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

[I am not subscribed to debian-bsd.]

On Sat, Dec 13, 2003 at 09:28:12AM +0430, Stephane Bortzmeyer wrote:
> On Fri, Dec 12, 2003 at 11:54:09AM -0500,
>  Branden Robinson <branden@debian.org> wrote 
>  a message of 126 lines which said:
> > Debian either needs a trademark license from the NetBSD Foundation
> > for use of the "NetBSD" mark, or it does not.
> Legally speaking, you're right. Now, on more practical grounds, I do
> not think that the NetBSD Foundation threatened to sue us.

I didn't say they did.  They did identify a legal theory for doing so in
the future, though.  It's not like there is a common law of trademark
dilution, or a "natural right" of trademarks.

I think the polite thing to do, if one has no intention of suing
someone, is not to speculate to a person's face about what the thrust of
your court complaint might be.

The TNF has made it clear enough that they feel they have legal remedies
at their disposal if we don't handle their request in a manner to their

That's enough to get the legally-minded members of the Debian Project
involved, IMO.

> I believe that they feared confusion and asked politely, as an humble
> request from fellow free software developers, to consider a change in
> the name. 

Yes, they did that.  They also, if Joel Baker's representations as to
the content of the communication are accurate, included a statement
inviting us to make the inference that they have ways of compelling our
compliance if the courteous approach doesn't work.

As I said above, I think that's rude.  It may be a rudeness that they
feel they were forced to indulge due to the way U.S. trademark law
works, but that doesn't make it any less of a discourtesy.  As I noted
elsewhere in this thread, I don't feel they're acting *irrationally*.

We, the Debian Project, have made similar requests of people using the
word "Debian".  At least recently, our communications have included the
hint of the iron fist inside the velvet glove, just as the message Joel
Baker received did.

It's the way the trademark game is played.  Should we go into hysterics?
No.  Neither should we pretend that the threat of legal recourse is not

> I do not think debian-legal is concerned: it is not an issue of being
> right with trademark law, it's an issue of not pissing off NetBSD
> people for no good reason.

Sounds like it's both to me.  I think you are fundamentally misreading
the situation.  Pretending a legal threat is absent when it is not is a
good way to get a very nasty surprise when someone decides to up the

I suggest that the Debian Project not allow ourselves to be taken by
surprise in this situation.

G. Branden Robinson                |    Religion is regarded by the common
Debian GNU/Linux                   |    people as true, by the wise as
branden@debian.org                 |    false, and by the rulers as useful.
http://people.debian.org/~branden/ |    -- Lucius Annaeus Seneca

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