product "Swaziland Linux"...

Re:Laws (1)

redwiregmail (841822) | about 9 years ago | (#13378628)

It would apply there, its a international trademark, you might escape it in international waters and a few 3rd world countries though.

It certainly applies in Australia where I am, theres a been a bit of media spurned uproar about it, mainly because places like zdnet.com.au are glossing over the tier price structure and only mentioning the max fee in articles.

Frankly its understandable why its going on, because trademark owners have an obligation to maintain a trademark by protecting it even against small infractions or risk loosing it. Sadly if Linux was available for everyone to slap on thier company name and anything they make without any sort of control at all the evil guys will rip its good to shreds.

So Linus has gone with a minimal amount he is required to go with to give a good show that he is maintaining the trademark. And good on him for doing it.

The trademark owner (2, Informative)

ImaLamer (260199) | about 9 years ago | (#13378630)

From TFA:
On January 18th 2000, Torvalds, in an e-mail to the Linux kernel developers list, explained the need to protect the Linux trademark.


At the time, Torvalds noted: "Trademark law requires that the trademark owner police the use of the trademark."


The e-mail:
http://www.ussg.iu.edu/hypermail/linux/kernel/0001 .2/0646.html [iu.edu]

Trademark Requirements (3, Funny)

Nuclear Elephant (700938) | about 9 years ago | (#13378559)

Trademark Requirements:

1. Does it run Linux?
2. ...
3. Profit?

Re:Trademark Requirements (3, Insightful)

Androclese (627848) | about 9 years ago | (#13378860)

Your list is incorrect.

1. Does it SAY Linux in the product name?
Y - Pay for a License
N - Don't need a License

2. The Linux Name has integrity and is not watered down

Everybody needs to stop jumping to conclusions and read what is actually trying to be done here. [groklaw.net]

Didn't we discuss this already? (3, Insightful)

A beautiful mind (821714) | about 9 years ago | (#13378566)

I mean, what's the new thing? The previous two articles made it clear that it costs between $200 and $5k. Linus posted about it on LKML and basically confirmed. Why is it a bad thing? Well, if anything blame the trademark system, that someone needs to agressively protect a trademark.

Wait a minute! (-1, Redundant)

Crixus (97721) | about 9 years ago | (#13378571)

Hey, won't these new patent law changes fix this? Oh wait, that's something else. ;-)

Linus Torvalds explains it (5, Informative)

enodev (692876) | about 9 years ago | (#13378574)

To prevent more FUD being spread, please read

http://lkml.org/lkml/2005/8/20/95 [lkml.org]

Re:Linus Torvalds explains it (2, Funny)

david.given (6740) | about 9 years ago | (#13378697)

Linus Torvald explains Slashdot:
...quite frankly, the whole _point_ of slashdot is to have this big public wanking session with people getting together and making their own "insightful" comment on any random topic, whether they know anything about it or not.

...and, once again, gets it spot on!

(I'm just wondering whether this gets modded 'Funny', 'Insightful', or 'Flamebait'...)

Re:Linus Torvalds explains it (1)

maxwell demon (590494) | about 9 years ago | (#13378801)

(I'm just wondering whether this gets modded 'Funny', 'Insightful', or 'Flamebait'...)

Probably all three of them :-)

Re:Linus Torvalds explains it (1)

ifwm (687373) | about 9 years ago | (#13378901)

And that in a nutshell displays how much respect he has for his target audience.

Re:Linus Torvalds explains it (1)

badger.foo (447981) | about 9 years ago | (#13378884)

It certainly isn't new, and IIRC the main reason why Linus ended up owning the Linux trademark was that somebody else had registered the Linux trademark sometime in 1996 and soon started sending letters to among others Linux Journal, Red Hat and basically anyone in the GNU/Linux busines demanding -- what else -- royalties. He didn't get anywhere among other things because Linus et al could prove that they had used the "Linux" name as early as 1991. Googling on "Della Croce Linux trademark" will turn up enough backround (but only 621 links nowadays) for anyone interested.

Once you own a trademark, the next phase (at least in the US) is to make sure it stays protected by policing the use.

