Use of "open source"

Rick Moen rick at
Wed Jan 3 21:14:07 UTC 2007

Quoting Matthew Flaschen (matthew.flaschen at

> No, it's not in such a position.  As I've said before on this list,
> "open source" is not trademarked.

This is not entirely accurate.  There is no Federal _registration_ of such
a mark with the US Patent and Trademark Office.  Whether the phrase
"open source" would be enforceable under common law as a mark is
debatable and would need to be litigated.

> Thus, anyone *can* use it to describe anything.  However, that doesn't
> mean it's *right* to do so.

Nor smart, if firms value their good name.  Quite.  I'm getting really
tired of people who know better, like Matt Asay...

   Yes, there is a concern that "open source" can come to be meaningless
   if we don't hold the term to a set of standards. But my personal feeling
   is that the "wisdom of crowds" works just fine in separating the wheat
   from the chaff.

And Ross Mayfield...

   In blogspace, David Berlind raises the red flag broadly and narrowly
   on vendors and projects calling themselves open source without using an
   OSI approved license or having their license certified. In fact, there
   is no trademark on "open source."

...suggesting that the term is up for grabs.  Sorry, no.  Get over it,

Rick Moen                      "vi is my shepherd; I shall not font."
rick at                               -- Psalm 0.1 beta

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