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Re: AbiWord, trademarks, and DFSG-freeness

On Fri, Oct 15, 2004 at 02:12:41AM -0500, Branden Robinson wrote:
> C) They feel that because trademark rights are automatic and implicit
>    (though you are in a better position to sue people if you claim your
>    marks with a "(TM)", and better still if you register them with the
>    United States Patent and Trademark Office, earning the right to put (R)
>    next to your mark), that there is nothing unique about their situation,
>    and Debian needs to solve "the trademark problem" for everything we
>    distribute before singling them out for special attention.

Legal trademark rights are _far_ from automatic or implicit.  It
is true that you can have a trademark just by giving a name to a
product, but that's exactly equivalent to saying that your product
has a name.  Giving your product a name bestows zero rights.

Trademark rights are accumulated in the following ways (as I
understand it):

 - using the name in commerce and having adequate documentation to
   prove it.
 - telling people that the name is used to mark your trade, either
   by using (TM) or cease-and-desist letters.
 - ensuring that you are the sole user of the name
 - registering the trademark

If they actually care about the trademark, they would have already
registered it, since it's the only sure way of claiming it.

Also, it is common practice for individuals or companies to modify
a trademarked product, sometimes quite significantly, and resell it
using the name of the original product (although, for product
differentiation, they typically make sure that people know that the
product is modified or improved).  This only works if the product
or class of products is commonly modified in this way -- Cracker
Jacks or other food products clearly do not fit this.  On the other
hand, cars, vans (conversion vans), and computers do.  GPL'd
software is in pretty safe territory as far as modification goes.


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