One of the places we’ve historically seen projects stumble is in managing their trademarks—their project’s name and logo. How project trademarks are used is different from how their code is used, as trademarks are a method of quality assurance. This includes the assurance that the code in question has an open source license. When trademarks are properly managed, project maintainers can define their identity, provide assurances to downstream users of the quality of their offering, and give others in the community certainty about the free and fair use of the brand.
In collaboration with academic leaders, independent contributors, and SADA Systems, today we are announcing the Open Usage Commons, an organization focused on extending the philosophy and definition of open source to project trademarks. The mission of the Open Usage Commons is to help open source projects assert and manage their project identity through programs specific to trademark management and conformance testing. Creating a neutral, independent ownership for these trademarks gives contributors and consumers peace of mind regarding their use of project names in a fair and transparent way.
Understanding and managing trademarks is critical for the long-term sustainability of projects, particularly with the increasing number of enterprise products based on open source. Trademarks sit at the juncture of the rule of law and the philosophy of open source, a complicated space; for this reason, we consider it to be the next challenge for open source, one we want to help with.
To get the Open Usage Commons started, Google has contributed initial funding, and the trademarks of Angular, a web application framework for mobile and desktop; Gerrit, web-based team code-collaboration tool; and Istio, an open platform to connect, manage, and secure microservices, will be joining the Open Usage Commons. If you use a trademark of one of the projects currently, you can continue to use those marks, following any current guidance from the project. As the Open Usage Commons is focused on trademark management, the contributor communities and technical roadmaps of these projects are not changed by joining the Commons, although we hope this new model encourages anyone who has stood on the sidelines until now to participate in these projects.
As the Open Usage Commons board wrote in their announcement, this is uncharted territory, and the Commons intends to “walk before they run,” so you can expect more information and activity from the organization in the coming months.
Learn more about the role of trademarks in open source and the Open Usage Commons at openusage.org.
By Chris DiBona, Director, Open Source at Google