Catch up on stories from the past week (and beyond) at the Slashdot story archive


Forgot your password?
Linux Business Your Rights Online

Trademarks Considered Harmful To Open Source 226

An anonymous reader touts a blog posting up at PC World titled "Trademarks: The Hidden Menace." Keir Thomas asks why open source advocates are keen to suggest patent and copyright reform, yet completely ignore the issue of trademarks, which can be just as corrosive to the freedom that open source projects strive to embody. "Even within the Linux community, trademarking can be used as obstructively as copyright and patenting to further business ends. ... Is this how open source is supposed to work? Restricted redistribution? Tight control on who can compile software and still be able to call it by its proper name? ... Trademarking is almost totally incompatible with the essential freedom offered by open source. Trademarking is a way of severely limiting all activity on a particular product to that which you approve of. ... If an open source company embraces trademarks then it embraces this philosophy. On the one hand it advocates freedom, and [on] the other it takes it away."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Trademarks Considered Harmful To Open Source

Comments Filter:
  • Re:Copyright reform? (Score:3, Informative)

    by mister_playboy ( 1474163 ) on Sunday May 10, 2009 @01:22AM (#27894217)

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

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

  • by jskora ( 1319299 ) on Sunday May 10, 2009 @01:29AM (#27894251)
    DRM and copyright protect stuff, technology or data or ideas. Trademark, on the other hand protects a name, an identity.

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

    Brand means more in some cases and than in others, as consumers and techies are at times very brand loyal. But when things become commodity items, consumers look less at brand than function, need, and appeal.
  • This is ridiculous. (Score:5, Informative)

    by darkmeridian ( 119044 ) <(moc.liamg) (ta) (gnauhc.mailliw)> on Sunday May 10, 2009 @01:33AM (#27894261) Homepage

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

  • by Actually, I do RTFA ( 1058596 ) on Sunday May 10, 2009 @02:10AM (#27894407)

    DRM and copyright protect stuff, technology or data or ideas

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

    But, you are right. Trademarks only protect identity.

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

  • Android, anyone? (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday May 10, 2009 @04:05AM (#27894847)

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

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

  • by davmoo ( 63521 ) on Sunday May 10, 2009 @07:47AM (#27895631)

    You're comparing apples to oranges.

    First, you're not changing the functionality of the JVC unit. You're merely changing the case. It still works the exact same way JVC designed, and using only their electronics.

    And second, you're not starting up a production line and redistributing your redesigned JVC head unit.

    Thus, it is not EXACTLY what Debian and Ubuntu do to Firefox. They alter the functionality (and its irrelevant whether or not its an improvement) and then redistribute it. Is it fair for the Firefox people to have to take the heat, the blame, and the damage to their brand image if Debian or Ubuntu fuck it up?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday May 10, 2009 @08:59AM (#27895979)

    If you want to pinpoint the moment they lost their way, it was when they trademarked "Debian" and named their foundation after it


    Your argument is stupid and hypocritical. Currently Ice Weasel contains numerous bugs which Firefox has already fixed. So lets assume Debian (TM) were allowed to call it Firefox. Right now they would be redistributing a crappy version of it and who would their users blame for that? Mozilla, not Debian (TM).

    So given this situation why do you even care that the name has changed? My guess is selfishness. You want to exploit the popularity of the brand Firefox to push Debian's (TM) inferior Ice Weasel onto unsuspecting users that do not realise that both program's code bases are quite different.

  • by debrain ( 29228 ) on Sunday May 10, 2009 @09:19AM (#27896061) Journal

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

    That's a great example, highlighting the rationale behind trademarks. The purpose of trademark law is consumer protection: reducing consumer confusion when equivalent products have confusingly similar marks. The creation of goodwill by companies in the form of production recognition is incidental.

  • by davecb ( 6526 ) * <> on Sunday May 10, 2009 @09:37AM (#27896165) Homepage Journal

    rolfwind writes: Imagine "Windows 7 integrated with Microsoft's new browser Firefox!"

    You don;t have to imagine: this is what Microsoft already tried with Java, extending it with MS-only functionality. Only the trademark agreement with Sun protected Java uses from embrace, extend and extinguish. MS had to start an entire new language project in order to copy Java, and give it a new name thus losing name recognition.

    MS fanboys use C#: everyone else uses Java, unextended and unextinguished. Now if they'd just add apply... (;-))


  • by Angostura ( 703910 ) on Sunday May 10, 2009 @11:53AM (#27897111)

    Surely it is simpler than that. There's no need to muck about with source code and forking. Without trademark protection, Microsoft could simply launch MIcrosoft Firefox, which would be identical to Internet Explorer in all respects, except with a different skin. Actually it wouldn't even need a different skin. The "new" browser could run on Microsoft Linux, which would be a rebranded version of Windows 98.

Never say you know a man until you have divided an inheritance with him.