"Open Source Trademarks Must Not Be Neglected, Warn Lawyers," Managing Intellectual Property

July 17, 2020

In an article published by Managing Intellectual Property on July 17, 2020, Van Lindberg discusses why managing trademarks in the open source space is important and why brands need to take user interactions into account. 

The intersection of trademarks and open source code came into the spotlight in July after the launch of the Open Usage Commons, an organization dedicated to helping firms assert and manage their project identity through programs such as conformance testing and trademark management. 

"Brands sometimes use trademarks in the open source space to prevent third parties from taking a name and using it for themselves," said Mr. Lindberg. 

Mr. Lindberg expressed that people in the open source space don't often think about how to protect their trademarks until they run into an issue. "But when projects have an associated commercial component or when use of software becomes widespread enough, it starts to attract those who freeload or take advantage of it," he says. 

Trademarks can be a valuable branding mechanism for companies that want to commercialize open source projects. Trademarks also allow project managers to choose who is associated with their open source projects. 

Mr. Lindberg explained that while there are bad actors, corporations tend to respect trademark rights. "It is something they recognize from their own business activities, so they respect other people's trademarks. That respect extends to open source and free software projects as well," he said. 

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