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ESR On the Open Source Trademark 172

ESR sent out the following message to a big old list of folks to clarify the situation regarding the recent announcement that the term 'Open Source' has not officially been registered. Hit the link below to read the whole deal.

The following is an announcement from Eric S. Raymond

On June 15 1999 ZDNet broke the news that OSI's application for an "Open Source" trademark had lapsed, anticipating the public statement OSI had planned to make following its board meeting on 17 June. Subsequently, many people have expressed concern that the phrase "Open Source" might be trademarked by some party hostile to the open-source community.

That's not likely, for the very reason the application was permitted to lapse. We have discovered that there is virtually no chance that the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office would register the mark "open source"; the mark is too descriptive. Ironically, we were partly a victim of our own success in bringing the `open source' concept into the mainstream.

So "Open Source" is not and cannot become a trademark. The purposes for which OSI sought a trademark, however, are still valid. We believe the open-source community gains much from the existence of a recognizable brand name -- one which certifies to users that software is being distributed under the licensing model best shown to produce high quality software. We believe that software vendors will seek to use an appropriate certification mark to signify that quality.

For this reason, the Open Source Initiative is announcing a new certification mark, `OSI Certified'. When the Open Source Initiative has approved the license under which a software product is issued, the software's provider is permitted by us to use the OSI Certified certification mark for that open source software. The details will be spelled out on OSI's Web site shortly,

In all such decisions, OSI will seek (as it always has) to advance the interests of the community we serve, and to promote the winning combination of open standards, open source code and independent peer review.

Because the phrase "open source" cannot be trademarked, we must rely on market pressure to protect the concept from abuse. When you see software that claims to be "open source," look for the OSI Certified mark as your assurance of compliance with acceptable licensing standards.

If you don't see the OSI Certified mark, please read the vendor's license for yourself to check that it is in conformance with the Open Source Definition. Please encourage software providers to obtain OSI's certification and to use the OSI Certified mark, and do not purchase software if it claims to be `open source' but does not meet the terms of the Open Source Definition. (Issued by and for OSI, 16 Jun 1999. A copy of this announcement is available on the OSI website at opensource.org.)

-- Eric S. Raymond

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ESR On the Open Source Trademark

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  • What would actually be rather useful, IMHO, would be a system not really of certification, but rather of evaluation of differences. As more and more companies release more open source products, they often include very long licenses written by a team of lawyers in fluent legaleze (one of the reasons I happen to be a bit partial to the BSD licenses is that they are short, sweet, and to the point). People simply to read through each new license and summarize the differences with current licenses for those of us not indoctrinated to the ways of legal documents. Then people can make their own decissions.
  • This is absolutely false. IMHO, the BSD license is more free (as in speech, not beer) that the GPL. I can do anything I want with the source, including making non-free products from it. However, I cannot restrict others freedoms by not allowing them to develop and distribute their own free code.

    This is an old argument though (and after watching Eric Raymond and Theo DeRaadt battle it out there is little more I can add to either camp). Both licenses are clearly open source, IMHO. Others have given me access to their code to modify, improve, and redstribute, and squabbles aside, that's what matters.
  • Currently, nothing. We have no plans to charge anything. We're going for non-profit status, so even if we did charge anything, it would be solely to cover costs.
  • The term "open source" is at least as confusing as "free software". Clearing up confusion is not the reason to make the change. The reason is that Raymond, et. al. wanted to make free software corporate friendly and strip it of the ethical significance that goes along with it (which they had never agreed with).

    It was pointed out from day one that the obvious meaning of "open source" is "you can have the source code" which is not sufficient to make something free. Thus I don't believe it when I'm told that the reason for switching terms is to eliminate confusion. It was to eliminate troublesome ideas.
  • I think OSI wants to certify software, not licenses. Regardless, certifcation marks cannot be applied involuntarily to a product and I doubt very much that the FSF will allow any of its software or licenses to bear the "OSI Certified" mark. I certainly don't intend to allow any of mine to be so certified since I disagree with the "open source" term.

  • OSI Certified means the software is open. Public Domain software is open, but only incidentally. Company B can easily take the software (even without mods) and re-release closed with the same name. How evil is that??

    I'll tell you, but you'll not like the answer: it's not evil at all; that's exactly what the authors of public domain software allow. I tend to write PD snippets because a) they're not very intelligent software anyway and b) I want to allow others to make money off the additions they make. The GPL is useful, but let us not forget that it denies someone the ability to keep his changes close to his vest. This limits the writers freedom just as much as it increases ours.

    That said, the GPL is extremely useful for implementing the type of software it is designed for: community efforts and the like. But imagine if every hash algorithm were GPLed. Even if that hash code were less than 1/144th of the total code in a product, say a vertical-market integrity-schecking app, the entire app would need to be open-sourced, and the firm writing it would cease to make money as soon as someone downloaded and compiled it. In some markets you just cannot make money off of support. Some things need the GPL, others other open source licenses.

    I'd like a license along the lines of: any modification of code must be open-sourced, but use of the code within a greater application in a ration of less than, say, 1/12th may be closed.

    Major market confusion thus weakening the power of the OSI mark.

    Not at all. The first product is obviously open source. The second, proprietary product is no longer open source. No confusion.

    Or perhaps you mean confusion over what exactly open source is. I don't see much confusion between the BSD and GPL models: the one guarantees the freedom of the recipients of the code, the other the freedom of the author and the community.

  • There's lots of really cool free software out there that isn't open source or Free Software.

