list mirror (unofficial, one of many)
 help / color / mirror / code / Atom feed
From: "G. Sylvie Davies" <>
To: "G. Sylvie Davies" <>,
Cc: Git Users <>, Jeff King <>
Subject: Re: Git trademark status and policy
Date: Tue, 21 Feb 2017 17:01:49 -0800	[thread overview]
Message-ID: <> (raw)
In-Reply-To: <>

On Tue, Feb 21, 2017 at 7:55 AM, G. Sylvie Davies
<> wrote:
> On Wed, Feb 1, 2017 at 6:26 PM, Jeff King <> wrote:
>> 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:
>> 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[1] 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
>> [1] 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.
> Is "Gitter" allowed?   (
> More info here:
> Also, their twitter handle is @gitchat.
> Not sure I'd even classify "gitter" as a portmanteau.

As per Junio's earlier email today, "Re: Partnership with Git", sounds
like questions of this sort go to  CC'ing them.

- Sylvie

  parent reply	other threads:[~2017-02-22  1:01 UTC|newest]

Thread overview: 12+ messages / expand[flat|nested]  mbox.gz  Atom feed  top
2017-02-02  2:26 Git trademark status and policy Jeff King
2017-02-21 15:55 ` G. Sylvie Davies
2017-02-21 22:31   ` Jeff King
2017-02-22  1:01   ` G. Sylvie Davies [this message]
2018-09-16 10:15 ` David Aguilar
2018-09-17  3:21   ` Jeff King
2018-09-17  9:25     ` Christian Couder
2018-09-18 18:22       ` Jeff King
2018-10-24  7:55         ` David Aguilar
2018-10-25  5:21           ` Jeff King
2018-09-17 13:58     ` Junio C Hamano
2018-09-18 18:24       ` Jeff King

Reply instructions:

You may reply publicly to this message via plain-text email
using any one of the following methods:

* Save the following mbox file, import it into your mail client,
  and reply-to-all from there: mbox

  Avoid top-posting and favor interleaved quoting:

  List information:

* Reply using the --to, --cc, and --in-reply-to
  switches of git-send-email(1):

  git send-email \
    --in-reply-to='' \ \ \ \ \

* If your mail client supports setting the In-Reply-To header
  via mailto: links, try the mailto: link
Be sure your reply has a Subject: header at the top and a blank line before the message body.
Code repositories for project(s) associated with this public inbox

This is a public inbox, see mirroring instructions
for how to clone and mirror all data and code used for this inbox;
as well as URLs for read-only IMAP folder(s) and NNTP newsgroup(s).