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Open Usage Commons

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Google
  • Introducing the Open Usage Commons

    Open source maintainers don’t often spend time thinking about their project’s trademarks, and with good reason: between code contribution, documentation, crafting the technical direction, and creating a healthy contributor community, there’s plenty to do without spending time considering how your project’s name or logo will be used. But trademarks – whether a name, logo, or badge – are an extension of a project’s decision to be open source. Just as your project’s open source license demonstrates that your codebase is for free and fair use, an open source project trademark policy in keeping with the Open Source Definition gives everyone – upstream contributors and downstream consumers – comfort that they are using your project’s marks in a fair and accurate way.

  • Open Usage Commons Is Google-Backed Organization For Helping With Open-Source Project Trademarks

    Open Usage Commons is a new organization announced today that is backed by Google for helping open-source projects in managing their trademarks.

    Open Usage Commons was started by Google in conjunction with academia, independent contributors, and others for helping to assert and manage project identities through trademark management and conformance testing.

  • The "Open Usage Commons" launches

    Google has announced the creation of the Open Usage Commons, which is intended to help open-source projects manage their trademarks.

  • Announcing a new kind of open source organization

    Google has deep roots in open source. We're proud of our 20 years of contributions and community collaboration. The scale and tenure of Google’s open source participation has taught us what works well, what doesn’t, and where the corner cases are that challenge projects.

Why IBM doesn’t agree with Google’s Open Usage Commons

  • Why IBM doesn’t agree with Google’s Open Usage Commons

    In May 2017, IBM and Google jointly announced the launch of Istio, a merger of Google’s Istio and IBM’s Amalgam8 projects. As a founding member of the Istio project, IBM is strongly invested in the engineering, leadership, and success of the Istio project.

    Today’s announcement by Google of the creation of the Open Usage Commons (OUC) is disappointing because it doesn’t live up to the community’s expectation for open governance. An open governance process is the underpinning of many successful projects. Without this vendor-neutral approach to project governance, there will be friction within the community of Kubernetes-related projects.

    At the project’s inception, there was an agreement that the project would be contributed to the CNCF when it was mature. IBM continues to believe that the best way to manage key open source projects such as Istio is with true open governance, under the auspices of a reputable organization with a level playing field for all contributors, transparency for users, and vendor-neutral management of the license and trademarks. Google should reconsider their original commitment and bring Istio to the CNCF.

Google open sources trademarks with the Open Usage Commons

  • Google open sources trademarks with the Open Usage Commons

    Google has announced it is launching a new organization, Open Usage Commons (OUC), to host the trademarks for three of its most important new open-source projects. These are Angular, a web application framework for mobile and desktop; Gerrit, a web-based team code-collaboration tool; and Istio, a popular open mesh platform to connect, manage, and secure microservices.

    While it only covers three Google projects, for now, OUC is meant to give open-source projects a neutral, independent home for their project trademarks. The organization will also assist with conformance testing, establishing mark usage guidelines, and handling trademark usage issues. The organization will not provide services that are outside the realm of usage, such as technical mentorship, community management, project events, or project marketing.

The Linux Foundation's Response to Open Usage Commons

  • Open Source Communities and Trademarks: A Reprise

    Intellectual property and how it is shared have been the cornerstone of open source. Although it is more common to discuss “code” or “copyright,” there are other IP concerns around patents and trademarks that must be considered before investing time and effort in a major open-source project. There are long-established practices that govern these matters. Companies and lawyers involved in open source have been working on and evolving open source project trademark matters for decades.

    Neutral control of trademarks is a key prerequisite for open source projects that operate under open governance. When trademarks of an open source project are owned by a single company within a community, there is an imbalance of control. The use of any trademark must be actively controlled by its owner or the owner will lose the right to control its use. The reservation of this exclusive right to exercise such control necessarily undermines the level playing field that is the basis for open governance. This is especially the case where the trademark is used in association with commercial products or solutions.

    Open source licenses enable anyone to fork the code and distribute and modify their own version. Trademarks, however, operate differently. Trademarks identify a specific source of the code. For example, we all know MariaDB is not the same as MySQL. They’ve each developed their own brand, albeit they’re derived from a common codebase. The key question is who decides when a company should be allowed to associate its product or solution with the brand of the community?

    A trademark is a word, phrase or design that denotes a “brand” that distinguishes one source of product or solution from another. The USPTO describes the usage of trademarks “to identify and distinguish the goods/services of one seller or provider from those of others, and to indicate the source of the goods/services.” Under US trademark law you are not able to effectively separate ownership of a project mark from control of the underlying open source project. While some may create elaborate structures around this, at the end of the day an important principle to follow is that the project community should be in control of what happens to their brand, the trademark they collectively built up as their brand in parallel with building up the functionality of their code.

Michael Meeks' Thoughts on Open Usage

  • Michael Meeks: 2020-07-08 Thursday

    Mail chew; interested to see Open Usage announced for holding and managing FLOSS trademarks in a light-weight way. If it can reduce the galloping bureaucracy and the risk of in-fighting that can come with formal governance structures, as well as avoiding the extraordinarily overheads of formal entities, that sounds rather positive. Just having the pleasant, collegial engineering relationships in a project without the overhead would be great. Then again, I guess SFC, SPI, Public Software and others already provide nice containers for projects with varying degress of flexibility, lets see what happens.

