I would like to know if the name of an open-source application can be trademarked by the original author and what it means when it comes to distributing it through major linux distros, that is, will they accept this kind of software?

closed as off topic by Gary Rowe, Thomas Owens Apr 23 '12 at 21:47

Questions on Software Engineering Stack Exchange are expected to relate to software engineering within the scope defined by the community. Consider editing the question or leaving comments for improvement if you believe the question can be reworded to fit within the scope. Read more about reopening questions here. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

  • 2
    Off topic on Programmers.SE... – Dynamic Apr 23 '12 at 19:15
  • I agree with Jae. While it is an interesting question, it is off topic for this forum. – Gary Rowe Apr 23 '12 at 20:02
  • Also voted off-topic, but you can even trademark open source stuff with the same name when used differently (e.g. Fedora linux distro, Fedora digital object repository software), so even in open source there's plenty of work for lawyers... – jcmeloni Apr 23 '12 at 20:40
  • Software licensing IS included as On Topic, and since this question asks about Trademarks in the context of licensing issues (open source licenses), this seems ON TOPIC to me. – Warren P Apr 23 '12 at 21:47

Open source organizations certainly trademark their names and the software names. Take a look at the Mozilla Trademark Policy, specifically their list of trademarks. The reason for trademarking is actually quite realistic. The point of a trademark is to communicate who is providing a product or service. By downloading Firefox, you're supposed to know where it came from.

Someone else is welcome to take the code and modify it, but they should release it under a different name to distinguish it. There would be a danger if someone took the Firefox code, put in a vulnerability, and released it as "Firefox" and distributed it, making everyone think it was from Mozilla. Mozilla has a reputation, and over time people start to trust it. It's that reputation that trademarks protect.

  • Most distributions have no problem with redistributing their own (sometimes customized) versions of Firefox, without wrangling between mozilla.org and the distro's legal beagles. Famously, Debian is different, and thus there is IceWeasel, instead of FireFox, distributed in Debian. – Warren P Apr 23 '12 at 22:01

Yes, the name of an open-source app can be trademarked. As an example, see Linux itself: http://assignments.uspto.gov/assignments/q?db=tm&rno=1916230

I hope this also answers your second question :)

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.