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Re: advice for free software package named almost identically to non-free software

Hi Ian,

On Mon, Jun 12, 2017 at 12:27:12PM +0100, Ian Jackson wrote:
> Nicholas D Steeves writes ("advice for free software package named almost identically to non-free software"):
> > An upstream has named their GPL software almost identically to a
> > proprietary piece of software.  Both the free and the proprietary
> > software are developed in the U.S.A.  The upstream has confirmed that
> > the name is not a registered trademark in the U.S.A, but the
> > proprietary software unambiguously precedes the free version; thus, if
> > ever there is a dispute, the developer of the first version has the
> > "prior art" argument on their side.
> Hi.
> I can't help feeling that this story is missing something.  I don't
> disagree with anything Paul Wise has said, but:

I apologise for being so vague and cryptic...if this wasn't a
public and google-searcheable list I would have been much more
forthcoming.  I'm not the upstream, btw! ;-)
> > The developer of the free software implementation has asked me if it
> > would be sufficient to ask permission from the author of the
> > proprietary developer to name his software similarly.  If this is
> > acceptable, would you please provide a template I can send to the
> > author of the free implementation?
> In most situations I can imagine, the proprietary software author
> would be very unlikely to give permission.  Indeed, I would expect
> them to object if they knew about it, so, contacting them to ask for
> it might well trigger the latent problem.
> If the free upstream suggests that they might ask for permission,
> presumably they have a different understanding of the proprietary
> authors' views.  Perhaps they know (of) each other or have some other
> relationship that we're missing.

To the best of my knowledge they do not.  In summary, when it occurred
to me that the naming could be an issue I contacted upstream, he asked
what is usually done in cases like these, I said I'd ask debian-legal.
The optimist in me expressed the sentiment that maybe asking for
permission from the proprietary software author would be sufficient,
but I qualified this with something along the lines of "please don't
contact him until I receive a reply from debian-legal as to if this is
a wise course of action".

> So, as far as the question actually asked I think Paul is right.  But
> I have a strong feeling of "something odd going on here".  It may be
> that if we knew more of the background, we could give better advice.

I've given the upstream contact your email so he can write to you
directly.  Maybe I'm paranoid and overestimate the motivation and
skills of litigious goons!

Thank you

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