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Mark Shuttleworth Apologizes for Trademark Action Against Fix Ubuntu 196

A few days ago, the operator of Fix Ubuntu received a threatening letter from Canonical commanding him to cease using the Ubuntu name or logo. Last night, Mark Shuttleworth posted an update noting that it shouldn't have happened, and also apologizing for calling opponents of Mir the open source tea party. "In order to make the amount of [trademark related] correspondence manageable, we have a range of standard templates for correspondence. They range from the 'we see you, what you are doing is fine, here is a license to use the name and logo which you need to have, no need for further correspondence,' through 'please make sure you state you are speaking for yourself and not on behalf of the company or the product,' to the 'please do not use the logo without permission, which we are not granting unless you actually certify those machines,' and 'please do not use Ubuntu in that domain to pretend you are part of the project when you are not.' Last week, the less-than-a-month-at-Canonical new guy sent out the toughest template letter to the folks behind a “sucks” site. Now, that was not a decision based on policy or guidance; as I said, Canonical’s trademark policy is unusually generous relative to corporate norms in explicitly allowing for this sort of usage. It was a mistake, and there is no question that the various people in the line of responsibility know and agree that it was a mistake. It was no different, however, than a bug in a line of code, which I think most developers would agree happens to the best of us. It just happened to be, in that analogy, a zero-day remote root bug. ... On another, more personal note, I made a mistake myself when I used the label “open source tea party” to refer to the vocal non-technical critics of work that Canonical does. That was unnecessary and quite possibly equally offensive to members of the real Tea Party (hi there!) and the people with vocal non-technical criticism of work that Canonical does (hello there!)."
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Mark Shuttleworth Apologizes for Trademark Action Against Fix Ubuntu

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  • by mwvdlee ( 775178 ) on Sunday November 10, 2013 @09:32AM (#45382941) Homepage

    Sucks to be "the new guy"; you always get blamed for dumb mistakes by "the experienced guy".

    • Sucks to be "the new guy"; you always get blamed for dumb mistakes by "the experienced guy".

      Guy comes into office and finds a letter offering him advice. It says: First time you screw up, blame everything on me. Second time you screw up, sit down and write an advice letter...

      • by Yebyen ( 59663 )

        I think I've heard this one... it ends like "the third time, make up three envelopes..."

    • Poor Larry [youtube.com].
  • Fine (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday November 10, 2013 @09:50AM (#45383039)
    Seems fair. Apology accepted.
    • I have one to sell you if you believe him. And i will toss in a bag of extremely rare muffler bearings.

      • Re:Bridge (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Patch86 ( 1465427 ) on Sunday November 10, 2013 @10:23AM (#45383305)

        I believe him. He's a smart guy (multi-millionaire businessman and all that), I'm sure he knows and knew beforehand what an unholy row a trademark cease-and-desist letter would cause. And I'm 99% sure he isn't the one in charge of sending out legal letters- I'm certain Canonical employs people for that.

        So yeah, I'm willing to believe that he thinks sending out the letter was a mistake.

        • He was a bit lagging though, I would not rule out that the negative reaction of the web played a role. Anyway, he did the right move.

          • Re:Bridge (Score:4, Insightful)

            by Anonymous Coward on Sunday November 10, 2013 @01:36PM (#45384703)

            I have no love for ubuntu or Shuttleworth, but this explanation seemed fair to me, and totally plausible.

            As for the slow reaction time, that's just a reality of any large company getting a PR blindside like this. When large companies do something they suspect may be unpopular, they are usually ready with their pre-prepared reactions and they roll the apology out like clockwork. When something like this just happens out of nowhere, people scramble, there are meetings in boardrooms with powerpoint slides, conference calls with managers spending time at the cottage, and it takes a while to get a reaction out the door that everyone is comfortable won't make things worse.

            TLDR: I buy it, but ubuntu still sucks

      • by Goaway ( 82658 )

        Considering that is exactly what I assumed had happened when I first heard about it, I have little reason not to believe it.