    The English language is not controlled by the OSI or FSF (not that I think they're trying to). When a company offers their product "for free" it still means free as in beer unless the context clearly indicates otherwise. You don't expect to get the recipe to Twix when you're getting a free sample, do you?

    That's the whole reason ESR et al wanted a different term to represent Free Software that was less confusing to newbies.
    "I got it running, grabbed a rocket launcher, and fired down a hallway." --John Carmack
  • ...it'll never work. :)
  • There is a huge difference between the producer or sales agent putting a sentence on a product that says "this product conforms to the Open Source Guidelines" and that same producer or sales agent being authorized by OSI to put an "OSI Certified" mark on the product. In the former case, you have only the produer's word that the product is really compliant (and buyer beware applies even if a product costs nothing!). In the latter case, you have OSI's word that the product is compliant.

    In a free market (and that is the same meaning of the word free that is used in the term free software by FSF), the value proposition that OSI offers is the reliability of the mark. This is true whether or not they make money off the mark directly, because if they do, they have financial reason to defend the meaning of the mark, and if they don't they are motivated by the same value propositions that motivate the rest of the free software movement: reputation and indirect gain.

    It is all very well and good to say we should each do our own research, but as others have pointed out, there is a better way. The power of freedom is that it allows each of us to share with the others the fruits of our labors, to our mutual benefit. In this case, OSI contributes the labor of doing the research to make sure a particular product complies with the Open Source Guidelines, so that we don't each have to indivudially use our valuable time to do that for every product we use.

    The OSI mark is only as useful as its consistent reputation. The "Designed for Windows" mark is practically worthless precisely because it tells you nothing you don't already know (and sometimes lies). I think we can be pretty sure that the OSI mark will retain its value, and be of service to the community.

    And the beauty of the free market is that if you don't like what OSI stands for, you can set up your own competing certification. And the "customers" get additional information that way, by seeing which products bear which (or both) marks.

    In fact, I don't see the "split" between the "free software" folks and the "open source" folks as a bad thing at all. It's just free market competition, from which we have all profited (the controversies have strengthened all sides), and will continue to do so!


  • by Anonymous Coward
    Just in case you think I sold out too, do you have a problem with the later version of the APSL, 1.1? I thought it was a pretty big impovement over 1.0.

    It still has the patent withdrawal clause, which takes place when there is just a _claim_ of infringement. Some future less friendly Apple management can simply say 'Oh, my mother-in-law thinks the code infringes someone's patents. Sorry, you have to stop using it'. His mother-in-law is not the patent owner, but the license doesn't require that the claim be made by the owner, or that the claim be made in court. Apple can withdraw the whole code any time they want using this method.

    The license also restricts people in countries without patent laws. License 1.1 contains a clause which says that "nothing in this License shall be construed to restrict You, at Your option and subject to applicable law, from replacing the Affected Original Code with non-infringing code or independently negotiating for necessary rights from such third party." This clause supposedly takes care of such cases. But it is not clear that "doing nothing because I am in a country which doesn't recognize software patents" is considered to be independent negotiation.

  • Personally, I love the fact that osi.org points to
    the Ontario Swine Insititute. Should make it
    rabidly clear what "OSI certified" Means.

    Of course, if you didn't go the osi.org, you'd
    probably think that something that was OSI
    certified was referring to a certain seven layer
    Network Model, and you would probably be pretty
    puzzled as to why anyone would want to associate
    themselves with the actual OSI protocols... At
    least I would.
  • Yes, it would exclude BSD. As it should, because BSD is not guaranteed free.

    Quoting http://www.opensource.org/products.html [opensource.org] :

    If you use the MIT license, or GPL, or Artistic License, or BSD license, or any of the other example licenses listed in OSD clause 10, then your software is Open Source and you may use the Open Source mark without asking.

    I would assume that they will apply similar clauses on the "OSI Certified" mark.


  • Only if you release it under a new license and find the need to call it OSI certified.

    I think most open source hackers have their favorite license (usually either GPL or BSD) and release all their code under it.
  • Definately they will need a good logo. We all know how well the Intel Inside campaign has worked. If they opt for mere text ("OSI Certified") they will dig themselves in a deep hole. A small logo that can be stamped on software boxes next to the Penguin, the Intel mark, and the Windows flag (open-source windows products? why not?) will do wonders for the cause. Has OSI mentioned this?
  • Actually, Windows is an unregistered trademark and Microsoft is a registered trademark. Hence:

    Microsoft(r) Windows(tm).


