[Foundation] Jabber (TM)

Mike Lin mikelin at MIT.EDU
Wed Mar 6 20:24:05 CST 2002

My fellow JSFers,

In full anticipation of a chorus of loud groans, I believe the time has
come once again, now more urgently than ever before, to discuss the
difficult issue of Jabber.com, Inc.'s trademark on the Jabber name.

The past few months have been an exciting time for Jabber. Though it
might be reasonably pointed out that corporate interest has perhaps
waned somewhat in the face of harsh economic conditions, the Jabber
Software Foundation and the Jabber developer community at large has been
more vibrant and productive in the last few weeks than at any point I've
observed in the 18 months for which I've been involved with Jabber. 

Thanks to the hard work of Peter Saint-Andre and others, we finally have
a comprehensive document, seperate from the jabberd implementation, that
specifies the full syntax and semantics of the Jabber protocol. Thomas
Muldowney's exciting work with JabberStudio has been making visible
progress towards becoming a unified resource for coordinating future
development. New and emerging projects are at last moving us away from a
single-implementation model.

Moreover, there has been unprecedented progress in these past few weeks
toward the next incremental steps for the Jabber platform. The
discussions in Standards-JIG over recently proposed JEPs and other
issues have been of great merit both in their technical validity and
their interpersonal civility. I believe all involved will agree that,
largely in thanks to this recent progress, we have gained new technical
direction and have a clearer picture of what our near-term goals are.

In the coming months, we will see ratification of new technical
standards, further development and documentation of proposed or existing
standards, concrete definition of the meaning of "Jabber Powered", and,
I'm sure, hearty debate on all of the above. We will also welcome new
members into our Foundation for the first "normal" time, and we will
elect a new Jabber Council.

In short, thanks to the hard work of key individuals and the community
at large, our Foundation is growing out of its infancy and toward its
mature state as a guiding body for the Jabber developer community. We
are at a unique juncture right now, and in the next few months, where we
see rapid technical progress from many disparate individuals and
organizations that neveretheless is largely unhindered by corporate
interests. Still, we must always look toward the future, and consider
how we may best accomodate the inevitable coming of wide and varied
corporate and legal as well as technical interests.

As most of you may know, Jabber.com, Inc. owns the trademark to the name
"Jabber", which it acquired at considerable cost prior to the formation
of the Jabber Software Foundation. Though the use of the term has been
rather liberal in the open-source community, Jabber.com, Inc. has in the
past chosen to enforce its trademark in the case of private interests
attempting to use the name.

The importance of Jabber.com, Inc. to the JSF cannot be understated. In
addition to providing funding to the Foundation along with IBM and
others, Jabber.com, Inc. employs a significant majority of the key
technical and managerial personell that created and continue to create
the Jabber platform.

It is thus clearly not the case that Jabber.com, Inc. should simply
wholesale give up its ownership of the Jabber trademark, especially to
an organization that, at this point, is wholly incapable of legal
management, enforcement, or responsibility of such an entity. If
anything, Jabber.com, Inc., has been more generous than should
necessarily be expected with the use of its trademark by the community.

Last May, as the Foundation was being formed, this issue was discussed
in detail for several weeks via this same mailing list. During this
time, according to participants from Jabber.com, Inc. in the discussion,
Jabber.com, Inc. examined the issue in fair detail. At the end of the
discussion, a tacit consensus seemed to prevail that dictated that
Jabber.com, Inc. would handle the "Jabber" trademark similarly to how
Sun Microsystems handles the "Java" trademark. However, this consensus
was never agreed upon or adopted by either Jabber.com, Inc. or the JSF
in any formal manner; the issue has since rarely been mentioned.

I believe it is critically important for the future that there be a
clear and explicit understanding between Jabber.com, Inc. and the Jabber
Software Foundation, in spirit and perhaps even in legally binding
words, concerning the acceptable use of Jabber.com, Inc.'s trademark in
Foundation-sponsored, open-source, academic, and private projects.

I would therefore like to see, with the participation of Jabber.com,
Inc. and independent members of the Foundation, if we can reach
consensus on codified acceptable criteria, if any, for the use of
"Jabber" in project names, descriptions, documentation, and so forth.
In particular:

1) jabberd, JabberStudio, Jabber Enhancement Proposals, etc. are
presumably projects of the JSF. It therefore seems necessary that
Jabber.com, Inc. continue to allow the use of the term in
Foundation-sponsored projects, of which there will undoubtedly be more
in the future.
   a) What constitutes a foundation-sponsored project? If we define a
criteria for such, will Jabber.com, Inc. require its explicit approval
for each before use of its trademark
   b) Since the JSF is a separate legal entity, does this require a
legal agreement with Jabber.com, Inc.?
   c) If, in the future, the interests of Jabber.com, Inc. are not
aligned with those of the JSF, can we ensure fair arbitration when
Jabber.com, Inc. has such a valuable "chip"? This is a particularly
important question to consider, since if and when Jabber technology
enters the mainstream, Jabber.com, Inc. will begin to exercise less
influence over the JSF.
   d) If, in the very distant future, Jabber.com, Inc. were to cease to
exist, what would happen to the trademark?
2) Assuming we define a criteria for foundation-sponsored projects,
there will almost certainly be other open-source projects which the
Foundation does not sponsor. What will be Jabber.com, Inc.'s policy in
this case? Can such projects use "Jabber" in their title? How are they
required to acknowledge Jabber.com, Inc.'s ownership of the trademark?
   a) If Jabber.com, Inc. will allow use of its trademark at all by such
projects, can it codify an explicit policy for doing so? Again, will it
reserve the right to selectively disallow use of the trademark by
projects, totally at its own discretion?
3) In deciding to allow use of the Jabber trademark, will Jabber.com,
Inc. officially distinguish between general open-source projects, GPL
projects, or projects put forth by academic institutions? Are any of
these more deserving than others of use of the trademark?
4) How will Jabber.com, Inc. address the legitimate concerns of private
interests that may hesitate to commit to Jabber technology in the face
of an ambiguous legal situation?
   a) Will Jabber.com, Inc. license the use of the term to any private
interests at all? Again, will it do so as it pleases, or according to
some consistent standard? Does this require an explicit legal agreement?

These are difficult issues, but I believe it is immensely important to
have a clear and unambiguous understanding that both Jabber.com, Inc.
and the JSF can refer to publicly, even if that understanding leaves
most or all of the control of the trademark in the hands of Jabber.com,
Inc. Thus, what I am advocating is not necessarily any transfer of
control, but rather a relief from the current condition of ambiguity
surrounding exactly how the trademark may be used, given that
Jabber.com, Inc. has evidently chosen to allow use of the trademark in
some cases.

At the end of the discussion, then, I would very much like to see a
point-by-point document that clearly defines Jabber.com, Inc.'s policy,
which can be posted as a notice to all prospective members of the Jabber
developer community.

Thank you for your time.

Mike Lin
Jabber Council
mikelin at mit

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