Subject: Re: Software Trademarks
From: "Karsten M. Self" <>
Date: Thu, 29 Jul 1999 14:11:52 -0700

Linus Torvalds wrote:
> On Wed, 28 Jul 1999, Greg Broiles wrote:
> >
> > Trademarks are meant to identify a unique source of goods or services,
> > so that consumers know who made or approved of the thing that they're
> > using. If the word(s) or image meant to serve as a trademark do not
> > serve that purpose, they're not a trademark.
> ...and they work reasonably well in traditional "large corporation"
> environments.
> The rules work horribly BADLY in many other environments, including most
> definitely a open development environment.

Possibly.  OTOH, trademarks are largely consistent with the prevailing
OSS licenses (trans: I don't know of any conflicts), and are a fairly
clever way of effectively guarding against misuse of product names.  The
OSS trademark attempt was IMO a useful device, and having a trademark
for Linux is useful to prevent either commercial or criminal misuse of 
the name.  I can see where maintenance of the mark can be tedious.
> I see why they exist, but that does not make them "good". The same way
> patents are not necessarily always good, and the same way it is not good
> how copyright times just keep on getting extended because of powerful
> lobbying by corporations that benefit hugely from owning them.
> At least in computers, people are incentiviced to at least _try_ to make
> it "just work". That's how you reach the masses, and that's how you make
> money.

Since the topic's arisin, I'll point to a page I started putting
together last fall and winter regarding a patent pooling proposal.  It
was inspired by comments of Linus and Jeremy Allison (Team Samba, at
SGI) at a couple of SVLUG meetings.  It borrows heavily from similar
proposals by others, including RMS.  A few people on this list may have
seen the page before, it hasn't been modified since early January.  I'll
just advance it as a reference point.

My thinking is that the issue of patents and OSS will resolve in three

1. Companies with an interest in OSS will use their own stake in OSS and
patent holdings to help leverage openness in OSS.  E.g.: IBM is a
significant force in both the Linux and patent communities.  Though we
typically see the patent conflict as an "us vs. them", I think "them" is
rapidly becoming "us" -- the conflict will become internalized.  While I
don't think this will make patent conflicts go away, it will put OSS on
essentially the same footing as commercial players.

2. Where patented technologies _are_ blocked from OSS use, open
alternatives will be developed.  The current revival of the GIF wars,
with PNG as a likely alternative, is an example.

3. OSS developers might find that patents actually can be useful in both
generating income, and ensuring availability of technology for OSS. 
I've kicked around ideas for an open patent license (Andy Greenberg,
lawyer with Carlton Fields in Florida, Wizardry programmer, and member
of Hackers, suggests 'Latent' as a play on 'patent' and 'copyleft'). 
Jikes and the GNU GPL (including some modifications RMS has suggested)
point to some possibilities.  Some members of the OSS community have
made out quite well from patents they hold (L. Peter Deutsch, others).

I'm not convinced that a patent pool would be a necessity, or feasible. 
It's still probably worth thinking about though.


Karsten M. Self (
    What part of "Gestalt" don't you understand?

SAS for Linux:
Mailing List:  body "subscribe sas-linux"