The Drupal trademark policy was launched officially about 11 months ago. As explained in my blog post on the Drupal trademark policy, the purpose of the policy is to create a level playing field for all. It allows everyone to use the trademark without administrative hassle, while at the same time keeping some control and oversight to avoid dilution and misuse. For example, we all know the scarcity of cool domain names, and how frustrating it can be for a local Drupal user group to find that their domain name has already been taken by a commercial entity. The trademark policy seeks to resolve this problem.

Now one year later, there have been some interesting results from the trademark policy. So far, I have received 89 serious trademark queries. Twenty-three of these resulted in a license being granted because the requested use was intended completely to foster Drupal software. For example, there was a request for the name Drupal to be used in the title of a Drupal camp. There were other requests for the name to be include in non-commercial modules. These are all acceptable and good uses of the trademark.

In 32 other trademark usage requests, a formal license contract was required. Among the formal licenses, so far only four contracts have actually resulted in the payment of the administrative license fee. Although the fee is quite reasonable (i.e., 600 euros for clearly commercial use; 300 euros for mixed use), many correspondents ultimately changed their plan in order to avoid the administrative fee. In quite a few other cases where a formal contract was imposed but the intended use was clearly not commercial, no administrative fee was requested. These were typically requests from local Drupal groups.

Finally, there were several trademark usage requests that were rejected simply because they would endanger the level playing field due to their monopolizing nature. Examples of this include domain names like drupalhosting.xyz or drupalthemes.xyz.

I hope everyone can see that the trademark policy is not a money printing machine for me. In fact, it's the opposite. I have paid personally for the creation of the policy and the cost of responding to trademark usage requests. The balance between costs and income is quite skewed out of my favor, although the amount of payments seems to be increasing.

Nevertheless, I am happy with the results so far. I've learned a great deal in the process, and, despite a few unsupportive comments from some, the reactions I have received overall have been positive. In fact, the most common reaction is that, although they understand why they need to pay the administrative fee and why they cannot use a monopolizing domain name, they cannot understand why numerous websites seem to get away with trademark infringements.

This reaction is understandable, of course. Remember, though, that the trademark policy is still quite new. I trust that most members of the Drupal community will comply voluntarily with the policy. So far there hasn't been a need to be a lot more vigorous in ensuring compliance with the trademark policy. There have only been a few difficult people or organizations that have attempted to infringe on the policy, requiring me to become more stern at times.

As expected when we first announced this policy, there were some comments on the actual content of the policy. My lawyers are now in the process of preparing a slightly updated version of the policy. So if you have any suggestions on improvements, please share them with us. For now, though, I'm quite pleased at the results of our first 11 months of having a trademark policy.

Comments

greggles (not verified):

Thanks for the update and call for input, Dries.

I'm extremely thankful for the time, effort, thought, and certainly money that you have put into the trademark policy.

One thing I think would be good is some public review of the use of the trademark. For example, as an outsider I have no idea if a particular company has received a trademark for their use or what the terms of that trademark are. I don't expect to know specifics of the contract, but do think it would be appropriate to state "These organizations have a license to use the trademark for commercial purposes, these organizations have requested a non-commercial use, etc."

In particular I happen to be curious about the case of http://www.drupalconnect.com which is the rebirth of http://www.drupalstaffing.com/

greggles (not verified):

Two things to be clear on:

I'm not suggesting any sort of community input into the process of approving specific people. I want visibility *after* the decision has been made.

Also, I feel pretty certain that DrupalConnect.com has paid the administrative license. I raise them since they are a prominent example and a case where I, as an outsider, have no way of knowing if they have permission to use the trademark.

Dries:

Maintaining a list of all approved (and paid commercial) licenses is a great idea, greggles. I'll get that going.