  • by Trepidity ( 597 )
    This is a Good Thing(tm). I was always kind of uncomfortable having a closed-membership organization such as OSI claiming to own the term "Open Source" and being the sole arbiter of what can and cannot call itself Open Source(tm). Perhaps if it was the FSF I'd feel differently, since they've been around for 15+ years and have certainly established themselves as a trustworthy organization, but they don't like the term to begin with. The new "OSI Certified" mark, IMHO, much better reflects what that certification mark is - it's a certification by OSI that it meets their criteria for Open Source software. It is not necessarily the "correct" opinion or the one that the open source community agrees with, so it's good that they're no longer trying to pass their opinion off as the opinion of "Open Source" in general.
  • OSI is not infallible or above political motivations, however. Note that they certified the APSL v1.0 as OSD/DFSG compliant, yet many people had problems with it and didn't believe it was in fact compliant. Luckily, Apple took the initiative in fixing things with APSL v1.1.
  • I'm glad 'Open Source' can't be OSI's certification mark, as 'Open Source' is a misnomer. If something is open and you're allowed near it, you can see inside it. Can you play with it? Perhaps there isn't a wall between you and its insides, but there may still be an agreement that you're not allowed to touch.
    Now OSI will have to be honest and say that a license is 'OSI Certified' which is what the license is if they okay it. They're not (or at least they shouldn't be) claiming their approval means the approval of the community.
    But I'd rather have companies use a (L)GPL, BSD, MIT, or X license rather than invent some new license with new restrictions to figure out how to abide by. Interopability of code is nice and a dozen new incompatible 'OSI Certified' licenses doesn't seem so nice.
    The problem is companies are used to the way they've been doing things and instead of being shown how we do things, they're being shown hype and, if we're lucky, the products of our doing. Are we a culture of technical and marketing achievements, or of sharing?
  • I believe that the "OSI-Certified" certification mark is appliable to software licenses, not software packages. The GPL is OSI-Certified by default, so anything you release under it also is.
  • Bashing Microsoft is great exercise (if done correctly), though improper posture can cause muscle strain.
  • I personaly think that's a good thing, I always thought it was kind of hypocritical for someone ot 'own' the words "open source" dispite what there intentions were... OSI certified is a better tool, I belive

    also: first post? :)

    Chad Okere
  • Well, I guess there are worse things in life than to be a victim of your own success.


  • I'd rather like a (brief yet descriptive) explanation of exactly what OSI stands for (no not the letters) and how this differs from the 'open source community' view.

    What I did see of their site (generally speaking) seemed a bit like propaganda to me..
  • Certification is equivalent, in my mind, to saying "let us do the thinking for you".

    The problem with this "community" is that it's trying to act like a company, and trying to provide some sort of "united front" in some sort of attempt to "take over the world"


    write software. Use the software. Enjoy the fact that you have quality software, and the freedom to read, modify, change, and redistribute it.

    but stop pretending to speak for everyone else who also enjoys those freedoms.

    We're intelligent people who can decide for and amongst ourselves whether we want to participate in software development under certain various licensing terms.

    We simply do not need some certification from on high. This is "cathedralic" to use ESR's own analogies.

  • by Bruce Perens ( 3872 ) <bruce@perens.com> on Wednesday June 16, 1999 @05:31PM (#1847057) Homepage Journal
    It stands for Open Source Initiative. Take a look at this link [perens.com] for an explanation of the Open Source concept and an annotated version of the Open Source definition. How do their beliefs differ from those of the community? Not having surveyed the community, I couldn't say for sure. My main beef with them has been that the phrase "Open Source" led us to concentrate less on the freedom part of Free Software. I'm not alone in that, that might be part of the "community" difference.


  • Micro$oft trademarks everything. Why can't we have a few? (I'm guessing M$ will begin trademarking letters soon. It's not like they can't afford to TM the entire dictionnary.)

    Next thing we know they'll be trademarking "trademark" and "TM". :)

    (go for it, slap me with a -1 - i had fun anyways)
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Now all we need is one of those silly little
    logos that gather like lint at the bottom
    of commercial software packaging ;-)

    Seriously though, `OSI Certified' is a good
    idea -- assuming it can be defended. But it
    seems to me that the acronym `OSI' isn't
    too well known outside the OSS community. Perhaps
    a more recognisable mark like `True Open Source'
    or `100% Open Source' or 'Certified Open Source'
    might be better. Is that far enough away from
    generic `Open Source' to be trademarkable?

    And who defends the trademark? If M$ puts
    `OSI Certified' on the W2K package without
    meeting the conditions, who sues them?
  • Not to mention that it creates confusion in the mind of any manager who knows about the OSI seven layer model for creating a submarine sandwich.

    ``Open source'' is dead. The only thing ``open source'' had going for it was that it was supposedly going to be protected by a trademark. Now the term is is no longer going to deliver that and is going to be abused even more by vendors of proprietary technology, because it has become a hot buzzword. Going open source is ``in'', and now you can release your product with arbitrary restrictions and say that you are going open
    source, without fearing repercussions from trodding upon a trademark.

    As of now, I'm going to avoid using the term open source except perhaps in reference to proprietary products whose source code is released with restrictive licenses. I'm going back to calling truly free software ``freeware''.
  • When you see software that claims to be "open source," look for the OSI Certified mark as your assurance of compliance with acceptable licensing standards.

    Is it just me, or does that remind anyone else of the "Look for the 'Designed for Windows 95' sticker" campaign?

    -- Give him Head? Be a Beacon?

  • The bad part about Anarchy is that it doesn't work.

    I think a reasonably intelligent person can put that into context.


  • >>What if Microsoft or the new triumvirate (AOL-Netscape-Sun) try to pay off the OSI with
    huge quantities of money so they can control the usage of the term "open source"? At least they can't do that now.
    Ah, but Microsoft already is claiming that NT is open source because a few universities have code read access to NT source. Hence, one of the reasons an attempt was made to trademark open source. With no trademark protection in sight, any vendor with enough nerve can label their product open source. Would you some Open Source fries with that?

    Steven, Senior Technology Editor, Sm@rt Reseller

    http://www.zdnet.com/sr/stories/news/0,4538,2277 930,00.html

    for our news take on all this.
  • Oh, cool. Thank for pointing that out. I was interpreting it as applying to the package itself (i.e "This program is a OSI-Certified product" rather than "This program is release under an OSI-Certified license").

    In that case, I do agree. This would definately be a good idea.

    Thanks for clarifiying (my spelling sucks, don't it?) for me.

