Articles / Editorial: Open Source need…

Editorial: Open Source needs your help

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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 fight that.

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:

  1. 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."
  2. 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.
  3. 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

Recent comments

23 Nov 2007 04:23 Avatar johnevo

Re: u r right

> Well said abt Open Source Trade Mark..
> It's needed article.

I never knew that about open source either, strange been around for ever but have heard that mentioned before ?

02 Oct 2005 11:39 Avatar firefox123

Re: Good stuff
how in the world are people makiing money by using open source? i cant seem to understand.
I pay for all my codes
from firefox123

10 Apr 2005 10:54 Avatar hyperboole

Good stuff
I never knew that open source had a trademark. Thats for bringing that up. I've got a few people that I'll tell to sort that out. Also didn't know the term was becoming so miused :( Keep up the good work :)

25 Oct 2004 08:53 Avatar OkIDaN

Well said
Well said. I have seen the term "open source" used wrongly many times before. I hope this will somehow help.

26 Aug 2004 06:02 Avatar hytechpro

Yes "Open Source" should be use for spreadding the tech not the piracy.

we at used it to find solution of many times. its realy helpful.





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