Alex Jarvis (not verified):

I agree with greggles that it would be very helpful to have an authoritative directory of accepted trademark applications. However, I also think it would be worth listing declined applications as well, along with a brief explanation. A big part of the stress about the trademark policy within the community seems to stem from two factors: not understanding the policy and/or feeling that it isn't being applied uniformly. By showing both the approved and rejected applications it would help clear up both points of confusion.

Also, like greggles I'd also like to thank you for the hard work you've been doing on the trademark front Dries. It's not a fun thing to deal with, but it is important for Drupal moving forward.

Dries:

Sharing the rejected applications in addition to accepted applications makes sense. Good idea.

Caleb G (not verified):

It's not the end of the world for me, but outside of whatever things you'd personally like to use the trademark for, I'd rather see an end to commercial use licenses altogether. It's obviously your prerogative, but they leave a bad taste in my mouth.

All other things being equal, a site's domain seems to be exponentially favored by Google as the single most important element on a given page, far above, say, even the page title. A real life example of this weighting; approximately a year and a half ago, someone published a site named "drupaldeveloper.com" - it was a single coming-soon-page done with an unaltered Garland theme, and it ranked #1 for Google searches on "Drupal Developer" (!). It was clear that site was not operating with your blessing, but the SEO lesson remains.

So for me what is objectionable is that someone can significantly buy their way up the search results for money rather than contributions (or by at least having to play on the same SEO field as the rest of the crowd).

Caleb G (not verified):

To clarify/add-to my earlier statement - there is the idea that letting someone pay their way into a competitive brand-association and/or SEO advantage is 'fair or unfair'. The merits of 'fairness' can be argued either way.

What I believe is inarguable and relevant to an open source project, is that by licensing the Drupal name there becomes a change in orientation toward Drupal by those who consider contributing/promoting it. That is to say that I believe a fair number of people act differently when promoting/contributing to something they perceive as purely altruistic/non-profit vs something they know is not.

Anonymous (not verified):

You say: "the purpose of the policy is to create a level playing field for all… there were several trademark usage requests that were rejected simply because they would endanger the level playing field due to their monopolizing nature. Examples of this include domain names like drupalhosting.xyz or drupalthemes.xyz."

I believe in this. I'm glad that's your policy.

But then, how does the use of the name "Drupal Gardens" for your own commercial ventured-backed business follow this policy? You are competing directly with Buzzr (who started their project first), and have a tremendous advantage by making it seem like Drupal Gardens is an official Drupal project, while theirs is not.

You are keeping a level playing field for everyone but yourself.

Dries:

Please read the Drupal trademark policy before making incorrect statements.

It is allowed to use the name 'Drupal' for commercial purposes as long it complies with the Drupal trademark policy, and as long as you obtain a commercial license. The name 'Drupal Gardens' does not violate the trademark policy and Acquia has a commercial license.

Various other commercial organizations, like 'Drupal Connect' (see above), have been granted a commercial license. I'll work with the lawyers to provide a list of commercial organizations that use the name 'Drupal' -- additional transparency can help debunk this myth.

If Buzzr wants to use the name 'Drupal' in their project, and rebrand to 'Drupal Buzzr', they can obtain a commercial license too. However to the best of my knowledge, Buzzr never applied for a license.

Ed Sussman (not verified):

Hi Dries,

You are correct. Buzzr has not applied for use of the name Drupal. We are a Drupal-powered project, but our mission is broader than just serving the Drupal community. We want to enable ordinary people to create powerful websites with many of the features most popular in Drupal.

We are enabling sites to be exportable in native Drupal, and we think we'll be a useful service for a sector of the Drupal community. But most our target audience is unaware of the Drupal project and just want a great website. We'll be out of beta pretty soon -- I hope by the end of the summer.

Even though we don't need to rely on Drupal for our mark, I do have a suggestion regarding the Drupal Trademark policy. The policy and its rationale are very solid. But it would be better if the arbiter of usage was a non-profit such as the Drupal Association. This would assure that you could pursue projects such as Drupal Gardens, where you use the mark for your commercial purposes, without appearing to be favoring yourself, or blocking other from competing with you. It's just about appearances. I take you at your word that your are granting reasonable commercial license and it doesn't matter if the licensee competes with you. But since this is at your discretion, rather than required via a non-profit charter, there's some lingering suspicion.

