Whatchamacallit(R) training

24 03 2007

Regarding the recent brouhaha over RedHat®’s cease and desist letters against people and companies offering JBoss® and Hibernate® training, here’s my two (Euro) cents:

  1. RedHat® is perfectly in its rights to ask that people use their trademarks in the proper way, so as not to dilute it. IANAL, but should I ever offer Hibernate® services, I’ll be careful to do it under the moniker of “Support (or training) for the Hibernate® Object Relational Mapping Software” or somesuch, just to be safe.
  2. Lawyers, as usual, are a bunch of wankers. First they send out threatening letters asking that companies do not use the Hibernate® and JBoss® names at all, then they backtrack and change their stance, hoping those who received the C&D letter will never read Bill’s blog.
  3. Gavin King is at best disingenuous when he writes that “Apache owns and defends their trademarks”. If Apache defended its trademarks with the same ferocity as RedHat, you’d expect ASF lawyers sending out C&D letters to Covalent for putting on their website an announcement for “Apache, Tomcat, Geronimo & Axis Free Web Seminars”, just to name an example.

Having said that RedHat®, as a company that needs to make a profit, after all, can behave as any other “evil” corporation, if it pleases them, let me add the following: I might be an idealist, but I believe Open Source companies should act differently. Otherwise all this talk of community is just lame and hollow.

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5 responses

24 03 2007
Massimiliano Dessì

I’m not surprise,
JBoss Guys are famous for sympathy of their actions and their flames.
I see many flames for free software not for open software.
It’s a different philosophy…

24 03 2007
d

I don’t suppose there’s a definitive source for the right and wrongs of this matter?

I use a completely different Open Source product which I am a massive fan of but which has recently been sending similar sorts of letters to companies providing training and support.

I not only think it is legally dubious, I don’t think it’s particularly good for the continuing health of the community to be excluding people who are able to actually make a living from their knowledge of the product. It affects those offering services directly, but it affects me too if it damages the commity or diminishes the momentum of a product I use.

However, as you can see in this case, the legal issues are clouded in most people’s minds (more so when considering differing jurisdictions across the globe) so the discussions are generally highly unproductive.

I don’t suppose the Free Software Foundation or someone similar has published (or could be encouraged to publish) a proper legal opinion on this?

24 03 2007
Gavin King

“Gavin King is at best disingenuous when he writes that “Apache owns and defends their trademarks”. If Apache defended its trademarks with the same ferocity as RedHat, you’d expect ASF lawyers sending out C&D letters to Covalent”

How was I disingenuous? I have not defended the letters. The letters were a mistake, and an obnoxious one at that. I’m furious about them, as is everyone else at JBoss. They were done by someone in the legal department at Red Hat without the knowledge of anyone in the JBoss division and AFAICT without the knowledge of Mark Webbink. If you think you are angry about this issue, you have not seen my internal emails.

So, we’re working on clarifying the whole issue and making a very clear statement about it on our website. Obviously this takes time. I only learned about this issue on *Wednesday*, for chrissakes, and I have been on the road since then.

What we have done is say that this was mistake, and we do not expect it to happen again. I’m not sure what else I can do until we get to sit down with the lawyers and figure out how to craft a more accurate statement.

But, OTOH, other people (eg. Rickard and Bill Dudney) are trying to claim that merely owning a trademark is somehow wrong and shows us to be somehow different from other opensource groups. I’m pointing out that other groups also own and defend their trademarks. And yes, we have got letters from Apache telling us what we can and can’t do with the Tomcat brand. I do not see how it is disingenuous to point this out.

24 03 2007
ugo

Gavin, I am confident in your good faith and have no problems in placing the blame squarely on the lawyers’ shoulders.

Also I cannot comment on the letters you got from Apache, having never read them. BUt for sure I’ve never heard of ASF lawyers acting as attack dogs against everyone who dares to misuse the Apache brand, regardless of the reasons why such brand is used in the first place.

25 03 2007
Bill Dudney

Gavin – please don’t lump me in the same bucket with anyone else. I have no axe to grind with JBoss. As I have said over and over again. Its not that RedHat (or JBoss) owns a trademark, or that they are enforcing them. Its the ownership of an ‘open’ thing. In my view of the world (which might or might not be shared by anyone else) open means that the project is owned by the community, not by a single company. Which is why I posted the 2nd post to try to clearly state my position. Looks like I need to try again…

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