Get ready....

Paul Nathan Puri publisher at
Mon Apr 19 04:12:06 UTC 1999

I see what is trying to be accomplished here.

I'm not clear on how Trademark will protect the content of the GNU

Is it that use of the mark 'Open Source' to describe the qualities of the
license will be controlled by OSI?

Isn't the term 'Open Source' also a generic term?  Are not generic terms
given less protection?  

It seems to me that there is something dubious about the Open Source
trademark.  It is as if one where to file for trademark for the term
'computer' and then whenever anyone uses that term in the license, the
mark holder could file an infringement suit.  In addition, how is there
an infringement by using a term in a license?  Is the license the
product being exchanged or the software?  Am I missing something?

I still believe that the legal protections surrounding the GPL are not as
strong as a traditional license would be.  My feeling is that the best
sources of legal arguments in support of the license are community
practices among the open source community (i.e., the customs and practices
of the community).  

Certified Law Student
& Debian GNU/Linux Monk
McGeorge School of Law
publisher at

On Wed, 14 Apr 1999, Gabe Wachob wrote:

> "Derek J. Balling" wrote:
> > Actually, the license specifically forbids you from taking excerpts. It may
> > be copied verbatim or not at all.
> >
> > At 08:16 PM 4/14/99 -0700, phred at wrote:
> > >There are two things to say about the GPL:  it's a license, not code that
> > >performs some function on a computer.  And its terms do not forbid you
> > >from modifying it and making a different license.  In fact, that happens
> > >fairly often.  What you can't then do is call it the GPL.
> Well, under U.S. law, copyright only protects original works fixed in a
> tangible medium of expression.
> The important part there is "original" -- the license wording itself has to
> rise above a threshold level of originality before it is protected by
> copyright. I would daresay that most of the GNU license does not meet that
> level of originality -- many licenses sound a lot like the GNU or other open
> sourcish licenses even though they have radically different meanings, for
> example.
> I would definitely not rely on copyright to protect the integrity of the
> GNU license from companies who wish to play with the terms. Its a pretty
> pointless excercise -- someone can change a few words and the sentence
> structure and probably not be infringing. Ideally, its the *ideas* (that is,
> the intent of the licensor -- the author of the software) in the open source
> licenses which are important.
> Its the likelihood of confusion or being tricked on the part of an end user
> that we are really concerned about (we don't want a company using a gnuish
> sounding license to get users to use their software only to find out that the
> company has some evil clause that eviserates the open source nature of the
> license), as well as mounting industry pressure to erode to open source
> pillars in the distribution and publishing of software. The confusion is
> protected against  through Trademark and related intellectual property
> regimes. This is why the Open Source Certification mark is really important.
> As for the erosion of the open source principles in the software world, well,
> thats up to the people on the front line...
>     -Gabe

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