On its face, a lawsuit brought on behalf of Adobe to force the
KOffice project to change the name of killustrator to something
sounding less like Adobe's own vector drawing software may sound
like an invitation to once again revisit worn rants about the
harmfulness of intellectual property. Dennis E. Powell argues that
seeing as how even the GPL depends on it, the real issue isn't with
the existence of intellectual property, but with the execution of
intellectual property laws. This area of the law is one we choose
to scorn and ignore at our own peril, and it's time, says Powell,
for cool heads to step to the plate:
"...warfare comes less and less in the form of people
with guns and submarines and cannon killing each other and breaking
their stuff. Today's battles are increasingly economic ones. Like
the battles of old, the combatants play for advantage, choosing the
battlefield where they have the best chance of winning. Those
battlefields are determined by venue shopping, in the case of
class-action lawsuits, and by, now, country shopping, as in the
case of Adobe v. KDE.
Under the current German system of laws (called, one might think
from this case, Reich 3.1), lawyers get to bring what amounts to
suit against people in behalf of people who have not authorized
them to do so. They then get to bill not the plaintiff but the
defendant for their efforts.
We've had a German lawyer employ German law to enforce the
American trademark of an American company. The company, which named
itself after the chief ingredient of many of the world's finer mud
huts, has trademarked the perfectly ordinary word "illustrator,"
perhaps in the belief that this will give it some advantage against
the vastly superior Corel DRAW!.
The victim of this collection of absurdities -- a/k/a the
defendant -- is a German university, on whose web page appeared
information connected with KIllustrator, the vector graphics
program that is part of KOffice, the KDE office suite.
It's obvious that we can criticize Adobe for filing for a
trademark that is ridiculous, and the U.S. government for granting
it, and Germany for having ridiculous laws as to the enforcement of
trademarks, and the whole system in which a word constitutes
To stop there would be to miss the point, and it's a point to
which all of us to whom Linux matters would do well to focus upon.
The title of this section is in quotation marks because it is
exactly the kind of response that does no good, yet to which it's
easy to be drawn."