      • Rare muffler bearings, you do realise those are made of platinum and are what makes catalytic converters so expensive and attrackable to thieves selling scrap right?

        Seriously, the converters with the bearings inside them are worth the most for scrap. Of couse the beads aren't really bearings but they look just like small ball bearings with the race.

      • by rtb61 ( 674572 )

        So you're saying that Mark Shuttleworth did not actually apologise that somehow that apology letter is a new legal attack aimed at silencing the critic at https://fixubuntu.com/ [fixubuntu.com] with a quite specific and singular complaint with regard to targeted marketing incorporated in dash https://help.ubuntu.com/13.04/ubuntu-help/unity-dash-intro.html [ubuntu.com]. A further article tackling this complaint might be useful https://www.eff.org/deeplinks/2012/10/privacy-ubuntu-1210-amazon-ads-and-data-leaks [eff.org]. Seems pretty genuine to m

  • by philip.paradis ( 2580427 ) on Sunday November 10, 2013 @09:51AM (#45383051)

    To further illustrate the problem with review of trademark concerns at Ubuntu, several years ago I contacted their legal department with a request to be permitted to use the Ubuntu logo, alongside those of several other notable open source Linux and BSD distributions, for printing on the sails of small kites for sale at the cost of production. The objective was to create an opportunity for people to ask "hey, what's that logo represent" and engage youngsters in a discussion on open source operating systems. The request was summarily denied with some hand waving about brand protection and value to the company. Oh well.

    • by girlintraining ( 1395911 ) on Sunday November 10, 2013 @10:00AM (#45383119)

      The request was summarily denied with some hand waving about brand protection and value to the company. Oh well.

      What do you expect? Lawyers ruin everything, including open source. Except, wait, no, actually they don't. Ubuntu is made primarily of open source projects. It's just a pile of packages and standards for organizing the large and growing collection of Linux-related applications and software. They put a sticker on it and say "This particular organization of those things is called Ubuntu."

      Well, good news: There's a lot of other things that are pretty much the exact same thing that doesn't have that sticker on it, and you can do whatever you want. Guys, don't let a distribution's "brand identity" trip you up. If they're stupid enough to not engage in reciprocal marketing, move on to the next guys. They're only shooting themselves in the foot when everything else is marked with 50 different distribution badges and names, and Ubuntu isn't on the list. Ubuntu, what's that? Never heard of it. (evil smile)

      • Your sentiment is well taken, and just for reference I'm a Debian fan of some 13 years (I've run Debian [and various BSD flavors] on all my core infrastructure for ages, and have worked as a senior engineer responsible for hundreds of Ubuntu hosts containing thousands of virtualized Linux guests of varying distros). That said, Canonical has actually done a decent job of promoting Ubuntu, and it's a fact that getting people introduced to Ubuntu first and other distros later (owing to the DFSG, which is a goo

        • by girlintraining ( 1395911 ) on Sunday November 10, 2013 @10:40AM (#45383447)

          I started on Slackware in the 2.0 kernel days. So to be honest, I don't get the fuss. But then, since Slackware is basically the Ikea of distributions, you shouldn't be surprised at my apathy. Page 246: Now that you've hand-coded the boot loader in assembly using nothing more than the provided hair pin and a resistor, let us discuss how to compile the kernel using the provided mismatched header files and the IT Pro's prayer, which goes a little like this: "Dear God... I know I didn't believe in you before I tried installing Linux using this installer... but I do now. Please, just send me a sign. Let it compile. That's all I ask. Dear god, please let it compile... *click*"

          • It could be worse. I remember going through this compiling and installing Minix back in the pre linux days.

            And that damn thing [i]didn't[/i] compile. On purpose I think, see it was [i]educational[/i]. Hey on the upside I figured out how to write a driver for a hard drive controller nobody used (Wang) on an OS nobody heard of (Minix). Oh well, I passed the course.

