Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Linux Business

Who Owns The Linux Trademark? 115

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the turns-out-i-do dept.
An anonymous reader writes "In an addendum to the recent noises by Microsoft about Linux, InformationWeek blogger Alexander Wolfe has turned up an interesting list of who owns U.S. trademarks on the word "Linux." Yes, Linus Torvalds does indeed have the trademark as far as software is concerned. But Swiss company Rosch owns "Linux" for use with laundry detergents. Interestingly, both Pogo Linux and United Linux have abandoned their trademarks (Wolfe speculates that's because of Linus's lawyers). But Finite State Machines of New Mexico owns RTLinux and Linux Networx Inc. owns "Linux Supercomputing." You can also read the full list of all 204 Linux trademarks"
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Who Owns The Linux Trademark?

Comments Filter:
  • Much like the ideas behind F/Oss.
    • "Freedom is just another word for nothing left to lose"
      OTOH, given that death is a heartbeat away, perhaps the materialism was overrated.
      • by spun (1352)
        Oh Lord, won't you code me a kernel driver,
        My friends all have frame rates that are so much higher
        Write code all my lifetime, still no firewire,
        So oh Lord, won't you code me a kernel driver!
    • Re:Actually... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by vertinox (846076) on Monday May 21, 2007 @11:00AM (#19209495)
      The same name can be trademarked by multiple companies as long as they don't have the same type of business.

      Exmaple of similar trademarked companys:

      Apple Records (the ones the Beatles owned)
      Apple Computers (the one that Jobs owns)
      Apple Vacations

      Remember there was a big legal stink [wikipedia.org] between Apple Records and Apple Computers when the former released a sound card in their computer. Apple Records said that meant they were getting into the music business and then latter with iTunes.
      • by slazzy (864185)
        Yup, that is totally correct. The word "trademark" is used because it applys to a given "Trade" IE computers or music. There is also something called a well-known trademark for some of the leading brands in the world, so you can't start a car dealership called Coca-cola motors.
        • by Mr2cents (323101)
          That well-known trademark, is it decided in court? Or is it something you have to pay extra for? I mean, if "Linux Supercomputers" is a trademark, can I trademark "Windows Supercomputers"? (Ok, that's a funny name, but it's just an example).
      • I wonder if there are more companies in the English speaking world than there are words in the English language (as recognised at any instance measured by the likes of the OED).

        And then escalate that to the number of products that there are.

        Result I suspect (to both without the need to check) is a necessity to reuse words that might be part of an entities brand. You (in the UK) pretty much can't just register a regular word like Apple without additional elements that make it unique and capable of recog

    • Apples and Bicycles. (Score:3, Interesting)

      by DerekLyons (302214)
      Not really. Ownership in F/OSS is a diffuse thing, you can 'own' a chunk of software - but you don't really have any legal rights over that software. You give them up under whichever F/OSS licence you use. When you 'own' a trademark, you retain your legal rights, you can direct how the trademark is used, and you can prevent others from using it.
      • by eam (192101)
        There's a distinction between the copyright and the license.

        If you are the copyright holder, you own the work. It doesn't matter how you license it, you still own it. If the license you use says anyone can do anything, you still own it. You have just decided not to restrict use. However, the decision is yours. That's the reason I can't release Vista under the GPL. I don't hold the copyright, so I can't decide how it is used.

        If I ever get around to it, I can release my DEC PPL to PostScript converter u
  • by WrongSizeGlass (838941) on Monday May 21, 2007 @10:32AM (#19209157)
    ... who will own Linux in the future:

    1) Bill Gates and/or Microsoft
    2) Steve Jobs and/or Apple
    3) Rupert Murdock and/or MySpace
    4) SCO (via litigation from Linus, Gates, Jobs or Murdock)
    5) IBM (via litigation from SCO or cash from Linus)
    6) Cowboy Neal (via high bid on eBay)
  • Interesting, but... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by abaddononion (1004472) on Monday May 21, 2007 @10:32AM (#19209169)
    Does it really matter? This seems to be more of a discussion on trademarks rather than copyright/ownership issues. This is about the name "Linux", rather than what Linux actually IS. Even if the Linux trademark WAS what Microsoft was having disputes with (which it's not), it'd just be a "rose by any other name" scenario. Kinda like the way Gaim just changed its name to Pidgin. It's still Gaim, and it doesnt seem to me that people have had much trouble accepting the name change.

