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Re: trademark licenses and DFSG

On Sun, Oct 09, 2011 at 05:28:41PM -0700, Steve Langasek wrote:
> Has the project received competent legal advice stating that a package name
> would be interpreted as infringing a trademark, and that we might have to
> rename it?

I haven't sought such advice myself, nor I'm aware of any such advice
sought in the past. If someone is (e.g. past DPL, -legal people, etc.),
please speak up.

Similarly, we could use hearing back from several advices sought by
other (binary) distributions, as the problem is pretty much the same
across distributions. Does anyone know about similar advices sought by
other distributions, be them Debian derivatives or not?

I can seek such advice via SPI lawyers if needed, but our share of their
pipe is quite full already. Therefore I'd prefer reuse existing
knowledge if it is available.

> Note that I am not talking about violating the terms of a trademark
> *license* here, which I maintain we generally have no reason to seek
> (or accept), but about whether such use infringes actual trademark
> rights directly.

Whether the license part is relevant or not depends on the extent of
fair use that can be granted to Debian packaging. For instance, I've
little doubts that distributing unmodified upstream code would
constitute fair use and hence grant us to reuse upstream marks in both
package names and in the application itself. But when you start changing
the code --- either in functional or non-functional ways --- the point
that you're outside trademark fair use can be made.

If that is the case, then we need to be concerned with trademark
licenses, even if they are implicitly granted for the purposes of Debian
activities on the upstream software. In fact, I fear this is the most
common case we need to be concerned with.

(I'm hand-waiving a bit here, as I surely cannot claim to be a trademark
law expert. Insights from people who can claim more knowledge than me on
these subjects are highly welcome.)

Are you saying that, in your opinion, we have no reasons to seek
trademark licenses for stuff distributed as part of Debian, even when it
is modified wrt upstream?

Stefano Zacchiroli     zack@{upsilon.cc,pps.jussieu.fr,debian.org} . o .
Maître de conférences   ......   http://upsilon.cc/zack   ......   . . o
Debian Project Leader    .......   @zack on identi.ca   .......    o o o
« the first rule of tautology club is the first rule of tautology club »

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