What's in a Name: Can Trademarks be Helpful to Free Software Projects?

Karen Sandler (GNOME Foundation), Simon Phipps (Open Source Initiative), Gervase Markham (Mozilla Foundation), Larry Augustin (SugarCRM), Chris Messina (NeonMob)
Emerging Topics, Legal
Location: Meeting Room B3
Average rating: ****.
(4.00, 3 ratings)

Trademark law is designed to prevent confusion in the market place but understanding how it can benefit the FOSS community can often be confusing. This panel will discuss whether it is useful to register a trademark and, if so, how to permit its use by others. Various policies and enforcement strategies will be evaluated from corporate and non-profit perspectives, often in strong disagreement.

Companies and non-profit foundations seek to accomplish different goals through the enforcement of trademarks. We will discuss:

  • whether trademarks actually help prevent confusion as to software origin and license requirements
  • if trademark enforcement can cause obstacles to development
  • different approaches to and recommendations for trademark policies
Photo of Karen Sandler

Karen Sandler

GNOME Foundation

Karen M. Sandler is an attorney with the Software Freedom Law Center and serves as an officer of the Software Freedom Conservancy. Prior to joining SFLC, she worked as an associate in the corporate departments of Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP in New York and Clifford Chance in New York and London. Sandler received her law degree from Columbia Law School in 2000, where she was a James Kent Scholar and co-founder of the Columbia Science and Technology Law Review. Sandler received her bachelor’s degree in engineering from The Cooper Union.

Photo of Simon Phipps

Simon Phipps

Open Source Initiative

Simon Phipps has engaged at a strategic level in the world’s leading technology companies, starting in roles such as field engineer, programmer, systems analyst and more recently taking executive leadership roles around open source. He worked with X-series standards in the 80s, on collaborative conferencing software in the 90s, helped introduce both Java and XML at IBM and was instrumental in open sourcing the whole software portfolio at Sun Microsystems. Today he leads the open source management consultancy Meshed Insights Ltd.

As President of the Open Source Initiative and a director of the UK’s Open Rights Group, he takes an active interest in digital rights issues and is a widely read commentator at InfoWorld, Computerworld and his own Webmink blog.

He holds a BSc in electronic engineering and is a Fellow of the British Computer Society and of the Open Forum Academy.

Photo of Gervase Markham

Gervase Markham

Mozilla Foundation

Gervase Markham is a long-time Mozilla project contributor and Bugzilla hacker. He currently works for the Mozilla Foundation, “greasing the wheels” in the Mozilla community. Although he says that his job is now so eclectic it “defies description”, among other things, he has been closely involved in formulating the Foundation’s trademark policy.

When he’s not working, he also contributes to OpenStreetMap, and recently organized a pledge which resulted in one OSM volunteer being sent on a mapping field trip to the Caribbean island of Antigua for a week. He’s sad that it wasn’t him.

Gerv is a committed Christian, and member of Enfield Evangelical Free Church in Enfield, UK, where he lives. The title of his blog, Hacking for Christ, reflects his view that Christians should do everything to the glory of God.

Larry Augustin


Larry Augustin is the CEO of SugarCRM. As an angel investor and advisor to early stage technology companies, he currently serves on the Boards of Directors of Fonality, Hyperic, Medsphere, OSDL, Pentaho, SugarCRM, VA Software (NASDAQ: LNUX), and XenSource. One of the group who coined the term “Open Source”, he has written and spoken extensively on Open Source worldwide. Worth Magazine named him to their list of the Top 50 CEOs in 2000. From 2002 to 2004 he was a Venture Partner at Azure Capital Partners. In 1993 he founded VA Linux (now VA Software), where he served as CEO until August 2002 and led the company through an IPO in 1999. Larry can be found online at http://lmaugustin.com.

Photo of Chris Messina

Chris Messina


Chris Messina arrived in San Francisco in 2004 as a volunteer for the Mozilla Foundation, leading the Spread Firefox community marketing project in raising over $220,000 in microdonations to launch Firefox to a worldwide audience with an ad in the New York Times.

He went on to co-found the Flock web browser and helped to organize the first-ever BarCamp in Palo Alto in 2005. Later, he co-founded Citizen Agency with Tara Hunt, opening a shared work environment called Citizen Space, giving rise to the coworking movement.

Chris now works on DiSo, an effort that he co-founded with Steve Ivy, to facilitate the development of building blocks for the open, social web. He is also a board member of the OpenID Foundation and works part-time for Vidoop, a Portland-based provider of secure internet identity technologies.

He has spoken at numerous conferences around the world and has been quoted in national publications such as The New York Times, Business Week, LA Times, MIT Technology Review and Wired. Chris is well-known in the Web 2.0, open source, and startup worlds for his community advocacy and work on open standards initiatives like microformats, OpenID, OAuth and Activity Streams.

  • Intel
  • Microsoft
  • Google
  • SourceForge.net
  • Sun Microsystems
  • Facebook
  • Gear6
  • Kaltura
  • Liferay
  • MindTouch
  • MySpace.com
  • Novell, Inc.
  • Open Invention Network
  • Rackspace Cloud
  • Schooner Information Technology
  • Silicon Mechanics
  • Symbian Foundation
  • Twilio
  • WSO2
  • Yabarana Corporation

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