Archive for June 13th, 2006

RSS Icon and trademark application

June 13th, 2006

There have been some questions about the RSS icon and trademark protection. The Mozilla Foundation filed a trademark application a while back during the process of evaluating what course of action to take. Same with creating a trademark license to see what it would look like.

After looking at this, we all believe that a community driven approach is best and that trademark licensing don’t make sense for a number of reasons. So several things could happen with the existing trademark application. The Mozilla Foundation could abandon the trademark application. The Mozilla Foundation could commit to managing the trademark only as determined by the community process.

The one thing that I don’t know how to do effectively is to give the mark to some other organization for it to manage. That’s because I don’t know of any generally known and accepted organization for dealing with trademarks. Creative Common is copyright only; the standards bodies aren’t trademark organizations. I’m pretty sure there are organizations that enforce particular marks, but I don’t know of anything analogous to a standards body for enforcing community-governed icons and marks. In the long run having such an organization could be very valuable and I think we’re going to see an increasing need for this. In the meantime, I think the options are as noted above: either the Mozilla Foundation has a trademark and manages it based on community process or we rely entirely on community norms.

My belief is that trying to have the Mozilla Foundation officially responsible for an icon that is already in use is going to cause angst as well as make it harder to have calm discussions about the RSS icon and the proper role for trademark in community-driven activities. This is counterproductive. If abandoning the trademark application (a) makes people feel safer using the mark and/or (b) allows us to have the community-driven trademark discussion in a calmer setting and without suspicion, then withdrawing the trademark application makes sense.

Look for more on the RSS topic from Frank Hecker shortly.

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