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Re: Changes in formal naming for NetBSD porting effort(s)

[ Adding -legal to the Cc; it may become inappropriate for -devel, at     ]
[ some point, in which case folks should remove the -devel Cc. The -bsd   ]
[ Cc should probably remain no matter what, as this could potentially     ]
[ affect any of the BSD ports.                                            ]

On Fri, Dec 12, 2003 at 11:54:09AM -0500, Branden Robinson wrote:
> [I am not subscribed to debian-bsd.]
> On Thu, Dec 11, 2003 at 04:39:47PM -0700, Joel Baker wrote:
> > On December 2nd, I was contacted by Luke Mewburn, on behalf of The NetBSD
> > Foundation, asking about the "transition" to calling the NetBSD port
> > "Debian GNU/KNetBSD", and expressing their appreciation for this change,
> > as it reflects (in their opinion) a more accurate statement about what the
> > system is, and avoids any potential dilution of the NetBSD trademark.
> Uh-huh.
> I'll go check, but is all of this discussion archived on debian-bsd?
> [minutes pass]
> I checked, and I don't see the *specific* grounds for the request
> explicated anywhere.

I guess it depends on precisely what you mean by specific grounds, in this
case. If you mean 'specific accusations of dilution of trademark', then I
don't believe there have been any.

> > I did, however, say that I (at least) would be happy to try to find a
> > name they found equally suitable, for the same reasons, rather than
> > continue to use the current one.
> What makes a suitable name?  Please be specific.  If you don't know, I
> think you should request this information from the NetBSD Foundation.

As far as I can tell, anything which does not use the bare word 'NetBSD'
as part of it's name, but I certainly can request clarification from Mr.
Mewburn and The NetBSD Foundation about that.

> > On December 3rd, Mr. Mewburn confirmed that The NetBSD Foundation would
> > prefer to see the name changed, and I brought the issue up on the
> > debian-bsd mailing list for discussion.
> [...]
> Okay, yeah, I'm caught up on that part.  The thread seemed to be mostly
> concerned with technical issues, which is a completely legitimate
> concern, but I think the discussion to date, if comprehensively
> reflected on the -bsd list has almost completely neglected discussion of
> the central thrust of the request you received.

I think that is largely a reflection of "nobody had any disagreement on
the principle, or a better suggestion for the formal port name", combined
with the fact that it triggered reviewing some of the haphazard naming
conventions with a critical eye, and making sure that they were reasonable
and rational.

The thread is, indeed, split into two interleaved parts, and the
non-technical part is almost empty.

> > 4) The Debian port name will become 'Debian GNU/KLNetBSD(i386)'[1].
> Well, no offense, but that's ugly as hell, and is going to square the
> amount of confusion people experience when trying to decode our OS
> names.

Agreed, unfortunately - it is, and I suspect it may well. Suggestions for
better naming welcome, of course (or even a direction to go in).

> > If anyone objects, or wishes to see further requirements met, please let
> > me know, and I'll do what I can to resolve the situation.
> I don't understand the nature of your request.  They're cool with
> "Debian GNU/KLNetBSD" but not "Debian GNU/NetBSD"?  Why, exactly?

I believe (note: personal view) that the core is a perceived difference
between the bare word 'NetBSD', which has, prior to this port, implied a
kernel, libc, *and* userland of a specific form, and a variant of that
name which is recognizeable, but distinctive enough to not cause confusion
between their "product" and what we intend to produce.

> And how does trademark enter into this, exactly?  In both cases, the
> mark is still being used.  Yet they're cool with the former and not the
> latter?  As I understand the law[1], the mark is no more or less "used"
> or "diluted" in either case.

I do not have anything remotely like the background to discuss this
meaningfully - frankly, I wasn't particularly aware that there might be any
substantive issue with the assertion. See below for more.

> Debian either needs a trademark license from the NetBSD Foundation for
> use of the "NetBSD" mark, or it does not.  If we do, then our hands are
> tied and we might as well ask them to tell us what they want it called,
> and what the terms of use are.  Since the Debian Project doesn't legally
> exist, this will probably have to go through SPI.  If we don't need a
> trademark license, then I don't understand why they've grounded their
> request for a name change on a claim to be preserving the mark.

