Phoenix and Minotaur to be renamed Firebird and Thunderbird

Monday April 14th, 2003

Asa Dotzler writes: "After months of discussion and further months of legal investigation, we're finally comfortable moving forward with new names. The new name for the Phoenix browser is 'Firebird'. The documentation and product strings will be updated soon. In addition to securing Firebird, we've also got the OK from those contributing legal resources to use the name 'Thunderbird' for a mail client. Hopefully this will be the end of naming legal issues for a while."

#179 My letter to - Reasonable Reasons

by mattr

Thursday April 17th, 2003 4:27 AM

You are replying to this message

I am posting a letter I sent to Asa Dotzler who I am worried may not be able to read or answer my letter due to the volume of mail and her lawyer's specious advice, in the hopes that this will help the Mozilla team to suck in some gut and make a brave choice to change to some other name not involving a flaming bird. May I also say right now congratulations and many thanks to BOTH teams. Little do they know it, but both teams might even benefit from using the other's code..

Subject: Reasonable Reasons for Mozilla not to use "Firebird" name


Sorry to bug you, everyone else is too I'm sure. I would like to provide a few clear reasons why Mozilla really should *not* be called Firebird.

1. It will be very confusing to users and even developers who want to for example automatically update packages in popular distros.

2. Mozilla would be hurting Firebird DB badly since they are not yet in RedHat for example, even though some people think Firebird is far more advanced than say PostgreSql or MySql. What happens when someone tries "apt-get firebird"? Obviously they will most likely get Mozilla, which means that despite your arguments, you are effectively locking them out. Sure it is possible for one team or another to gracefully rename their project to perhaps something slightly different. But they were there first!

3. Firebird (DB) people will have to invest a lot of energy into keeping people from being confused.

4. Regarding the suggestion that "nobody will be confused", his is disingenuous. Obviously you can have a database browser (to browse contents of the DB). And Mozilla's XUL could even be used to build it. Needless to say it is not unlikely that Mozilla might have some more visible data component in it than it already has, along the lines of Open Office's embedded HTML browser and Database browser. What if OO wanted to use Mozilla for its browser, and Firebird DB for its main DB? Just for an example. And many people use MySql for their own email, for example. If they used Firebird instead, how could you explain easily to people that your system is using the high power Firebird Database for email, and not the Mozilla new email client named Firebird (which presumably has some kind of data storage mechanism far inferior to the Firebird DB)?

5. Firebird DB people have already fought plenty of battles (with Borland). I have met Ann Harisson on her trip to Japan recently and was very impressed with her and her team's experience and vision. They don't deserve this bullshit. The Firebird project name is also a brand the recognition of which is a necessary tool to get users to differentiate between the (older, less improved, and buggier) Interbase codebase. The Firebird/Phoenix logo in one way symbolizes their resurrection of the code and careers of the developers. Mozilla does not have the same history. *Not incidentally*, the Mozilla team's idea of using a SYNONYM for another company's browser name (i.e. choosing "Firebird" instead of "Phoenix") is utterly hateful. Not only that, the main company behind the Firebird database is in fact called IBPhoenix!!! Do you intend to build your browser empire on the *ashes* of other companies???

6. While there are lots of companies which use the Firebird/Phoenix/Thunderbird name, Mozilla and Firebird are the two highest profile, most important open source projects, and there is a great danger of conflicts in all sorts of areas, for example they have the sourceforge site, and they also have a .NET driver. At the very least when you search for firebird and linux on google the search will be half as useful as it could be!

7. The Mozilla team threatens all open source projects with unspecified costs (in energy, time, money, and psychological well-being) in having to try and protect themselves and possibly incurring costs of hiring trademark lawyers. If Microsoft did this everyone would boo and boycott them. Has Mozilla become such a beast that you can throw your weight around like this?

8. If this works Bill Gates suddenly gets a new "divide and conquer" tactic, just make lots of similar sounding open source project names and fill them with broken, dead-ended, bad alpha code. Instead you have an opportunity to show that the open source community is has built-in defense mechanisms against this sort of thing.

9. Using the Firebird as the AOL browser name may confuse AOL users who could otherwise be introduced to the IBPhoenix's product. Newbies may not be able to differentiate between DB and browser, and certainly a corporate manager who has to make a decision may be led to believe the two projects are related.

10. The Mozilla team will be noted as lacking imagination to such an extent that they even picked a name that was already used by *another* open source project on SourceForge.

Thank you for your consideration of the above points. You still have the opportunity to reverse your arguments and possibly the Mozilla Team's decision. I urge you to use some other name not involving a flaming bird, not withstanding the (I believe BAD, though IANAL) advice of your lawyers. I also intend to bring this to the attention of the FSF's legal counsel this week and see what *real* lawyers have to say.

Sincerely yours,

Matthew Rosin CEO, Telebody Inc. mattr at telebody dot com Tokyo, Japan