Red Hat doesn't have a license (3, Interesting)

darthcamaro (735685) | about 9 years ago | (#13378575)

That's the real interesting part of this - Red Hat doesn't have a license, neither does Mandriva. Novell does. So if it's good enough for Red Hat not to have a license than it's good enough for me.

Re:Red Hat doesn't have a license (4, Informative)

TurdTapper (608491) | about 9 years ago | (#13378606)

Red Hat doesn't have one because they aren't using 'Linux' in their name. It's Red Hat, Inc.

I call BS! (4, Interesting)

ImaLamer (260199) | about 9 years ago | (#13378658)

Red Hat doesn't have one because they aren't using 'Linux' in their name. It's Red Hat, Inc.

Makes me wonder though why Novell pays, being that they are "Novell Inc.".

What about the product: "Red Hat Enterprise Linux"?

Interestingly, I notice that the Red Hat web site doesn't use "Linux" on the front page except in direct reference to RHEL.

Re:Red Hat doesn't have a license (1)

rhedin (91503) | about 9 years ago | (#13378668)

except that their product is "Red Hat Enterprise Linux"

Re:Red Hat doesn't have a license (2, Insightful)

TheRaven64 (641858) | about 9 years ago | (#13378676)

They are creating a derived work of the Linux kernel (taking the kernel.org sources and applying custom patches). They are then distributing this thing as Red Hat Enterprise Linux. It's not Linux, although it's very close, and it is being sold as Linux. They definitely need to license the trademark. Interestingly, they don't for Fedora Core, since that doesn't have Linux in the name. I would not be surprised it they simply dropped Linux from the name of their enterprise system - Red Hat is fairly well associated with Linux already, so they could get away with just calling it the Red Hat Enterprise System (or whatever). This would have the added advantage for them of strengthening the Red Hat brand, at the expense of the Linux brand, and allowing them to move to a BSD or HURD kernel at some point in the future if this proved advantageous.

Re:Red Hat doesn't have a license (1)

emmavl (202243) | about 9 years ago | (#13378875)

Just read Linus' post on LKML. Red Hat has a trademark on 'Red Hat' so they don't need to protect 'Red Hat Enterprise Linux' because nobody else can call their distro that ...

Re:Red Hat doesn't have a license (5, Informative)

n0-0p (325773) | about 9 years ago | (#13378760)

If you had a valid sublicense before August 2004 you are grandfathered in for free. Based on that I expect that Red Hat doesn't have to purchase a license at all. Perhaps Novell did need to purchase a license due to Suse changing hands, or maybe they just chose to opt in and avoid any potential hassle. After all, the cost is quite negligible for them.

Confused? (1)

BenjyD (316700) | about 9 years ago | (#13378577)

Can someone out there explain what this means in simple words a dumb software developer like me can understand? Say I wanted to create a Linux distro called "FooLinux" now, as an entirely volunteer, non-commercial effort. Do I have to pay the LMI $200 if I want to operate in one of the jurisdictions where the trademark is valid?

Re:Confused? (1)

Agret (752467) | about 9 years ago | (#13378612)

No, only if you are generating revenue from the name.

Re:Confused? (1)

TurdTapper (608491) | about 9 years ago | (#13378621)

Nope, you can still use it.

FTA: Torvalds explained that a company could decide not to sublicense and call their product "anything MyLinux but the downside is that you may have somebody else who _did_ protect himself come along and send you a cease-and-desist letter."

It's all about whether someone wants or need protection and "not about whether LMI wants the money or not," according to Torvalds.

Re:Confused? (1)

releppes (829336) | about 9 years ago | (#13378803)

So say someone starts a product first but doesn't buy a trademark. Then someone else, seeing the success of the first person, makes their product and does license the trademark. So now the second person can sue the first person over the trademark name? So would the morale be Linux is free and do as you wish but if you want to be protected pay us money. If you don't want protection, that's fine. We'll only provide the tools for others to come after you.

Mind you, I have no idea what I'm talking about. I'm just painting a real bastardized scenario. However, if just a scenario could exist....who's side would LMI really be on?

