Access and Feeds

Open Source Trademarks: Companies Push Back Against Google

By Dick Weisinger

The Open Usage Commons (OUC) is a new project established by Google for managing trademarks and their usage for Open Source projects. But not all projects think this approach is a good idea.

OUC promises that my letting them manage the trademark they can guarantee that the mark “won’t be suddenly taken away on a whim after they’ve built up an offering around it.”

The OUC wrote that “many people may not realize that the permission to use the project’s trademark is distinct from the project’s license for its source code. If you look at various open source licenses, you will likely find a line that says that the license does not grant trademark use.”

Google announced three project marks that would be assigned to the OUC: Angular, Istio, and Gerret Code Review, and all of these projects were either conceived by or strongly contributed to by Google engineers.

Some companies, like IBM, see the OUC as too directly connected to Google to be considered vendor-independent or vendor-neutral.

Chris DiBona, director of Open Source at Google, said that “we’re announcing that we’re librarians for trademarks. We’re going to be bringing trademarks into the Open Source Definition… Understanding and managing trademarks is critical for the long-term sustainability of projects, particularly with the increasing number of enterprise products based on open source. Trademarks sit at the juncture of the rule of law and the philosophy of open source, a complicated space; for this reason, we consider it to be the next challenge for open source, one we want to help with.”

But the response from IBM was cold: “Today’s announcement by Google of the creation of the Open Usage Commons (OUC) is disappointing because it doesn’t live up to the community’s expectation for open governance. An open governance process is the underpinning of many successful projects. Without this vendor-neutral approach to project governance, there will be friction within the community of Kubernetes-related projects.”

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