Google and The Linux Foundation want to help open source...

  • Google and The Linux Foundation want to help open source projects manage their trademarks

    Google and The Linux Foundation have been two major players in the open-source software community. Now, the two are independently committing to help open source projects manage their trademarks effectively and judiciously. Google has announced a new foundation called Open Usage Commons along with academicians and industry partners, while The Linux Foundation has reiterated its support for fair open source licensing and trademark ownership via its Project Hosting program.

    The efforts from both groups emphasize independent and neutral ownership of a trademark by a community instead of a single company or stakeholder. This is because trademarks such as a logo, badge, or even the name of the project are often hallmarks of quality and must be used wisely and consistently. Open Usage Commons and The Linux Foundation wish to standardize the process of using—or reusing—trademarks while also partaking in conformance testing of the open source forks.

Bradley M. Kuhn: Organzational Proliferation Is Not the Problem

  • Bradley M. Kuhn: Organzational Proliferation Is Not the Problem You Think It Is

    Of course, I'm thinking about all this today because Conservancy has been asked what we think about the Open Usage Commons. The fact is they're just getting started and both the legal details of how they're handling trademarks, and their governance documents, haven't been released yet. We should all give them an opportunity to slowly publish more and review it when it comes along. We should judge them fairly as an alternative for fulfilling FOSS project needs that no else addresses (or, more commonly are being addressed very differently by existing organizations). I'm going to hypothesize that, like Linux Foundation, Open Usage Commons will primarily be of interest to more for-profit-company focused projects, but that's my own speculation; none of us know yet.

    No one is denying that Open Usage Commons is tied to Google as part of their founding — in the same way that Linux Foundation's founding (which was originally founded as the “Open Source Development Labs”) was closely tied to IBM at the time. As near as I can tell, IBM's influence over Linux Foundation is these days no more than any other of their Platinum Members. It's not uncommon for a trade association to jumpstart with a key corporate member and eventually grow to be governed by a wider group of companies. But while appropriately run trade associations do balance the needs of all for-profit companies in their industry, they are decidedly not neutral; they are chartered to favor business needs over the needs of the general public. I encourage skepticism when you hear an organization claim “neutrality”. Since a trade association is narrowed to serving businesses, it can be neutral among the interests of business, but their mandate remains putting business needs above community. The ultimate proof of neutrality pudding is in the eating. As with multi-copyright held GPL'd projects, we can trust the equal rights for all in those — regardless of the corporate form of the contributors — because the document of legal rights makes it so. The same principle applies to any area of FOSS endeavor: examine the agreements and written rules for contributors and users to test neutrality.

Stephen O'Grady's take on Open Usage Commons (OUC)

  • Trademark and the Tempest

    Of the four core legal intellectual property protections, trademarks haven’t received the least attention from the open source community – that title belongs to trade secrets. Relative to copyright and patents, however, trademarks have been paid far more limited attention, historically. It’s not that they’ve been ignored. As has been noted elsewhere, there are specialists that have devoted decades to thought and study around the practice.

    But the industry has typically handled them via common consensus rather than explicit legal mechanism as it has for, say, copyright. For this reason alone, the announcement of the Open Usage Commons (OUC) this week by Google was an interesting development for those who follow the mechanisms that underlie and gird open source ecosystems the world over. Setting the real and legitimate questions of control, execution and implementation aside for a moment, if the question is whether trademark should be an elevated towards a similar status with its copyright and patent counterparts, at least, the answer here at least is clear.

    The most obvious justification is that trademarks have been a brushfire of an issue for open source historically. Never elevated into a legitimate crisis, but igniting without warning every so often and leaving collateral damage like Iceweasel in their wake. From Canonical to Mozilla to Red Hat, trademark has been a chronic issue, an issue that would presumably benefit from some explicit clarification whether or not one believes the OUC is the appropriate mechanism to provide it.

Open source groups spar over Google trademark initiative

  • Open source groups spar over Google trademark initiative

    It was no surprise, then, that Google's announcement of a new open source initiative called the Open Usage Commons caused some consternation among other open source proponents. IBM's reaction is typical. In a statement, the company said that "the creation of the Open Usage Commons (OUC) is disappointing because it doesn't live up to the community's expectation for open governance. An open governance process is the underpinning of many successful projects. Without this vendor-neutral approach to project governance, there will be friction within the community of Kubernetes-related projects."

    This row between the various groups has been a distraction for what has been a radical move by Google. What the company has done has highlighted how companies had previously missed out on a crucial area of intellectual property and the company has shown that this could be a vital new area to explore.

    Google's bright idea was to tap into the neglected area of trademarks, which previously has not been the most exciting area for developers to explore. However Google sees this differently. Launching the new initiative, the company explained that it "created the Open Usage Commons because free and fair open source trademark use is critical to the long-term sustainability of open source."

    The underlying reason was that the management of trademarks was an area for legal specialists - something beyond the competence of open source project maintainers. According to Google, the new initiative would address this knowledge gap.

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