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Re: mozilla thunderbird trademark restrictions / still dfsg free?

> So the question is: is the right to call a bit of software by a certain
> name an "important freedom"? That's definitely debatable. The name you
> use to refer to a bit of software doesn't affect its function.

It can, especially in the case of a web browser; consider web servers
that verify that the client claims to be a sufficiently new Mozilla or
IE before sending DHTML.

It looks to me like there's a real storm brewing over trademark
enforcement in open source space.  At least in most US jurisdictions,
trademark law applies an "enforce it or lose it" standard, and one of
the key criteria in judging whether a company takes its trademark
seriously is whether it exercises quality assurance over third parties
to which it has (explicitly or implicitly) licensed the right to
distribute goods or services marked with its trademark.

In a hypothetical situation where Debian is the dominant distribution
channel for Software X, performs QA functions, and handles the bulk of
bug reports, the upstream for Software X could actually lose ownership
of the trademark to Debian.  Even when the distributor relationship is
non-exclusive, a failure to exercise QA authority over the Debian
channel could weaken Mozilla's ability to enforce the trademark on
other channels.  (Imagine "Mozilla Firefox, MS Authorized Edition"
with the crippling limitations of your choice.)

The drafters of the classic open source licenses weren't thinking in
terms of trademark issues.  UC Berkeley probably couldn't enforce
trademark constraints on "BSD" now if it tried.  The FSF persists in
the assertion that the (L)GPL isn't a contract at all, it's some sort
of non-contract license (with no legal foundation that I can find)
created out of copyright law, and so as a matter of principle the
(L)GPL doesn't address trademark questions.  (In both cases that I
have run across in which GPL software has been discussed in US courts,
trademark rights were enforced by the court.)

So the Mozilla folks are being responsible in setting out the limits
of the license to use their trademarks as part of the MPL, rather than
leaving the issue unaddressed and then springing it on people in
court.  I think it would be a good idea to work out a modus vivendi
with them, such that the names of Debian-packaged Mozilla products are
unchanged, and designated persons from Mozilla have the right to file
RC bugs that the maintainer isn't allowed to downgrade.  That at least
preserves the forms of trademark defense, at a rather minimal cost in

The only consistent alternative that I can see is to yank packages
when the upstream pursues a trademark issue against any infringer --
which means dropping MySQL and RPM for starters, and Mozilla, Apache,
and Linux before long.  Somehow this doesn't seem wise.

- Michael

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