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SGI Versus "Open*" and All Things "GL"? 271

One of the things I try to focus on with Ask Slashdot questions are issues involving trademarks and the big guy trying to rob the little guy out of a name, or a domain that they may have had for years. Although this was necessary to stop the domain squatters out to make a quick buck, it seems to have turned into a corporate right to harass everyone. Long before the internet was a household name, people registered domains or created project names that they didn't think would cause problems and now, years later, they are finding out how wrong they were, and how the laws can rob their project's identity. What follows is a question regarding SGI their quest to go after anyone with any name starting with "Open" or containing "GL". How long is it, before corporations begin to carve up the English dictionary and we won't be able to use a single word without following it with "(tm)"?

DooMWiz asks: "I am the author of the Open Image Library (OpenIL), an image library under the LGPL license at openil.org. Several weeks ago, I was shocked by the appearance of an e-mail from a Silicon Graphics, Inc representative. Apparently, they are "concerned" that 'OpenIL' may infringe on their 'OpenGL' trademark. I am not a trademark lawyer, nor do I have any real knowledge of trademarks. Even if I had some kind of justifiable way of proving that 'OpenIL' could not possibly be confused with 'OpenGL', I probably would not pursue it, since a college student with very limited resources against giant SGI would be messy for me. I'm really not *too* upset about being asked to change the name, but during the course of this, I sent several e-mails to the SGI rep, and his replies indicated some disturbing news. He claims that he has already talked to OpenCL about changing their name and that he plans to pursue the ever-popular OpenAL, which isn't just a one man operation like OpenIL. OpenAL may have the resources to fight something like this, since it has nothing to do with SGI's business model but is backed by large companies. Lastly, SGI has a trademark on 'GL', and the rep also claims to plan to pursue projects with 'GL' in their names. Projects like GLScene and DemoGL come to mind and may be in trouble. Anyone with trademark experience have any advice on what course of action to take? Dropping the 'OpenIL' name seems like the easiest way out."

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SGI Versus Open* and All Things "GL"?

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  • Email the CEO of SGI, Robert Bishop. Let *HIM* know how you feel.

    bbishop@sgi.com [mailto]

    Please post your replies here on Slashdot so we can see if the top brass is even aware of this.

    Search the web, there are probably other SGI execs with email addresses known to the public.

  • BTW: what exactly is the difference between selling domain names and selling real-estate?


    Land doesn't have a name associated with it. I think that the corporate mentality of you having an "open*" domain name is like you setting up your tent, campfire, and smelly hiking boots in the middle of their campus and saying "this is my land now".

    Maybe that's a bad analogy, but I can't think of a better one at the moment :) Land is just land, but a domain name can affect your business and therefor your shareholders, etc etc etc. When we renamed our company we basically threw random ideas around and went through greek and roman books to alongside a browser open to register.com to see if we could find a word that was not taken already. We finally found one that suited our needs, and wasn't taken, but it was a hell of a fight.

    That's not to say I agree with SGI in anyway. If they have a trademark on opengl that predates the opengl.com website, they should have the right to it. Having a trademark on opengl does NOT allow them to go after open*.*!
  • by Falrick ( 528 ) on Monday April 02, 2001 @02:32PM (#320253) Homepage
    Actually, yet. I do believe that the CEO, Chief Engineer, Software Engineer, Hardware Engineer, and Sanitation Engineer care whether or not some joe blow starts up a project with the name Open or GL in it. Especially if that project is exceptionally sucky or exceptionally wonderful. If SGI allows projects with like names, they risk becoming associated with those like-named projects. Or, even worse, SGIs products could become associated with the like-named projects. SGI wants you to know that if you are using an OpenGL application, you're using SGI technology. They also want you to know that OpenAL has nothing to do with SGI. Because it is fairly widely known that SGI designed OpenGL, many will assume that anything named similarly must also be made by SGI. I know that I did the first time that I heard of OpenAL.

    SGI is fighting over Brand recognition. They wouldn't have had this problem if they had continuously marketed their products as "SGI OpenGL" or "SGI OpenMP". That would ensure that their name is tied with the product at all times.

    Look at what happened to Bayer with Asprin. No, Asprin isn't the name of the drug. It was a product name that Bayer used. Over time, though, people forgot that Asprin was made by Bayer, and so refered to all asprin-like products as Asprin. Yeah, it's a little different, but many of the concepts are the same. The tech industry isn't imune from it. For years people would say "I've got an IBM computer" or "I've got an Apple computer" when what they really meant was "I've got a TDK IBM compatible computer" or "I've got a Laser Apple compatible computer.

  • The solution to this problem is simple. There should be a "corporate" top-level domain, with *very high* (like tens thousands of bucks) entry fee, which is pre-paid and trademark-checked on entrance, and there should be "small business" top-level domain, which would be everybody's else playground. Probably, there should be more levels, with prices and measure of protection varying.
    The reason is simple - if you are SGI and have sgi.corp, you don't care for sgi.hobby if it exist or not - everybody who is looking for real SGI would look it in the .corp anyway. And if you are a squatter, you need to be a really reach one to pre-pay corporate rate domain only to be evicted for TM violation. And if you are just a mere online artists happened to have name like Serge G. Irving, you get your sgi.personal and are happy.

    Only the commitee thinking of ICANN and their slowness on the border of brain-deadness prevent the world to have domain system fixed forever. one .com for whole world is not enough, and "smartees" in ICANN should have realised this decade ago.

    Also, US should stop issuing .com's for both US and foreighn customers. There should be international corporate domains (see above), and per-country small business domains (.com.us, .co.uk, .com.de, .co.il, .com.whatever).
  • OpenML? Oh, you mean an implementation of the ML language? It's not?! Why, that's damned confusing...

    --
  • I think that you could actually use the fact that they're going after a number of other 'open' users against SGI. You could spin it as they're trying to usurp the 'open' name. Given that 'open' had a meaning before SGI used it (in fact, they used the 'openGL' name to capitalize on the understanding of the meaning of 'open'.


    Frighteningly, that seems to be exactly what they're doing, according to this response [slashdot.org] by randombit [slashdot.org].

    This is exactly why current USPT laws need to be changed. The more people who fight this crap, the less likely companies will be inclined to sweep out an entire section of namespace for their own future use. This was all designed to be FCFS, not MLTA[1].

    [1] - Most Lawyers Takes All

    --

  • My direct answer to this ask Slashdot, bearing in mind that IANAL, is yes, you are legitimately in violation of the SGI trademark, it is quite conceivable that people could confuse OpenGL and Open[ICA]L, esp. as all are graphics libraries, and you should not fight this, because you will quite legitimately lose.


    They are?

    • OpenIL [openil.org] image manipulation library
    • OpenCL [sourceforge.net] "OpenCL aims to be a portable, easy to use, and efficient C++ cryto library."
    • OpenAL [openal.org] "Announcing a new open source platform for all-purpose high-fidelity sound."


    It sure seems like only OpenIL out of those could be easily confused with OpenGL...

    --
  • The lawyers aren't always the Evil Inside...

    True enough, I have an unfortunate prejudice against lawyers through my dealings with a couple scumbags. I do know one who is really cool, though. Really down to earth fellow, works some pro bono cases, very intelligent.

    I concede that this may not be the lawyers' idea, but I suspect it might be.

  • I think Open* is a bit too broad of a term to effectively trademark. What about OpenBSD? If they want to trademark OpenGL that's fine, but if they want to force everyone with Open in their name to change, well fuck 'em. They just lost a potential customer, and I'm sure I'm not the only one.

    I can't imagine engineers being that petty, management maybe, lawyers definitely.

  • by GypC ( 7592 ) on Monday April 02, 2001 @10:12AM (#320264) Homepage Journal

    These companies really need to reign in their IP lawyers before they do permanent damage to their reputation.

    I mean, do you really think the CEO or Chief Engineer of SGI gives a shit if some uses Open or GL in the name of their project? Especially if it's free? But these lawyers don't have to listen to them if it's a public company... all they have to do is play on the fears of the stockholders and the executives are powerless to stop them.

  • Unfortunately, for every lawyer with principles, there are 10 behind with none.
    The same could be said for software developers. Including those who work for Oracle, Microsoft, SGI, etc.
  • Are you talking about the happy face logo with the Mcdonald's M instead of the eyes, that says "smile" below it?

