atom feed170 messages in org.opensolaris.ogb-discuss[ogb-discuss] Sun's Responses to the ...
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90 later messages
Subject:[ogb-discuss] Sun's Responses to the OpenSolaris Trademark Questions
From:Roy T. Fielding (
Date:Feb 14, 2008 12:27:46 am


On Feb 13, 2008, at 7:55 PM, Al Hopper wrote:

IMHO - the time for debate is over. The OGB effectively failed to influence Sun substansively. And, FWIW, I'm OK with that. Sometimes you're the driver and many times you're just a passenger.

I remain positive and committed to the project. Now lets move forward and continue to evolve/refine the best OS on the planet....

Not me.

Sun didn't just make vague statements to me about OpenSolaris; they made promises about it being an open development project. That's the only way they could get someone like me to provide free labor for their benefit. Given Sun's recent track record on breaking promises, another one doesn't surprise me at all.

Just to be clear to everyone concerned, the trademark issue was discussed at the first meeting of the CAB and regularly since then. At no time whatsoever was it ever unclear that Solaris was the trademark being controlled by Sun. "OpenSolaris" was only controlled as necessary to prevent consumer confusion with the "Solaris" mark, which is more than satisfied by the powers handed out in the Charter and the agreement that only Sun's distro would be called Solaris. That's all there is to it.

Most of the stuff in that letter about Sun's responsibilities in regard to "International Trademark Law" is nothing more than snow being tossed in the eyes of technical folks who don't have access to their own lawyers. More to the point, it has nothing to do with the marketing decision to start calling Indiana "OpenSolaris" instead of "Solaris Express".

Somebody inside marketing decided to change the agreement we had about distros and then pushed through their opinion based on "legal"-excused b.s. rather than simply ask for a change via the community process. Sun does that kind of thing to open source developers all the time (witness the JCP fiasco), so again this is no surprise to those of us who have been around awhile.

Trademark law exists to protect consumers from fraud, not to prevent companies from licensing their own trade names. The criteria for such a license doesn't even need to be "objective." It just has to be consistent in the eyes of the consumer.

Yes, use of the name "OpenSolaris" by third parties would require some form of Sun-controlled licensing scheme. The OpenSolaris Community, however, is not a third party -- it is an informal association that exists at the sole discretion of Sun and is fully capable of being delegated limited decision-making authority (but not ownership) over what *is* called OpenSolaris. That's what the Charter does and it does not affect Sun's control over the bare word "Solaris" at all because it doesn't give anyone else the right to call something "OpenSolaris" (i.e., the consumer is not confused and the Solaris mark is only used with permission of the trademark owner).

Sun gave up its right to make arbitrary decisions regarding the phrase "OpenSolaris" as part of its public agreement with the community in the form of the Charter. That was a self-imposed restriction in exchange for the benefits of community-driven development, freely made, and cannot be changed except in accordance with the charter itself (for example, by amending or dissolving the charter). The charter has therefore been violated. Sun can't make decisions for the OGB any more than the OGB can make decisions for Sun -- that was the whole point in having Sun sign the Charter to create a separation of authority, since there was no other means of determining authority given that Sun retains ownership of all the IP.

The truly stupid aspect of this issue is that, AFAICT, most of the people still hanging around here (including myself) think that it is a good idea for OpenSolaris to produce a reference distribution of some kind within an open development project of the OpenSolaris Community. The way to do that is fully defined by the Constitution. In fact, if it weren't for the extremely pig-headed way in which Indiana was thrust on the community as Ian's private domain, it could have easily been a unifying path for all of the distros. It could have given them a gate within OpenSolaris in which to collaborate, instead of doing all of their work in separate communities outside OpenSolaris.

Indiana is just another private marketing team within Sun that is making private decisions about "OpenSolaris" that aren't even in line with the internal processes of Solaris Engineering, let alone the published governance model of the OGB.

Sun agreed that "OpenSolaris" would be governed by the community and yet has refused, in every step along the way, to cede any real control over the software produced or the way it is produced, and continues to make private decisions every day that are later promoted as decisions for this thing we call OpenSolaris. Rather than be honest about it and restructure the community to correspond to this MySolaris style of over-the-wall development, Sun prefers to lie to the external community members while ignoring their input. Yes, Sun has the legal right to make that decision, just as it has a legal right to dissolve the charter and start over with a new governance model. The choices being made are NOT the problem. The problem is the way that the choices are being made WHILE, at the same time, portraying the project in public as a community-driven effort. The community outcry would be horrendous if it weren't for the fact that Sun is pressuring its own employees to keep quiet instead of allowing them to participate as individuals.

This well is poisoned; the company has consumed its own future and any pretense that the projects will ever govern themselves (as opposed to being governed by whatever pointy-haired boss is hiding behind the scenes) is now a joke. Sun should move on, dissolve the charter that it currently ignores, and adopt the governing style of MySQL. That company doesn't pretend to let their community participate in decisions, and yet they still manage to satisfy most of their users. Let everyone else go back to writing code/documentation for hire.

There's nothing particularly wrong with that choice -- it is a perfectly valid open source model for corporations that don't need active community participation. IMO, the resulting code tends to suck a lot more than community-driven projects, but it is still open source.

In any case, I am done with it. I hereby resign my status as a Member of the OpenSolaris Community, effective immediately.


Roy T. Fielding <> Chief Scientist, Day Software <>

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