I am in the process of finalizing a new trademark and legal policy for the OpenStack community and I have been working on the rules that allow anyone to take the software from our open source project and distribute, resell, etc using our OpenStack trademark. We have looked at several other open source community trademark policies in the process of creating our own but the common element in all the policies is who can and cannot use the trademark. Perhaps you were expecting who can and cannot use the software but in the world of open source, the trademark is all you can protect.
In fact, the only item a community has any true ownership of is the trademark as the code (regardless of open source license) is not owned by a single person or company but is a collective solution owned by all the contributors. The trademark is usually protected in the following manners:
* Anyone can use the trademark for general community promotion
* Anyone can use the trademark if shipping a product based on the technology; HOWEVER, there are rules set by each community as to what constitutes the product when people can take bits and pieces in their solution
It is this second point which becomes the most difficult to determine as one of the fundamental aspects of open source is for other people to take your solutions and improve it, modify it, pass it on, etc without restriction. This must be balanced with the real world demand from customers that they get the product they are expecting from a vendor or open source community. In the case of OpenStack we currently have two technology projects that can be delivered together or separately depending on how the end-users whishes to deploy their cloud. Thus, creating even more difficulties for the legal team.
So readers, how would you setup a policy for the OpenStack community? Of course, we are finalizing our policy right now but I am interested to see what open source enthusiasts think is the best way to handle a trademark policy; after all, it is the only true restrictive part of an open source community that limits what people can do.
Stephen Spector is the community manager of the open source OpenStack cloud platform community which develops solutions and technology for public and private cloud infrastructures. He is responsible for all things OpenStack, except for the software itself.
Stephen is an old school C developer for Real-Time embedded systems and a long time alliance and developer program manager longing for the good old days when technology upheavals only occurred every six months. You can follow him on Twitter and the OpenStack blog.