Product Names & Trademarks

Our cooperative respects creators’ trademarks. Registered works have a product name and a revision. The product name identifies a major release or variant of a product. A work’s revision is a sequence number used for gratis updates. Any aspects of the product’s name may be subject to trademark. During registration, the permission to reference a given work, including for comparison purposes, using its product name is granted. Conversely, other entities are not given the right to use the product’s name, or anything confusingly similar, for their own works. In our cooperative, trademark is seen primarily as a way to assure quality to customers, not as a way to hinder searching or good faith comparison.

This view of trademarks is common in licenses approved by the Open Source Initiative. For example, the Apache 2.0 license expressly excludes a trademark grant except as required for reasonable and customary use when describing the work’s origin. Other OSI licenses expressly require that derivative works use a different name in both marketing and in the implementation. As part of registration, creators expressly grant permission to use their trademarks within product evaluations, good-faith product comparisons, and for the discovery of competitive works.

Competitive Marketplaces

Our cooperative licensing encourages a competitive market where users may choose among alternatives for improvements to existing works. Since our licensing grants cooperative members the right to make a derivative work, a fork of an existing work under different product name is permitted. This model permits users to choose the evolution of the works they have grown dependent upon without having to switch to a completely different market option that requires a conversion and new training. In open source communities, there are forks everywhere, but they are most often experiments or local customizations. It is less common for popular open source projects to be forked with the express intent of direct competition; it is the implicit threat of a competitive fork that keeps original developers focused upon the needs of their customers and collaborators. We expect a similar pattern to emerge in this context. Since the distribution of forks generates licensing revenue for its predecessors’ creators, even competitive forks are beneficial to the original creators.

We do not require that derivative works are registered though our cooperative. Hence, it is possible that a popular work could spawn a proprietary fork whose creators don’t wish to share with our community. Even in this case, sales of this proprietary fork must include the licensing of the predecessor and components they incorporate. Moreover, those derivatives would not be endorsed by our organization, as its users may lose the ability to influence the evolution of their purchases though a competitive ecosystem. We believe a vibrant free market ecosystem of competitive improvements will aleviate the coersive and monopolistic pratices that are so common today.