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Fedora, Mozilla, and trademarks

May 09, 2010, 12:03 (4 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by Jake Edge)

"Trademarks and free software can make a volatile mix. It is understandable that a project would want to ensure that code shipping under its name is "the real McCoy", but modifying the source and distributing the result is a hallmark of free software. Trademark policy can place limits on what changes—for bugs, features, or even policy compliance—downstream projects can make and still use the trademarked names. The tension between the two has led some, like Debian, to re-brand Mozilla projects, so that they can ship the changes they want; some Fedora developers would like to see that distribution follow suit.

"A Thunderbird crashing bug, reported by Felix Schwarz to the fedora-devel mailing list, is the proximate cause for the current controversy. Numerous Fedora users were running into the bug, and it had been patched upstream for several weeks, but there had been no release of Thunderbird for Fedora to fix the problem. Schwarz reported that the patch fixed the crash for him and others, and asked that it be pushed out: "However it is still not fixed in Thunderbird F-12 CVS. Can you please push the fix to CVS and push builds to testing/stable?"

"Martin Stransky, one of the Fedora Mozilla maintainers, noted that "we're patching mozilla packages only for really critical issues because of mozilla trademarks", which caused concern that the trademarks were causing Fedora to ship a buggy Thunderbird. While the patch was available in the upstream repository, it hadn't been merged into the branch for the next release. Stransky said that he had requested that the next Thunderbird release include the fix in Mozilla's bugzilla entry, but that wasn't sufficient for some."

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