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Re: Linux mark extortion

On 6/18/05, Glenn Maynard <glenn@zewt.org> wrote:
> I don't see how any of this is necessary for the latter.  Acquire the
> trademark, don't enforce it and let it lapse; I can't see how anyone
> else could acquire and enforce a trademark that had already in the past
> been registered and consciously allowed to dilute.  Are trademarks
> really that broken, that you have to retain and actively enforce a
> trademark merely to prevent someone else from acquiring it?

That isn't necessarily "broken" when it comes to, not identical, but
related products.  There's no particular reason why, if no one sells
locomotives under the mark "Stanley Steamer" anymore, someone else
shouldn't be able to assert rights to that mark (Stanley Steemer,
actually) for carpet cleaning services delivered via the successor to
locomotives (the automobile) and steam engines.  And I can certainly
imagine someone successfully claiming rights to a ZipperRipper
trademark on sewing scissors.  If Linux becomes a generic term, why
not MoreFreeThanLinux for a FooSoft fork of FreeBSD?  (No, I do _not_
think this is either accurate or a good idea.  :-)

> Historically, copyrights and patents have been the major legal obstacles
> for free software.  It's sad both that trademarks are joining that group,
> and that it's Linus himself who's doing so.  (Not to say that this is the
> first major case of trademarks being problematic--the recent Firefox
> threads come to mind--but it's certainly the biggest.)

It truly boggles my mind that people who presumably plan to make their
living using their brains, and presumably don't want to hide their
work under a trade-secret bushel basket in the process, can be so
hostile to the centuries-old legal mechanisms whereby their brains'
output can benefit both the public's access to knowledge and their
families' economic well-being.  We can't all have student lifestyles
and free rides from the MacArthur Foundation, and we don't all want to
be reduced to running protection rackets out of our
government-subsidized university chairs.  Unthinking hostility to
legitimate uses of copyright, patent, and trademark plays right into
the hands of the people who abuse them via FUD, regulatory capture,
and lobbyists.

- Michael

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