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Re: trademark infringement FreeFOAM

On Thu, 18 Nov 2010 16:31:28 +0100 Gerber van der Graaf wrote:

> Hi,


> I have a question concerning trademark name infringement for a GPL
> software I and a colleagues are working on. The company OpenCFD
> (http://www.cfd-online.com/)

I think you meant http://www.openfoam.com/ here...

> issued software for Computational Fluids
> Dynamics (CFD) called 'OpenFOAM' under the GPL license
> (http://www.openfoam.com/). The abbreviation FOAM is an invent of the
> company and means "Field Operation And Manipulation".

For other readers' information, there's an RFP bug about OpenFOAM:

> We have modernized the entire configuration / compilation system of
> this software using CMake. In order to publish our improvements we
> have issued the software package under the name 'FreeFOAM', referring
> to the company, the original software and keeping all author rights in
> the existing files (http://freefoam.sourceforge.net/).

Again, for other readers' information, the ITP bug about FreeFOAM that
you filed is  http://bugs.debian.org/528662

> We issued a new
> project because it already was widely known that OpenCFD refuses to
> include improvements, extensions etc of the code in their original
> releases unless the author will abandon all rights of his work. IMHO
> not needed nor allowed for GPL software.

I think that accepting contributions only when the contributor transfers
his/her copyright is indeed allowed for GPL software: actually it's
what the FSF does...   :-(

But I agree that this practice is not really needed for GPL software.

Even worse: I think that it's a very annoying practice, since it
requires additional paperwork, creates a fundamental asymmetry in the
relationship between the original author and the contributor, and gives
too much power in the hands of one sole copyright holder, who may
later decide to change license at whim.

So in summary, I am not happy to learn that OpenCFD follows this policy.

> Thanks to this work, I
> have been able to debianize the software relatively quite easily and
> hope to get it into GNU/Debian soon once a formal FreeFOAM
> release has been issued and I have found a sponsor.

Your efforts are greatly appreciated: thanks for working on this
project and on its packaging for Debian!

> Recently another user started the "OpenFOAM Documentation Project"
> (ODP) and promptly received a letter of thread to bring the project to
> court because of trademark infringement. Because of this and because the
> author of ODP had been threaded to be exiled from the user community
> forums, the ODP project was forced to go down.

This is more sad news: I think that overly aggressive trademark
enforcement is counterproductive in a Free Software context...

> As we feel that FreeFOAM
> is now in a similar situation we also fear to receive a similar letter
> of legal thread of trademark infringement.
> My question is how to handle in such a situation?

I recommend that you get in touch with a lawyer (one that is well
versed in trademark laws in an international context, and, possibly,
in copyright laws, as well) and seek legal advice.

I am not a lawyer and I cannot give you any legal advice.
What I can do is tell you what *I* would do in such a situation.

> So far,
> We have different options:
> 2) Change the name of the project. Would this be sufficient to avoid
> trademark name infringement?

I would personally try hard to minimize the risk of being sued.
I think a name change would benefit the project.
See the Mozilla-Debian issue, where overly aggressive trademark
enforcement on the Mozilla side led to the re-branding of Firefox as
Iceweasel and of Thunderbird as Icedove within the Debian distribution.

I've been thinking about possible new names that I could suggest.

Two options came to my mind:

 *  FreePhi

pronunciation:  /friː faɪ/  or  /friː fiː/
logo:           FreeΦ
explanation:    you already have a Greek letter Φ in your current logo,
and that letter may represent a general (scalar, vector, or tensor)
field, which is the main type of variables involved in partial
differential equations


pronunciation:  /frɒθɪ/
logo:           ΦΡΩΘΙ   or  ΦROTHY
explanation:    "froth" is a synonym of "foam", and we could even manage
to interpret "FROTHY" as some sort of acronym (FRee sOlver Toolkit
based on matHematical sYmbols? or something similar...)

> 3) Or is it required to change the name of the project and all its
> libraries, binaries, file names etc. that include the word 'FOAM'? This
> would bring a lot of work and maintenance, among synchronization with
> the OpenFOAM project. Probably the history of the git repo will be
> (partly) lost.

I don't think that functional names have to be changed, but, I repeat,
I am not a lawyer...

> Any recommendations or suggestions are welcome.

I hope my contribution to the discussion may help.

 Need some pdebuild hook scripts?
..................................................... Francesco Poli .
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