Firebird Database Project Issues New Statement on Naming Debate
Thursday May 1st, 2003
On Tuesday, the Firebird database project's main front page was updated with another statement from the Firebird Admins about the naming controversy. The announcement suggests that the database project's leaders may be satisified if mozilla.org and related sites follow the policy of the Mozilla branding guidelines to the letter and only ever refer to the former Phoenix browser as 'Mozilla Firebird'. According to the update, the Firebird Admins, the FirebirdSQL Foundation committee and the IBPhoenix principals (the IBPhoenix site appears to be down right now) sent a formal letter to mozilla.org on Friday and are awaiting a response.
The statement also links to an assessment of the Firebird database community's legal position, published by the FirebirdSQL Foundation. We were not able to verify the accuracy of this legal advice, which was researched by Pavel Cisar, one of the database project's administrators, and two unnamed legal consultants. Interestingly, the document reveals for the first time that the FirebirdSQL Foundation is considering suing mozilla.org. In the past, the group has claimed that they are not interested in taking legal action and could not afford to anyway. The Foundation has also published another summary of how they believe mozilla.org's use of the Firebird name harms the database project.
#27 Sure it does
Friday May 2nd, 2003 1:26 AM
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We all know very well that this wouldn't even be an issue if it were a bigger company's trademark at stake. No way would they try to call it "Oracle," "Outlook," or "Explorer," or "Windows" even though these are all preexisting words which never referred to browsers. MS or Oracle would both go for the throat if Mozilla tried that, and would almost certainly win. Typically you don't name a software product with a name that has already been taken, even if it's a different class of software. The difference here is that Firebird SQL is almost small enough to ignore.
By the way, the reason the "Phoenix" name mattered isn't because there was a browser called "Phoenix." It's because a company called "Phoenix Technologies" was making *a* browser, and thought it would be confusing (and they were probably somewhat right).
Legally, naming any "electronic" product "Firebird" should not be allowed if the Firebird SQL group wanted to challenge it. There is no distinction in the trademark/copyright law which says, "as long as they aren't the same type of software, it's ok." I repeat: there is *NO* such distinction! In fact, they don't even have to both be software products, technically. The only reason it would matter is if someone didn't care enough to protect their own trademark. E.g., if Firebird SQL didn't care about this there would be no problem. But they DO care, so the right thing to do is to back off. Calling it "Mozilla Firebird" is plenty backing off for me (and therefore, "Mozilla Phoenix" should be fine as well).
Now what it comes down to is whether Firebird SQL should be pushing the issue, morally. Well, they have a legal right, and (I think) a legitimate worry that this will confuse users. So what's the problem? They were here first, and whoever looked up the name "Firebird" did a shoddy job of checking for conflicts.
Think I'm wrong? Write a database program and call it "Opera". See how far you get.