Tech Industry

JBoss denies running a trademark monopoly

This is open source, not open brand, chief executive Marc Fleury says. Company also denies that accuser is a JBoss co-founder.

BARCELONA, Spain--JBoss has been accused of using its trademark to create a monopoly, but the company insists that it is merely protecting its brand.

Rickard Oberg, who claims to be a co-founder of JBoss, said in a blog last week that JBoss' trademark policy contradicts the open-source ideology.

"The use of trademarks, which, in the case of 'JBoss,' covers both the product and any related services, to stifle competition is a practice which very much defeats the purpose of open source and FOSS (free and open-source software), and is designed to create a monopoly situation whereby only JBoss Inc. and partners can offer such services, coupled with a pricing strategy that is quite aggressive and far from 'free,'" Oberg wrote.

But Marc Fleury, co-founder and chief executive of JBoss, denied that its trademark policy prevents companies from offering support around open-source products covered by the JBoss trademark.

"We're not talking about open brand here, this is open source. Companies can say they offer training and consulting for JBoss. What they cannot do is use the JBoss trademark in their brand name. A lot of people offer support for JBoss without being a partner," said Fleury, during an interview at the JBoss World conference here Monday.

Sacha Labourey, JBoss' European general manager, said it is important to protect the JBoss brand name so that it is seen as a high-quality brand, with training, consulting and support being carried out to specific standards.

"We don't want anarchy around the JBoss brand," Labourey said. "Every company needs to protect its brand--if Coca-Cola doesn't protect its brand and you buy a terrible beverage called Coca-Cola, will you buy it again?"

Labourey also denied that Oberg is a co-founder of JBoss. He said Oberg was Fleury's first employee when he founded a company called Telkel, which was later shut down. When Fleury later started JBoss, Oberg was no longer involved, according to Labourey.

This is not the first time that the use of trademarks to protect the name of an open-source product has been criticized. Earlier this year, a lawyer acting on behalf of Linus Torvalds wrote to 90 companies in Australia, asking them to relinquish any legal claim to the name Linux and to purchase a license from the Linux Mark Institute, a nonprofit organization that licenses the Linux trademark.

Companies were asked to pay between $200 and $5,000 to sublicense the Linux trademark, which led some in the open-source community to accuse Torvalds of cashing in on the success of Linux.

IP Australia later ruled that "Linux" was not distinctive enough to be trademarked.

Ingrid Marson of ZDNet UK reported from Barcelona, Spain.