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Re: Trademark policy for packages?

Glenn Maynard <glenn@zewt.org> writes:

> 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.

Given that I didn't find any existing policy on this, I reached the
same conclusion.

I'm mostly curious if trademark policies is a concern that people in
Debian are worried about.

> 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.

Right.  It becomes more subtle if you consider that Shishi is (or at
least aims to be) an implementation of Kerberos.

A better analogy seem to be if the recipe of Coke was freely
available, and if I would then be permitted to use the term Coke when
selling my own soda brewed from the Coke recipe.  I guess the
confusion would stem from if Coke referred to an instance of the
actual product, or simply the recipe used to brew the product.  If I
claim "brewed based on the Coke recipe" I don't think the trademark
holder would be able to forbid that usage.

> 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.

Right, that was made me curious.  It seems the permission for Debian
to use the term Linux is based on an informal agreement that the Linux
trademark holder will not sue Debian for using the term Linux in
documentation etc.  Making that agreement more explicit may be useful.
But I have seen few "trademark usage policies" around, and deciding
whether a specific trademark usage policy is free or not seem also
non-trivial.  I didn't know exactly what permission to ask for when
talking to the MIT trademark office.

> 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.

It is more uncertain because it is not clear whether a trademark
holder can legally place that restriction anyway.


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