This might well be a reasonable path to take, given that TNF (those making
the actual request) are, in many ways, related to The NetBSD Project in the
same fashion that SPI and Debian are related; one is a legal entity, the
other is a bunch of folks producing an operating system. Certainly, it
would make things more explicit and less prone to future problems.

> It might be best to remove "NetBSD" from the name of the OS altogether
> -- that would the most sure-fire way to mitigate their fears of
> dilution, and help ensure that the NetBSD Foundation doesn't have to
> rattle its saber at us again (albeit through a lace curtain, as you
> say), enabling us to maintain good relations with the NetBSD Project on
> the technical front.

I think that might be a bit of an overstatement, to date. So far, it has
been expressed entirely as a request, and one that was particularly based
on having seen something that made them think it might be a good idea to
continue (remember, the origional request had no distinction between Robert
Millan's 'Debian GNU/KNetBSD' and the other effort(s); it was asking about
updating the web pages and other resources).

> > Please note that all of my discussions with The NetBSD Foundation, and
> > it's representatives, have been both cordial and productive, to date,
> > and that I feel their request is born largely of having seen an
> > example which they preferred, rather than any antipathy towards the
> > Debian project as a whole, or the various BSD porting efforts under
> > it.
> No, it's probably antipathy for the Free Software Foundation driving
> this more than anything else.

It could well be; I don't think it would be particularly useful for me to
speculate on the matter.

> Maybe they'd prefer Debian GNU/KLMNOPQRSTUVWXYZABCDEFGHIJNetBSD most of
> all.  One can't get too far away from those pinkos in Boston!

I think that might be taking things to something of an extreme. They've
been polite and reasonable to date, I'd like to think that Debian can
provide them the same courtesy - including the benefit of the doubt.

> On a more serious note, you have been contacted in your capacity as a
> Debian Developer by a trademark holder who is either displeased, or is
> suggesting that they might easily become displeased.  I think the
> responsible thing to do at this point is to get the debian-legal mailing
> list involved so that folks with a mind for trademark law can have a
> closer look at the matter.

I have, and thus, I have Cc'ed this reply to debian-devel. I will also
ask Mr. Mewburn to review the web archives (or forward him copies from
my own archives, if those aren't up yet), and invite him, or anyone The
NetBSD Foundation sees fit, to join the discussion if they think it would
be useful.

> None of the abuse should be taken to denigrate the work of the NetBSD or
> Debian developers.  My concerns here are twofold:
>   1) the suggestion by a trademark holder that Debian might be regarded
>      as infringing a mark if we don't take some action; and
>   2) the comprehensibility of our OS names to the pubic.

Indeed; my perception of the communications so far would phrase it as "the
suggestion that The NetBSD Foundation was concerned that there *might* be
infringement of the mark if we don't take action"; the same basic thing,
but a (significant) step less confrontational.

It is my personal experience, in dealing with TNF, that they tend to be
somewhat more conservative about gray areas than even Debian is, in many
cases. For example, Debian will generally accept an email (prefferably
signed) from an upstream author, in combination with a Developer's
assertion of validity, designating a license change or special permissions
to Debian (for some things in non-free), while TNF strongly desires having
a signed paper statement on file, whenever possible.

Issue #2 is, indeed, an issue. There may be solutions that can work in
multiple directions, of course; for example (and please understand, this
is a suggestion of my own, not something that has been advanced to me by
The NetBSD Foundation or anyone speaking for it), it might be possible
to come to an agreement for a trademark license, with the stipulation
that Debian's information on the port in question always clarify, with
reasonable precision, just what portions of NetBSD were used in creating

In any case, I will ask Mr. Mewburn to review the messages, and to consider
participating in the disussion directly, or at the very least clarify
precisely what The NetBSD Foundation feels would be sufficient protection
of their trademark, and why.
Joel Baker <fenton@debian.org>                                        ,''`.
Debian GNU/KLNetBSD(i386) porter                                     : :' :
                                                                     `. `'

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