23rd September 2021: PostgreSQL 14 RC 1 Released!

Trademark Actions Against the PostgreSQL Community

Posted on 2021-09-13 by PostgreSQL Global Development Group
Community PostgreSQL Project

The PostgreSQL Core Team and the PostgreSQL Community Association of Canada (PGCAC) wish to provide clarification on the ownership and usage of the "PostgreSQL" trademark to address an ongoing issue with a 3rd party organization.

The "PostgreSQL" trademark and other intellectual property and domain names are managed at the request of the PostgreSQL Core Team by the nonprofit PostgreSQL Community Association of Canada (PGCAC). These trademarks are made available for general use under the PostgreSQL Trademark Policy, which you can read at:

https://www.postgresql.org/about/policies/trademarks/

The PostgreSQL trademark policy is modeled after policies implemented by other major open source projects and is designed to be flexible and in the spirit of open source software. This policy is in place to ensure that the PostgreSQL trademarks are not used in ways that may confuse people and to help protect and grow the community brand. Uses of the trademark that are outside of fair use are permitted only through a trademark license issued by PGCAC.

There are additional registered trademarks that use the "PostgreSQL" wordmark but are not used to assume the PostgreSQL brand identity or used to make representations of being the PostgreSQL community. Some of these trademarks were registered prior to the updated PostgreSQL trademark policy; PGCAC has and continues to work with these organizations to ensure trademark compliance.

The PostgreSQL Core Team set up the trademark holdings and policies similar to other aspects of the PostgreSQL project. Through decentralization and fair checks and balances, the trademarks are protected from scenarios such as lack of support or a takeover from a hostile entity. Additionally, it is essential that the trademarks are properly used and defended, otherwise there is a risk that they may be deemed invalid or abandoned by the issuing trademark offices.

In 2020, the PostgreSQL Core Team was made aware that an organization had filed applications to register the "PostgreSQL" and "PostgreSQL Community" trademarks in the European Union and the United States, and had already registered trademarks in Spain. The organization, a 3rd party not-for-profit corporation in Spain called "Fundación PostgreSQL," did not give any indication to the PostgreSQL Core Team or PGCAC that they would file these applications.

When Fundación PostgreSQL’s representative, Álvaro Hernández Tortosa, was contacted about its attempt to register the "PostgreSQL" and "PostgreSQL Community" trademarks in 2020, Fundación PostgreSQL responded that they wished to secure the marks to protect the PostgreSQL brand. However, the registration of the "PostgreSQL" mark by another organization is a violation of the PostgreSQL Trademark Policy as this could lead to user confusion and inconsistent policy and licensing standards. Fundación PostgreSQL was made aware of this in a previous correspondence. This also directly conflicts with the mission of the PGCAC to hold the intellectual property and brand assets of the PostgreSQL project.

When contacted in 2020, Fundación PostgreSQL indicated that they will not withdraw their applications for the "PostgreSQL" and "PostgreSQL Community" trademarks. Fundación PostgreSQL indicated that it would be willing to negotiate with the PGCAC, and while PGCAC made an offer to Fundación PostgreSQL, at the time PGCAC did not receive a response from Fundación PostgreSQL on whether or not the offer was acceptable. Ultimately, PGCAC and PostgreSQL Europe (PGEU), a recognized PostgreSQL nonprofit organization that operates in Europe, elected to file official disputes on the registration of these trademark applications.

In 2021, PGCAC became aware that Fundación PostgreSQL filed additional trademark applications for the "Postgres" trademark in the European Union and United States. Coupled with the original trademark filings, the PostgreSQL Core Team and PGCAC consider this to be a clear violation of the PostgreSQL Trademark Policy. Actions like this put the name and reputation of the PostgreSQL project at risk should an unsanctioned 3rd party take control of PostgreSQL’s trademarks, and could be used to take over domain names and other items.

When presented with an additional cease and desist and the updated terms in which the PostgreSQL Core Team and PGCAC would be willing to settle, Mr. Hernández Tortosa indicated that he would only drop the trademark filings under his terms, which include the weakening of the PGCAC and the potential for outside entities to control the PostgreSQL trademarks.

Due to the risk that these demands would result in loss of control over the trademarks and the aforementioned risks like loss of control over PostgreSQL project resources, the PostgreSQL Core Team and PGCAC view these demands as unacceptable.

The PostgreSQL Core Team and PGCAC still hope for an amicable resolution. However, because these actions infringe upon the "PostgreSQL" and "Postgres" trademarks, the PostgreSQL Core Team and PGCAC will pursue all options until Fundación PostgreSQL surrenders all claims to the "Postgres", "PostgreSQL", and "PostgreSQL Community" trademarks, and any claims to additional trademarks that are in violation of the PostgreSQL Trademark Policy.

The PostgreSQL project has structured its trademark policies and holdings to provide maximum flexibility for people and organizations looking to support PostgreSQL to apply its trademarks. We believe these policies are fair and in line with what other open source communities are doing.

In the spirit of the open source movement, the PostgreSQL community has always tried to operate transparently and fairly, and provide resources for people to adopt, use, and promote PostgreSQL. We continuously look to improve and are very much open to feedback (look no further than the discussions on our mailing lists)!