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Re: Registering the Debian Logo as our trademark?

Brian Gupta <brian.gupta@brandorr.com>
> Pros:
> -----
> - Makes it easier, legally speaking, to protect our trademark, if it
> ever came to it

Is this a significant benefit?  How many protection actions have been
prevented by the lack of registration?

> - 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.

Do abusers of our trademark bother to search?  Surely they'd be
discouraged if they search the web?  That's easier to search than
the USPTO 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)

Related questions: Is the US the best place for the primary
registration?  How is it better than filing in an EU state and
using the Madrid Protocol or similar?

> Cons:
> -----
> - 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.)

Is this a one-way trap-door?  If we register, do we have to maintain
registration forever or lose the benefits?  Can we fall back to a
common law trademark later?

I feel you're missing a major con: whereas any type of trademark
infringement is a civil law dispute, one effect of registration is to
activate criminal law in many places (I think it's still the
Copyright, Trademarks, etc Act 2002 in the UK).  That allows law
enforcement officers to prosecute what they consider infringement,
whether or not we do.  This is one way that multinationals make
taxpayers pay for policing their brands - however, debian is not
locked down like LVMH or D&G.

Most of the people who would use the debian logo are our supporters
and we'd be putting them at risk from harrassment by the sort of
ignorant officers who famously complained to the Mozilla Foundation
that releasing a browser under a Free Software copyright licence made
it hard for them to prosecute illegal file sharing or whatever it was.

> Other projects that have registered their logo:
> -----------------------------------------------

When I was looking years ago, the Java mascot was the only really
nicely licensed trademark I found.  I regret that I've not got time to
see if/how the others have changed recently.

With word marks, hasn't our project had complaints from well-meaning
supporters of other projects about keeping the same command name
(maybe through /etc/alternatives) when we've patched and maybe even
renamed packages?  Maybe less of a problem for logos, though.

> What do people feel about proceeding with this registration?

I would rather not do it, but if we do, I think it needs extreme
caution.  It's very easy to screw things up and end up making an
entire class of works under DFSG-following copyright licences become
non-free because of a DFSG-breaching trademark licence and obnoxious
criminal trademark law defaults.

My Opinion Only: see http://people.debian.org/~mjr/
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