  • As a side note: we live in a post-literate society. We are literate, but we expect a lot of important information to be portrayed graphically. This is a sort of heraldry, where simple patterns signify complex concepts. Mere words don't cover it anymore.

    Oh ballocks. Logos and stamps and seals and signage have always been used for their symbolic value. There's no indication whatsoever that we're leaving literacy behind. I find it particularly ironic that you offer this pseudo-academic argument ("post-" anything, my BS meter goes off) on a textual forum where even the name of the forum is spelled out in its logo.
  • It is my opinion that internet/computer users already have associations with the term "freeware" that do not include freely available source code.

    If you look at a site like www.winfiles.com they classify software as being commercial, shareware or freeware.

    I know that most of that freeware doesn't come with source. A new word would be needed for freeware with source AND a liscence that includes terms of free (as in freedom) source code reuse. This liscence could be picked from a list of compliant liscences (GPL, Netscape, or whatever) that are approved by the owner (org) of the trademark.

    Any ideas for a good trademark?

  • If something falls under one of the GNU licenses, I tend to call it ``GNU software'', even if it's not from the FSF. That is clear enough, at least for that class of software.
  • I am glad to see both sides of the issue here. But I cannot help wondering why you suggest the comments indicate this is a "good thing." Your definition of "registerable mark" also seems to indicate "massive funding" is important!

    Is this the real story? Was this all a ploy to extract massive funding? Egos aside, I wonder about such motivations. I would hate to put words in someone's mouth so perhaps we should _all_ agree to definitions first ;-).

  • It's the ISO reference model--ISO stands for International Standards Organization. Still, there's obviously room for confusion.
  • So if you don't like it come up with your own certification mark. Anonymous coward certified if you will.

    The OSI mark is only as strong as people's trust in the OSI. If you don't like ESR and/or other OSI people, then don't worry about their seal of approval. If people respect their opinions, then the mark means something.
  • The FSF should trademark Open Source, and let companies/organisations who follow FSF's model use it.

    Micro$oft trademarks everything. Why can't we have a few? (I'm guessing M$ will begin trademarking letters soon. It's not like they can't afford to TM the entire dictionnary.)
  • ESR didn't invent the term. Christine Petersen suggested it to him. I'm not sure if she thinks she invented it.


  • The term "Open Source" was suggested by Christine Petersen at a meeting (or was it a beer party? I wasn't there) at VA Research. ESR pitched it to the assembled pundits at the first O'Reilly free software summit (I didn't go). ESR called me up that day or the next day or something, and recruited me. I suggested the trademark because of what had happened to the word "hacker". Now watch how "Open Source" gets abused, it won't be pretty. We couldn't afford legal help, so I did the papers myself. Spent $250 out of my pocket to apply. It was a cheap mistake, I guess.

    There's some more history in my "Open Sources" paper here [perens.com].



  • Really you can do that?!?! wow, then I declare myself the Undisputed Self Appointed Lord Of The Internet(tm)
    Chad Okere
  • Oh, I see. You just want to force people to give you the changes they make on their own time to your non-free software, as well as to force people to give you the changes they make on their own time to other people's non-free software in which you had no involvement in at all.

    Thanks for clearing that up.

  • If you visit any fan sites [wtfman.com] of Ultima Online [owo.com], the term "OSI" is used as a contraction for Origin Systems, Inc. [ea.com], the Electronic Arts [ea.com] subsidiary that makes UO.

    So if you go to one of these sites and someone's griping about how much "OSI sucks," [accessgate.net] you'll know they're not talking about this OSI [opensource.org].

    So did I use enough link references?


  • And who the Hell does that Paul McCartney think he is? John Lennon is much more talented.
  • "Open Source"
    "Swine improvement"

    Well, if you cast MS as the swine, I can see the connection :)
  • I think you are mistaken. It's written "OSI Reference Model" in all my books, and entering
    "OSI reference model networking layers" into
    a search machine like AltaVista gives you a
    lot of hits with the exact phrase "OSI
    Reference Model".
  • P.S.: "OSI" stands for "Open Systems Interconnection" - just enter "OSI Open Systems Interconnection" into AltaVista and see for
  • And you think that Joe Averell Manager will be able to make this distinction? I don't think so! Otherwise they'd use good software (e.g. Apache, Linux, etc.) in the business world instead of software with fancy labels ("Intel inside") and brand names ("Microsoft certified") in the first place...
    So they have already proven to be mostly clueless...

    IMO, the "OSI Certified" label will be mistaken for a quality certification label (provided it will be adopted at all, that is, of course) even if it doesn't mean no such thing. Therefore I agree with the first poster in thinking that the whole certification is probably a bad idea altogether.

    I mean, we developers don't care about the label anyway, and the suits will be misleaded by it. So what real (and good) purpose does it serve?

  • It's not the goverment doing it.
    OSI can't bust into your house with a dark blue jump suit on with yellow OSI letter on the back and tell you to remove non-OSI compliant software.

    If the OSI label sucks its as simple as creating a new approval system or disowning OSI's system.
  • hrm.... I *really* doubt slashdot uses Microsoft Exchange... just a weird felling I get...
    Chad Okere
  • It's been 3 hours since this article has been posted, and already you have 9 replies going! a little much perhaps? i like your comments, in fact, i often single them out to read what you have to say, but this is overkill... the bruce to everyone else ratio is a little high... just relax... thanks...
  • But it seems to me that the acronym `OSI' isn't too well known outside the OSS community.