    If so, it's probably the whole logo that the (TM) refers to.
  • Before everyone starts screaming about how we must abolish all trademarks, consider the fact that trademark laws help protect your consumer rights. What if someone decided to cash in on the name recognition of Coca-Cola by selling their own soda product with a very similar name and logo design? They call it Cock-Cola, and use the Coke letter style. They open a concession booth at your local baseball stadium and hang a sign saying "Have a Cock and a smile!" Not everyone will notice they've been duped, and may get a nasty surprise when they open that can.

    In the case of Open.L, it does seem like a newbie who knows about OpenGL might think that things like Open[AIC]L are associated with SGI. I mean, I certainly assumed they were styling the name after OpenGL. If this guy who wrote OpenIL had just called it Open Image Library (OIL), he would probably never have had a problem.

    Let's be honest, the main reason to style your name in this way is to say that it's something similar in quality or purpose to OpenGL, and SGI does have a right to refuse that association.
  • Apple was successful in stopping computers from being built with the prefix "i-" in the name. Methinks a judge can be found that will support this.
  • So what is your defense againt SGI pursuing their trademark? Because I have my head up my ass? You're bound for success with logic like that. SGI is bound by copyright law to pursue those infringing on their trademarks. Do you not fucking get that? Naming a product OpenIL which is one letter different from their registered trademark can EASILY be seen as causing market confusion. SGI is publicly held and thus has to do what its investors tell it to do. You've only proved you don't like me because I'm better looking than you.
  • The problem with domain squatters is that 100% of the value of the domain they hold is due to the value created by the rightful holder of the trademark. (If that isn't the case, then it's not squatting, QED.) For one person to attempt to make money by leveraging the value of another person's property is fraudulent, and illegal. Domain squatting is theft in the same way that grabbing an unlocked bicycle off a rack is theft. Just because you were there and nobody was looking doesn't mean it's yours to take.

    It's an entirely different story if you have a legitimate use for a domain name that might also be claimable by somebody else. For example, hypothetically, it would have been entirely legit for somebody to register "ford.com" to make a web site about crossing rivers at shallow points (as far as I know, nobody did).

    A web site that takes fair use about as far as it can possibly go without infringing a trademark is barbienews.com [barbienews.com]. Note how they are explicitly not domain squatting.

    And who ever said domain brokers are good? I presume that a domain broker does not hold onto domain names that belong to trademark holders with hopes of selling them, but rather works with businesses to think of and register new ones. Either way, they're snake-oil salesmen, only one grade of bottom-feeder above domain squatters. Yuck. Let 'em all find honest jobs.

  • Big enough to play a bully? That all depends on who you are. I don't have a personal lawyer. I can't afford one. I think of them as plenty big to be a bully. Maybe you're rolling in dough, but don't assume that everyone is.

    And when I hear of them acting like a bully (this qualifies) I tend to forget that they may have helped some causes I favor, and remember instead that they are a wanton destroyer. Overreaction, I know, but that's what I'll remember later, after I've forgotten the details.

    Anyone, any company, who would viciously attack multiple small projects forfeits any regard I may have previously had for them. (And again I overstate my point. But I feel betrayed because I thought well of them.)


    Caution: Now approaching the (technological) singularity.
  • Got me. *bleh*

    In a vain attempt to save face, I would point out that in trademark law, there are some number of recognized domains, which I don't care to look up right now but encourage the reader to do so :-) and that all computer code, not surprisingly, falls under the same domain. As all are code libraries, SGI could still validly claim infringement.

    Now someone please pass a napkin, I've got egg on my face...

  • by Jerf ( 17166 ) on Monday April 02, 2001 @10:26AM (#320282) Journal
    WTF!? They trademarked the word "smile"? Makes me sick...

    No, of course not. Simple words are not trademarkable, all else being equal (the truth is more complicated), and they can't start suing people who simply use the word "smile" in a novel.

    What they've trademarked is the word smile in that font, color, size, and position. You can't pluck that particular graphic (which happens to spell "smile" in English) and use it for your own restaurant, or other purposes, because that particular graphic is trademarked by McDonalds.

    Within reason, you could create another graphic with the word "smile" in it in a different font and color and trademark that for yourself. "Within reason" here means that it can't be too similar.

    This applies directly to the topic at hand, in fact. OpenGL(tm) as a trademark is limited and people know what it is. Does Open?L infringe? Frankly, if I had to guess, the answer would be an emphatic Yes! Only one letter of difference, and both are graphics libraries? That's just asking for it. My direct answer to this ask Slashdot, bearing in mind that IANAL, is yes, you are legitimately in violation of the SGI trademark, it is quite conceivable that people could confuse OpenGL and Open[ICA]L, esp. as all are graphics libraries, and you should not fight this, because you will quite legitimately lose.

    On the other hand, assaulting everybody with "Open" and "GL" is another story. SGI should really only be seen as having "Open" in the context of "OpenGL" and "GL" in the context of "OpenGL". Using on piece or another, especially as both terms seperately are quite generic in nature, should not be enough. "GLScene" and "DemoGL" are far more tenuous claims. In fact, the use of "GL" in this context is so widespread that the argument could probably be made that this has "passed" into common usage... which assumes that it ever did belong exclusively to SGI which I have to doubt.

  • Haven't ATI just bought the FireGL line from Diamond? Are we going to get a corporate lawyer fire fight?

    Dave
  • by acomj ( 20611 ) on Monday April 02, 2001 @12:15PM (#320287) Homepage
    I think the OPENiL people should be able to keep the name, but they should have:

    1) Avoided the use of an oval logo (similar to openGL)

    2) Not even talk about open GL which they do in the about page.

    If you are familiar with OpenGL, you basically already know how to use OpenIL. Here is a sample code snippet that uses OpenIL:

    So basically the command structure is the same the name is similar and you didn't expect SGI to notice?

  • by NeilO ( 20628 ) on Monday April 02, 2001 @02:01PM (#320288)
    I think everyone is missing the point. SGI also has long offered something called the ImageVision [sgi.com] library, described as follows:

    "ImageVision Library (IL) is a toolkit for creating, processing and displaying images on all SGI visual workstations. The library provides image processing application developers with a complete, robust framework for manipulating and managing images."

    I'll bet it's this connection that is the source of concern at SGI.

  • If you look at a McDonald's soda cup, you'll see:

    smile(tm)

    WTF!? They trademarked the word "smile"? Makes me sick...

  • You can't pluck that particular graphic (which happens to spell "smile" in English) and use it for your own restaurant, or other purposes, because that particular graphic is trademarked by McDonalds.

    No, copyright law offers protection from having that exact image reproduced, and copyright doesn't have to be explicitly registered with the trademark office and offers a much more limited scope of protection. If you look at the cup, it has the word smile, printed in yellow in a boring sans-serif font, standing by itself with a trademark symbol next to it.

    I think that this is way too generic to issue a trademark for, especially since it isn't even the product name. "Enjoy Coke-a-Cola (tm)" is fine, "Enjoy", by itself, shouldn't be. Using a common word like "Windows (tm)" as a trademarked name for a product in a specific market is ok, if a bit questionable given prior functional use of the term in the market, but, to make up an example similar to the McDonald's one, they shouldn't be able to just put the words "easy to use" on the box in some generic font and trademark that.

  • Exactly! I'm not concerned about people using that particular smile graphic, but the fact that trademark law allows McDonald's to enjoin the use of anything similar to their not-very-stylized-at-all use of the common, English word "smile." This is doubly bad in McDonald's case since where large, multi-national corporations like Nike, Coke and McDonald's are concerned trademarks are considered "famous" and often upheld across all market categories.

    Thus, if I, owner of the hypothetical "Brad's Camera Shop" want to end my TV commercial with the word "smile", McDonald's could sue me. Even though I'd be likely to win in court, I'd have to face the considerable expense of fighting McDonald's legal team, which would by itself force most small business owners into concession.

    Worse, if I did fight it and win, I wouldn't even be able to countersue to recover the costs of defending this frivolous, harassing lawsuit because, since some bozo at the USPTO granted them a trademark, it is their "obligation" to defend it.

  • Because that has as many problems as the US system of each side paying their own way (for the most part.)

    Someone like SGI is still able to pay a much larger legal bill, but if they do win, you've got to pay for their expensive lawyers as well as the cheap one you've got. Their potential cost goes from $200,000 to $204,000, yours goes from $4,000 to $204,000...

    Both systems are screwed. But I can't think of a good system.

    Maybe, both sides pool all legal expenses, based on their total wealth. If SGI sued me, their $4B (let's say) vs my $100K, means that one of my dollars is forty-thousand of theirs. That way they couldn't bankrupt me, because my $100K is equivalent to their $4B (or whatever) and we'd both go bankrupt at the same time.

