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.
#64 "You're on your own, baby"
by JStarkey <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Sunday May 4th, 2003 8:55 AM
You are replying to this message
Let me start by re-iterating my position. While I am the original creator of the Firebird database, I am not part of the project, and I don't speak for the Firebird Foundation, the Firebird project, IBPhoenix, or Ann.
That said, here is a likely roadmap of how this will probably play out.
First, Firebird will send formal letters to Mozilla putting them on notice that they are in violation of Firebird's trademark. Simultaneously, Firebird will initiate formal registration of the mark. The Patent and Trademark Office will do an initial evaluation then publish the application for public comment. At that point, Mozilla.org, AOL, Firebird BBS, Firebird Design, Pontiac Firebird, and everyone on this list will have 30 days to file written objections (no standing is required). So everyone will have a chance to try out their novel theories on trademark law. The USPTO will, in all likelihood, accept the registration.
Firebird would then send registered letters to all parties infringing on the mark, demanding they cease and desist their infringement and notifying them of their liability for damages. Since, as far as we have been able to determine, Mozilla.org and Mozillazine have no legal existence, the letters would probably go the the individuals listed as administrative contacts for the domain names or listed as individuals on the masthead. Letters would also go to Mozilla's ISP and mirror sites. Letters would also be sent to distributors such as Red Hat and Suse putting them on notice.
If, at that point, Mozilla were to persist in infringement, Firebird could file suit in Federal court against the individuals, organizations, and corporations identified.
You can reasonably expect AOL's lawyers to tell you after translation from legaleze and/or Californian: "We told you the law. We didn't tell you to steal somebody else's trademark. You're on your own on this one, baby."
On the other hand, if Mozilla.org were to make a binding commitment to Firebird that "Mozilla Firebird" would be used solely as a project name for a stated period of time, and the the word "Firebird" would appear nowhere in the product itself or its documentation, I have no doubt that the Firebird Foundation would grant permission.
It's your choice.