And, of course, trademarks are property. So long as you own it as an individual, the possibility remains that you could sell it, or it could be inherited by a member of your family. The new owner could revoke all the licenses you granted -- which is why some companies with a longer view might be hesitant to build their business identity around a license that could be revoked. Perhaps if you offered licenses in perpetuity, subject to revocation only for disparaging or forking Drupal, this objection might be overcome.

Why not due away with the long-term uncertainty and appearance of possible conflict of interest by setting up a non-profit to administer the mark? Or letting the Drupal Association do it? Seems like the mark is producing enough income that a non-profit could afford an attorney to administer the requests.

In short, no need to alter the policy, in my opinion. Or how you've been enforcing it. But I'd consider turning over the mark to a non-profit without any commercial agenda and a mandate to promote the growth of Drupal. If you did this, I think it would be easier for more Drupal companies to get institutional backing, such as VC funding or strategic investment by large tech companies.

Cheers,

Ed Sussman
CEO and co-founder of Buzzr.com

jponch (not verified):

I've also been a bit confused as to how the trademark works in terms of more "creative" names like Drupal Gardens. What I've assumed is that if Drupal Gardens had been called "Drupal Instant Sites" or something of that nature that it could not have operated within the trademark policy because there may be other vendors in the space that do Drupal sites that are instant? However, by choosing a more "creative" name like Gardens it therefore can use Drupal in it's name. Is this correct? So another company would be free to make a very similar product to Drupal Gardens and call it Drupal Sky and another Drupal Cloud . . . oh wait, there may be cloud services surrounding Drupal and therefore Cloud couldn't be used by anyone probably. Is that an accurate way of describing how the policy works regarding monopolizing a space?

Also, this is the first place I've ever seen the price listed for acquiring a commercial license, so it might be a good idea to add that information to the page on drupal.com where the trademark policy is posted as well. When you read the trademark policy on drupal.com and click the "Apply for a license" link you're left with little idea of how the process will work or what it will cost.

Dries:

The details are in the Drupal trademark policy but it more or less boils down to the following (minus some important details) ...

We won't grant a commercial license to use the word 'Drupal' in a domain name that covers a category of products or services. Examples of domain names that will never be allowed: drupal-hosting.com, drupal-support.be, drupal-services.net or drupalstaffing.com. Clearly, these domain names create a competitive advantage that is unfair to other organizations that provide similar services.

However, we do grant commercial licenses to use the word 'Drupal' as part of a domain name when it does not span a category of products or services. Drupal Gardens is a good example. Other domain names that would be eligible for a commercial license would be: drupalconnect.com, drupalradar.com, hotdrupal.com, drupal-oceans.com, etc.

Gilles Bailleux (not verified):

Dries,
There is a famous cybersquatting case, drupal.fr, which lasts for three years. If you could send a ping to one of your lawyers about that, it would be really cool...
Gilles

Dries:

We're already tracking drupal.fr and have reached out to the owner.

Sean Bannister (not verified):

What a coincidence, all those sites happen to be Australian and you posted as anonymous. If your going to "out" people at least be a true Aussie and have the balls to own up to it :)

Kevin (not verified):

Thanks for updates Dries. I have talked to a number of people in the past year who were misinformed on the nature of the Drupal trademark and thus it is awesome to get more info out there.

However, [art of holding a trademark is enforcing it. I hope that some of the money from the administrative licenses go towards enforcing the license. It seems too often in Drupal land that we want to close our eyes to the fact that yes, there are bad people out there, who wish to misuse the Drupal name in order to mislead people for profit.

Also, +1 to Greg's suggestion of an open list of license holders.