    Im not saying this is completely uninteresting. But I think it's a little strong to tie it to the "noise by Microsoft about Linux".
    • by Rob Kaper (5960)

      Does it really matter?


      No, of course not. Trademarks purposefully apply only to a certain field of operation. This whole article is about the bleeding obvious and could as well have said "gee, did you know there's a Mario Pizza in other states as well?".
    • This is about the name "Linux", rather than what Linux actually IS.

      Indeed.

      Everyone knows that Linux is a line of laundry detergents and laundry bleaches for home use; all purpose cleaning preparations; general purpose scouring powders; skin soap.

      Made from Penguins, no doubt.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by samkass (174571)
      Does this mean that Richard Stallman trying to shove "GNU/Linux" down people's throats is really a misappropriation of a trademark?
      • by Cyclops (1852)

        Does this mean that Richard Stallman trying to shove "GNU/Linux" down people's throats is really a misappropriation of a trademark?

        Whoever moderated you insightfull needs a clue bat. Let's move on the the often-but-apparently-not-enough said explanation:

        1. In 1983 Richard Stallman initiates [gnu.org] the GNU project [gnu.org]. That's the project to create a fully Free Software [fsf.org] operating system.
        2. 8 years later, in 1991, Linus Torvalds first announces a kernel that works with GNU software [google.com], and later on releases the very first [kernel.org]
        • by samkass (174571)
          The product is called Linux. The fact that GNU contributed some technology that they had lying around to Linus' product doesn't give them naming rights. In fact, that's the WHOLE POINT of open source software-- If Stallman had wanted to keep marketing control over his invention, he shouldn't have open-sourced it. Anyone can take GPL software and create a product and call it whatever they want, no matter what Stallman says or thinks. No one is forced to prepend "GNU/" to their product name.

          Thus, calling
          • by Cyclops (1852)

            The product is called Linux.

            What product? The fact remains, that Linux, is the kernel written by Linus et all [kernel.org], so your statement seems pretty bogus.

            The fact that GNU contributed some technology that they had lying around to Linus' product doesn't give them naming rights.

            Well, let's gather facts:

            1. not some, GNU project's software represents significant portions of any GNU/Linux variant. In fact, you can't even separate one from the other ever since it's 0.0.1 first release. Even Busybox/Linux variants
            • by samkass (174571)
              My apparent "anger"? Yes, anyone who disagrees with you is an angry mis-informed blockhead. I'm more amused than angry at your vehemence on re-naming Linus' operating system. And I'm familiar with my facts. The FSF operating system was called "Hurd" (later "GNU/Hurd" when Stallman became more explicit about the separation of "OS" and kernel after Linux got popular)... and it was a dismal failure.

              As for whether people should call the Linux operating system "GNU/Linux", I guess this sums it up pretty well [tldp.org]
              • by Cyclops (1852)

                And to imply that Richard Stallman "politely asks" people to call it GNU/Linux is inaccurate. He rants and raves about it, and basically calls anyone who refers it by the name Linus gave it (ie. "Linux") bad people.

                Linus only named a kernel named Linux [kernel.org], and Richard Stallman never asks people to call Linux as GNU/Linux. He asks people to call the operating system as GNU/Linux since the operating system is not the kernel alone.

                Since you obviously keep repeating a mantra, instead of reading the plethfora of

          • by Cyclops (1852)

            The product is called Linux. The fact that GNU contributed some technology that they had lying around to Linus' product doesn't give them naming rights.

            Do you read English? The program called Linux resides in http://www.kernel.org/ [kernel.org], and nobody is trying to rename that program into GNU/Linux.

            Quite the contrary, in fact. Some historical-facts-challenged people (like you) keep confusing that in a manner that can only be attributed to stupidity or mischievous intententions.

    • by DrYak (748999) on Monday May 21, 2007 @01:11PM (#19211085) Homepage

      Does it really matter?