    Yes it is, but under a different meaning: Open Systems Interconnection - ISO's seven layer model for making telcos richer. :-)

  • A particular anonymous coward, who has never done a damn thing for the community but bitch, now calls Eric a dolt.

    In case you haven't figured it out yet, the OSI != ESR. There's a whole bunch of people involved. If you don't like the OSI, don't join. Simple!

    The purpose of the open source initiative is NOT to convince jerks like you to use free software but rather to convince corporate types to use and release free software. If you truly do not want more free software, then don't support OSI.
  • Good point.

    So it is just that no-one else has yet posted enough decent posts for this to happen to them?

    It seems rather self-fulfilling - if it were the case that mods had a tendency to mod someone "famous" up out of respect, it would lead to a situation where those who already have a platform get another one ("The first 20 million is always the hardest..." ;-)

    Is auto-upgrading of people who are modded-up lots a good idea? I thought it was, but I don't think the /. rating system has sufficient granularity for it to work. Maybe it'll iron itself out over time.


  • BTW, the abbreviation "OSI" for "Open Source Initiative" conflicts with the "OSI" for "Open Systems Interconnection" (from the "OSI Reference Model" of networking layers), so the name choice was already unwise (if not incompetent) in the first place.
  • Unfortunately, the new APSL 1.1 is still not free software, and should not (IMHO) be considered Open Source. It still has the problem that Apple can 'suspend' (ie revoke) your rights to use a piece of code if there is a patent lawsuit against it in the US. Even if the lawsuit is totally baseless, but Apple don't want to fight it, they can revoke your rights to use the code. And for users outside the US, the APSL exposes them to the stupid software patent system.
  • Yes, but you can do that without a certificate mark. If you use a license that conforms to the open source definition, you can put that on the product and say "This product conforms with the Open Source Definition" and there would be nothing wrong with doing so. The OSI Certification is very much like going over the the river to get water.
  • 'Windows' wasn't trademarked by MS: 'Microsoft Windows' is. The application was thrown out for the same reason as 'Open Source'.

  • by clip ( 7775 )

    Windows' wasn't trademarked by MS: 'Microsoft Windows' is.

    No, you're wrong. Just plain "Windows" is a trademark of Microsoft. See Microsoft's Information on Terms of Use [microsoft.com] page for more information.

    The application was thrown out for the same reason as 'Open Source'.

    You just made that up, didn't you? And the 'Open Source' application was not thrown out, it expired due to lack of response to a request for more information.

    My BS detector is going off quite loudly over this whole thing. I don't believe that the term 'Open Source' is not trademarkable by the poeple who coined the phrase just a year or two ago. The term had no meaning before then, was made up for this purpose and should therefore be a perfect candidate for a trademark.

    I believe that the true answer is that ESR didn't want or can't afford the legal battle over the ownership of the name so he let the application lapse.

    Carl Thompson
  • No, it was a misunderstanding on our part. You can't do what Bruce claimed to have done. You can't transfer ownership of a trademark. You have to transfer the goodwill associated with the trademark. Bruce made a hash of all the legalities associated with the mark -- he admits it, too. Just chalk it up to a learning experience.
  • Reducing risk provides value to people. If you don't see that, you won't bother to have your software certified.
  • You may be right that Apple are just being honest, and that they are bound by the patent laws whether
    they like it or not. But for me as a non-American user, it is a real problem that Apple can use their copyright to effectively extend American patent laws to where I live.

    Any other vendor would probably stop distributing code also. But at least if I already had the code, they would not be able to revoke code I was already using. Don't forget that the problem here is that Apple is trying to stop me *using* the code, not just distribute it.

    You might argue that since copyright law doesn't cover using software, that particular clause is not enforcable. But you still have the problem of not being allowed to distribute the code, even if you are in a country where patents do not apply.

    There is no similar obnoxious patent clause in the GPL, or the BSDL, or the NPL, or the Artistic License, or the MIT licence. Yet all of those cover software produced in the US too. Why is Apple so different?
  • Close enough. I took my inspiration from "Look for the Union Label". It's the most successful certification mark campaign around.


  • Well, I do consider myself an authority on this topic, since it was my darned idea to go for the trademark. I'm just trying to inject some information, from someone who was there, into the noise.



  • Of the 13 messages appearing at Level 2, my default level, 11 are by Bruce Perens.

    I have a lot of respect for the man and his views, and he's done great things, but is he the only person commenting on this issue with anything relevant to say?

    Perhaps moderators could be a little more generous with the points to those of us who are less famous... :-)

  • I dont consider an "OSI Certified" mark to be any more or less useful (or misleading) than any of the other Certified marks you find, like those bizarre Microsoft "Designed for Windows" ones (if it wasn't designed for Windows, it wouldn't say "Requires Windows" on it!), or stamping seals of approval from a bunch of obscure and subjective magazine reviews.
  • Trust me, we went round and round and round with Apple on this. They are quite sure that, as an American company, they are bound by American law not to infringe on other people's patents. Essentially what they are doing is telling you what they are going to do if they are threatened by a patent. Any other vendor is going to stop distributing infringing code -- it's either that or put themselves in an impossible legal situation. Apple is just letting you know what's going to happen. Why give them such shit for it? -russ
  • The problem is that you need to be a gazillionaire to defend a weak trademark. OSI isn't, so we chose to abandon it.
  • Right. We will certify any software that uses the GPL without a second thought.
  • Can you say.....
    Go back under your bridge, or at least own up to
    your words, whoever your are.
  • Yes, we can have a certification mark "OSI Certified Open Source Software".
  • You're not being very practical.

