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Re: the PostgreSQL Elephant

From: Chris Travers <chris(at)metatrontech(dot)com>
Cc: Robert Treat <xzilla(at)users(dot)sourceforge(dot)net>,Peter Eisentraut <peter_e(at)gmx(dot)net>, Josh Berkus <josh(at)agliodbs(dot)com>,pgsql-advocacy(at)postgresql(dot)org
Subject: Re: the PostgreSQL Elephant
Date: 2004-07-15 18:14:40
Message-ID: (view raw, whole thread or download thread mbox)
Lists: pgsql-advocacy
Joshua D. Drake wrote:

> Before I get into this, please take note that I am only saying what I 
> say for the good of the project and I mean no slight against any 
> member commercial or otherwise.
> However the reality is this:
> PostgreSQL.Org and PgSQL, Inc. have some serious potential problems.
> 1. PostgreSQL the project uses the same logo as PostgreSQL, Inc.
> Note the name there. This isn't SRA, or Command Prompt who also support
> PostgreSQL. This is PostgreSQL, Inc. who also uses the same logo as 
> PostgreSQL.Org.
> If PostgreSQL, Inc. does something wrong, bad, illegal, files for 
> bankruptcy, or anything that can cause legal liability -- the project 
> could suffer.
> Try explaining to a judge that the PostgreSQL trademark, filed by 
> PostgreSQL, Inc. actually belongs to PostgreSQL.Org which is not a 
> legal entity although it was filed by PostgreSQL, Inc., but there is 
> also the PostgreSQL Advocacy 501 (pending) that also isn't the 
> PostgreSQL project
> but the papers says it is but who is PostgreSQL, Inc. again? Oh wait,
> PostgreSQL, Inc. doesn't host, or provide any resources to 
> PostgreSQL.Org, that is Hub.Org...

I understand the concern and I share it.  I do think that there are a 
number of ways around this problem, and that some of these are 
preemptive and others are reactive.

See below for my suggestions.  Understand, however, that IANAL.

> But the major shareholder of is also a major shareholder of 
> PostgreSQL, Inc. And PostgreSQL, Inc. is hosted on the same bandwidth,
> and servers and PostgreSQL.Org.
> The paper trail as they call it all leads back to PostgreSQL.Org being
> a Open Source project run, owned and operated by PostgreSQL, Inc. Even
> the products sold by PostgreSQL, Inc. on their website are all 
> PostgreSQL.Org swag and the money is processed by Hub.Org.

I think it should be possible to demonstrate that the postgreSQL 
development is done through a cooperative methodology involving 
individuals from PostgreSQL, Inc, SRA, and others.  In essence, the 
project, whose name and existance predates PostgreSQL Inc, might not be 
in so much trouble after all.

But, that doesn't prevent anyone from trying, and that could be a 
serious problem.

> If somebody went after PostgreSQL, Inc., somebody would have to prove
> that PostgreSQL.Org was not PostgreSQL, Inc. Who is going to do that
> and how are they going to do it.

I think the who question is bigger than the how question, personally, 
given the fact that the project predates the company significantly.   If 
someone sues PostgreSQL, Inc, for these things, or there is a bankrupsy 
proceeding, I don't want PostgreSQL, Inc. to be in the position of 
having to distance themselves from the project.  I think that we need to 
give serious thought to how we can stand for ourselves, and also take 
some proactive steps.

> To be frank, I think many people are being fairly naive if they think 
> that having a commercial entity that contains the exact same name, 
> controls the assets of, takes money for and who also owns the 
> trademark of the name won't cause problems.
There may be some ways around this.

> There has to be a clear distinction somehow that PostgreSQL, Inc. is 
> not PostgreSQL.Org. That distinction does not currently exist.

You are right to the extent that the distinction is not visible enough.

> I also know there is another California corporation that is 
> advertising and Postgres, Inc. as well.
> Maybe I am being sensitive, but I just got done with a huge intellectual
> property, lawyer laden pile of dung (that CMD won btw) that was 
> remarkably similar to this whole conversation.
Here are my suggestions for steps which could be done now.

PostgreSQL, Inc. could provide a blanket and irrevocable public license 
for the use of the logo and relavent trademark for promoting PostgreSQL 
software.  That way if someone comes after us, we claim that we have 

Arrangements should be made for the logo and relavent trademarks to be 
passed to the PostgreSQL Advocacy group once non-profit status is 
achieved.  License can then be granted back to them (irrevocably, etc.) 
to use the registered trademarks.  This would go a long way to show that 
the company sprang from the community rather than the other way around.  
This way, also, nobody loses out on investment in branding.  Merely the 
legal status of the trademark and logo are different.

Aside from that, we could look at transitioning to a new logo.  But that 
may not be easier for anyone in the long run.

Best Wishes,
Chris Travers
Metatron Technology Consulting

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