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When software is free, but you still can't use it - Let's GPL trademark law!

Neil McGovern

Patents, copyright and trademarks are sometimes conflated, and can all limit your freedoms to control your computing and lives. For right, we have an answer - copyleft. Patents are being fought on a number of fronts, and work continues. However, trademarks can also seriously hinder progress as well.

Due to some specific clauses in the implementation of trademarks, it's hard to allow people to use the 'brand' without the potential for losing it. We need an easy and understood way of bringing the freedoms the GPL ensures to this third leg of intellectual property law.

This talk sets out the background and problems with trademark implementation, how it's being (mis)used, and thoughts for what we need in the future.


8 years, 3 months ago

Tagged with

LibrePlanet 2016 video · LibrePlanet 2016 · LibrePlanet · lp2016 · video

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When software is free, but you still can't use it: Let's GPL trademark law! (libreplanet) · LibrePlanet 2016 Videos (libreplanet)


CC BY-SA 4.0


This talk was presented at LibrePlanet.


LibrePlanet is the Free Software Foundation's annual conference. The FSF campaigns for free/libre software, meaning it respects users' freedom and community. We believe that users are entitled to this; all software should be free.


We do not advocate "open source".

That term was coined to reject our views. It refers to similar practices, but usually presented solely as advantageous, without talking of right and wrong.


Richard Stallman launched the free software movement in 1983 by announcing development of the free operating system, GNU. By 1992, GNU was nearly operational; one major essential component was lacking, the kernel.


In 1992, Torvalds freed the kernel Linux, which filled the last gap in GNU. Since then, the combined GNU/Linux system has run in millions of computers. Nowadays you can buy a new computer with a totally free GNU/Linux system preinstalled.


The views of the speaker may not represent the Free Software Foundation. The Foundation supports the free software cause and freedom to share, and basic freedoms in the digital domain, but has no position on other political issues.