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Bob Young — Regarding Amazon’s concerns over fake Red Hat products

[ 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)