Eric S. Raymond sent in a short writeup to describe the terminology of
the Open Source(R) Initiative and the usage of the Open Source(R)
Certification Mark. This is also to prevent the mis-use of the term Open
Source(R) in the media just as the term "hacker" has been in the past.
"Open Source" needs your help
In February of this year, we started the "Open Source" initiative as a way
of marketing Free Software to the world. It seems that after only six months,
the words "Open Source" are on everybody's lips!
Before we announced the initiative, we registered a Certification Mark
with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office on the words "Open Source". A
Certification Mark is a special form of trademark that is applied to other
people's products to certify some attribute of the product. In this case
it certifies the freeness of a software license. There were two purposes in
registering the trademark:
- We didn't want the phrase "Open Source" to become as vague as "Free
Software" or as mis-used as "hacker", so we established guidelines for its use
and a legal right to enforce those guidelines.
- An individual who was not involved in the Linux development had registered
a trademark on the word "Linux", and was attempting to obtain payment from
Linux distributions for use of the name. It took a lot of time and money to
It would be a shame for "Open Source" to become as mis-used in the media
as "hacker" has been. We need your help to keep that from happening:
- If you use the words "Open Source" to describe a product, please make sure
to acknowledge that Open Source is a trademark. Use the (R) mark, or a small
footnote like "Open Source is a Registered Certification Mark of Software in
the Public Interest."
- Everybody is licensed, in perpetuity, to use the trademark "Open Source" to
describe a product that is entirely in conformance with the Open Source
Definition, below. By all means, use "Open Source" if your product fits the
definition. If you want to use the words another way, please get permission.
SPI is administering the mark under the direction of Eric Raymond, he has the
final deciding power over its use.
- If you know anyone who is using the mark "Open Source" inappropriately,
please direct their attention to this document and to our web site at
Thank you for supporting Open Source!
Eric S. Raymond