    Then after the case a judge reviews the spending, looks at how reasonable the initial claims were, and assigns one party to pick up more of the bill.

    There needs to be a way for the poor to sue the rich, and for reasonable suits too. If I want to sue McDonals for something my only hope is to ask for a few hundred million in damages and to get a lawyer to take it on contingency so that when it gets argued down it's still worth it. It'd be easier to sue them for five billion dollars than for fifty thousand. (Say I choked on a piece of metal in a burger and needed medical treatment.)

    So there needs to be a way of letting someone without much money access the courts, but you don't want to let everyone sue McD's for made-up expenses just for extortion reasons.

    Got any good solutions?
  • by Rupert ( 28001 ) on Monday April 02, 2001 @11:36AM (#320293) Homepage Journal
    Did anyone complain about people purchasing land cheaply?

    Native Americans?

    --
  • by hanway ( 28844 ) on Monday April 02, 2001 @10:16AM (#320294) Homepage
    sgi also holds the trademark on OpenML, and is one of several companies involved in something called the Khronos Group [khronos.org] which is pushing OpenML as a standard digital media api. This may explain some of the reasoning behind their attempt to change any other Open[A-Z]L.
  • by Izaak ( 31329 ) on Monday April 02, 2001 @10:49AM (#320295) Homepage Journal
    I received a nastygram from a lawyer representing Trek Bicycle Corp. It seems they feel they own all rights to the word 'trek', even when used in a trademark that has nothing to do with bicycles. I sent them a letter expressing my opinion that my software related SkillTrek trademark in no way conflicts with their Trek trademark. It has been a few months and I have not heard back from them, so I assume the original letter was just a scare tactic.

    Hmmmm, I wounder if they sent a similar letter to the holders of the StarTrek trademark. :)

    Later,

    Thad

  • by poopie ( 35416 ) on Monday April 02, 2001 @10:44AM (#320298) Journal
    So, lemme see if I get this right:

    domain squatter: an individual with an idea to make money = BAD

    domain broker: an 'organization' that can provide you with a domain name, matching phone number, and legal advice on how to maintain your trademark = GOOD?!?

    BTW: what exactly is the difference between selling domain names and selling real-estate?

    Did anyone complain about people purchasing land cheaply?
  • That last one...
    Reminds me of an event in the 70's where someone had thrown a brick through the window of a McDonalds establishment. Wrapped around it was a piece of paper with the words "You deserve a Brick today"
    ---
  • I work for a small software firm. We had a product (before I worked here) that's name apparently infringed on some large Unix based software/hardware provider's trademark. Both of the trademarks were registered and technically they registered a little bit before us. However we had docs to show that the name had been in use for some time before.

    To cut a long story short, we fought the claim, and it ended up being worth it, because this large company settled with us and gave us a lot more money then the name was worth (to a small little firm like us) and it was a drop in the bucket for such a large company. So, to cut a long story short, consult with a trademark lawyer if possible, or at least a pre-law or law student, and if there is a reasonable chance that SGIs claim would be invalid. If it is, its probably worth it to fight, because you will likely get a settlement that could fund development for a long time.

    Spyky

    Also, i wonder if there is some sort of way of having claims concerning open source products handled pro-bono by some willing lawyer(s). I wish I knew someone to recommend, but it may be worth asking around.
  • What about the term Open Source? Would THAT fall under their trademark as well? (As they see it, anyway?)

    ------------
    CitizenC
  • <SARCASM>
    Gee Rob, what are you, a commie or something???

    Don't you know that the American Way(tm) is to sue the pants off that guy in Ireland? How dare he have the same name as you!
    </SARCASM>

    Of course, if Rob's thinking was common, a bunch of lawyers would be out of business... Maybe Shakespeare had the right idea?

  • SGI's graphics libraries used to be called "GL" (and also "IrisGL") before they were modified slightly and opened up to become "OpenGL". I think all the function names begin with gl_.

    I don't see any signs that SGI is going anybody with the word "Open" in their name. It looks like they are pursuing "Open[A-Z]L", due in part to being the prime creators of OpenGL and OpenML. And in all fairness, when I first saw OpenAL come out, it did seem like people were trying to portray it as "like OpenGL (i.e. in coolness, ubiquity, useful-abstraction-ness) but for audio". I wouldn't say that it was *confusing*, but it was trying a bit to play off someone else's already-established reputation. I don't claim to understand what the legal thresholds for similarity are.

    Something to keep in mind before you bash SGI.

    --LP, who has used SGI machines in past work but has no other connection with them

  • you will also see:

    mile (tm)

    Giving unrefutable evidence that they have trademarked the unit of measure known as the "mile". It's my understanding that it will soon be renamed to the "McMile".

    It's only a matter of time until they rename it to "McDonald's presents the McMile".


  • Well, the new McMile comes in all sorts of flavors and sizes! And, You can have it my way! (You can't have it your way. That'd be Burger Kling.)
    Double-McMiles and ArchMcMiles will be the first variants introduced. Double-McMiles are the equivalent of two McMiles placed back to back, and consequently will use two trademark symbols. ArchMcMiles are McMile arc lengths. You can multiply ArchMcMiles by McRadii to find a McAnswer in McMiles.

    *60's pop song starts playing, "Oh Baby, I love to taste your juices in my mouth", Monologue dubbed overtop: "The Big King^H^H^H^H Mac will see you now."*

    Our McFries can be ordered in McMediums, McLarge, and McSuperSizes and optionally can be topped with McSalt and McCatsup.

    (Under the DMCA, Sodium Chloride will no longer be available for use in High School Laboratory experiments or as general kitchen/restaurant supplies. All Sodium Chloride must be ordered from McDonald's, Inc., and may only be distributed in miniscule packets. Additionally, Sodium and Chloride are pending removal from the Periodic Table of Elements.)

    Remember, McWater can be ordered with any food for no additional fee! However, you *must* buy something in order to drink McWater or use a McRestroom. (All public and private restrooms in any country must be licensed from McDonald's, Inc., and Oxygen Dihydride may not be dispensed, distributed, sold, or consumed outside of a McDonald's restaurant.)

    In addition, McDonald's is proud to announce its merger with Microsoft!

    We will soon be bringing you McWindows, in a variety of sizes: McCE, McME, and McNT, abbreviated as McCEMENT. After the pending merger with Laurie (Supersoaker), McXP will also be available. At this time, there is no plan for Laurie and Burger Kling to merge as previously announced.

    McDonald's will also be suing Apple Computer for their infringment of our trademark, Big Mac OS-X, our new operating system designed for the World Wide McWeb.
  • by Speare ( 84249 ) on Monday April 02, 2001 @10:22AM (#320321) Homepage Journal

    If you don't rigorously enforce/protect your trademarks every time there's a possible infringement, the trademarks themselves can and will be wiped out.

    This is very different from patent law, where a patent may be left idle. The patent holder can selectively choose to defend, license or ignore those who are possibly infringing. (It is for this reason that I am not against patents themselves, but against those patent bullies who find new revenue sources in the courtroom.)

    "If you don't agree with the law, fix it." Explore the ways that trademark law can be fixed, and contact your local government official.

  • Hopefully they're not going after people with domains (and slashdot usernames) whose initials are GL...
    -----
  • Tell SGI how much you think this is fucked up!

    http://www.sgi.com/cgi-bin/feedback/index.cgi?entr y=compinfo_community_rel&LEVEL=2&last_url= [sgi.com]

    I doubt it will help, but it sure as hell can't hurt.

  • it is quite conceivable that people could confuse OpenGL and Open[ICA]L, esp. as all are graphics libraries

    OpenCL is not a graphics library, it is a crypto library.
  • by randombit ( 87792 ) on Monday April 02, 2001 @11:32AM (#320327) Homepage
    The other two (OpenCL and AL) look a bit more dubious.

    Thanks for the support (I'm the guy who wrote OpenCL and then was promptly contacted by SGI). The phrase the guy who contacted me used was "clearing out the namespace" for their products. I find it pretty ridiculous, you would have to be a real moron to confuse a C++ crypto library and a C graphics API.

    I told them I would change it, mostly because I wasn't really in the mood to mess with even a small company. OTOH, I haven't changed my source tree yet, as I was waiting to see what would happen when the news eventually hit the community.
  • There's nothing scarier than a cornered animal

    Yeah, and nothing more dangerous than a wounded mosquito...

