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[Linux-aus] Re: [LACTTE] Linux Trade Mark

[This is a response I originally sent to Andy which I'm re-sending to
linux-aus with Andy's permission, because he asked questions about the
Linux trademark issue that others will probably also want to know the
answers to. I don't want to inflame things further but this is probably
better than answering the same questions privately many times.]

Hi Andy,

Thanks for getting in touch directly to find out the truth behind the
situation! It seems many people are just getting hot under the collar
without checking the facts, so I appreciate that you've taken the time
to investigate it for yourself.

This reply is just coming to yourself and the LA committee, but since
you asked a very good question would you mind if I also forward this
response to the public Linux Australia list? We have a general policy of
trying to be as open and transparent as possible and other people
probably have the same concerns as yourself.

> Hi, while I was immediately incensed by the very idea of trademarking
> the term Linux, I can see that it could indeed be beneficial to the OSS
> community.

One of the things most people seem to have missed is that the action to
secure the trademark is being done on behalf of Linus himself, and that
it's to protect the term from misuse that could harm the Linux
community. Linus himself can't be bothered spending his time chasing
down misuse of the term, which is why Linux Mark Institute was created.
LMI is a non-profit organisation whose sole purpose is to administer the
trademark on Linus' behalf and ensure that it is not used
inappropriately, for example when the domain linuxchix.com was used for
a porn site.

I think that once people understand that this action is for the
*protection* of Linux and to ensure the term continues to be used
appropriately they become much more comfortable with the idea. Many
people have the incorrect idea that once it's trademarked in Australia
they won't be able to say the word "Linux" without paying a fee, but
that's just plain wrong. An example would be the trademark "Microsoft":
you can use the term to refer to the company or its products without
charge, and even suggesting that saying the word would incur a fee would
be considered ridiculous. But because it's a trademarked term it's not
legally possible to name your company or a product that. Imagine if I
tried to launch a product called "Microsoft Big Business Server" which
was an Intel whitebox running Linux! I don't think I'd be in business
for long.

Part of the danger is that the exact opposite could occur at present
because the trademark has not been established in Australia. Microsoft
could release a product called "Ultimate Linux" in Australia which is
really just Windows ME with some interface tweaks, and without an
established trademark in place it would be very hard to stop them.

So I'm glad that you agree that having the term trademarked is a good

> However what I'm still incensed about is the fees - how do
> you justify a fee of up to $5000?

The fees are not in place to make profit. They are put in place by LMI
(*not* Linux Australia) so that LMI itself can continue to operate and
protect the trademark. The fees are on a sliding scale to make them as
painless as possible, with the majority of licencees paying very small
amounts (in the region of a few hundred dollars). And keep in mind that
those fees would only be payable by companies wanting to licence the
term in a commercial context: not end users, or hobbyists, or user
groups. Just companies that actually have a product which includes
"Linux" in the name or have a company with Linux in the name. Note that
this doesn't include products that refer to being "Linux compatible",
for example. You could release a GTK+ photo management program and call
it "Andy's Photo Album" and say on the box that it "runs on Linux", and
that's not a problem. That's using the term "Linux" to refer to what we
all know of as "Linux".

But if you release a product actually named "Andy Linux", that might be
a different story. In that case you probably would need to obtain a
licence for the term, but as I mentioned the fees are designed to be on
a sliding scale so they are as painless as possible.

In any case the fees are not being imposed by Linux Australia and we are
not pursuing people to pay them. That is entirely an issue for LMI,
which manages the trademark globally. All we are doing is acting on
behalf of LMI to secure the trademark in Australia. That's it.

Many people are talking about the $5000 fee, but that's at the top of
the scale and would only be payable by companies selling products with
Linux in the name and turning over > US $1 million. The actual scale
published by LMI is online at http://www.linuxmark.org/fees.html, and as
you'll see they're quite reasonable when considered in a commercial

Hope this helps explain things.

Cheers   :-)

Jonathan Oxer
Linux Australia