    Nobody has the time to investigate every single thing in so much detail. That is why we appoint political leaders, financial advisors, physicians and IT consultants to do the investigation on our behalf and to make decisions for us.

    I certainly don't have the time to wade through reams of legalese every time I want to obtain a piece of software. I trust the OSI and the SPI to make that determination for me, and I will be thankful whenever they are able to do so.
    Consciousness is not what it thinks it is
    Thought exists only as an abstraction
  • As a practical matter, when you wish to establish a certification mark, you have to 1) decide that you want to do so, 2) decide on a name, 3) decide how to use it, and 4) pick someone to use it on. All of these have to be done in secret. Sorry if you don't like that.

    Actually, Eric wanted to continue to press for an Open Source trademark. You can see from the comments here that abandoning it was a good thing, desired by the community we represent.

    As the notice says (if you'd bothered to read it), we do not intend to abandon the Open Source name; we have merely recognized the truth that it is not a registerable mark; not by an organization without massive funding. You can equate poverty with laziness if you wish; as a libertarian I don't choose to denigrate ALL poor people in one blow.

    You keep harping on the dropped office action. Since the registration was done in SPI's name, OSI had no legal basis for replying to the action.

    As you note, you are not a lawyer, so your opinions about the law carry equal weight to mine -- that is to say, none at all.

    The "Open Source" mark was poorly chosen. It's registration application was poorly written. You're beating a dead horse. Trust me, I beat it harder and longer than you did. But you're welcome to continue if you wish.

  • Well, actually, this is very libertarian. Libertarians want to use the market whenever the market works better than government (anarchists don't care -- they never want to use governments). Markets work best when reputations can be preserved, and that means being able to identify a reputation with a name. And that means a trademark system.

    Libertopia would have a trademark system, and not an awful lot of government.
    p.s. if you don't see any value in being able to call your software "OSI Certified Open Source", then don't! It's a free world.
    p.p.s. watch your fucking language.
  • ESR has made some questionable decisions as of late, but we have always managed to steer him right (in our own Trademarked /. way). For the first time in a while I'm happy to see he has made a decision that nearly everyone will be happy with. I always found TMing the name "Open Source" was speaking for a lot of people that he didn't have the right to speak for.

    Wouldja look at that, the US government did something right for once :) (just a dig at esr's libertarian tendencies)

    PS please moderate down way below 0 the post I just made with the same subject. (damn tab button, muttermutter)

  • Posted by FascDot Killed My Previous Use:

    ...that one of the requirement for "OSI Certified" is:

    - Program cannot be modified and redistributed w/o source by non-vendor party

    This requirement would be mostly for the protection of the vendor and would prevent Company A releasing source that Company B modifies and re-releases closed source.

    "Please remember that how you say something is often more important than what you say." - Rob Malda
  • Posted by phat5n00p3r:

    The concept in itself is laughable given that the nature of Open Source is to be >OPEN.
  • Program cannot be modified and redistributed w/o source by non-vendor party

    Wouldn't this requirement exclude the BSD license? If so, would it not further splinter the GPL and BSD camps? Is this really what we want?


  • by Bruce Perens ( 3872 ) <bruce@perens.com> on Wednesday June 16, 1999 @05:50PM (#1847148) Homepage Journal
    I am not on the board of either SPI or OSI, mostly because this way I can say what I want :-)

    I'd assume OSI, not SPI, would trademark "OSI Certified". SPI isn't involved any longer - their only claim to involvement, the fact that I filed the registration for the "Open Source" trademark while president of SPI, just evaporated. I doubt they mind. They can have an "SPI Certified" if they want. Maybe I should have "Bruce Certified" :-), given that I'm the main author of the Open Source Definition.

    Too bad we couldn't afford legal help when this all started. Aside from the hot air, all it cost was $250 (out of my pocket) and a few hours of paperwork.



  • Just in case you think I sold out too, do you have a problem with the later version of the APSL, 1.1 [apple.com]? I thought it was a pretty big impovement over 1.0.



  • Posted by FascDot Killed My Previous Use:

    Yes, it would exclude BSD. As it should, because BSD is not guaranteed free.
    "Please remember that how you say something is often more important than what you say." - Rob Malda
  • by Bruce Perens ( 3872 ) <bruce@perens.com> on Wednesday June 16, 1999 @06:02PM (#1847151) Homepage Journal
    That would even exclude public domain software!

    If you want this, you should personally insist on GPL-ed software. But even Richard Stallman tolerates other forms of free software.


  • I guess I should jump ten feet up in the air and clap my heels together and shout "oh, my what a good idea!" But that wouldn't be very honest. So I won't.

    It should be said from the beginning that I'm not a big follower of the "open source" name. I think that the issue has divided the community in ways that I can not even begin to comprehend.

    But let's look at Eric's letter. I don't know Eric personally, so I don't know if this is what he intended. But what I'm moderately worried about is that when he explains what the OSI does, he talks about promoting "open source code" and "open standards". Not once does he talks about freedom. What good is sourcecode if I don't have the freedoms associated with it? This is nit-picking, but I'd like to agree with Bruce Perens; "It's time to talk about free software again."

    In his letter, Eric introduces an OSI Certified mark which he sugests all software vendors should get and put on their products. I guess it's only a matter of time before we'll see "SuSE Certified", "RedHat Certified", "Linus Certified" or whatever certifications people can come up with. The fear I have is that people will put too much trust in these certifications; so much that they won't bother to investigate the matter further.