    ---

  • by Devout Capitalist ( 94813 ) on Monday April 02, 2001 @10:21AM (#320331)
    Trademarks are one of those forever troublesome topics. Fundamentally, trademark owners have the exclusive right to use it, and often to use it on related products. They also have a duty to defend the trademark from unauthorized use, lest they lose the trademark. The intent of the laws centers around creating a name the manufacturer owns, and cutting confusion in the mind of consumers.
    <p>
    This begs the question: "What's confusing to a random mass of consumers?" Because the only way to determine for sure is to go to court and to take your chances, trademark law has lots of 'nasty-grams' asking people to change names.
    <p>
    It's a bit of a problem. Lawyers, generally, are comfortable with settling ambiguities and issues of fact with court proceedings. Non-lawyers feel this is arbitrary and encourages kleptocracy. The attitude appears to be a hazard of the profession, just like developers want to add a little more to the next release.
    <p>
    We always have trademark law issues show up on Slashdot. Remember Sun Microsystems sending out mass emails to every website with the substring "java" in their names? Or all the fights over ICANN arbitration rules concerning trademarks? Or trying to retake the term "Open Source" as a trademark or servicemark? Because trademarks deal with fuzzy issues like "confusion", there will always be confusion.
    <p>
    Look a good primer on trademarks, e.g., <a href=http://www.law.cornell.edu/topics/trademark.h tml>Cornell's</a>.

    Also, a shameless plug: Check out <a href=http://www.truegift.com>TrueGift Donations</a> to help students turn into smarter people.
  • How about

    SecureShill ®
    ? (You might even be able to get away with capitalizing the "IL" inside...
  • The problem with IL is that SGI has a library called "Imagevision Library", and it is trademarked. Like their other products, they may want to move it to the open source area someday, like they did with OpenGL and OpenInventor (which were just open specifications, but are now open source, as well).

    While I doubt their lawyers even know/care about it, and it might be coincidental, I could understand SGI wanting to preserve OpenIL for themselves. I'm not saying it's right, I'm saying the first "Open" product I've ever heard of (and I certainly may be wrong) was SGI's. Shortly after came several other "Open" products. They've actually had the Imagevision Library for quite some time. OpenIL could be an important name for them.

  • It's not just acronyms of two letters, and the slashdot article is misleading (as usual, and as is pointed out by many others).

    The possible infringement is not two letters, it's two letters preceded by the word "Open". So far, we have not heard from OpenSSH, OpenBSD, or any other "Open" projects, excepting those followed by two letters, one of which is "l".

    I'm not saying SGI is write, I am saying that "Open?L" is a fairly well known and usually associated with SGI. SGI, as I and others have pointed out, also have an image library ("Imagevision Library", or ... "il", as all the functions are prefixed), and potentially have another Open source project they'd to call "OpenIL". They also have a digital media library, and an audio library.

    While others have claimed the use of "Open" as early as the late seventies, I have yet to see an example. The first time I ever heard of such a use was OpenGL.

    Again, don't get me wrong, I'm not saying SGI is right - if they were planning on open-sourcing their library, they should have done it by now. I'm saying this is all being taken way out of context, and they may have a point. It would be nice, if they were going to release OpenIL, if the guy could give up OpenIL and let sgi continue naming things in the fashion they've been doing. And, if he refuses, sgi should let it lie, and call it something else. But that's just my opinion.

    I swear, though, if someone at Slashdot got mad at any company at all, they could merely post some inflamatory summary, no one would read the article, and BAM! 250000 people would hate said company.

  • Is it just me or is SGI smothering under the weight of their own greed? You pay 30,000$ for a SGI machine -- and they try and soak you for a rediculous service contract ... Without a service contract the only patches you can get for your OS are security patches (no bugfixes/upgrades). You pay 600$ for the IRIX Media (not included with your 30,000 computer) and it dosen't come with a compiler! So you have to buy their compiler for another fortune or get gcc + their libraries that warn you about you haven't paid for them yet [but you still can compile]...

    And once you've done all that... Does most OS software compile? no ...

    Someone tell me I'm wrong about all this!

  • As a future IP lawyer, I have spent a good deal of my time researching the validity of various claims made by trademark owners on the Internet. Irrespective of this particular situation, the bottom line is that there are many, many instances of questionable legal practices by those representing trademark interests. Interestingly, this sort of abuse is not very new. Cease and desist letters, in all sorts of contexts, have been used as an effective tool to both (a) get what a party legally deserves and should demand, and (b) harrass other parties who don't really have effective means to combat an issue in litigation.

    I think my conclusion after several years of study on these sorts of issues is that the best tools of "small folks" might be education and cooperation. Because many potential defendants have no clue as to the real status of trademark or other intellectual propertly laws, they are destined to fail without legal counsel. On the other hand, if they had at least some legitimate estimation of the legal status of their situation, they would be able to more aptly judge whether they should hold or fold. Thus far in this thread I have seen a lot of evidence of misunderstanding of trademark law. Secondly, I would like to see some grassroots efforts to defend those who have good cases against trademark/IP/rights holders. If there were even a modest organization willing to offer pro bono or low cost legal services to those who've been subject to harassment, the "reverse chilling effect" on corporations would be substantial. No doubt, many lawyers who author cease and desist letters know precisely that their claims wouldn't hold the morning dew on a blade of grass. Unfortunately, the odds that anyone will say so or be empowered to legal fight such claims, are so minimal as to not be worthy of concern.

    As for changing the law, I think that would probably be the least effective way to bring about real change. True, trademark holders are somewhate incentivized by the law to protect their marks, but I think this is a necessary part of the law, given the power which is given to those who have trademark rights. Instead of trying to re-balance things by tinkering with the scale, we should consider the weights on each side of the scale and ask whether there are ways to bring them into equilibrium.

    Stay tuned for exciting news on these fronts from the good folks at the Berkman Center [harvard.edu] (tm) at the Harvard Law School (tm). Hehe.

  • by tps12 ( 105590 ) on Monday April 02, 2001 @10:23AM (#320347) Homepage Journal
    Although this was necessary to stop the domain squatters out to make a quick buck

    That's the problem right there. When you start being concerned that people are making money too easily, or unfairly (though it's hard to find a victim in cybersquatting "crimes", IMO), anything you do in the way of prevention is going to have the effect of limiting freedom, which will have an adverse affect on everyone given enough time.

  • I think that you could actually use the fact that they're going after a number of other 'open' users against SGI. You could spin it as they're trying to usurp the 'open' name. Given that 'open' had a meaning before SGI used it (in fact, they used the 'openGL' name to capitalize on the understanding of the meaning of 'open'.

    I remember a case making the news (MANY years ago) where Xerox got their hands slapped by a judge for "trying to corner the market on double X's". Trying to corner the market on 'Open' is similarly inane, and should not be countenanced... Especially where 'open' already had a special meaning withing the context.

    This is yet another example of a big company asking for a 'voluntary' surrender of something that they're unlikely to be able to get by force. It's also an example of bulk litigation. The more people that 'roll over' on this, the more bang they get for their legal buck.

    In some ways it's not unlike Microsoft going after X-Windows for usurping the 'Windows' name, or trying to claim the 'pc' moniker. Just because a company has become one of the better known members of a group of names, doesn't mean that they can start to claim the whole group.

    All you have to do is prove that the 'open' was used for software before OpenGl came out. SImilarly for the '{X}L' for libraries.

    IANAL I just like reading court documents.
    --

  • It may be that OpenGl is now best known for it's usability in the games market, but that's not where it became famous. SGI's 'GL' was originally used in high-end graphics workstations for modeling and other graphics applications. I first used it in the late '80s in an X-ray Crystalography lab to view models protein molecules.

    Granted, one of the best-known GL applications was their demo program called 'flight' or 'dog'. Flight was the single user version. Dog was the multi-user version. However, spending $120K just to play a kick-ass dogfight simulator would strike most people as excessive. ($120K = $60K x 2 workstations. you could use many more workstations, if you wanted.)

    Hmm. I wonder if this would count as the first multi-player networked immersive first-person-shooter game? but I digress.

    In any case: Dog may have sold many workstations that wouldn't have otherwise been bought from SGI, but I doubt that there were many funding applications that actually said 'play dog' on them at the kinds of prices that an SGI workstation sold for back then.
    --

  • I guess the people at Gamma Lambda are in for it now.
  • I also just reread the intro to this article and it seems like /. is adding some needless hyperbole. If SGI were on a quest to rid the world of "Open" and "GL", the "OpenSSH" and "OpenBSD" crowd probably would have heard. It's more like our lawyers don't especially like "Open?L", which differs by only one letter from a trademark of ours. That is hardly "going after any name that starts with Open".
  • Well look, I didn't say *I* was confused by the two. I agree that any coder worth anything wouldn't be confused. But lawyers aren't coders, and they are most certainly the ones calling the shots here. The real question to ask is this: If you hire a lawyer, could the lawyer prove that the two are confusingly similar? Probably the answer to that is yes. In that case, we don't really have a *choice* on going after people because if someone ever decided to actually infringe on our trademark (say XYZ Graphics, Inc. ships a board with an incompatible API and calls it OpenGL), we couldn't go after *them* either.

