Archive for September 7th, 2004

More on Trademarks and Localization Teams

September 7th, 2004

I was told that my last post on Localization Teams and Trademarks needed context to make sense to people not intimately involved in the Mozilla project. So here’s a bit of background.

The Mozilla project includes a phenomenal number of people who voluntarily localize Mozilla releases into their own languages. There are currently 30 localization teams registered for Mozilla Thunderbird, 48 teams registered for Mozilla Firefox and 104 teams registered for the Mozilla Internet Application Suite. Some groups do far more than translate strings, and may also translate website materials, localize the releases and evangelize use of these projects in their geographical areas.

The Mozilla Localization Project is also a volunteer effort, providing help, structure and guidance for the localization teams. The localization, evangelism and related efforts are part of what drives me to participate in the project. When I look up and see what people around the world are contributing to the Mozilla project, it’s hard to imagine not doing what I can. Nevertheless, staff and more recently the Mozilla Foundation have not had a close working relationship with many of the localization teams and sometimes we appear as the distant central group acting bureaucratic or autocratic. We’re trying to interact on a more regular basis with the localization teams through the Mozilla Localization Project leaders, the Mozilla Europe folks and our own efforts. But of course we’re imperfect, short on resources and probably don’t have as good an understanding of what the localization teams need as we should.

One area that’s been under discussion is how to respect the commitment, efforts and goals of the localization teams and still have a single Mozilla Firefox product and a single Mozilla Thunderbird product. We understand that some localization teams will want to make significant changes, perhaps including different, additional or locale-specific extensions, change themes and otherwise tune the releases to meet their view of local conditions. This is great; it allows a variety of options and experiments. At the same time, a product name should indicate what the product is. Having different releases with the same name would be very confusing. This is a basic strand of trademark law, and also fits with (at least my) general sense of what a product name means.

This means we need to figure out the application of trademark requirements to our localization teams. Integrating these two is trickier than it might sound. Trademark law is intended to allow consumers to determine the source of origin and the quality of goods. Trademark law is easiest to apply in a highly centralized setting, where all decisions are made by one party and everyone else does as they are told. Of course, our localization teams are highly decentralized groups of volunteers who help build the Mozilla project based on their dedication and interest.

I made the decision that the Mozilla Foundation will protect the Firefox and Thunderbird trademarks. This isn’t something I’m excited about doing, as trademarks require attention and limit flexibility. But I believe is critical to continued growth and vitality of the project — when someone downloads “Firefox” or “Thunderbird” we need to know what functionality they are getting. This decision meant that we needed a policy to do this while simultaneously recognizing the localization teams and hopefully helping them have both fun and pride in their work.

A bunch of people went to work to craft a policy. This involved the Mozilla Localization Program, Mozilla Europe, the Mozilla Foundation, our legal counsel, staff, various module owners and other dedicated people. I want to thank everyone who has put time and effort into this, and especially Bart Decrem for driving the process through to completion. It’s taken months and several drafts, and today the 1.0 version of this policy went live. You can find it at

Big Blog, Little Blog?

September 7th, 2004

Not long after my post about trademark and localization policy I received a message noting that the post might make sense to Mozilla insiders, but was opaque to others. The suggestion was made that I include history and perspective in such posts so that people don’t end up thinking “what is she talking about?”

I have to agree that the email author was right — the last message was intended for the Mozilla community, and the localization community in general. I thought about trying to add the background that would make sense for those not already involved, but decided just to get the post out there. I suspect this will be an ongoing tension. A post that provides the history and background of an issue takes a lot longer to write than one with a much more narrow focus. It also makes for a different sort of blog, generally more formal than the norm.

Overall, I agree it’s good to do this. Or at least, someone should do it for the Mozilla project. And I’m as good a someone as anyone. So I’ll try.

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