Codeweaver's Chromium a trademark lawsuit waiting to happen? CORRECTION

Google needs to nip the "Chromium" trademark violation in the bud.

Correction: Jeremy White of Codeweavers emailed me to let me know that I'm very confused on this.:

Chromium isn't my name; it's Googles, and it's their open source project. They distribute bundles with explicit permission to use both source and binaries in those bundles. (In an irony, in fact, they accidentally messed up and included Chrome trademarks in a bundle that they gave permission to use, so we had to strip those out and replace them with Chromium branding).

Based on a range of posts I saw on the web this morning, which conflated Chromium with Codeweavers that it's not surprising that I was confused. Mea culpa, and sincere apologies to Jeremy and the Codeweaver gang.


Codeweavers, the company behind WINE which enables Windows applications to run on Linux, has done it again. WINE was voted a finalist in Sourceforge's Community Awards earlier this year, earning the dubious distinction of one of the open-source projects "Most Likely to Be Ambiguously and Baselessly Accused of Patent Violation."

This may be true where patents are concerned, but I think Google would have a pretty good trademark claim against Codeweavers right now.

In this case, Codeweavers has made it possible to run the Google Chrome browser on Mac OS X and Linux, and called it "Chromium." As Codeweavers founder and CEO, Jeremy White, notes on his blog, Codeweavers was "looking for a way to show off Wine's new maturity, particularly for porting applications."

Great, right? Yes, except for the name. Chromium has the potential to confuse would-be users as to the source of this cross-platform instantiation of Google Chrome.

United States trademark law is pretty clear on this point:

The standard is "likelihood of confusion." To be more specific, the use of a trademark in connection with the sale of a good constitutes infringement if it is likely to cause consumer confusion as to the source of those goods or as to the sponsorship or approval of such goods. In deciding whether consumers are likely to be confused, the courts will typically look to a number of factors, including: (1) the strength of the mark; (2) the proximity of the goods; (3) the similarity of the marks; (4) evidence of actual confusion; (5) the similarity of marketing channels used; (6) the degree of caution exercised by the typical purchaser; (7) the defendant's intent.

On the chance of confusion, well, let's just say that I already made that mistake yesterday in a post on Chrome . I hadn't yet learned about Codeweavers and Chromium, so when I saw a reference to "Chromium authors" I assumed this somehow referred to Google. I was, of course, wrong, but it points to the problem with Codeweavers choice of name.

I doubt that Google will bring a trademark-infringement suit against Codeweavers, given Google's own work with WINE. But if I were in Google's shoes, I'd ask for a name change. The name "Chromium" is too similar, too proximate, and too likely to cause confusion to be productive for Google.

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About the author

    Matt Asay is chief operating officer at Canonical, the company behind the Ubuntu Linux operating system. Prior to Canonical, Matt was general manager of the Americas division and vice president of business development at Alfresco, an open-source applications company. Matt brings a decade of in-the-trenches open-source business and legal experience to The Open Road, with an emphasis on emerging open-source business strategies and opportunities. He is a member of the CNET Blog Network and is not an employee of CNET. You can follow Matt on Twitter @mjasay.

     

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