I'd like to release an application that basically has the license of "the code is GPLd but forks cannot use the name or logo", with the intent of avoiding confusion to users.

Is that possible or is it an all or nothing deal?

  • 4
    Sounds like what you want is a trademark, which is a very different animal. GPL relies on copyright. Unfortunately, trademarks cost money. Note that Linux is an example of GPLed software with a trademarked name. Dec 4 '12 at 20:22
  • @StevenBurnap - You should add that as an answer :) Dec 4 '12 at 22:13
  • Just a few things to Google for (Don't want to steal @StevenBurnap answer): Hudson vs. Jenkins, OpenOffice vs. LibreOffice, Mambo vs. Miro and Linux vs. Australia. All cases where an Open Source Product was involved in a Trademark dispute, and there are more. So Trademark your stuff.
    – Michael Stum
    Dec 4 '12 at 23:27
  • Another example is Firefox, which is under the GPL compatible MPL, but because of trademark issues, is released by Debian as Iceweasel. Dec 5 '12 at 4:07

You can trademark the name and release the code as open-source. "Common Law" trademarks are free, you just have to say that it is trademarked, but not as easy to enforce.

Keep in mind I am not a lawyer and could be wrong. Talk to a professional for legal advice.

  • 1
    Important thing to note is that legal rules differ between countries. Most countries don't provide any legal protection for unregistered trade marks.
    – Jan Hudec
    Dec 5 '12 at 9:58
  • @JanHudec - How can any country provide any protection to anything that isn't registerd :-)
    – Ramhound
    Dec 5 '12 at 13:17
  • @Ramhound: By finding in your favor within civil court. Knowing that the law will find in your favor protects you (since people will hesitate to violate your unregistered trademark, especially if you send a cease and desist letter).
    – Brian
    Dec 5 '12 at 14:32
  • In the United States, Common Law trademarks are generally enforced if you can prove that you've used it, which is a good thing since the fees are quite high (you'd thing with the obscene taxes we pay government services would be free). Also, if you put a TM next to your trademark, most people won't bother looking it up; they'll just assume it's protected. Just don't use (R) unless you have a registered trademark, because that would be illegal. You will notice TM is used a lot though, and in most cases when you see TM instead of (R), it's not registered. At least that's how I understand it.
    – Razick
    Dec 7 '12 at 20:45


"However, some licenses had requirements that weren't really restrictive, because they were so easy to comply with. For example, some licenses say that they don't give you permission to use certain trademarks. That's not really an additional restriction: if that clause wasn't there, you still wouldn't have permission to use the trademark. We always said those licenses were compatible with GPLv2, too."


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