    So basically, what this all boils down to, is "trademark law sucks".

  • by fgodfrey ( 116175 ) <fgodfrey@bigw.org> on Monday April 02, 2001 @10:31AM (#320362) Homepage
    While I'm not overjoyed to see that the company I work for is going and doing one of these stupid trademark enforcement deals, this particular one seems a little more on target than some. Afterall, "OpenGL" and "OpenIL" are fairly similar names and they *are* both image manipulation libraries. A little bit of a stretch, but not as bad as, say, etoy. The other two (OpenCL and AL) look a bit more dubious.
  • TO those free-software/libertarian types looking to find a way out of the trademark/patent morass I've got just the thing. A completely new language!

    This language - called "Desperanto" - is of course issued under a variant of the GPL. Basically no characters, words or phrases either singly or in combination can be published in any form which restricts their usage by anyone else (ie no naughty trademarking).

    We are still at version 0.01 of the language with plenty of work to do. (OK. I admit we only have one word at the moment. In english its rendered as "fa'arkOf" - its the sound made by someone upon hearing that yet another commonly used word has been trademarked). While we need lots of help coming up with new words, grammar and syntax, our most important task is converting from latin script to something else. Unfortunately we need to do this to avoid pending lawsuits from companies who are seeking to trademark every single character in the english alphabet.

    There are two options for us here. The first is to develop a completely new script (never been seen before...however we face the not-inconsiderable risk of receiving a cease-and-desist letter in the future from a space-faring civilisation whose script closely resembles and predates ours).
    The alternative is to use something like ancient Sumerian script (for which we are pretty sure the patent has expired).

    Once we've got the script issues sorted, we will have to get Desperanto characters shoved into the Unicode character set. Then we can start pressuring ICANN to allow Desperanto based domain names.

    I am in the process of registering the Desperanto project with Sourceforge. I'll let you all know when its up. To quote from the information I submitted with the registration:

    "The purpose of this project is nothing less than the creation of an entirely new spoken and written language, unique, with its own script, for the purposes of communicating ideas through the use of characters, words and phrases which cannot, by virtue of the nature of the license to be used when employing the language, be trademarked, patented or restricted in circulation in any way. Since the language itself will be licensed under the GPL (or an appropriate variant thereof), all characters, words or phrases either singly or in combination derived from the language will be encumbered by the same license (and thus be un-trademarkable)."
  • Dammit, that was a goatse.cx link. Fooled me, unfortunately.
  • I haven't seen the cup, but I hope you're not referring to their saying "We love to see you smile". Isn't that the correct trademark?
    http://www.mcdonalds.com/countries/usa/whatsnew/sm ile/index.html [mcdonalds.com]
  • Open Inventor starting compiling fairly clean on my debian box last week.

    I had to do intermediate installs of the Inventor and InventorXt libraries as intermediate steps, but I'm free from having to deal with the TGS demoware...not that it was too much of a hassle, but I got the Inventor and Mentor books and just wanted to check it out, not have to go through registration, demo crud, expiration issues.

    As I say, I hope this is just a "clueless legal dept" thing.

  • Here in the netherlands, a TV station changed their name into 'ME'. (don't ask). The fashion company 'WE' complained and filed a lawsuit which they won. 'ME' has now changed their name again which costed millions.

    It IS possible. I simply dont understand WHY sgi is doing this. HP OpenView, will that have to change its name too? hehe HP will buy sgi instead I think :)
    --

  • SGI is not doing well financially, OpenGL support among developers is still huge but getting smaller, especially with Dx8 now out in the fields. They seriously should consider these kind of actions 'irresponsible' since it will hurt the developer-SGI relation: projects that have the 'GL' in their name are mostly projects that build ONTOP of OpenGL or add functionality to it so it's easier for developers to use..... OpenGL and thus make it easier to attrackt developers towards OpenGL.

    As much as some people seem to hate MS, I never had these kind of experiences with them, so if SGI knocks at my door to change DemoGL into something else and to change the logo, I'll hop ship. It will take time to adapt d3d into DemoGL but I don't wish to support an API which owner bullies users of that API and bullies developers that make that API more succesful. OpenGL development is already a pain with all the extensions and no good central, general documentation for all these extensions with examples and tutorials, unlike D3D. These SGI actions will only make it worse.
    --

  • Don't change the name. Just because the name sounds familiar, you don't supply a product thats confusing with their products. Here we have Dove soap and Dove chocolate. Different companies, different products, same (trademarked!) name. Since your lib is not a graphics api for primitives like OpenGL, why bother. It's not your fault in the English Language Library and Language start both with the same letter.

    Keep up the good work, m8, and don't let them scare you.

    FB, author of DemoGL, which is named that way because it makes OpenGL development easier and it seemed logical to me to use 'GL' in the name to point out that OpenGL is the API supported and has to be used by the developer to write the effects in.
    --

  • by Otis_INF ( 130595 ) on Monday April 02, 2001 @10:52PM (#320377) Homepage
    I'm the author of DemoGL, the free open source execution platform for opengl effects, and I haven't received any letter nor mail from SGI yet.

    It's hard to understand why SGI is doing this. OpenGL is really suffering these days from the more maturing D3D api, and this will not do any good to the reputation of OpenGL. Projects like DemoGL, GLUT, DelphiGL and others are started because it's necessary to have a platform that makes it easy to develop OpenGL based effects, thus HELPS in supporting the development of OpenGL. If SGI is pushing these projects to change their names, it's very likely that they will abandon OpenGL at all.

    For me, if SGI wants me to change the name of DemoGL I will first think of fighting it (I'm in the Netherlands, Europe, dunno if SGI has the trademark here to plus my parents in law are both a judge so free legal advice is at hand ;)) and if I don't have a change then I'll port DemoGL to D3D and will abandon OpenGL at all.

    SGI has to understand it's the developers at the moment which keep OpenGL alive. Scaring away these developers will scare away the lifesource OpenGL needs so much these days.

    PS: the email address in the header is fake, in case you didn't know that ;)
    --

  • What about not putting your email address on the page? Then they can't figure out how to send you the nasty-gram that you can't use their trademark. Put on your webpage that if you want people to contact you, they need to put a message in a certain newsgroup on a certain news server or something. Most legal department people are going to have no clue how to do that. Problem is, some of the other people that need to contact your page might not either.
  • by MongooseCN ( 139203 ) on Monday April 02, 2001 @01:25PM (#320384) Homepage
    Better yet, run your own mail server. Accept all incoming mail, then when one of the messages is from a lawyer, send a fake bounce back message saying your address doesn't exist.
  • They trademarked the phrase "we love to see you smile" not just the last word

    Rate me on Picture-rate.com [picture-rate.com]
  • by gunner800 ( 142959 ) on Monday April 02, 2001 @10:08AM (#320388) Homepage
    "Dropping the 'OpenIL' name seems like the easiest way out."

    Easy, yes. But you'd be doing the rest of the world a favor if you hold out as long as you can. Every time somebody folds under this kind of pressure, it encourages the big corporations to use the same tactics again.

    If nothing else, publicize the conflict as much as possible. Grab some free web space and post copies of the e-mails and such. Submit stories to Slashdot to warn others... oh, wait...

    Well, fight the good fight, but try not to get sued into oblivion.


    My mom is not a Karma whore!

  • This is insightful? This is the same troll that gets posted to every trademark discussion, but with a lot of "fuck" thrown in. Yes, we know trademark dilution can cause you to lose your trademark. Yes, we know it happened to Intel with their x86 line. But unless you think it's a GOOD thing that people can't call their project OpenIL without fear of being sued into the ground, try to advance your thinking beyond the couple of words your lawyer friend told you and see what can be done about it.

    Oh, and if you think it IS a good thing that he can't call his project OpenIL, pull your head out of your ass.

    Now, in order to get modded up by the same moderator that wasted a point on Graymalkin, let me rephrase all of that:

    This is fucking insightful? This is the same fucking troll that gets fucking posted to every fucking trademark discussion, but with a lot of fucking "fuck" thrown in. Yes, we fucking know trademark fucking dilution can fucking cause you to lose your fucking trademark. Fuck yes, we fucking know it happened to Intel with their xfucking86 line. But fuck, unless you think it's a fucking GOOD thing that fucking people can't call their fucking project OpenFuckingIL without fear of being fucking sued into the fucking ground, try to advance your thinking beyond the couple of fucking words your lawyer-fucking friend told you and see what can be fucking done about it.