      Yes, it does matters, indeed. There is no such thing as a "prior art" in trademarks.
      - The first to file a trademark is the first to own, no matter if the name has been around for centuries (like the term "Windows" which was used since the original Dr. Douglas C. Engelbart demo to designate an application visual space in a graphical multi-task environment).
      - Also, the trademark owner has the obligation to sue ("to enforce it's trademark") otherwise he can loose the trademark and the word may get genericised (Google fighting actively against the "verbing" of it's name to designated the act of searching on the web).
      - The only limitation is that a trademark name cannot use some generic name in it's field (You can trademark "Google", because in english similarly sounding "pair of goggles" is an optical device that has nothing to do with online search engines also the similarly sounding "googol" is a mathematical concept. Google is unheard of when speaking of search engine) (As a counter example a "window" is part of a graphical interface. Thus Microsoft has patented combinations of it "Microsoft Windows", "Microsoft Windows Vista", etc... and have a set of painfully long "trademark guidelines" on their website)
      - Also, a trademark infringement is considered only when there's an actual conflict between two names, where both could be used to designate similar objects. As said by other /. there's no possible confusion between Apple as the maker of computer- and electronic-hardware, as the Beattles' music recording company and as some travelling agency. The various trademarks don't infringe on each other, no matter how hard the recording company tries to prove it since the day when Apple started putting sound hardware in their machines.

      Back to our case :
      Yes it is important, because otherwise that means that, some idiotic troll company that has nothing better to do, like, say, SCO, could patent "SCO Linux" or "Linux" for their product and then sue the shit out of other distribution makers or OSS projects for "patent infringement" because the others "Linux" infringe on theirs, and all can be confused because all are in fact names of operating system distributions, and "Linux" isn't a generic term.
      By securing "Linux", Linus has avoided such a stupid situation. The fact that other companies has similarly sounding names doesn't pose any problem, because there's no way one could mix "Linux as the OSS kernel and distribution bsed on it" with "Linux the swiss detergent" (although this has been a running joke in a campaign advertising for computing courses here in Switzerland...)

      In fact such a situation HAS happened before, and one was featured very recently on /. : gaim's nameswitch to pidgin.
      Initially the project started as a AOL client, and AOL simply forced them not to use their name in the project name. Thus the project choose GAIM for name, using the initialism for "AOL Internet Messaging" that AOL wasn't using at that time.
      Later, AOL registered "AIM" as a trademark for their own product (which was possible because the usage of "GAIM" wasn't widespread enough... and of course wasn't registered in the first place), and ended up unleashing their lawyers on GAIM because both project had similarly sounding names and designate closely related products (both are clients for internet messaging services).
      Thus the Pidgin new name.
      • some idiotic troll company that has nothing better to do, like, say, SCO, could patent "SCO Linux" or "Linux" for their product and then sue the shit out of other distribution makers or OSS projects for "patent infringement" because the others "Linux" infringe on theirs

        Uhh, wrong. Note a key phrase in your own post: "patent infringement". A patent is very much NOT a trademark, and a trademark is very much NOT a patent. They are mostly unrelated topics.

        That was the entire point of my original statement. This article came out as if the Linux trademark and ownership thereof has something to do with the Microsoft patent infringement claim. It DOESNT. GAIM/Pidgin only further proves my example. If AOL had proved that they had done "patent infringement", they would have h

        • some idiotic troll company that has nothing better to do, like, say, SCO, could patent "SCO Linux" or "Linux" for their product and then sue the shit out of other distribution makers or OSS projects for "patent infringement" because the others "Linux" infringe on theirs

          Uhh, wrong. Note a key phrase in your own post: "patent infringement". A patent is very much NOT a trademark, and a trademark is very much NOT a patent. They are mostly unrelated topics.

          Sorry, that's what happens when you watch TV while typi

          • The whole point of trade marks is to market a product to the public. Your develop your product and your companies reputation and then you advertise to the public by identifying yourself with a trademark.

            Now when it comes to 'Linux' using it in ways which the proponents of Linux do not like will most certainly 'advertise' your company but it will end up doing it in the most negative way possible, as you will get most vociferously attacked by the Linux end users and contributors (whether they be coders, dis

        • by Pharmboy (216950)
          There is no such thing as a "prior art" in trademarks.

          Yes there is, and the courts generally "grandfather" companies using trademarked names if they were using them before the owner registered the mark. You are also wrong on virtually about everything else, like "patenting a name".

          Your intensions may be good, but you lack a fundamental understanding of the difference of the different legal terms.

