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Google launches open source trademark initiative

The Open Usage Commons to help open source projects assert and manage their project identity

Google is launching a programme to help protect the identity of open source projects with trademark management. 

The Open Usage Commons, developed in collaboration with academic leaders, independent contributors, and SADA Systems, is an organisation focused on extending the philosophy and definition of open source to project trademarks. 

Trademarks are an important but complicated philosophy of open source, according to Google. With the Open Usage Commons, the company wants to help open source projects assert and manage their project identity through programmes specific to trademark management and conformance testing.

By creating independent ownership for trademarks, it gives contributors and consumers peace of mind regarding their use of project names in a fair and transparent way, according to Google.

"One of the places we've historically seen projects stumble is in managing their trademarks - their project's name and logo," said Chris DiBona, director of open source at Google.

"How project trademarks are used is different from how their code is used, as trademarks are a method of quality assurance. This includes the assurance that the code in question has an open source licence. 

"When trademarks are properly managed, project maintainers can define their identity, provide assurances to downstream users of the quality of their offering, and give others in the community certainty about the free and fair use of the brand." 

Google said it had learned "what works well, what doesn't" from its 20-years of contributions and community collaboration in open source. The company said that understanding and managing trademarks was critical for the long-term sustainability of projects, particularly as there is an increasing number of enterprise products based on open source

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