    Oh, and if you fucking think it IS a good fucking thing that he can't call his project OpenFuckingIL, pull your fucking head out of your fucking ass. Fuck

  • by thrillbert ( 146343 ) on Monday April 02, 2001 @10:43AM (#320392) Homepage
    SGI vs. California

    In a recent SlashDot story, users of the popular website were made aware of SGI's attempts at closing down sites with the words "Open" and "GL" in them. Siting violation of Intellectual Property, possible confusion of one of it's name brands, and lost revenue.

    This apparently was not enough to ensure SGI's survival during this tumultuos time for Tech Companies. In a press conference held just a few minutes ago, SGI's spokeperson Richard Cranium (Dick Head for short) stated that letters have been sent out to millions of businesses who use the "We are Open" signs. Apparently, the letter states "SGI holds the trademark for 'Open', and unless a licensing agreement can be reached, you are hereby required to cease and desist the use of your 'We are Open' signs".

    When asked about possible options to small business owners, Mr. Cranium stated "This is California, you better learn to read Spanish and just use 'Estamos Abiertos' instead of our trademarked 'Open' sign."

    California Governor Gray Davis was quoted as saying "I am abierto to changes in our culture".
  • Uh... /.'s slash-and-burn response?

    In any case, I'd be more inclined to think of it in terms of parody...

    /Brian
  • I run a non-profit community access network, and when we were looking for a domain name, we wanted one that would sound like the region of the state we were in. We found the domain we wanted, but the .com and .net of it were owned by a large company. I contacted them via e-mail and told them what we wanted to do before we bought the domain to avoid this very situation. One of their lawyers wrote me back a very nice letter telling me that we were free to use the domain, and then mailed me a waiver clearing us to use it as long as we met certian non-commercial terms. They were very nice about it, and in one e-mail the lady I was dealing with basically told me that if we had just took the domain we probably would have gotten one of those "cease and desist" letters. So if you have ANY doubt whatsoever, ask. it saved me a lot of hassle and a potential lawsuit.
  • Actually(TM) none(TM) of(TM) this(TM) trademark(TM) stuff(TM) really(TM) bothers(TM) me(TM).

    I(TM) don't(TM) see(TM) what(TM) the(TM) big(TM) deal(TM) is(TM)!

    :P(TM)

    -Gnight


  • How much were your legal fees?
  • the big guy trying to rob the little guy out of a name, or a domain that they may have had for years... it seems to have turned into a corporate right to harass everyone.

    This is also happening to consumer advocacy groups. A specific example (one with which I am affiliated, BTW) is Ameritech Cable [ameritechcable.com]. They provide news and information about Ameritech's poor service and anti-consumer practices, as well as a place for people to talk about their experiences with Ameritech. Currently, they, along with Ameritechdsl.com [ameritechdsl.com] are getting sued by Ameritech for a number of things. Read all about it here [ameritechcable.com]

  • Well, I have to admit, the site's owner (I'm affiliated with his group, but I don't maintain the sites themselves) could've chosen a better domain name (and color scheme) for a consumer advocacy site, but, as you will see, that project is already in the works.

    The project on the site named "Project: Register Ameritech" [ameritechcable.com] is a project intended to register domain names with the word "Ameritech" in them that leave no doubt in one's mind that they are anti-Ameritech in nature. Of course, I can't post any examples of these names, as someone else might see them and register them, but I have seen the names that the site owner is planning to register, and I can tell you that they are some good ones.

  • I agree, it's confusing. But the real problem is SGI's for naming their technology after a "common convention" for open-source naming (Open[a-z]+). For example, if I make windows for your house, I can have Windows in my logo, etc. and M$ can't do crap. M$ was smart, because when they marketed windows, it was always Microsoft Windows - not just "windows". The word "Open" and a 2-3 letter acronym leaves it self open to confusion. So as a corporation, either:

    1) Be more creative with your naming so that it's truely unique
    2) Use your company name (SGI OpenGL)

    So, the real whiners are the corporations, trying to "clear their namespace", AKA making US pay for their mistake.

    I would vote that OpenIL be changed to "Open IL" as two seperate words - that's as much Trademark control as SGI should get.
  • What if SGI licensed the trademark to OpenIL for a token fee? After all, trademarks are often licensed (for instance, to display a logo with a compatibility claim), without diluting them. This way SGI would still fully protect its own trademark from real infringement, and not lose face with the open source/free software community which will stay away from its products if it does much bullying of noncommercial uses of obvious names that somewhat resemble its trademarks.
  • This seems to me like another case of Slashdotters running crying everytime a copmany steps on what they mistakenly consider their rights.

    Let's look at this logically. Is a name like "OpenIL" confusable with "OpenGL?" Sure is. If I heard about something named OpenIL, I'd instantly assume it had something to do with OpenGL, and I might even go as far, as I bet a lot of "end users" would, as to assume that it was from the same people. This is futerh complicated by the fact that the logos are similar enough to perhaps cause some confusion for those not too familiar with OpenGL.

    Trademark law was created, and in my mind rightly so, to stop this kind of confusion between products.

    My advice? Change the name. It doesn't sound like SGI sent out the big nasties, just a polite letter. They were even cosiderate enough to have a conversation with the guy via email rather than just more threatening letters.

    Oh, and Slashdotters? Calm down. Just because a corporation is invoking IP law doesn't make them evil.
  • by AaronStJ ( 182845 ) <AaronStJ @ g m a i l .com> on Monday April 02, 2001 @10:32AM (#320422) Homepage
    This seems to me like another case of Slashdotters running crying everytime a copmany steps on what they mistakenly consider their rights. Let's look at this logically. Is a name like "OpenIL" confusable with "OpenGL?" Sure is. If I heard about something named OpenIL, I'd instantly assume it had something to do with OpenGL, and I might even go as far, as I bet a lot of "end users" would, as to assume that it was from the same people. This is futerh complicated by the fact that the logos are similar enough to perhaps cause some confusion for those not too familiar with OpenGL. Trademark law was created, and in my mind rightly so, to stop this kind of confusion between products. My advice? Change the name. It doesn't sound like SGI sent out the big nasties, just a polite letter. They were even cosiderate enough to have a conversation with the guy via email rather than just more threatening letters. Oh, and Slashdotters? Calm down. Just because a corporation is invoking IP law doesn't make them evil.
  • "GLScene" and "DemoGL" are far more tenuous claims. In fact, the use of "GL" in this context is so widespread that the argument could probably be made that this has "passed" into common usage... which assumes that it ever did belong exclusively to SGI which I have to doubt.
    You'd have a lot of trouble convincing a court of that. GL is certainly not in common usage outside the IT industry and arguably not in it. A court is going to say "OpenGL, DemoGL, they're both computer programs and are quite similar sounding". Also note that SGI did have a product called GL (OpenGL is of course the successor) so they certainly own a trademark on "GL" alone.
  • They have always known solution to trademark problems.

    Nominet UK [www.nic.uk] is the Registry for .uk Internet Domain Names. The existing Dispute Resolution Service is under review. I sent this open letter:

    Garry Anderson
    World Intellectual Piracy Organization ( WIPO.org.uk [wipo.org.uk])

    Response to Review of Dispute Resolution Service for Nominet UK

    The WIPO represents just plain common sense and logical intelligence on topic of Internet management. Ability further demonstrated on other subjects at skilful.com (though you may not like what I say there). The following is considered and informed opinion - after looking at all the facts. See if you agree with me.

    WIPO is defending the rights of domain owners worldwide. So obviously - not the same WIPO that is part of UN just looking after big business (coincidentally paid by them). Though they are certainly biased, I would not accuse them of being corrupt (with only circumstantial evidence).

    This solution has been put to the United States Patent and Trademark Office and Department of Commerce - during discussions neither could deny my assertions. It was common sense that the authorities already must have known the simple logical answer.

    First, I wish to make comment on the response from IP Litigation Group - Field Fisher Waterhouse, supporting ICANN's UDRP. There is so much I wish to say, but will cut it very short.

    To quote them, "As to the inconsistency of decisions being handed down under the UDRP, it is still early days and, as more decisions are made and precedents are adopted, the decision-making will become more uniform."

    Saying, "...we believe that trade mark protection is of paramount importance", they unashamedly admit their decisions are biased. This is nothing more than a confession they are becoming more uniformly prejudiced.

