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Re: Trademark policy for packages?

On Tue, Jan 31, 2006 at 11:28:54PM +0100, Simon Josefsson wrote:
>    Project Athena, Athena, Athena MUSE, Discuss, Hesiod, Kerberos,
>    Moira, and Zephyr are trademarks of the Massachusetts Institute of
>    Technology (MIT).  No commercial use of these trademarks may be
>    made without prior written permission of MIT.
> The trademark is registered with USPTO:
> http://tess2.uspto.gov/bin/showfield?f=doc&state=case6n.2.2
> I am familiar with the GNU policies on trademark, and I am trying to
> adhere to them when possible.
> My question is: What is Debian's policy on trademarks for terms used
> in documentation and package descriptions?  Do Debian require that
> certain usages of a trademarked terms is permitted to be included in
> Debian?

I'm not sure what Debian's policies are; since trademark only infrequently
comes up, I have a feeling they're a still bit unformed.  This is just my
impression of where things are today.

Past discussions have come to the conclusion, I think, that a trademark
license can't grant what Debian would require of a copyright license.  That's
because a license to use a trademark freely, in any way, would be equivalent
to abandoning it completely.  If Coke says "you can use Coke(tm) to refer to
anything, even Pepsi or ice coffee", they'd essentially be relinquishing
their trademark completely.

But, unlike copyright licenses, you can always escape a trademark license
by not using it, and doing so doesn't prevent you from using the actual work.
Debian even allows licenses to require that (DFSG#4).  I'm not sure exactly
where Debian should draw the line between a trademark license that should be
preemptively escaped (by renaming the work upon packaging), and one that can
be left.

A trademark license that says "you must pass our test suite before you're
allowed to distribute anything with our trademark" would obviously be
among the former: Debian would simply not use the trademark.  On the other
side, Debian uses lots of trademarks, such as "Linux", which are enforced,
but under more lenient terms.

I'm not sure about "no commercial use of these trademarks".  People sell
Debian CDs all the time, and I don't know if that qualifies.

Glenn Maynard

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