        • by tragedy ( 27079 )

          That said, you should be aware that various other projects also enjoy protection under United States trademark laws, although they are far less hostile than Canonical in my experience.

          That seems to be a good point to mention the history of the trademark on the term "Linux". Linus did not initially seek a trademark on the the term. A scummy lawyer named William R. Della Croce, Jr got one for it in 1994 and, in classic IP troll fashion, starting sending letters out to distros and book publishers demanding payments to license the term. There followed a lengthy court case to determine if the guy named "Linus", who was the acknowledged originator of the operating system named "Linux" might ha

    • To further illustrate the problem with review of trademark concerns at Ubuntu, several years ago I contacted their legal department with a request to be permitted to use the Ubuntu logo, alongside those of several other notable open source Linux and BSD distributions, for printing on the sails of small kites for sale at the cost of production. The objective was to create an opportunity for people to ask "hey, what's that logo represent" and engage youngsters in a discussion on open source operating systems.

      How do you know that the kids would have asked "what does that logo represent?" Maybe they would have thought that it's the logo of your kite brand, or just some arbitrary pretty symbol printed on it.

      • The little pamphlet talking about Ubuntu and other distros would probably have sparked the question if natural curiosity didn't. Just guessing here.

        • Did you tell the legal team about including a pamphlet?
          • Yes. I sincerely doubt I ever got an opportunity to speak with anyone who went to law school; the quality of the responses I got read more like some intern was copying and pasting boilerplate PR material instead.

    • The objective was to create an opportunity for people to ask "hey, what's that logo represent" and engage youngsters in a discussion on open source operating systems.

      For the same purpose I've got a large plush rastafarian penguin. [imgur.com]

      It works great as a conversation starter into free and open source software and/or legalization and cultivation of herbs, as the case may be. The reddened eyes mirror my own when hacking long into the night, or taking a break therefrom. I also have an Ubuntu tee-shirt serving as my dart board's bullseye for discussing things like TFA, your post, and our new Debian deployment.

      The best talking piece was my large terrarium of green anolis for di

    • by vrt3 ( 62368 )

      Perhaps instead you should have contacted their marketing department, and asked them to sponsor your kites for a small sum of money. In return for their money you could promise them to put their logo on your kites.

      Just a thought on a lazy sunday evening.

  • Ok, so he does not throw their legal team under the bus and that is admirable. The knee-jerk reaction is ussualy to kick some dunce and put the blame on them. But the main point is not being adressed, why is this "feature" turned on by default? Grow a pair and just say that it is going to stay due to finacial reasons.
  • by Jody Bruchon ( 3404363 ) on Sunday November 10, 2013 @10:21AM (#45383283)

    An apology that blocks further discussion. I'm disappointed, but not surprised.

    • So you prefer to continue an argument rather than accept the victory of your favorite opinion?

      Do you ever have anything of value to contribute to any discussion?

  • Good apology (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday November 10, 2013 @10:26AM (#45383333)

    Nice to see a solid apology from Mark. I think a frank apology in non corpo-speak can make the world of difference. It takes an adult to hold up their hands and say they fucked up in public.

  • He should really go into politics. They acted like dicks, and now he's doing damage control...

    • by mpbrede ( 820514 )
      By this, I assume you mean that once someone has taken a wrong course, they should not try to correct once they realize their mistake? I think I have a job for you piloting huge oil tankers... There is not, in my reading any attempt to hide, it's short and sweet. "Our new guy made a mistake, I made a mistake, and we're sorry." The part about the new guy, is perhaps a bit of smole and mirrors, so I'm thinking they should name him and put him in public pillory. (NOT)
  • by Endloser ( 1170279 ) on Sunday November 10, 2013 @10:49AM (#45383513)

    I had already moved off Ubuntu and back to Debian.
    That whole switch to Unity kinda irked me.
    So I did something about, and now I am back in trusty 'ole Gnome Classic.

