Ironically in the USA any organisation / think-tank with the word 'freedom' in the title is likely to be a pair of jackboots short of a rally.
A few days before the Christmas holiday, the Software Freedom Law Center (SFLC) made a peace offering of sorts in an ostensible effort to resolve its trademark dispute with the Software Freedom Conservancy (SFC). In September last year, SFLC sued the SFC claiming that the SFC trademark "Software Freedom Conservancy" is …
Freedom comes in two versions. Freedom to and Freedom from. It can mean the freedom from slavery, or the freedom to own slaves.
The USA is a special case (in all sorts of ways). It's founding was partly or mostly lead by people who wanted to escape from the restrictions of Europe irrespective of whether those restrictions were good or bad. The Pilgrim Fathers were not known for their tolerance of other religious groups.
It's been long observed that the more people brag about things in the title, the less they reflect the reality of the entity.
For instance, a nation sounding like the "free peoples democratic republic of liberty and peace" will in reality be a warmongering, despotic dictatorship because a free nation would just call itself the invariably single word by which it's people have always used to describe their nation/geographical location.
Is that either one of these supposed defenders of "freedom" felt it necessary to implement blatantly anti-freedom bullshit like "trademarks" in the first place.
And not only because claiming a monopoly on names is a Draconian and morally indefensible violation of free expression, but perhaps even more importantly because it's an insult to the intelligence of we who supposedly get easily "confused" and can't tell the difference between multiple entities with the same or similar name.
Personally, I know half a dozen people called "John", yet miraculously I have no difficulty telling them apart. When presented with two plain white boxes containing smartphones, I still manage to tell the difference between the Apple and Samsung. Frankly even if both boxes simply read "phone", I'd still be able to tell the difference, just looking at the photo on the box. When travelling through various Third World countries, and encountering many electrical shops sporting goods made by companies with names like "Ponysonic", incredibly I knew they had nothing to do with Panasonic, and would have known just by the quality even if the name had been identical. Yes, I can even tell the difference between a real and fake Rolex. Seriously, it's not exactly rocket science.
If there are people in the world too stupid to differentiate between different things with the same name, then clearly the problem is those idiots, not the names. Why should the rest of us have to suffer the oppressive regime of intellectual monopoly, just because there are easily "confused" idiots in the world?
Those trademarks are obtained just like websites, and represent the "public face" of a group. Certainly you understand the risk to facebook.com in there being a faecbook.com that does social media also - and it would be like the senior IT people of facebook.com starting the new company. I worked in consumer electronics, and I can attest that having a product similarly named is a practice a shady company will do to ride the coattails of a competitor. Nothing like racking your brain on the phone with a some panicked installer trying to figure out how he got the software options in the menu that don't match any of the release software, and why it won't even do some of the basic functions it's supposed to - then the email with the picture comes in, and the product isn't ours, but even the product Industrial Design and the remote control got copied...
Just because you're a fake product expert doesn't mean that someone (even a smart person) while under duress is not going to notice the difference. And then there's the other end of the bell-curve...
I've been following the back story to these two groups and talking to others who are closer to both parties, and I personally side with SFLC (the original group).
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So what happens if someone calls your place of work and says "I want to speak to John?"
I have worked in places where there were two Simons in the same department, and have had dealings with a company that had two engineers called Steve. There have been a couple of occasions where I had a message passed from Simon to speak to Steve, so I've had to track down the right Simon to speak to the right Steve - if I'm lucky!
On one memorable occasion, a Mike at the client raised an issue with Mike on the client team who raised the issue with Mike in first level support who passed the ticket to Mike in second level support who passed the ticket to Mike at the supplier.
Very glad that the issue itself wasn't too hard to fix once it reached Mike or explaining the situation could have been tricky.
I have worked in places where there were two Simons in the same department
How about a small company (couple of dozen people in total) with 3 Simons, 3 Mikes, 2 Steves, 2 Adams. Caused a fair bit of confusion at times !
Tried to make a 12 Days of Christmas out of that lot but couldn't manage it - other than finishing with "and a PHB in the corner office".
We've long decided in our family that all builders be referred to as Bob, postmen as Pat and so on. Simplifies things. Except for firemen, are they Sam or are they Pugh, Pugh, Barney McGrew, Cuthbert, Dibble and Grubb, which latter is far harder to remember (so Sam it is).
Is that either one of these supposed defenders of "freedom" felt it necessary to implement blatantly anti-freedom bullshit like "trademarks" in the first place
Unfortunately, if you don't get a trademark, someone else will, if you are succesful, and then hassle you with it. In the early days of Linux, there was a guy who had nothing to do with Linux, but trademarked it anyway! This caused a lot of concern for the real project. Eventually this was settled so that Linus Torvalds got the trademark. (see eg http://www.linuxjournal.com/article/2559 )
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I would tend to side with them, although I am not sure that their more "reasonable" approach is always the best way of dealing with powerful organizations. The initial BusyBox disputes and the ongoing "freedom" offered by Google and Android may be a case in point. A Google groups forum thread indicates the potential depth of feeling.
I would tend to side with them, although I am not sure that their more "reasonable" approach is always the best way of dealing with powerful organizations.
If someone thinks that the SFC don't try the (easy) "reasonable" route before (expensive) legal action, then they don't follow these issues half as well as they might attest.
What would the SFLC do if their "reasonable" approach failed? Give up and go home? "Why can't we all just get along?" works when everyone cares to get along, but actually taking intransigent parties to court (and winning) is apparently the kind of thing that people get hated for.
If that is it, then the SFLC were at best idiots. The SFC starts out in an adjacent space. Their potential to branch out into the SFLC space had to be obvious from the start. More likely, the SFLC set up the SFC with the trademark dispute as insurance against competition coming up down the road (as it has). Of course, the SFC folks should have seen this, and started with a name that gave them more space, but no one would try a stunt like this if it never worked...
"That is the point -- SFLC created SFC to do different things (manage projects), and then the SFC wanted to add the same thing (legal services) which created confusion."
From the article:
"The SFLC was formed in 2005 to provide legal services for open-source projects. And in 2006, it helped set up the SFC, so it could provide infrastructure support – including legal services"
So no, it was explicitly set up to overlap from the start. Everyone seems to have been fine with that until the managers all fell out with each other.
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