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Bob Young -- Regarding Amazon's concerns over fake Red Hat products

Sep 02, 1999, 16:49 (20 Talkback[s])

[ Bob Young, CEO of Red Hat, has written in regarding the latest Amazon story. ]

Bob Young writes:

Red Hat received a call last week from Amazon.com. They were getting complaints from Amazon customers who had purchased products through Amazon's auction site from sellers they believed to be selling products from Red Hat Inc. These products turned out to be CD-ROMS that consisted of free ftp downloads of Red Hat Linux, produced by independent vendors.

In order to avoid confusion and to protect our trademarks we explained our trademark policies to the Amazon staff. This is simply that you may download and resell Red Hat Linux. You should not, however, attempt intentionally or otherwise, to confuse buyers into thinking they were buying Official Red Hat Inc. products.

So we request that independent vendors call their product something other than Red Hat, and not use our trademarks or logos. They may -describe- their product as containing Red Hat Linux, but the product itself must have another name.

All of the reputable vendors of low-cost CD-ROMS that contain free ftp downloaded versions of Red Hat Linux follow this policy without our even requesting it. The current problem has arisen because of the large number of new, sometimes-less-than reputable suppliers who are using retail outlets like Amazon.com's auction site to trick customers into believing they were getting Official Red Hat Linux from Red Hat Inc. at a bargain price when in fact they were getting a cheap knock-off product.

Red Hat depends on the open source software development model, and our customers rely on Red Hat Inc. to supply the benefits of this open source model to them. For this reason we publish every line of code we write under open source licenses, in effect we do not own any proprietary software. But we do own our trademarks.

The purpose of trademark law is to enable vendors to identify their products for their customers. If anyone could call their ketchup "Heinz Ketchup" consumers would have no idea when they were buying the product from the Heinz company, and when they were buying a cheap knock-off.

The way trademark law works is that if you do not police your trademarks, if you allow anyone to use those trademarks without permission, then you will eventually lose control over those trademarks. So we grant permission to use our trademarked names generously to those who ask permission, and we will continue to insist that others do not use our trademarks without permission or in ways that confuse our customers and the marketplace.

This is the problem that Amazon.com wanted us to help them address for their customers. And it is the reason we will continue to enforce our trademarks whenever and wherever anyone attempts to infringe on them.

Cheers, Bob.

ps. The term Red Hat Linux GPL is neither a sanctioned term by Red Hat, nor is it accurate - a significant amount of the code in Red Hat Linux is licensed under BSD, Artistic, X, NPL, and other open source licenses.

Related Story:
Red Hat Allegedly puts Foot Down on Trademarked Brand Name (Sep 02, 1999)