From: Jeff King <email@example.com> To: firstname.lastname@example.org Subject: Git trademark status and policy Date: Thu, 2 Feb 2017 03:26:56 +0100 Message-ID: <email@example.com> (raw) As many of you already know, the Git project (as a member of Software Freedom Conservancy) holds a trademark on "Git". This email will try to lay out a bit of the history and procedure around the enforcement of that trademark, along with some open questions about policy. I'll use "we" in the text below, which will generally mean the Git Project Leadership Committee (PLC). I.e., the people who represent the Git project as part of Conservancy -- me, Junio Hamano, and Shawn Pearce. We approached Conservancy in Feb 2013 about getting a trademark on Git to ensure that anything calling itself "Git" remained interoperable with Git. Conservancy's lawyer drafted the USPTO application and submitted it that summer. The trademark was granted in late 2014 (more on that delay in a moment). Concurrently, we developed a written trademark policy, which you can find here: https://git-scm.com/trademark This was started from a template that Conservancy uses and customized by Conservancy and the Git PLC. While the original idea was to prevent people from forking the software, breaking compatibility, and still calling it Git, the policy covers several other cases. One is that you can't imply successorship. So you also can't fork the software, call it "Git++", and then tell everybody your implementation is the next big thing. Another is that you can't use the mark in a way that implies association with or endorsement by the Git project. To some degree this is necessary to prevent dilution of the mark for other uses, but there are also cases we directly want to prevent. For example, imagine a software project which is only tangentially related to Git. It might use Git as a side effect, or might just be "Git-like" in the sense of being a distributed system with chained hashes. Let's say as an example that it does backups. We'd prefer it not call itself GitBackups. We don't endorse it, and it's just using the name to imply association that isn't there. You can come up with similar hypotheticals: GitMail that stores mailing list archives in Git, or GitWiki that uses Git as a backing store. Those are all fictitious examples (actually, there _are_ real projects that do each of those things, but they gave themselves much more unique names). But they're indicative of some of the cases we've seen. I'm intentionally not giving the real names here, because my point isn't to shame any particular projects, but to discuss general policy. Careful readers among you may now be wondering about GitHub, GitLab, Gitolite, etc. And now we get back to why it took over a year to get the trademark granted. The USPTO initially rejected our application as confusingly similar to the existing trademark on GitHub, which was filed in 2008. While one might imagine where the "Git" in GitHub comes from, by the time we applied to the USPTO, both marks had been widely used in parallel for years. So we worked out an agreement with GitHub which basically says "we are mutually OK with the other trademark existing". (There was another delay caused by a competing application from a proprietary version control company that wanted to re-brand portions of their system as "GitFocused" (not the real name, but similar in spirit). We argued our right to the name and refused to settle; they eventually withdrew their application). So GitHub is essentially outside the scope of the trademark policy, due to the history. We also decided to explicitly grandfather some major projects that were using similar portmanteaus, but which had generally been good citizens of the Git ecosystem (building on Git in a useful way, not breaking compatibility). Those include GitLab, JGit, libgit2, and some others. The reasoning was generally that it would be a big pain for those projects, which have established their own brands, to have to switch names. It's hard to hold them responsible for picking a name that violated a policy that didn't yet exist. If the "libgit2" project were starting from scratch today, we'd probably ask it to use a different name (because the name may imply that it's an official successor). However, we effectively granted permission for this use and it would be unfair to disrupt that. There's one other policy point that has come up: the written policy disallows the use of "Git" or the logo on merchandise. This is something people have asked about it (e.g., somebody made some Git stress balls, and another person was printing keycaps with a Git logo). We have always granted it, but wanted to reserve the right in case there was some use that we hadn't anticipated that would be confusing or unsavory. Enforcement of the policy is done as cases are brought to the attention of Conservancy and the Git PLC. Sometimes people mail Conservancy directly, and sometimes a use is noticed by the Git PLC, which mails Conservancy. In either case, Conservancy's lawyer pings the Git PLC, and we decide what to do about it, with advice from the lawyer. The end result is usually a letter from the lawyer politely asking them to stop using the trademark. So how does the Git PLC make decisions? We generally try to follow the policy in an equitable way, but there are a lot of corner cases. Here are some rules of thumb we've worked out: - Things that are only tangentially related to Git are out of policy (e.g., if you had a service which rewards bitcoin for people's commits, we'd prefer it not be branded GitRewards). - Anything that claims to be Git but does not interoperate is out. We haven't had to use that one yet. - Portmanteaus ("GitFoo" or "FooGit") are out. Most of the cases run into this rule. For instance, we asked GitHub to not to use "DGit" to refer to their replicated Git solution, and they rebranded. We also asked "GitTorrent" not to use that name based on this rule. - Commands like "git-foo" (so you run "git foo") are generally OK. This is Git's well-known extension mechanism, so it doesn't really imply endorsement (on the other hand, you do not get to complain if you choose too generic a name and conflict with somebody else's use of the same git-foo name). - When "git-foo" exists, we've approved "Git Foo" as a matching project name, but we haven't decided on a general rule to cover this case. The only example here is "Git LFS". So that's more or less where we're at now. In my opinion, a few open questions are: 1. Is the portmanteau clause a good idea? GitTorrent is a possibly interesting case there. It's an open source project trying to make a torrent-like protocol for Git. That's something we'd like to have happen. But does the name imply more endorsement than we're willing to give (especially at an early stage)? 2. Is it a problem that the grandfathering of some names may create a branding advantage? Under the policy today, we wouldn't grant "GitHub" or "GitLab". Does that give an unfair advantage to the incumbents? I think the answer is "yes", but the Git PLC is also not sure that there is a good solution. If we'd thought about trademark issues much earlier, we would have been in different circumstances and probably would have made different decisions. But we didn't, so we have to live with how things developed in the meantime. Loosening now would be a mistake as it would cause a lot of confusion around the trademark and make it harder for us to stop the uses that we really care about stopping now. 3. Was granting "Git LFS" the right call? I think the project is a good one and has worked well with the greater Git community. But I think the name has implied some level of "officialness". We obviously need to allow "git-lfs" as a name. But should the policy have said "you can call this LFS, and the command is git-lfs, but don't say 'Git LFS'". I'm not sure. One option would have been to ask "git-foo" to prefer "Foo for Git" instead of "Git Foo" in their branding (it's too late now for "Git LFS", so this is a hypothetical question for future requests now). 4. I think the merchandise clause has worked fine, and in general the plan is to grant it in most cases. I have trouble thinking of an item I _wouldn't_ want the Git logo on, and I'd rather err on the side of permissiveness than be the arbiter of taste. And having the Git logo on merchandise generally raises awareness of Git. But perhaps people have stronger opinions (either about the type of item, or perhaps the practices of the manufacturer producing it). It's hard to predict how a particular item would impact how people see the Git brand. -Peff  I used "they" to refer to GitHub, but as many of you know, I am also employed by GitHub. If you are wondering how that works, I generally abstain from any decisions regarding GitHub (and that includes the "Git LFS" decision, which was a project started by GitHub). That leaves two voting PLC members for those decisions; Conservancy gets a tie-breaking vote, but it has never come up.
next reply index Thread overview: 4+ messages in thread (expand / mbox.gz / Atom feed / [top]) 2017-02-02 2:26 Jeff King [this message] 2017-02-21 15:55 ` G. Sylvie Davies 2017-02-21 22:31 ` Jeff King 2017-02-22 1:01 ` G. Sylvie Davies
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