Re:Confused? (1)

spectrokid (660550) | about 9 years ago | (#13378657)

or you can call it "myBeautifullDistro", and not pay a cent either.

Re:Confused? (1)

nomadic (141991) | about 9 years ago | (#13378679)

You don't have to, and LMI won't come after you, but it's theoretically possible that another company who DID license the name will come after you.

To end this for once and for all (4, Insightful)

jurt1235 (834677) | about 9 years ago | (#13378592)

After several days of reading about this subject and totally wrong commenting on it myself, here the groklaw link:
http://www.groklaw.net/article.php?story=200508160 92029989 [groklaw.net]

This article links to
http://www.linuxmark.org/ [linuxmark.org]

This explains everything, so a lot of projects should pay, but at this moment they are just trying to make up for the cost of protecting the trademark by going after big players (>1mln US$).

I only disagree with one thing: A trademark does not garantee quality at the moment of rewarding the trademark. You only know that the product sucked when the trademark is revoked because of bad quality.

Re:To end this for once and for all (2, Informative)

cpt kangarooski (3773) | about 9 years ago | (#13378791)

I only disagree with one thing: A trademark does not garantee quality at the moment of rewarding the trademark. You only know that the product sucked when the trademark is revoked because of bad quality.

No, a trademark is essentially a stand-in for quality. A customer can know, based on the mark, that drinks branded as Coke will have a particular taste; that cars branded as Yugos will suck.

If these expectations aren't met, due to quality standards that vary (either way) among identically-branded goods, then the trademark is no longer serving its purpose. Then bad things happen to the mark holder's rights.

This is why it is critical that trademark licenses include quality control standards and auditing. If Linus isn't spot-checking licensees, and making sure that their software is still basically Linux, and not significantly different, and revoking licenses where these standards aren't met, his rights are in jeopardy. In fact, failure to include provisions for doing this will harm him right off the bat.

Linus (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13378596)

Linus is still asking for $200-$5000 per usage from Australian companies. I noticed Slashdot never updated the story after implying it was a hoax. It is not a hoax [msdn.com] .

The trouble with 'free' (-1, Redundant)

Kaorimoch (858523) | about 9 years ago | (#13378601)

It seems that copyright law has no provision for enabling something to be available for free. Its either public domain / exploitable or tied up in for-profit copyright.

The software is free, but you have to pay to use it. What a strange world we live in.

Re:The trouble with 'free' (1)

10Ghz (453478) | about 9 years ago | (#13378619)

The software is free, but you have to pay to use it. What a strange world we live in.


Do you don't. the software is still 100% free, both in speech and in beer.

Re:The trouble with 'free' (2, Informative)

Agret (752467) | about 9 years ago | (#13378626)

It's only if you are using the Linux name on something that is earning money. It is the name you pay for. You don't have to pay for it but if someone else gets a license for the same copyright as your name they can send a cease and desist. You are buying protection.

Re:The trouble with 'free' (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13378646)

No, you have to pay to use the NAME, not the software.

Re:The trouble with 'free' (3, Informative)

VP (32928) | about 9 years ago | (#13378677)

Trademark law is different from copyright law. The fact that in the US the same governmental agency handles both doesn't make them the same.

The software is free, and you don't have to pay to use it. If you want to register a trademark which contains "Linux" in it, then you need to license the use of "Linux".

Re:The trouble with 'free' (2, Insightful)

alexwt (249518) | about 9 years ago | (#13378714)

You're not paying to use the software, you're only paying if you want to create an entity containing the name "Linux" and wan't to be protected against someone else using that name.

Re:The trouble with 'free' (4, Insightful)

maxwell demon (590494) | about 9 years ago | (#13378777)

The software is free, but you have to pay to use it.

You don't have to pay to use the software. You don't have to distribute it or anything based on it either. You don't even have to pay for selling it. You do have to pay for calling the thing yor distribute "Linux" (or anything which contains "Linux").

For example, Knoppix will not have to pay anything, because it's not named "Linux", but, well, "Knoppix". I'm not sure if "Linspire" is already considered close enough to "Linux" to need a license, however.

