Google says trademarks should be open source, too—IBM disagrees

Photograph of a judge's hammer and gavel next to a desk nameplate which reads
Extend / Nobody from IBM is proposing any lawsuits over Google’s addition of Istio to its new Debatable Usage Commons foundation. But they’re not happy about it.
Nick Youngson

This Wednesday, Google declared a new open source initiative—the Open Usage Commons, a sort of stewardship protrude for open source trademarks. The move drew immediate criticism from IBM, which declares an interest in Istio, one of the three projects Google seeded the OUC with at initiation.

What is the Open Usage Commons?

Before we can really get into IBM’s beef, we fundamental to spend some time investigating what the Open Usage Commons is vexing to do in the first place. From its own FAQ:

The Open Usage Commons gives unblock source projects a neutral, independent home for their project trademarks, and provides backing with conformance testing, establishing mark usage guidelines, and hold issues around trademark usage that projects encounter.

The Bare Usage Commons does not provide services that are outside the monarchy of usage, such as technical mentorship, community management, project experiences, or project marketing.

In some ways, this sounds like a regular item from the open source playbook: establish a conservancy to take care of things neutrally and keep them free for all. But so far, trademarks have basically been the one thing that open source projects have detained to themselves, and for good reason—tarnishing a project’s brand damages the plan itself in difficult or impossible to repair ways.

IBM-owned Red Hat itself is one of the largest plain source companies in the world, and its Red Hat Enterprise Linux makes for an interesting situation study. All of the source code of RHEL is open source and may be freely downloaded, printed, and reused. If you want to build the entire operating system from its own beginning code and distribute it as your own, you may—but the one thing you can’t do is call it “Red Hat Linux.”

Debian Linux’s decade-long sputter with Mozilla over the Firefox logo is another interesting prototype of the conflict between open code and proprietary trademarks. The short rendition is, Mozilla retained full copyright on the Firefox logo—and this spawned a problem for Debian, whose policies don’t permit redistribution of non-free highbrow property. So Debian pulled the logo but left the browser intact—calling Mozilla to refuse the project permission to use the Firefox name on the resulting enlarge. Debian, meanwhile, simply renamed its build “Iceweasel” instead.

It’s leisurely to understand why an open source project would want to protect its trademarks, supposing. If you don’t protect your trademark, there’s nothing stopping—for example—Seer from deciding to create an entirely different product called “Firefox,” outstanding to severe confusion at best.

So far, it’s difficult to see what Google is trying to reach here—branding is literally the only thing an open source calculate has left to protect, and doing so is critically important. So why give that up? The respond is a few paragraphs farther down:

[C]ompanies that want to offer governed versions of these projects… can invest in offering “Project as a Ceremony” because it’s a guarantee that they can use that mark; it won’t be suddenly entranced away on a whim after they’ve built up an offering around it.

What isn’t depart is how Google’s Open Usage Commons actually provides that pledge to “Project as a Service” companies—because it doesn’t actually seem to set any unfalteringly policies. Each of the examples given in its FAQ about usage of managed trademarks blusters down to “you have to use the trademark in accordance with that project’s trademark use guidelines”—and that the projects themselves will continue to set those guidelines.

IBM, Istio, and the OUC

Istio is a platform-independent usefulness mesh providing traffic management, policy enforcement, and telemetry amassment. It was developed as an open source project by teams from Google, IBM, and Lyft on GitHub and is currently one of the fastest increase projects to be found there.

Google owns the trademark to Istio, but it launched publicly as a fusing of Google’s internal project by that name and IBM’s own open source Mixture8 project. At the time, IBM described the merger as making sense due to Google’s creating developer position with Kubernetes—Istio itself enables and smooths communication at scale between the containers swimming in the Kubernetes ocean, so to address.

But according to IBM fellow Jason McGee, the original partnership included an brain that Istio, once sufficiently mature, would be handed in excess of to the Cloud Native Computing Foundation. The CNCF is a vendor-neutral, non-profit youngster organization of the Linux Foundation; handing an open source project across to the CNCF ensures that no single company can use undue leverage to clout another company which uses and becomes dependent on that invent.

IBM sees the Open Usage Commons as tied directly to Google, choose than being truly vendor-independent and vendor-neutral like the CNCF. It’s unaccommodating or impossible to dissect the Linux Foundation or CNCF and come up with anything that looks groove on ownership by a single company.

It’s also difficult to see what the future for the Ajar Usage Commons will truly look like—it’s been base with a six-person board of directors, only two of whom work for Google. But all of the drafts initially donated to the Commons come from Google itself—forming it apparent that there was no wide industry buy-in accumulated preceding to the Commons’ launch.

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