    A fact for you: domain names are not trademarks - ask Paul Mockapetris, creator of Domain Name System.

    However, as authorities know, domain names could be made compatible with trademarks.

    ICANN's UDRP has shown this Dispute Resolution process is totally unworkable and unjust.

    Though the authorities SAY they have good ideals - to protect trademarks on the Internet - this is a barefaced LIE. Only those unable to progress ideas through to conclusion would believe them.

    They only give certain trademarks an illegal dominant position and create a 'cash cow' for their friends in the legal profession. This is demonstrably true and was the obvious intention. Those in pocket of big business would say otherwise.

    Most businesses fail to realise, their domain could be victim of reverse hijacking by bigger business, at any time in the future. They will never be safe, even after investing ALL into their business - the most important part of their business, their identity, could be stolen from them.

    The only solution is to have restricted TLDs. For example, Nissan cars tried to take nissan.com from Mr Nissan - it makes sense to reserve .car TLD for carmakers - they can then use nissan.car. It has to be on a 'first come - first served' basis.

    There is one main cause for all these problems. The authorities are deliberately managing the system so that domain names are not compatible to trademarks. They do so for reasons based on money and power, without any sense of Justice. To explain:

    Nearly ALL trademarks share a common word(s) with many others - even in same country. For example, in the dispute case of etoy and eToys (e prefix for Internet) - 1,685 trademarks share common word "toy" in USA alone. There are tens of thousands of them in 200 other countries. Logical, therefore, that ALL cannot use slight variations on this common word (as domain name) - else it would "infringe" upon others and cause "consumer confusion".

    Those with a brain can see, nearly all domain names "infringe" upon others and cause "consumer confusion" - it is just bull* excuse.

    Making it worse still - they let only one of these businesses use this common word - so ALL the others cannot. This is against "unfair competition" laws. BUT, what makes it really bad - the authorities know the answer to avoid this and are allowing businesses to break this law.

    It gets even worse (is this possible?). Though the naming system is not just for trademarks, authorities are taking these common words from the legal owners. These people had the intelligence to buy these common words first. The authorities and big business are stealing the "Intellectual Property" of these individuals.

    As shown, most trademarks cannot have their name - so nearly ALL visitors are going to arrive at the wrong location and ALL get "confused" anyway. So "consumer confusion" and "infringement" are just excuse, obvious lies, used to take away the domain from legal owner. These are problems inherent in the system - entirely the fault of authorities.

    All these cases, in the courts and before WIPO, are based on lies and propaganda. I am amazed so many intelligent people have been taken in.

    Something to note. They all do not want it solved; you will only see objections from them. Even the 'good guys' (defending the little guy) are making a lot of money from these disputes. Their arrogant refusal to publicly recognize mandatory requirements is contemptible.

    Mandatory Requirements:

    1. Trademark Name
    2. Classification
    3. Country
    4. Identifier - suggest Top Level Domain of .REG

    The format for customer to identify source (the reason for trademarks): name.class.country.reg

    This acts as certificate of authentication and directory - if you can use the telephone, then you can use dot REG. Small businesses need not go broke buying hundreds of domains, trying to protect every slight variation of trademark in every TLD.

    If business wants to use Name.com for advertising and marketing purposes on the Internet - this is legal usage. To use it as currently used (to dominate over other trademarks), is illegal usage. It requires class, country and identifier - i.e. Apple Computers could use apple.tech.us.reg for trademark identity - using apple.com for marketing.

    It is logical, that they all are issued with a domain name with each trademark - in format name.class.country.reg - the same as trademark rights issued.

    There need be no restrictions put on a company whatsoever - they can use any number of .com/.biz etc. domains - for advertising and marketing purposes.

    There are laws in place should Mr Nissan try to pass himself off as Nissan Cars on his nissan.com. Big business is using Dispute Resolution to dominate this word space. Anyway, the consumer knows it is not the car people - if they are not redirected to nissan.car.uk.reg.

    There are laws in place for libel should anyone make such unlawful remarks on any of these sites. They object to any criticism and are using Dispute Resolution to abridge the freedom of speech.

    It is nothing complicated. Guardians of the Internet with all your so-called experts, if you still do not understand, contact garry@wipo.org.uk - I will draw you a picture. However, you knew all this already - or are you admitting to gross incompetence?

    The main reasons they want Dispute Resolution to go on:
    1 Big business gets more power abusing their trademark.
    2 Guardians of the Internet get more importance.
    3 Lawyers and trademark protection companies get rich.
    4 Domain registration companies get rich from trademarks protecting mark.
    5 Small businesses go broke with big business taking identity - less competition for them.
    6 They muffle criticism of them - abridging the freedom of speech.
    7 Kids (and grown-ups) are stopped from making fan sites.

    In conclusion, to reiterate - domain names are not trademarks. Millions of TLD are possible. I call for Nominet UK to put pressure on ICANN, first for the introduction of .REG to stop most of these problems. From there, new restricted TLDs to stop other disputes, examples .CAR and .ACTOR - it is just plain common sense.
  • Ahh .. support by obscurity .. you must work in customer relations.
  • The "Open" in OpenGL is clearly misleading and an obvious attempt to cash in on the greater renown of established products such as Open Source(c), the British Open Golf Championship(r), and Open Wide(tm: the Dental Association). Let's club together and sue the pants of the sofabs!
  • At RidiculoCorp, we have slowly been snatching up different words and trademarking them.

    Far from owning the contents of the Oxford Unabridged, our modest investment in connecting words will pay off for us and our investors.

    It seems that very soon, anyone who doesn't want to pay us will be speaking like a Hollywood stereotype of a Native American. Or perhaps people will begin writing more like Hemmingway: "I am cold, tired."

    And, But Or- they'll get us pretty far.

    Look for information on our IPO on our web site. [ridiculopathy.com]

  • my reply: Good thing you aren't a lawyer, else you might get lynched [for the record, IANAL either, but such a broad interpretation of the law at hand is somewhat disturbing]

    Its a question of markets, and who the 'common' customers in those markets are. OpenGL[tm, to satisfy the bloodsuckers] has two markets:
    1. Game players
    2. Game creators
    Now, the average game player MAY confuse OpenGL with OpenIL, however OpenIL is not likely to appear in the same context as OpenGL [i.e. on the side of a box for a 3D game]. OpenIL is not targeted a J. Random Gamer.

    Game creators, on the other hand, may take note of, and make use of, OpenIL [though, if it is GPL'd that likelyhood drops], but they could also be reasonably expected by any sane person to know the difference. If they didn't, I know *I* wouldn't buy a game from them.

    Now, SGI does have enough to bring about a lawsuit, hence the questioner's fear. Personally [previosu disclaimer applies of course] I think he could win with a good lawyer, but that is likely beyond his means or desire. My suggestion to him, to avoid having to change the name entirely and tons of documentation with it, is to go from OpenIL to OIL. Same initials, SGI ought to shut up, and makes a handy, easily pronouncable acronym besides:)

    -={(Astynax)}=-
  • Actually, I think you got modded OT for no reason. This guy who used to write for NY Newsday (best sports section in the city), Josh Quitner I think it was, used to write a newbie article for them. He had McDonalds.com in like, 95 (+or-1year) and I read his story about it.
    So when they sent him a scarygram he said, "I'll hand you the domain IF you wire up a public (grammer) school and pay for their T1 for X years." There's no feel good moment at the end of this story cuz Mc'D's declined his offer and I think he lost the domain. His articles sucked but that story was interesting and I remember feeling disapointed that McD's didn't take him seriously. I'll get down on em for that instead of TM'ing a smiley.

    if this is ot see my sig :)
  • OpenGL is they're baby after all, and OpenAL and OpenIL could be confused (Espically with the Image vs. Graphic, the great unwashed won't see a difference.) OpenAL IS trying to do for 3D audio (enviormental audio, whatever audio) that OpenGL did/does for graphics, so SGI definitly has a case. What they're IP and trademark lawyers aren't remembering is that mimicing is the highest form of flattery. I guess flattery doesn't go very far with the IP and TM crowd.
  • Let's not forget about the new consortium efforts to create a "3D standard for the Web." Umm, what about VRML? Or did you guys hose it up so much in legal quagmire as to make it easier to start from scratch?
  • The use of lawyer letters to scare you into doing something that you don't have to do, and stop you from doing something that you have every right to do is fairly common in the industry.

    And considering that some of us had computer programs with Open* and *GL names back in the late 70s and early 80s, I kind of doubt they have a leg to stand on.