Note that software licensing and trademark licensing are two completely different things. For example, if you make a Linux Distro and name it "T-Linux", I'm sure you'll get trouble with the Deutsche Telekom, depite them not being involved with Linux code at all: AFAIK they have a trademark on the initial "T-" part (T-Online, T-Mobile, ...)

no big deal (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13378603)

from TFA:

Attorney Jeremy Malcolm has already contacted 90 Australian companies on behalf of Linus Torvalds in order to get them to obtain a license to use the Linux trademark. The letters have brought the issue to the forefront of the open source collective consciousness, yet again.

"You may or may not be aware that it is your legal responsibility to obtain a license from the Linux Mark Institute before you are allowed to use the word 'Linux' as part of your product or service name or brand," the letter states.

Linux trademark licensing is administered on behalf of Torvalds by the Linux Mark Institute (LMI). Fees range from $200 and go up to $5,000 for commercial firms with revenue greater than $1 million. It is important to note that the license is for vendors of Linux products to become a sub-licensee of the Linux trademark. It is not a license for users to use Linux (like SCOsource is advocating).

Though the action has raised the ire of some, the issue is by no means a new one. In fact, the LMI and Torvalds' efforts to protect the trademark date back to at least the beginning of the millennium.

Re:no big deal (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13378698)

I wonder if this lawyer or someone connected to him is the one I saw tooling around in Mosman (Sydney) recently in a Porsche Cayenne with the number plate "Linux"?

The big deal (2, Informative)

VP (32928) | about 9 years ago | (#13378776)

The big deal in Australia is that Jeremy Malcolm sent the letter to people and companies who have no intentions to use Linux as part of their product names, service names or brands. They had mentioned Linux as one of the platforms their products run on, yet they still got a letter. The letter was also worded poorly (think RIAA-type legalese), that is why the whole uproar started.

I hope Linus, Maddog, and LMI understand that they need to control how the enforcement of the mark is done before they let seemingly well-intentioned lawyers take a short cut and mass-mail a hard-to-comprehend legal form...

Yeah we think yous guys may need protection... (0, Flamebait)

Ingolfke (515826) | about 9 years ago | (#13378636)

"Torvalds explained that a company could decide not to sublicense and call their product "anything MyLinux but the downside is that you may have somebody else who _did_ protect himself come along and send you a cease-and-desist letter."

It's all about whether someone wants or need protection


Torvalds later went on to say that "it's a dangerous world out there. You know if you don't buy some protection from me things could happen. You might fall and break your legs, or maybe your house catches fire. Dangerous times."

Linus disses /. (4, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13378637)


" the whole _point_ of slashdot is to have this big public wanking session with people getting together and making their own "insightful" comment on any random topic, whether they know anything about it or not."

- Linus Torvalds, 20 Aug 2005

http://lkml.org/lkml/2005/8/20/95 [lkml.org]

A/C trolls /. (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13378717)

Linus also said:

"[ And don't get me wrong - I follow slashdot too, exactly because it's fun
    to see people argue. I'm not complaining ;]"

Since it's now salshdotted, see http://72.14.207.104/search?q=cache:HR1UTE7bLf0J:l kml.org/lkml/2005/8/20/95+&hl=en [72.14.207.104] [Google cache}

Re:Linus disses /. (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13378896)

"I hate them Slashdot fuckers!" -Bill

But... (4, Funny)

Vo0k (760020) | about 9 years ago | (#13378648)

But I've already paid $699! How can they charge me again for the same thing?!

My Favorite Quote From Linus (4, Funny)

bajan_on_ice (32348) | about 9 years ago | (#13378675)

from http://lkml.org/lkml/2005/8/20/95 [lkml.org] which explains this whole debacle...

Gaah. I don't tend to bother about slashdot, because quite frankly, the whole _point_ of slashdot is to have this big public wanking session with people getting together and making their own "insightful" comment on any random topic, whether they know anything about it or not.


Now THATS insightful!

Re:My Favorite Quote From Linus (0)

hey! (33014) | about 9 years ago | (#13378815)

Well, as Woody Allen said, "Don't knock masturbation -- it's sex with somebody I love."

