Posts Tagged with “trademark”

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.

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

Localization Teams and Trademarks

August 20th, 2004

I know there is angst and unhappiness about potential new localization plans and trademark limits. I knew this somewhat before, but I really know it now. That’s because Tristan, Peter, Axel, Gerv and others have made it a point to bring these concerns to the Mozilla Foundation and make sure we understand how important a topic this is. They’ve also made it clear that we haven’t done a good enough job at working with the localization teams. So we’re going to do a few things.

First, we’ve made the localization issues a regular topic of discussion with the Mozilla Europe folks. This way the topic won’t get dropped, and we’ll make sure that the Mozilla Foundation does a better job of both listening and communication. It also gives those in Europe an easier, effective way to raise your concerns — talk to the Mozilla Europe folks and they’ll make sure we get the message. We’ll do the same thing with Mozilla Japan. We’ll continue the regular IRC discussions with the localization groups with Mozilla Foundation participation. We’ll try to do a better job of explaining what’s going on and the constraints within which the Mozilla Foundation operates. That’s what I’ll try to do in the rest of this message.

The Mozilla Foundation believes it is important to make sure that product names such as Firefox are protected as trademarks. If this is not done, then the names can be used by projects and companies that are doing quite different things. For example, we would be very unhappy to see a new browser plugin named Firefox appear that is unrelated to the Mozilla project. We don’t want to see browsers with different technology underpinnings called Firefox. A browser that doesn’t have XUL for example, isn’t Firefox and we don’t want one to appear called Firefox. This would cause immense confusion.

So having “Firefox” be a trademark is important. This isn’t something I say lightly because having a trademark means that the owner is required to do certain things to keep a trademark viable. A trademark is used to identify the “source of origin” of the item bearing the trademark and to indicate quality. If the trademark is used in ways that don’t reflect the source of origin and quality level, then the trademark is weakened. If weakened enough, a trademark can be lost entirely. This is what happened to former trademarks such as “elevator” which started out as a trademark and become a general purpose noun through lack of enforcement.

I’m personally not a fan of much of trademark law, as it requires the trademark owner to do things that seem unfriendly to partners and associates. Nevertheless the Mozilla Foundation is going to comply with the requirements of trademark law to protect Firefox, Thunderbird, and other product names. We will do so in as flexible a manner as we can.

I recognize the effort, commitment and personal investment the localization teams have made to the Mozilla project. I also recognize that the localization teams take a great deal of pride in the releases that result and it is undoubtedly distasteful to think that the Mozilla Foundation many timezones away may somehow suddenly be involved.

We are currently working with trademark lawyers to determine the core set of trademark requirements, and to identify those things that trademark lawyers like but which aren’t actually absolutely necessary. We want to give the localization teams flexibility. So we’re working to take the legal requirements necessary for trademark protection and figure out implementation policies consistent with our enormous desire to recognize both the importance and the commitment of the localization teams. It’s actually been harder to get a clear picture of this from the trademark experts than I would have thought, and it’s taken more time than I would like as well.

We’ve spent a lot of time trying to sort this out and talking with folks from Mozilla Europe and the Mozilla Localization Project. We believe we’re getting close to circulating a draft policy. I imagine no one will think it’s perfect (well, maybe someone will, but I’m not counting on that) but hopefully it will be a good, workable balance.

We hope to have something posted for comment within the next week or so.

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