    Oops ... yes, I was a child hacker ... but now you know I'm over 30 ...

  • I've noticed a lot of messages in this thread complaining/defending trademark law. It seems to me in this particular case trademark law isn't really an active player. All that's happened is SGI has sent an email to a student with a threat of litigation if the student doesn't comply. Like most people (and like he probably should) he's backed down rather than seeing if there is any truth in the lawyer's claim. This seems like a pretty efficient tactic to me. If I owned a large company I would probably send out hundreds of similar emails demanding people do things that are in my best interest; there is a very small cost in sending out these letters and absolutly no risk. If someone calls my bluff well all I'm out is the cost of the message and if they go along with what I tell them I get something for basicly nothing.

    So is this completely legal? Or is this similar to a police officer saying you better confess or I'm gonna shoot you in the head. Even if the police officer has no intention in shooting this person in the head this tactic is still illegal. Are corporate lawyers bound to any similar guidlines.
  • No, trademark law was created to stop deliberate fraud. I can not, and should not be able to, sell a graphics library called OpenGL. That should be the limit of SGIs rights in this matter.

    The "confusingly similar" nonsense is a recent addition to trademark law designed to legalize harassment and squash dissent. Go look at www.openil.org [openil.org]. Then look at www.opengl.org [opengl.org]. Confused? You shouldn't be. Nor should 3 bits different in the name confuse you, any more than opening a pizza restaurant next door to a McDonalds is "confusingly similar" because the addresses are only one digit different.

    Of course, this presupposes you are not an unelected, braindead, WIPO judge.

    --
  • by Zeinfeld ( 263942 ) on Monday April 02, 2001 @10:13AM (#320476) Homepage
    Being bullied by SGI is nowhere nears as scary as it could be. After all the company has been in decline for more than five years, most of its buildings have been taken over by other companies. It is seriously open to doubt that they can afford to spend time and money harassing the open source community.

    One of the problems of trademark law is that failure to police a trademark can lead to it becomming 'generic' and thus lose the trademark altogether. As a result most large companies hire specialist law firms that do nothing but search for possible violations and crank out nastygrams.

    I suspect that what it means is that whoever is in charge of winding up operations at SGI has concluded that the graphics libraries and branding thereon may be one of the companies biggest assets.

  • by deran9ed ( 300694 ) on Monday April 02, 2001 @10:32AM (#320482) Homepage
    Well not to be the stickler, but one can see the gripes of SGI for contacting someone about Open*L as it does resemble (namewise) their product, although I strongly disagree with them bullying someone.

    Now one of the things I would consider is, if your Open*L product/business/whatever is in line for competition with SGI in any shape form or fashion, in english... IF YOUR GOING TO MAKE MONEY OFF OF IT, then SGI has every right in the world to bitch.

    Think about a company called WindOS, which is similar sounding to Windows (to a non savvy tech person), now their business is making an OS... Do you think Mickeysoft wouldn't have a gripe about it?

    Now if they're just typically pushing their weight around, then you could either ignore them, and let them use up tons of funding taking you through the legal system, the creat an outpour of support, if you win the sue the fsck out of them... Or you could comply with them... or....

    And this is the best one... Ignore them, I do it all the time when I get threats about stupid spoofs I've done.

    erocdrah [antioffline.com]
  • Not to pick on you in particular, but this illustrates a common misuse of the .com domain. You probably don't expect to do much business outside of a 100 mile radius. You probably aren't going to send a car to Los Angeles, and (as you've generously acknowledged) you wouldn't be concerned about a company of the same name in the same business in Ireland because no way is it in competition. So why isn't your url roblimo.co.md.us instead of tying up an international domain name for a localized business?
  • "We have a deal that in my room I have the final say about most things and wife's room is her domain. "

    So, do you like have two network cards in the living room or something?

    Graspee

  • My lawyers will be contacting both of you as I have the trademark on (tm(tm)).

    Oh, shoot, I forgot to put the trademark on it.

    (tm(tm(tm(tm(tm(tm(tm(tm(tm(tm(tm(tm(tm(tm(tm(tm (t m(tm(tm(tm(tm(tm(tm(tm(tm(tm(tm(tm(tm(tm(tm(tm(tm( tm(tm(tm(tm(tm(tm(tm(tm(tm(tm(tm(tm(tm(tm(tm(tm(tm (tm(tm(tm(tm(tm(tm(tm(tm(tm(tm(tm(tm(tm(tm(tm(tm(t m(tm(tm(tm(tm(tm(tm(tm(tm(tm(tm(tm(tm(tm(tm(tm(tm( tm(tm(tm(tm(tm(tm(tm(tm(tm(tm(tm(tm(tm(tm(tm(tm(tm (tm(tm(tm(tm(tm(tm(tm(tm(tm(tm(tm(tm(tm(tm(tm(tm(t m(tm(tm(tm(tm(tm(tm(tm(tm(tm(tm(tm(tm(tm(tm(tm(tm( tm(tm(tm(tm(tm(tm(tm(tm(t


  • Part of this problem may be trademark law itself. SGI has to defend their trademark in order to keep it. You could always ask them if they are willing to award you a limited, non-transferable, license as long as you keep the product free?

    Believe it or not, Microsoft ended up doing this once with their BookShelf(tm) trademark. After trademarking the name they came across a program called "Jewish Bookshelf" or something like that which was distributed for free. After a bit of discussion (and some worries about prior art I'm sure) Microsoft ended up offering pretty much an indefinite license for $1. Allowed them to hold the TM and not piss off a fairly large demographic.
  • In February I got a letter from Mattel's goons telling me to cease, desist, etc because my domain name contained a popular girl's nickname (my name, actually) combined with another word.(link omitted to avoid the /. effect) They even wanted me to turn my domain over to them for free. I worried for a while and then decided to send a letter essentially calling their bluff. Gave them the usual "reasonable person would not be confused" and "this is not a commercial site" spiel, and just last week I got their reply. Now they just want to make sure that my domain/website is free of any and all commercial references, and apparently they will leave me alone.
    My ordeal isn't over yet, so I can't say that this is the right way to do it, but it is looking pretty good for me. Had they not decided to be reasonable, I had planned to submit my tale of harrassment to every news site I could find.
    My advice is, take it as far as you can. I wouldn't commit myself to a protracted legal battle that you would probably lose, but I would do my best to convince them that my site was not infringing on their trademark. Your case is somewhat different, because my site is strictly a vanity site, which, having nothing to do with Mattel's product, was easy to defend. It was almost black and white. Yours, I suspect, has a lot more grey area. Good luck to you!

  • by koreth ( 409849 ) on Monday April 02, 2001 @10:43AM (#320510)
    One of my domain names was the same as the name of a piece of business software. My partner and I had had the domain since 1989, at which time the software in question wasn't being sold under that name and the company that published it wasn't even on the net.

    Come 1996, we got an extremely rude registered letter from the software publisher's lawyer, demanding that we relinquish the name to them or face immediate legal action.

    We were both pretty irritated by the way they were making the demand, so we visited a local lawyer who specialized in intellectual property law. She told us there was a good chance the company wouldn't be able to win the name back in a suit since we'd been using it for so long and we weren't participating in the same markets they were. So we had her write a nastygram right back at them, politely telling them that we felt we had a valid claim to the name and they could talk to our lawyer if they didn't agree.

    A several-week-long exchange ensued, with both sides exchanging reasons why each of us thought the name should be ours. We actually ended up filing a lawsuit against them, mostly to keep them from doing it first so we could control the venue where the case would be argued. Finally they broached the subject of buying the name from us, and that's what ended up happening -- for a sum of money several times larger than our lawyer's fees.

    The irony is, if they'd made us a reasonable offer to begin with, we might well have accepted a lot less than we ended up getting, and they wouldn't have had to waste their legal staff's time. But the way they approached us at first, coming in with gun ports wide open, cost them any sympathy we might have had for them.

    BTW, I'm purposely not identifying the domain (though it's possible to figure it out) just because... well, frankly, I'd rather not give them the free traffic.

    So it absolutely is possible to stand up to this sort of request. You may end up losing the name, but it's also quite plausible that one serious-sounding lawyer letter in reply to their request will be enough to make them go away. It all depends on how dead-set they really are on owning all these names. On the other hand, I wouldn't bring in the lawyers until they do; if you're at the level of exchanging informal E-mail with someone there, try to keep it at that level if you can.

    If they are dead-set, you can at least get something out of it in exchange. If it comes to lawsuit threats you may even be able to find a lawyer who'll take the case on a contingency basis.

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