Brussels / 2 & 3 February 2013


How to Share a Trademark

Every project has a trademark, its name. Some believe that trademarks and the enforcement of trademark rights are inconsistent with FLOSS principles. But some amount of control over when and how a project name can be used is necessary for the name to remain meaningful as a an identifier of a specific software program with known attributes and qualities. That's the role of trademark law.

Balancing how we would like to be able to use FLOSS trademarks with currently existing trademark law is challenging. Trademarks are fundamentally different from copyrights, so the licensing concepts that work for copyright don't work for the name. Complicating matters further, current trademark jurisprudence generally contemplates that trademark owners are formalized legal entities in hierarchical structure, so the law is ill-suited for a world of collective decisionmaking by non-employees in a dynamic organizational structure.

But it still can come together in a way that serves the goals of free software and meets the requirements of trademark law. I will explore with the participants what the appropriate role of trademarks in FLOSS is and talk about ways that software projects can manage the use of their trademarks with some degree of freedom while still maintaining the validity of the trademark, with a view towards shaping the law so that it is better-suited for handling FLOSS concerns.


Pamela Chestek