Advice on advice (was Re: trademarked logos and GPL)

kmself at kmself at
Tue Jan 23 02:32:45 UTC 2001

on Mon, Jan 22, 2001 at 05:23:00PM -0800, Lawrence E. Rosen (lrosen at wrote:
> > -----Original Message-----
> > From: Bart Decrem [mailto:bart at]
> > Sent: Monday, January 22, 2001 5:17 PM
> > To: license-discuss at
> > Cc: dan at
> > Subject: trademarked logos and GPL
> >
> >
> > Hi everyone,
> >
> > 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.
> >
> > 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.
> >
> > Is this the best way to proceed?
> >
> I want to discourage license-discuss participants from answering questions
> like this one.  Not that its a bad question, or one that would be
> uninteresting for more than the questioner to hear answered.  But
> non-lawyers have to avoid giving legal advice -- and the questioner would be
> foolish to accept legal advice from non-lawyers about a technically
> complicated subject such as trademark law.
> Even lawyers like me have to be very careful.  We are not supposed to give
> generic legal advice to non-clients over the Internet.  That's why I
> sometimes avoid answering questions on this discussion list, simply because
> I don't want to be seen as advising someone how to act when I don't know
> them and don't represent them.
> I encourage the questioner to direct his question, in private, to an
> attorney.  If you don't know of a good attorney, call me or call other
> people you know and ask for recommendations.

As one of the usual suspects in situations such as this (and mindful
that I should avoid giving direct advice), I'll note that my own
response tends toward:

   - My own personal reaction -- does the proposal irk me?
   - Other examples -- any interesting references I can think of.
   - Relevant discussion -- FSB just went through a slightly bloody
     round of "how can I apply trademark within the free software
     model?", which might be interesting.
   - Questioning goals:  the question is slightly vague, what is the
     intended use and significance of the mark?

...informing, without serving direct legal guidance.  Or so I'd hope.

I don't think we need to avoid such questions or discussions.  I do
believe we should be aware of the limitations upon them.  Note that non
US nationals might or might not be held to US law regarding disbursment
of legal knowledge as well (I don't know what the standard is....Larry?

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