Mozilla Corp. protects trademark, logo; OSS community backlash

Part of the OSS (Open Source Software) community is now angrily lashing out at its darling, Mozilla (also covered on digg).


The Mozilla Corporation wants Ubuntu and Debian to use the Firefox name and logo correctly, and to run custom patches by Mozilla Corp. before including them in their distributions. Naturally, this makes the process of updating the program harder, and it will be a lot more time consuming to include custom patches for these distributions.

Ubuntu and Debian's position is certainly understandable since it creates more work for them, but some of the criticizm against Mozilla regarding this matter seems to be a bit rash.

If I am not mistaken, a trademark is lost if one does not protect it. This means that anyone can create "Firefox" and distribute it as such. The logo itself is covered by copyright which cannot be lost anyway, but the value of having only one official version of a program to relate to is not to be underestimated. (Please correct me if I'm getting anything wrong here.)

Think of a scenario where everyone can create a product like yours and put your name and logo of it. Theirs is a cheap ripoff which gives your trademark and logo a bad reputation. Does that sound nice to you?

Mozilla Corp. is protecting its trademarks and logos because it benefits them (users use their products rather than products pretending to be theirs), and it benefits the users (users know that what they are using is an official Mozilla Corporation product, so they know who is responsible for it).

Now, I am not saying that Ubuntu or Debian would give Mozilla a bad name – not at all. The scenario I mention above is purely hypothetical, but I still believe that this is closer to the reason why Mozilla Corp. is doing this than the various conspiracy theories about how Mozilla Corp. is turning into Microsoft and similar remarks from around the Web…

In the end, Mozilla Corp., Ubuntu and Debian may come to an agreement on how to handle this. Maybe Mozilla will be able to give special permission in some cases, or maybe the two Linux distributions will eventually sympathize with Mozilla Corp.'s position and find a way to handle it anyway.

Protecting a brand is beneficial to the owner of the brand as well as the users/customers, so it is no wonder that Mozilla Corp. takes steps to ensure that their brand is kept intact and exclusive.


2 thoughts on “Mozilla Corp. protects trademark, logo; OSS community backlash

  1. Things are never as simple as they look at first. After reading the comments on the actual debian bug, I can't decide which side is handling this worst. But it becomes more and more clear that 'open source' is all about giving up control over your work – and that is something very unnatural to do, so it is bound to cause problems.BTW, it is very cute when loyal Opera-on-Linux users chime in. But suggesting, like has been done several times in the comments of the blog post Haavard links to, that Debian or Ubuntu should include Opera as default browser reveals utter ignorance about the goals of these projects :)For those who are not up to speed on this: Debian and Ubuntu are meant to include *only* fully open source code and freely reusable artwork and whatever. That's part of their foundation. This means a plain installation of these distros can't play MP3 files BTW. But they now also can't include Firefox with the original name and logo, because those are trademarked and copyrighted, and Mozilla Corp wants to keep control over the use of the name and logo. Using the browser itself is fine, but the Debian developers should rename it and use a different logo. In the case of Opera, *nothing* is available with an open source license, so it's a total non-sequitur.

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