This Wednesday, Google announced a new open source initiative—the Open Commons Use, a stewardship service for open source trademarks. The move drew immediate criticism from IBM, which said it bought it Istioone of the three projects that Google seeded OUC with at launch.
What are Open Use Commons?
Before we can really get into IBM’s beef, we need to spend some time investigating what Open Use Commons is trying to do in the first place. From yourself FAQ:
Open Use Commons gives open source projects a neutral, independent home for their project trademarks, and provides assistance with conformance testing, establishing mark usage guidelines, and handling issues surrounding trademark use of works. project meet.
Open Use Commons does not provide services outside the use domain, such as technical advice, community management, project events, or project marketing.
In some ways, this sounds like a standard thing from the open source playbook: establish a repository to manage things neutrally and make them free for everyone. But until now, trademarks have been something that open source projects have kept to themselves, and for good reason—damaging a project’s trademark makes the project itself difficult or impossible to repair. ways to do it.
IBM-owned Red Hat is itself one of the largest open source companies in the world, and Red Hat Enterprise Linux makes for an interesting case study. All the source code of RHEL is open source and can be freely downloaded, copied, and reused. If you want to build an entire operating system from your own source code and distribute it as your own, you can—but only one thing it can’t is called “Red Hat Linux.”
Debian Linux’s decades-long existence spit with Mozilla on the Firefox logo is another interesting example of the conflict between open source and proprietary trademarks. The short version is, Mozilla retains full copyright on the Firefox logo—and this creates a problem for Debian, whose regulations do not allow the free distribution of intellectual property. So Debian pulled the logo but left the browser behind, prompting Mozilla to deny the project permission to use the Firefox name on the resulting build. Debian, meanwhile, simply renamed its Build “Iceweasel” instead.
It is easy to understand why The open source project will want to protect its trademarks, though. If you don’t protect your trademark, nothing stops — for example — Oracle to decide to create a completely different product called “Firefox,” which leads to the best confusion.
So, it’s hard to see what Google is trying to achieve here—privacy is literally the only thing an open source project has to protect, and doing so is extremely important. So why leave that out? The answer is a few paragraphs down:
(C) companies that want to provide the management aspects of these projects… can invest in offering “Project as a Service” because it is guaranteed that they can use that mark; it will not be taken suddenly with the wind after they have sacrificed around it.
What’s not clear is how Google’s Open Use Commons provides that guarantee to “Project as a Service” companies because it doesn’t seem to set any hard policies. Each of the examples given in your FAQ about managed trademark usage boils down to “you must use the trademark in accordance with the trademark usage guidelines of the project”—and the projects themselves will continue to set those guidelines.
IBM, Istio, and OUC
Istio is a platform-independent service combination that provides traffic management, policy enforcement, and telemetry collection. It was developed as an open source project by teams from Google, IBM, and Lyft on GitHub and is one of the oldest projects to be found there.
Google has a trademark to Istio, but it launched apparently as a collaboration of Google’s internal work by that name and IBM’s own open source Amalgam8 project. At the time, IBM described the integration as making sense because Google’s original developer position with Kubernetes—Istio itself makes it easier to communicate at scale between containers swimming in the Kubernetes network, so to speak.
But according to to IBM colleague Jason McGee, the original partnership included an understanding that Istio, once mature enough, would be handed over to the Cloud Native Computing Foundation. Them CNCF is a vendor-represented, not-for-profit child organization of the Linux Foundation; granting open source work to CNCF ensures that no company can use inappropriate leverage to influence another company that uses and relies on the service.
IBM sees Open Commons as tied directly to Google, rather than being a truly independent vendor and vendor like CNCF. It is difficult or impossible to split the Linux base or CNCF out and come up with anything resembling ownership by a company.
It’s still hard to see what the future for Open Use Commons will actually look like—it’s founded with a six-person board of directors, only two of whom work for Google. But all of the projects that were first donated to Commons came from Google itself—making it clear that there was no company-wide buy-in assembled before Commons launched.