          For the last time: Patent != Copyright != Trademark
      • by Shadowlore (10860)
        like, say, SCO, could patent "SCO Linux" or "Linux" for their product and then sue the shit out of other distribution makers or OSS projects for "patent infringement" because the others "Linux" infringe on theirs, and all can be confused because all are in fact names of operating system distributions, and "Linux" isn't a generic term

        1) You can't patent a name.
        2) You can't combine trademarks without dilution
  • Hmm.. (Score:4, Funny)

    by Mockylock (1087585) on Monday May 21, 2007 @10:33AM (#19209183) Homepage
    Not sure who owns the logo, but if I was a penguin and that was my portrait, I'd be fucking PISSED.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Adhemar (679794)
      The logo [tamu.edu] is created by Larry Ewing, based on an idea acquired from discussions on the linux-kernel mailing list, for the intended use as Linux mascot. Linus gave a lot of input in the design, particularly on the contented [indiana.edu] look of the pinguin. Larry's terms are:

      Permission to use and/or modify this image is granted provided you acknowledge me lewing@isc.tamu.edu and The GIMP if someone asks.

      • Only one decade old? It looks a lot older. He's had a good run, but it's time we updated it? Does everyone agree?

      • by syphax (189065)

        That email is a good example of one way in which Linus is an effective manager. He had a clear vision about the logo and explained it vividly, using humor to reinforce the message.
        • by yoprst (944706)
          Effective manager? Clear vision? It's a penguin, for God's sake! What next? Linus'es great marketing skills because he named Linux "Linux" ?
  • Hm, I think WIRED has done an article like this, and c|net, and I'm pretty sure Slashdot has gone through all this again. Makes me feel so old to re-live all these formula "knews" articles again and again.
  • by cerberusss (660701) on Monday May 21, 2007 @10:38AM (#19209243) Homepage Journal
    There are many. many more -- this is only a list of Linux-based trademarks in the United States.

    For instance, this list [bmb-bbm.org] is the one for Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg.
  • by packetmon (977047) on Monday May 21, 2007 @10:38AM (#19209245) Homepage
    I better make my move and trademark Linus before that stupid Charlie Brown character makes a power move...
  • by Doc Ruby (173196) on Monday May 21, 2007 @10:49AM (#19209355) Homepage Journal
    A trademark isn't exclusive right to use a word (or symbol, or other "mark") in every context to represent just anything. Trademarks are justified only by their purpose: to identify a distinct product or service to people in its market. The entire test of a trademark's validity is whether it creates or resolves confusion in the market.

    If someone (reasonable) sees a mark, do they think it represents the thing offered in trade, or do they think it represents a competitor?

    Trademark law requires that mark registrants "vigorously defend from dilution" their mark: actively find others offering under their registered mark competing products, then instruct the competitor to stop using the mark fraudulently or without authorization. If the mark registrant doesn't "vigorously defend" their mark, the market can become confused, diluting the exclusive meaning of the mark, and the registrant can lose their registration, making it available to the competitor (who's then got the same responsibility, if they reregister it themself).

    Reasonable people are expected to distinguish between a computer OS and a soap. The Trademark Office registers marks in specific industries (with a fee for each industry in which it's registered). But courts sometimes have difficult questions in defining distinctions, especially in new industries like software.

    Trademark is probably the most reasonable "intellectual property" law in the US. Because it's defined in service of the consumer, to ensure the clear flow of info between the mark holder and the consumer.
    • by init100 (915886)

      If the mark registrant doesn't "vigorously defend" their mark, ... the registrant can lose their registration, making it available to the competitor (who's then got the same responsibility, if they reregister it themself).

      Trademark is probably the most reasonable "intellectual property" law in the US.

      The first paragraph makes me think that the new owner of the mark could force the previous owner to stop using the mark. Is this really reasonable, or is this case covered in some other way?

      • by Doc Ruby (173196)
        Yes, the new ownerr can (and must, through "vigorous defense") stop the previous owner from using the mark.

        That is the entire point. The trademark is designed to serve the market, by clearly identifying the distinct product/service offered in trade. It is not just another arbitrary piece of property that is purely an asset to its owner (the registrant).

        If everyone buying beverages thinks "Coca-Cola" means the stuff I brew in my bathtub, because I've advertised it for years without the Coke Corporation even
  • by MarkByers (770551) on Monday May 21, 2007 @10:49AM (#19209363) Homepage Journal
    Obligatory...

    http://folk.uio.no/hpv/linuxtoons/linux-detergent. jpg [folk.uio.no]

    And yes, it is a real photo!
    • by Vexorian (959249)
      I wish I was Swiss so I could wash my clothes with Linux!
      • I wish I was Swiss so I could wash my clothes with Linux!

