Thursday, March 15, 2007

A peek into Sun's Open Source Approval Process, with a Trademark Tidbit to Boot

Tim Bray gives us a peek into Sun's internal Open Source Review process. Tim wrote some code he called the Atom Protocol Exerciser, or APE for short. He wanted to release it, but he had to go through Sun's approval process first.

There are a bunch of steps. You have to get approval from your own management chain up to the nearest Vice-President. Along the way, you need sign-off from Brand Management, Trademark Legal, and International Trade Legal (export-control regulations are a cross big companies like Sun have to bear).

And here's the trademark tidbit:

The one that was the most work was the Trademark piece. You just can’t assert “I’ll call this Foobar” and publish the code; lots of good names are taken and if you work for a public company, you really don’t want to accidentally step on someone else’s trademark with your coolio project name because if you do, they’re gonna call their attorneys first thing.

I actually wanted the trademark people to check out both “Atom Protocol Exerciser” and “Ape”; they told me in the politest possible way that this costs real money and real time so would I please bloody well pick one; fair enough. *** Checking out names takes time—a couple of weeks in my case—that’s just a fact of life.

There you have it. Clearing trademarks costs real money and real time. But if you don't take that step, Tim properly states that the first person the owner of the mark you infringe is going to call is their attorney.

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