Subject: Re: Software Trademarks
From: Linus Torvalds <>
Date: Mon, 26 Jul 1999 11:42:37 -0700 (PDT)

On Mon, 26 Jul 1999, Russell Nelson wrote:

> Piyush Shukla writes:
>  > One of the questions that I constantly field pertains to the use of
>  > trademarks on Open Source Software - specially Linux. I have been unable
>  > to locate a document that spells out the ownership of the Linux
>  > Trademark and more the licensing and reuse "rules" for the trademark.
> Linus owns the "Linux" trademark (even though someone registered it
> for themselves in an extra-legal action.)  And while my information is
> several years old, last I spoke to him about it, his attitude was "Why
> would I want a trademark on Linux?  I have no interest in restricting
> people's use of the name."

For legal reasons I have to police the use of the trademark (damn
lawyers), but I certainly want to do it as little as possible.

Usually a simple "Linux is aregistered trademark of Linus Torvalds in the
US and other countries" is fine. 

>  > I understand that Linux is available under GPL, does this include the
>  > use of the trademarked name - Linux and, as the lawyers succinctly
>  > outlined to me - Where is the document that says Linux Trademark is
>  > available under GPL? 
> You'd have to ask Linus for the most current information.  It would be
> nice to get an official, up to date, statement from the trademark holder.
> To that end, I've CC'ed him on this message.  Linus?

There is no GPL equivalent for trademarks.

In fact, such an entity may be impossible. The reason for that is that
unlike copyright (which stays with the owner basically forever regardless
of what he does), a trademark needs to be maintained. Kind of like SRAM
(copyright) vs DRAM (trademark) - you need to have some refresh cycle in
the form of showing that you actually restrict the use of the trademark,
or the trademark can just be lost.

What I've done is to ask people to give attribution (above), and then in
the cases where more is required (ie corporations actually using the word
"Linux" as part of a product or something) there's separate set of files.

Note that I'd be a lot happier if I didn't have to bother. However, the
trademark has already been misused a couple of times (both in the US and
abroad), and I want to at least make it harder for _others_ to use
trademark law to freeze others out of the business or to get extortion
money. It was tried in the US, and that's what we ended up almost going to
court with - but it still exists as a problem in some other places,
notably there seems to be a problem in Argentina where somebody got the
trademark for Linux.

All lawyers should just be hung, I suspect. We'd have a lot fewer problems
with stupid crap like trademarks if they were.