trademarked logos and GPL

kmself at kmself at
Tue Jan 23 02:25:44 UTC 2001

on Mon, Jan 22, 2001 at 05:17:01PM -0800, Bart Decrem (bart at wrote:

Howdy, Bart.  Give Andy and Richard L. a "hi" from me.

> I have a feeling that the question I'm about to ask has been asked &
> answered a few times already, so I do apologize for that.
> We at Eazel are trying to figure out what we need to do so we can
> distribute our corporate logo along with our Nautilus software, which
> is GPL'd, without losing our ability to control the use of our
> trademark.
> It looks like Red Hat distributes their logo in a separate RPM, which
> is released under very restrictive licensing terms, and that there are
> a few GPL'd applications (most prominently Red Hat Update Agent) that
> have a dependency on that.

Interesting, wasn't aware of that.  Note that the agent itself might be
RE'd or repackaged to avoid the dependency.  And that there might not be
much to stop anyone from doing so.

> So we're thinking of doing exactly the same thing.  We use the Eazel
> logo as a 'throbber' (think: the throbbing N in your Netscape
> browser).  The installer for our Nautilus software would always
> install that logo.  But if someone objects to the licensing terms of
> the logo, they could uninstall our logo RPM, in which case they would
> see a generic throbber.  The CVS version of our source code would only
> include the generic throbber.

Sounds reasonable.  Is there any functionality tied to the logo?

My understanding is that copyright and trademark are reasonably
orthogonal, hence source and logo licensing can be largely
distinguished.  Conflict shouldn't occur unless there's functional
significance to the logo itself, in which case a number of issues
emerge, some of which were thrashed out recently on FSB regarding a
proposed certification system.

Note that if you're trying to use your logo in such a way that it *is*
functionally significant, you may lose the protections offered under TM
statute -- see for example Sega v. Accolade and the reasons for denial
of cert to Harley Davidson Motorcycle Company in the past six months or
so for its application on the "Harley sound" -- intrinsically tied to
functional characteristics of the engine.

RH has some fairly substantial TM usage guidelines posted to their site,
worth looking at.

There's also the practice of some informally organized groups such as
the Debian Project, which maintains two sets of logos, one for official
use by the organization itself, the other licensed for use to promote
Debian-based products, but without implying direct organizational
endorsement (lamp+swirl and swirl, respectively).

> Is this the best way to proceed?

As usual, I'd have to ask:  to what end?

Karsten M. Self <kmself at>
 What part of "Gestalt" don't you understand?       There is no K5 cabal
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