[CentOS] Re: Linux Trademarked?

David Johnston david at littlebald.com
Tue Sep 6 01:06:52 UTC 2005

On Tue, 2005-08-23 at 19:11 -0500, Mike McCarty wrote:
> Bryan J. Smith wrote:
> > Mike McCarty <mike.mccarty at sbcglobal.net> wrote:
> > 
> >>If you make modifications to the source, and redistribute
> >>it according to GPL, then source you are distributing has
> >>the trademark in it.  And that's a violation.
> > Then you'd have to yank every God damn piece of Linux
> > software on the shelf, distributed on the Internet, etc...
> > anytime someone put a trademark on them.  You'd eventually
> > _kill_ anything GPL being marked with anything, because GPL
> > couldn't be used for anything where someone applied a
> > trademark.
> That was, I think, the concern of the OP.
> > I can distribute 100% non-GPL software with GPL software, yet
> > I can't distribute a trademark.
> What I saw was a post by someone who noted that Linus Torvald
> has trademarked Linux(R) and is now actively *enforcing* that
> trademark, and wondered whether this had any impact on GPLd
> code, specifically the kernel itself, which has the Linux(R)
> mark embedded in it in comments.
> I'm not a lawyer. I only know that I was at a company which used
> a term in source comments which another company later trademarked.
> We were forced to change those comments in source to remove the
> use of the trademarked sign. This was in source which was not
> distributed

I think your company's lawyers decided it was cheaper to spend a
thousand programmer-hours changing comments than to do their jobs.
Trademark law prohibits you from making a buck off another guy's
trademark; it does NOT require you to change comments in code you don't

There's an old example from the computer industry: DEC used to sell
computers under the trademark VAX, while another company (Danish, if I
remember correctly) sold vacuum cleaners under the same name.  There was
no trademark conflict because no one in his right mind is going to
confuse a VAX vacuum with a VAX computer.  A quick pair of letters (one
from DEC disclaiming any interest in selling vacuums, and one from VAX
disclaiming any plans to sell computers) and the problem went away.

Linus' trademark means is that no one can sell software under the name
Linux(R) without his permission, and that's all it means.  And in
reference to his enforcing the trademark, if he doesn't then he loses

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