What kind of revenue (2, Interesting)

slapout (93640) | about 9 years ago | (#13378688)

revenue

Net or gross? :-)

Unless you're SCO... (1, Funny)

slapout (93640) | about 9 years ago | (#13378701)

...then your fee is $1,000,000,000 per copy :-)

Re:Unless you're SCO... (1)

Zemplar (764598) | about 9 years ago | (#13378797)

"..then your fee is $1,000,000,000 per copy :-)"

That should read, "One Hundred Billion Dollars!"

Of course, I'm sure you might get a discount if you barter for some sharks with laser beams attached to their foreheads...

What about amateur distros? (1)

Vo0k (760020) | about 9 years ago | (#13378709)

What about things like Damn Small Linux, Linux On A Floppy, Polish Linux Distribution and all those non-commercial Linux distros? If I made a Tiny Linux Router distro for my own firewall, and make it available on my FTP, do I have to rename it, or shell out $200 to continue using the name?

Re:What about amateur distros? (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13378770)

What about things like Damn Small Linux, Linux On A Floppy, Polish Linux Distribution and all those non-commercial Linux distros? If I made a Tiny Linux Router distro for my own firewall, and make it available on my FTP, do I have to rename it, or shell out $200 to continue using the name?

Hi! I bold'ed the part you need to re-read from your own question...

Re:What about amateur distros? (2, Insightful)

Vo0k (760020) | about 9 years ago | (#13378843)

Torvalds explained that a company could decide not to sublicense and call their product "anything MyLinux but the downside is that you may have somebody else who _did_ protect himself come along and send you a cease-and-desist letter."

Company or not, if you use something that is a trademark, owner of the trademark can send you C&D. That means, if some asshole pays $200 to LMI for sublicensing "Tiny Linux Router", then they take my code (it's GPL, they can), register the domain name, start selling my distro (still everything legal and okay, GPL.), and then send me a C&D letter stating I'm to stop using that name for my distro because it's their trademark and they own the license, so they get rid of the free competition. I still can rename it, and keep releasing under the new name (after removing 500 or so references to the name in the sources and docs), but then I'd better register the trademark of the new name or they license it again and continue litigation until I completely give up development of the distro, and they can continue selling it for a fee undisturbed.

IMHO, LMI should give licenses for quality non-commercial distros for free.

Old news (1)

Corbet (5379) | about 9 years ago | (#13378724)

This issue came up last June; LWN had a talk with maddog and covered the story [lwn.net] back then. It's kind of surprising to see a big deal of it being made now... In short: the licensing terms have changed a bit (see the articles for the reasons) but the core rules regarding the trademark have not.

mod u4 (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13378735)

GPL and intellectual property (1)

Anonymous Writer (746272) | about 9 years ago | (#13378763)

Doesn't the GPL include a disclaimer that states if you include your work with something covered by the GPL license, you relinquish the control of any intellectual property you have included in that work, and from there it is subject to the terms of the GPL? I thought that the GPL doesn't cover software code only, but encompass other types of work like art. Wouldn't a trademark distributed with the GPL be subject to the terms of the GPL?

There is no single thing called "IP" (1)

Peeteriz (821290) | about 9 years ago | (#13378820)

GPL has specific language related to copyrights and patents (which code might infringe).
    GPL does not deal with trademarks, as distributing any source code has nothing to do with trademarks.

    And this issue has nothing to do with Linux (as in, the pile of software called Linux). It does not affect what you can do with the pile of software called Linux.

    However, it does deal with naming your company 'Linux Widgets, Inc', or selling candy with 'Linux' written on it.

Dupe! (1, Offtopic)

gr8_phk (621180) | about 9 years ago | (#13378835)

Why do we need to alert /. every time another news source runs across this story?

Too little too late? (1)

G3ckoG33k (647276) | about 9 years ago | (#13378844)

There may well be a risk that what is done now will be too little and too late, where the ultimate risk is that Linus lose control over his trademark 'Linux'. Anyone with a better perspective?

linuxlink (0, Offtopic)

mike collins (576863) | about 9 years ago | (#13378898)

I ain't paying.
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