Full Article Attached Mozilla Foundation Open Letter Orders Unofficial Mozilla Merchandise Sellers to Stop, Legal Action Hinted

Tuesday March 16th, 2004 staff member Gervase Markham has posted an open letter to the Mozilla newsgroups addressed to those who sell goods bearing the Mozilla name or logos: "The following is an open letter to anyone selling Mozilla-branded merchandise. It's being posted rather than emailed in the spirit of openness, and to ensure everyone who needs to read it can see a copy."

The letter urges those selling products with the Mozilla insignia to stop and contact the Mozilla Foundation for further discussion on how to proceed. Noting that the retailing of Mozilla-branded wares without permission is an infringment of the Foundation's trademark rights, the letter hints that legal action may taken against those who refuse to heed the advice. Read the full article to see the complete letter.

#42 Re: Reply

by jgraham

Thursday March 18th, 2004 2:05 AM

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> Why can't the Mozilla artwork be GPL'd? The whole point of GPL is that modifications of the code have to be returned if it's distributed.

No, modifcations have to be released under the same license. That's different from being "returned".

> How can the Mozilla Foundation make a claim that an build is "official"? Under the GPL the community owns the code.

No, the copyright owners "own" their own code (in the sense of hold the copyrights to it). They choose to license it in such a way that anyone has permission to modify it. Note also that Mozilla isn't licensed under the GPL, it's licensed under the MPL/LGPL/GPL trilicense. This offers considerably more flexibility in the way the code is used by third parties.

The Mozilla Foundtation can claim a buiild is official in the sense that it either a) built it itself and so knows exactly what code is being built with which compile options or b) A trusted third party (i.e. a licensee) built the code with any modifcations implicitly or explicitly approved by the Mozilla Foundation.

> Isn't it official if it comes from

Yes, it is. It will also be "official" (in the sense of "with permission to use the trademarks") if it comes from a Mozilla Foundation licensee.

> Are there really resources for Mozilla Foundation to QA linux distro builds?

I don't think the Foundtation are going to directly QA builds from all the licensees. Tthe policy seems to be "we want to know what changes you're gong to make, and we'll decide whether they're acceptable or not). I'm not quite sure how this is going to work in practice.

> I think if someone sells Mozilla merchandise they should give back to the Foundation. But why do they need the Foundations permission?

Because allowing anyone to use the artwork / trademarks dilutes the brand (the name Mozilla is not just assosiated with the Mozilla Foundation, but also with Joe's Mozilla shirts, or whatever). If the Foundation ignores this then, should somone start using the trademark for somthing nasty (Joe's Mozilla Spam Mailer, or whatever) then, should they go to court, they will be told that they have failed to protect their trademark (sincve it is assosiated with so many businesses) and so cannot prevent the unwanted use of the trademark.

The need to protect trademarks seems stupid, but it at least prevents "submarine trademarks" where a company trademarks a term, makes a big effort to get it used in the language and then starts suing people who use it.

Bear in mind that the graphics and trademarks are the *only* items that the Mozilla Foundation actually own (they also own lots of Mozilla coding experience but so do IBM, for example). They took legal advice and were told that many existing Open Source projects would have no legal recourse if someone else starteed trading under their name (I don't have specific examples, but you can imagine the confusion if someone started selling say "Linux 3.0" which had no relation to the original).

> Also, is keeping the images from the source against the GPL or against it's spirit? The artwork is binary source that makes up a part of the source code.

Well I'm not RMS, so I don't really know what he would say but I don't believe it's an ethical problem (although I see pratical difficulties). The idea of Free software is that one has the freedom to modify and redistribute the code so that one is not barred from making improvments to the software that one uses. Protecting the trademarks doesn't impinge upon this freedom, since the artwork doesn't add any functionality to the program. Nor does it place any further burden on subsequent users (if I modify the code and then pass it on, there are no restrictions beyond those imposed by the MPL/LGPL/GPL) - in this sense it is a significantly better solution to the "advertising" clauses that some programs have which place a requirement on all distributers to include attribution to the original authors in the documentation. Essentially the only restriction being imposed is that you don't try to impersonate the Mozilla Foundation. I'm sure if Novell or IBM start releasing branded Open-Source software, people won't have a problem with the idea that their logos are going to be protected by trademark law.