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Registering the Debian Logo as our trademark?

Hi all,

I have been helping to field trademark inquiries for Debian since late
February, and the issue of our Logo has come up a number of times.

Currently, our logo is not a registered Trademark, but is considered
(and treated by our current Trademark policy) as a "common law"
trademark, in that we have been using it to represent Debian for many
years, and many people see it and recognize it as "Debian's logo".

I know there have been discussions in the past about moving forward
with officially registering the logo, but these discussions seem to
have not ended with a clear decision or agreement one way or another,
hence the status quo of unregistered common law trademark.

Generally speaking, as a matter of law, it would be better if we
registered our logo as our Trademark. We had also gotten advice from
our legal counsel (SFLC) encouraging us to do so.

I don't believe any changes would be required to our Trademark policy
to accomodate the change from "common law" to "registered" trademark,
we'd just have the benefit that we'd have an easier time protecting
it, if we ever found a need to do so.

Here is the Debian Trademark Policy 2.0 [1] guidance on using logos:

"Guidelines for Using Logos

- Any scaling must retain the original proportions of the logo.
- Do not use the Debian logos as part of your company logo or product
logo or branding itself. They can be used as part of a page describing
your products or services.
- You need not ask us for permission to use logos on your own website
solely as a hyperlink to the Debian project website."

Some may wonder if Registering our logo as a trademark is possible
with the logo under a fairly liberal Free Software license. The answer
is yes, as Copyrights are a different set of rights than Trademark.
Bear in mind or Logo is already one of our Trademarks, we just don't
have it registered.

Another question that one might raise is, "What if the USPTO rejects
our logo as too simple, and not creative enough?" In answer, this is
not a criteria for acceptance. If the mark is distinctive, and unique,
and isn't already registered, it doesn't really matter how simple or
complex a design is. e.g. - Think of the "Nike Swoosh".

I would like to work to address what I perceive to be a bug, and get
our logo official registered. I spoke to leader@ (Lucas) about this,
and he said that I should first start a dicussion on -project laying
out the pros and cons, with examples of what other similar projects
are doing.

- Makes it easier, legally speaking, to protect our trademark, if it
ever came to it
- When companies are doing trademark searches for logos in the
trademark database, they would be discouraged from using our logo, as
it is would be in the database.
- If a company tries to register a logo trademark that is the same as
ours, the USPTO should not allow it, since it is in their database. (I
say should, as mistakes can happen)

- Filing costs of ~$700
- Labor/work required to file (With assistance from SFLC, I am willing
to do much of the work required.)
- Required extra coordination with SPI
- If someone has already filed our logo as a trademark, we will be
forced into a situation where we need to deal with that. (I have
already done a preliminary search of the USPTO database, and found no
such occurrences, so feel this risk is minimal.)
- In order to maintain the status of a federally registered trademark,
the owner must file a statement of continued use and later, a renewal
application. (Again more work, which I am willing to do.)

Other projects that have registered their logo:
- Apache - Many trademarks, including the feather
- OpenOffice - Seagull logo
- Gentoo Linux - G logo http://www.gentoo.org/main/en/name-logo.xml
- Fedora - Multiple logos http://fedoraproject.org/wiki/Logo/UsageGuidelines
- Drupal CMS - Druplicon logo http://drupal.org/node/9068
- Gnome - Gnome Foot http://www.gnome.org/foundation/legal-and-trademarks/
- Mozilla - Multiple logos (Firefox, Thunderbird and Mozilla)
- KDE - KDE and the K Desktop Environment logos

So far in my search of other large Free Software Projects that have a
singular graphical identify, pretty much all have a registered
graphical trademark, with the exception of the GNU project's "gnuhead"
logo. (However, FSF does still treat it as a trademark

What do people feel about proceeding with this registration?


[1] - http://www.debian.org/trademark

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