    And no, I'm not afraid of or against change.
    I actually really like the new version of Gnome and was getting used to Unity.
    But I use my computers for work day in and day out.
    And neither of those desktops are near stable enough for what I do.
    Both frequently become unresponsive and leave me unable to navigate apps.
    Then I have to go into a console with alt+f(x) and kill the display manager or log out and back in.
    Which doesn't look good to executives when you are attempting to demonstrate new products.

    And yes, I am more than competent enought to install Gnome Classic in Ubuntu.
    But the only reason I ever switched to Ubuntu was for the quick and dirty wireless support.
    With Wheezy, all my wireless woes seem to have past and I'm not constantly burdened by a "let's try this" mentality.
    My desktop "just works" again.
    Heh, kinda funny I switched to the core distribution from Ubuntu so the thing would "just work".

    • And at the end of the day, the quality assurance of desktop Linux is broken no matter what distro you use. You can find a bunch of small glitches from all of them.
    • by ildon ( 413912 )

      What is this, iambic pentameter? I've never been good with poetry.

    • by Zebedeu ( 739988 )

      I also moved from Ubuntu to Debian.
      For me it was that I prefer Gnome Shell to Unity.

      I did try installing Gnome on Ubuntu, and then the Ubuntu Gnome variation (or whatever it's called), but in both cases I had the impression that the integration was a bit wonky. You'd have a mixture of Ubuntu and Gnome apps which supposedly did the same things, but in subtle different ways. Like the "Online Accounts" thing in the settings.

      Anyway, I decided to try Debian and was surprised to see that not only Gnome had a muc

  • by Anonymous Coward

    They should try a setup like Hybryde Linux provides:

    "Hybryde Linux is an Ubuntu-based distribution for the desktop. Its most unusual feature is an option to switch rapidly between multiple desktop environments and window manager without logging out - the list includes Enlightenment 17, GNOME 3 (GNOME Shell and GNOME 3 "Fallback" mode), KDE, LXDE, Openbox, Unity, Xfce and FVWM. This is achieved via a highly customizable Hy-menu, which also allows launching applications and configuring the system. All open ap

  • Is his name Tibor?

  • The sincerity of an apology is inversely proportional to its word count.

  • Apology Accepted! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by davydagger ( 2566757 ) on Sunday November 10, 2013 @12:56PM (#45384425)

    It takes a big man to apologize.

    I want to thank Mark Shuttleworth for stepping up and doing the rightthing.

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      On behalf of Slashdot I would like to apologize for the above post. It was made by a Slash-newbie who doesn't know any better. I'd also like to take this time to apologize for all the times I've called various Slash-posters idiots. It was very insulting of me to do that ... to the idiots, I mean ;-)
  • Class is always a good thing to exhibit. (Hi! Mark!)
  • Can we all hug now? :-)

  • by mlwmohawk ( 801821 ) on Sunday November 10, 2013 @04:27PM (#45385921)

    This was wrong and there needs to be criminal charges against companies that do this. "I'm sorry" doesn't cut it.

    Besides, run Debian, you'll realize how much Ubuntu doesn't contribute.

  • by kervin ( 64171 ) on Sunday November 10, 2013 @05:10PM (#45386265) Homepage

    As a Ubuntu user I don't understand why Canonical will sell my data to third-parties but not give me the option to pay for the software.

    I've already paid $250 for VMWare Workstation and $100 for Windows 8 OEM as a guest OS. I'd happily pay $100 to Canonical for Ubuntu if they would even give me the option in return for not selling my search data.

  • He still needs to apologize for that stinking turd Unity.

  • A bug in code is something that is the result of something overlooked, or perhaps the result of laziness (can't be bothered to handle something properly in unlikely conditions). However sending out a template letter requires somebody to make a conscious decision to do it, so is certainly not a bug.

    • by neminem ( 561346 )

      From what it sounds like, he meant that it was a bug in their process: that they aren't more closely monitoring what the new guy did, and/or that they didn't train him better to not do that. I think it's a reasonable analogy.

If I had only known, I would have been a locksmith. -- Albert Einstein