Life at Eclipse

Musings on the Eclipse Foundation, the community and the ecosystem

Community Trademarks

There’s been a bit of conversation going on between Savio Rodrigues and Angry Bill Burke about the value of trademarks this week. This is rather timely, given the recent update to the Eclipse Foundation Trademark Guidelines and the parallel conversation about “CDT for Windows” going on between Ian Skerrett and Doug Schaefer here at Eclipse.

I have to admit that when I first read Angry Bill’s take on trademarks I thought that he just didn’t get it. On my second read, I realized that he gets it all too well.

You see, trademarks are a control point. One that JBoss use{s|d} to great effect. But as Savio pointed out, what Bill sees as a problem is actually exactly the outcome that communities such as Apache and Eclipse want to achieve. Open source startups and their VC backers want to create barriers to entry, and trademarks are a way to do that. Communities want to lower barriers of entry to projects in order to foster diversity and adoption. Different motivations result in different approaches. Bill wants to make money for his company. We want to make communities that make money for many companies.

In many ways, this is part of the larger conversation on what “open source” means. Open source companies and open source communities both use the term “open source”, but they mean quite radically different things by the term. Even if they all share a common licensing definition, there are quite different development, community and IP processes in play that make them distinct models. We really do need a new lexicon, because this is very confusing to anyone outside the FLOSS cognoscenti.

As the Eclipse Trademark Guidelines state:

The Eclipse Foundation holds the trademarks for the project names and logos on behalf of, and for the benefit of, the Eclipse projects. The individual projects are not separate legal entities and thus not able to hold trademarks individually. The Eclipse Foundation is a legal entity and thus holds the trademarks on behalf of the projects.

Our (somewhat belated) goal is to reduce any possibility of confusion between what is coming from Eclipse and what is coming from a commercial adopter. Or for that matter, an open source fork hosted at another organization.

Angry Bill may think this “sucks”, but it’s how communities foster involvement and participation.

Written by Mike Milinkovich

July 19, 2007 at 10:32 am

Posted in Foundation

One Response

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  1. Couldn’t agree with you more Mike :-)There’s room for both governance models. It just depends on your goals.Interesting point you make about VCs (and by implication, the related OSS companies) seeking to create barriers to entry.-Savio


    July 20, 2007 at 4:03 pm

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