    There's a psykosocial harm which happens when you tell people everything they need to know. Thus with every certification, you're depriving people of the will to investigate themselves and with time, they'll tend to think that if such and such program is so and so certified, then it must be a good program. Ofcourse, we who know about this also knows that even if something is so and so certified, that doesn't necessarily make it a good program. But thats what some people will think and they will buy this program because it is so and so certified.

    If someone comes to me and asks me to get an OSI Certified mark for some piece of software which I have written, I will tell them "thank you for informing me, but I don't use that mark because I think that you're capable of deciding for yourself if this product is good for you or not."

  • Erm, actually, there is such a thing as a benevolent dictator. Why should those two things be mutually exclusive?


  • > 1. There are many Microsoft bashers. It is kind of sad but true.

    I always hem and haw about this. On one hand, turnabout is fair play. On the other, why sink to their level?

    > 2. Linux advocates. They all like Linux for many
    reason, mostly for its flexability.

    How about security? Reliability? Linux is like a M1 tank compared to the fragile windows enviroment.

    > 3. People who want to try something different.

    BeOS - Is that going anywhere?

    > 4. The "Open Source Software made my job easier" people.

    No doubt this includes all the programmers out there without MSDN subscriptions.

    > 5. The Unix people.

    One word: BSD

    > 6. Free software advocates. Their are many these that watch or contribute to the GNU project

    I'd like a chance to meet one of these people in person. It sounds like it is the only advocate group that has not come up and bang on my door.

    >7. The "I want cheap software" people.

    Don't we all?

    >8. The people who are afraid of a future where
    they are tied to Microsoft. Not quite the same
    as the MS bashers.

    This is my catagory. If indeed these are in order, then I'm sad to see that I'm in the minority. At the same time, I'm afraid of a future where a normal user cannot use his computer because it's too complex.

    Choice is good.
  • Suppose I come up with a new license, and want it certified.

    How much are the OSI going to charge for this?


  • I kid you not ... www.osi.org [osi.org] will take you to "Ontario Swine Improvement, Inc."
    Christopher A. Bohn
  • Correct me if I am wrong, but in the current ./ system someone who's comments reguarly get a high score gets automatically a better default score for his comments. So Bruce's default score seems to be 2.
  • Have you ever been in a position where you have to decide what you should do with your life? It might be after you graduate, and you have to consider what jobs to apply for, or after you've lost a job and need to find a new one. It's one of the many cross-roads in life where we all have to stop and ask us that very question.

    I'm at such a cross-road now and I've been thinking a lot about what I should do, even if I now know that the path I set out to follow several years ago made the choice I'm making now painfully obvious.

    Let me tell you something about myself. I'm 21 years old. I've spent most of my life in school, except for the last three years during which I first jumped between jobs and then started my own company together with some friends. The first thing I had to find out is why I couldn't go on with what I was doing. Simply put, I'm not happy with the work I do. There's more, deeper issues involved too, but they are not very important. The important part is that I can't go on doing what I do today.

    So what are the options available to me? I could prostitute myself enough to apply for jobs at proprietary software vendors, but that wouldn't make me very happy because I would be refused the right to share information and software with my friends. I can also do one thing which has occured to me fairly recently; I can give up computers as a profession. I could probably get a job as some sort of technician or janitor and be happy doing that job and work on free software in my spare time. This is an option thats very tempting at some times, but I feel as if that option would be very much like give up the hope on free software. If I choosed that path, people would tell me that free software authors can't get paid, and I'd have no way to refute that because in my experience, they'd be right.

    So giving up on computers as a profession is not an option for me if I want to continue volunteering for the free software community. The last option available to me is to try to create a job which I like, and that is what I'll try to do. At some point within the next few months, I'll quit my job and dedicate all my time to the free software community. It won't be easy because I don't have much money to work with, but I'm exploring a few options that will give me enough money so I can do this (if you have any suggestions, feel free to mail me).

    I don't think you understand the full extent of this though. Perhaps noone does. What I'm telling you is that I'm willing to sacrifice my life, my computers, my books, my appartment and everything else that I own because I think that in doing so, I can make this world a slightly better place to live in.

    I don't go around banging on everyones door, because I think that I can be of better use in front of a computer, hacking at free software, and this is what I do, and to this end, I give my life.

  • by clip ( 7775 )

    That's not likely, for the very reason the application was permitted to lapse. We have discovered that there is virtually no chance that the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office would register the mark "open source"; the mark is too descriptive. Ironically, we were partly a victim of our own success in bringing the `open source' concept into the mainstream.

    What the hell does that mean? The mark is "too descriptive?" I believe the term "Windows" was a descriptive term in widespread use long before Microsoft trademarked it... What was the reason given by the trademark office for why they won't allow you to register it? From what I understand, they just wanted a better description of what "Open Source" was meant to certify.

    Carl Thompson
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Until a few years ago, the term "open source" didn't mean much to anybody. It could have been trademarked then. This is a textbook example for why, if you intend to make something a trademark, you should indicate so with "TM" from the beginning. Otherwise, the term just becomes generic in everybody's mind, and the law wisely denies trademark protection then.
  • I've noticed our community is actually several communities with the majority overlapping.

