[OpenID board] On trademarks

Johannes Ernst jernst at netmesh.us
Wed Mar 14 23:49:09 UTC 2007

Bill and I have been looking around some in terms of what policies  
other similar organizations have with respect to their trademarks.  
Mozilla's is probably the best-thought-out and best-applicable here  
(see http://www.mozilla.org/foundation/trademarks/policy.html in case  
you are interested)

The best way of thinking about this might be that we need to be very  
clear about what the term "OpenID" refers to from a trademark  
perspective, and what it does not refer to. This is quite challenging  
given the decentralized innovation process we have had, and really  
want to keep in this community. In Mozilla's case, for example, the  
clearly say that the term Mozilla may only refer to unaltered  
binaries, and that you must not use it to refer to non-standard  
builds although you are of course free to use the open-source code.

It appears that we must identify similarly a set of "unaltered  
things" (such a specifications) and police the mark whenever somebody  
refers to a thing (e.g. a specification) that is not part of that set  
of unaltered things at that point in time. This is largely consistent  
with what the community has practiced so far, but as more and more  
people innovate around the core set of OpenID specifications --  
particularly if it happens in conflicting ways -- , this is going to  
be more difficult.

At tomorrow's board call, I'd like to discuss:
1. the principle of identifying a set of specifications by the name  
"OpenID", and disallowing the use of "OpenID" for specifications that  
are not part of that set (perhaps there is a way of calling them  
"proposed" or "built on top of ..." or something like it)
2. the need for a process by which the set of specifications by the  
name "OpenID" gets established and administered over time (e.g. add  
specifications to the set, upgrade specifications in the set,  
obsolete specifications)
3. the need for a similar policy page as Mozilla's that I referred to  
above that clearly sets out our policy.

To keep this manageable for tomorrow, I propose we don't discuss  
which set it should be, nor what process it should be, and only focus  
on getting consensus that these two items are required. If we can get  
there, we then can attempt to define both for the next meeting, and  
how to express it publicly thereafter.

Johannes Ernst
NetMesh Inc.

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