        No you don't.

        A couple of years ago, I got a Linux box for my birthday. It's pretty crap, really. It doesn't wash especially clean, and your clothes come out smelling slightly weird.

        Micro&Soft is only marginally better - I've used that too (yeah - same friend, same birthday).

        I've now gone back to using things like Persil and Ariel, and am much happier with the result - cleaner clothes that actually do smell better.

        But that's just the wa

    • by TeknoHog (164938)
      However, the real 'Linux detergent' is Mr. Proper [wikipedia.org].
    • by Shadowlore (10860)
      Some observations ...

      Even there Linux is on top. ;)

      That's buttwiping material "micro&soft", right?
  • by VincenzoRomano (881055) on Monday May 21, 2007 @10:55AM (#19209429) Homepage Journal
    One should wonder who own these two trademarks.
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by erroneous (158367)
      Neither would be trademarkable (in the field of computing) because they are so generic.

      You could trademark "Computer Biscuits" as a brand of biscuits, or "Biscuit Computers" as a brand of computers, but not descriptive terms like "Biscuits" or "Oat Biscuits" as biscuits, or "Computer" or "Personal Computer" in computing.

  • All we need now is the bad 70's hair...
  • Why on earth the list of the Linux trademarks is made by graphics and not in plain text?
    Maybe the plain text list is copyrighted! Which leads to another kinf of legal issues.

  • Remember the difference between Apple Music (Beatles) and Apple Computers? Although that has been litigated, there are have been domains limits for multiple name holders.
  • pengins (Score:4, Funny)

    by j00r0m4nc3r (959816) on Monday May 21, 2007 @11:07AM (#19209583)
    Whoever owns all them pengins, please contact me.
    Bill Sparks, Chief of R&D
    Purina Dog Food Company
    St. Louis, Missouri 63164
  • a copy of Knoppix.

    Does this constitute trademark infringement by Rosche against Linus Torvalds?

    It certainly could lead to confusion.
    • I'm pretty sure that Knoppix has Linus's Linux in it, so I don't see how it could cause any confusion between Linux and some competing product in the field of computer operating systems. The same argument applies to the soap.

      • by einhverfr (238914)
        I understand that. However....

        If the makers of Linux laundry soap decide to bundle Linux software (different trademark), this is the area where the confusion can occur. And this was happening at one point. THe argument that it was unclear from looking at the package that these were in fact different (but identically spelled) trademarks bundled together might allow that argument.

        Furthermore, this was covered on Slashdot when it happened, iirc. It did hit a lot of the tech news, and it is unlikely that To
    • http://www.roche.com/home.html [roche.com]
      http://www.roche.ch/ [roche.ch]
      http://www.roche.de/ [roche.de]

      They're the same people who manufacture Donald Rumsfeld's
      "cure" for super-flu-ous people aka as "Tamiflu".
  • ...Linux copyrights you!
  • I think I've made my opinion on this more than clear. See Sig.

  • Has nothing to do with the linux kernel.

    http://www.linuxgoldcorp.com/ [linuxgoldcorp.com]Linux Gold

  • by ex-geek (847495) on Monday May 21, 2007 @12:54PM (#19210861)
    Linux in the form of a laundry detergent?

    This is great news! It should be included in HOWTO Encourage Women in Linux [tldp.org]. Linux usage will soar at last! Now we need a Linux beer to cover the male non-geek audience and world domination will be assured!
    • hmmmmm interesting, but can you really get bash to run on a washing machine? You always hear about bash on toaster ovens..... and if you can get it to run how do you keep it from getting soggy? hmmmm maybe it would have to default to csh the C-shell??
  • Can I trademark Linux Adult Publishing?

    Can I start a new political party, The Linux Party?
  • The registered mark RTLinux, and RTLinux Pro, RTCore, and LNET, are now owned by Wind River [windriver.com]. a.
  • Who owns Tux?
  • Dont let them register it
  • Who owns the Linux trademark?
    You can also read the full list of all 204 Linux trademarks
    At least 204 people and/or companies, I'd guess. That's what a trademark is - something registered with the gov't so everyone knows who owns it. The trademark registry includes full description of the mark and the scope of the services,products or markets where the trade mark is used. "Who owns" regarding trademarks is very much like "who owns" regarding motor vehicles. Just read the title to the property.

Whoever dies with the most toys wins.

Working...