An open letter to the open source hardware community from OSHWA, the Open Source Hardware Association, oshwa.org
The current leadership of the Open Source Initiative (OSI, opensource.org) has brought to our attention that they feel the Open Source Hardware ‘gear’ logo infringes on their trademark.
The open source hardware logo was chosen by the community and has become a de facto standard over the past year and a half. As the founding board members of OSHWA, we feel that it is not our right nor our place to decide this issue for the community without further input. This “founding” OSHWA board was elected by the OSHWA organizers simply to do the hard work of the bootstrapping the organization: to get a bank account, to fill out IRS paperwork, to clear other organizing hurdles, and (finally) to establish membership so that we can legally vote in board members by future membership. We had hoped and envisioned that any real business to serve the open source hardware community could wait after our organization was more firmly established.
We would like to work on behalf of the community. We have before us several options, and we are interested in your feedback:
1) License the open source hardware ‘gear’ logo from OSI.
US Trademark law requires OSI to protect their mark and to notify potential infringers when they become aware of them. OSI has indicated that they would grant a trademark license to OSHWA. This would give OSI the means to protect their trademark. However, accepting such a license would establish OSI as the owner of the crowdsourced ‘gear’ logo. It would make OSI responsible for deciding where and when the logo can be used, effectively giving OSI control of defining what can and cannot be labeled as open source hardware. It could also place OSHWA in the uncomfortable position of needing to enforce OSI trademarks. We are further concerned that future OSI boards may have different opinions concerning the use of their logo and license agreements.
2) Continue to recommend the use of the ‘gear’ logo against OSI’s wishes.
This may lead OSHWA to a legal battle before we even get off the ground. While it is theoretically possible that we could successfully argue against this in court, we do feel it would be wasteful to spend our limited resources and time “infighting” with one of the few other organizations that exists to serve the open source community. Nor do we wish to drive a wedge between ourselves and the OSI, who may be important allies in battles ahead.
3) Crowdsource a new logo to represent Open Source Hardware.
A change to our current logo must include removing the keyhole shape inside the gear as this is the problematic feature according to OSI’s lawyer. But a new logo need not be similar at all. In any case, OSHWA would begin to recommend the new logo in its list of best practices for labeling Open Source Hardware. The myriad products and projects with the original ‘gear’ marks could be revised over time.
We encourage you to leave your comments at the bottom of this post.
Update 1: Per request, here is the license from OSI, which has been brought up in the comments.
Update 2: Please voice your opinion by Aug. 16. OSHWA will reconvene to discuss these issues after that date.
Update 3: Thanks to everyone for their comments and especially to OSI for engaging with the open source hardware community. We are encouraged by the renewed dialog with OSI and we are going to take the conversation with them offline for the moment. We’re hopeful that the outcome will be an agreement that benefits the whole OSHW community. Thank you again for your help! (Note Added Wednesday August 8)
Update 4: OSHWA and OSI are currently working together on a co-existence agreement. In the mean time, continue to build cool stuff and share it! Thanks to Jim Jagielski for sharing this link about co-existence agreements: http://www.wipo.int/