    1. There are many Microsoft bashers. It is kind of
    sad but true.

    2. Linux advocates. They all like Linux for many
    reason, mostly for its flexability.

    3. People who want to try something different.

    4. The "Open Source Software made my job easier"

    5. The Unix people.

    6. Free software advocates. Their are many these
    that watch or contribute to the GNU project

    7. The "I want cheap software" people.

    8. The people who are afraid of a future where
    they are tied to Microsoft. Not quite the same
    as the MS bashers.

    I tried to put the various people in what think is the order of population. Of course I probably have no idea because of some peoples flamings. For example, the free software advocates have become unfashionable for some reason. Probably because some people have found out how long they can advocate free software before the "have" to play quake. Then propietary software is okay.

    This is just my judgement. I haven't written a thesis or anything. Just my opinion.


  • by HoserHead ( 599 ) on Wednesday June 16, 1999 @06:22PM (#1847179)
    The Open Source Initiative, OSI, was created not too long ago to deal with the fact that the term ``Free Software'' as coined by rms was not specific enough. Free Software, in its current context, refers to software which may or may not be free in price but is free in that you can modify it and redistribute it.

    However, pointy-hairs have been seeing only the ``Free'' part of Free Software, and as such thought that there was no way that anybody could make money off of it.

    The term Open Source was thus coined by (correct me if I'm wrong) a combination of Bruce Perens and Eric S. Raymond, aka esr. They formed the Open Source Initiative, the prime meaning of which was to enforce the Open Source Certification. If I'm not mistaken, Bruce Perens, operating for Software in the Public Interest, SPI, attempted to register the trademark Open Source.

    Why register it? Why indeed. If not registered, any company with a license - like Apple with its APSL - could claim to be Open Source, even if it didn't fit the Open Source Definition (which, incidentally, is based upon the Debian Free Software Guidelines.)

    As it turns out, ``Open Source'' can't be trademarked. Neither, I would assume, can ``Free Software.'' This doesn't negate the fact that the only true Free Software licenses are those which comply with the Debian Free Software Guidelines or the OSD; regardless of what a company says its license is, you can rely on people like rms and esr and those folks on debian-legal to tell you the pitfalls, if any, of a license.

    Basically, if a license can't be OSI Approved, it isn't Free Software or Open Source - which doesn't mean it can't be called Open Source or Free Software. As in all things, you must investigate to see whether or not a company's claims are true.

  • Yes, having worked on projects like Debian, where 200 people collaborated to make a Linux distribution with software from at least 1000 other people, I'd understand that.

    Sorry if I attempted to take all of the credit or something. It wasn't my intent.


  • The certification mark can convey a lot more than any sentence will. While the term "Windows 98 compliant" doesn't even really get read, that little four-colored flag tells the corporate purchaser "This is safe; Microsoft likes it".

    The sentence, "This product conforms with the Open Source Definition" will only make sense to people who know what the OSD is. If there is an OSD-compliant logo, business types can be trained to start equating that logo with "plays well with others", "our IS guys can customize/improve it", and "we can choose our support contract". The sentence will make no sense to most business types, but the logo might.

    As a side note: we live in a post-literate society. We are literate, but we expect a lot of important information to be portrayed graphically. This is a sort of heraldry, where simple patterns signify complex concepts. Mere words don't cover it anymore.

  • If there is an OSD-compliant logo, business types can be trained to start equating that logo with "plays well with others", "our IS guys can customize/improve it", and "we can choose our support contract".

    Yes, thats exactly the kind of attitude that we don't want. Having people blindly trust a product because of a certification mark is what got us into this trouble in the first place.

  • If you read the Evan Leibowitz article in Zdnet, you probably noticed his tone. Very angry and negative. It's been this way for years. OK, I've had some nasty outbursts, but with him it's a constant thing. Nothing positive to contribute.

    He, and some of the more ignorant commenters on /., don't like that we use the law to enforce fairness, with things like certification marks and the GPL, just as some people use it to enforce unfairness. Too bad, we'll keep on doing it.


  • A number of licenses have been certified as "Open Source" already. If your software uses those licenses (and no other licenses), it's certified. The BSD, X11, GPL, LGPL, Apache, NPL, MPL, APSL 1.1, QPL 2.0, Artistic, and several others have been certified.


  • Gosh, I never thought it would be possible to push so many self-inflating insults and misunderstandings into a mere five-line posting:

    >>Oh yeah..who appointed ESR to be the spokesman or all things Open Source ? Himself ?

    Well, yes, as a matter of fact Himself did, and you know what, so could you! The fact that he actually has something to say might be of note, however.

    >>And why would anybody trademark a concept as pure as Open Source, unless they were in it for the money.

    I guess that means you think Bruce Perens is "only in it for the money." That ought to get a good laugh from him. And an apology from the likes of you.

    >>It's okay for Mr. Torvalds to trademark Linux. It ain't ok for ESR or any self-appointed hypocrite to trademark anything attached therewith.

    But I guess it's OK for any self-appointed A.C. hypocrite to whine about it.

    >>ESR ain't no Linus Torvalds or Alan Cox, so don't glorify him for nothing.

    This raises the curious issue of exactly who it is who is "glorifying" ESR "for nothing." Actually ESR is rather like Linus Torvalds and Alan Cox in that he has written some good code and managed some good open source projects.

    This is not to say I always agree with ESR. I don't, but from what I can tell, having met the man as well as read quite a bit of his writing, "what you see is what you get." No hypocrisy, no double standards, no hidden agendas.

    I normally wouldn't engage in responding to this kind of mindless attack, but it bears repeating from time to time that NOT hitting the Submit button is often a good idea.


Outside of a dog, a book is man's best friend. Inside of a dog, it is too dark to read.