Mozilla Firefox trademark and Debian
September 30, 2006 Leave a comment
Quite a battle is currently raging on the Debian Bugzilla about the status of the Firefox package. The dispute is over the use of the trademarked Firefox logo. From the article:
When most people think about the Mozilla Firefox browser, they think of it as being open source and free.
The truth is, while Mozilla Firefox is open source, it is not entirely free, and it may not even be legally compatible with Debian GNU/Linux, one of the most popular community Linux distribution bases.
The Firefox logo is trademarked, so Debian doesn't consider it to be Free and will not include it as part of its distribution. Mozilla claims that using the Firefox name without the official branding is a trademark violation.
Furthermore, Mozilla claims that if Debian runs any patches to the version of Firefox included with Debian distros, it has to run them by Mozilla first for approval.
The end result of all this appears to be that the branding and name are going to be completely removed before Etch is released. It's not yet clear whether derivative distributions such as Ubuntu will follow suit. Mozilla has certainly stepped up it's enforcement policy recently, but the reality is that they have to. Not defending your trademark means losing it. They have a specific idea of what Firefox is, and if you want to use the name you need to abide by that idea. If you don't, you are still 100% free to use the code, just not the name. I'd say calling it “not open” is a bit disingenuous, but it's easy to see both sides here. It puts Firefox in a tough place when anyone can add any code to the product and still call it Firefox. After all, if it crashes the user will not care (or in many cases even know) that a custom patch caused the problem. All they know is that FF crashed. The flip side here is that having to run every patch though Mozilla does add an extra burden. In the end, it's a burden they need to bare if they want to use the name. Since it's fairly clear it's something they are unwilling (and due to the social contact probably unable) to do, out goes the name. In the end, the sad part is that there are 3 losers and no winners. “Firefox” gets less market share, Debian doesn't ship (by name) with a browser people expect and the users get nothing but confusion.
Debian, Etch, Firefox, Mozilla, Open Source, Linux