Wednesday, March 21, 2007
RedHat, Inc: The Next Microsoft?

Think that RedHat is still the open source capital of the Internet, all happy-happy-joy-joy with its supporters and liberal-minded in its goals? Take a look at this and tell me if your mind isn't changed a little:

Enclosed is a copy of the form letter they sent out to many companies that offer Hibernate consulting and training. 

Dear Sir or Madam: 

Red Hat, Inc. has become aware that your company is offering Hibernate training courses. Red Hat does not allow the use of its trademarks without a written agreement. 

Red Hat is the owner of numerous trademarks, including but not limited to, its Hibernate mark, U.S. Federal Registration Number 3135582. RedHat has made extensive use of its Hibernate marks in interstate and international commerce in connection with the advertising, promotion, and sale of its goods and services. Due widespread use, advertising and extensive marketing, the RedHat marks have become famous. 

Red Hat requests that you immediately cease offering Hibernate branded training, as well as any other training that may contain Red Hat marks 
or marks that are confusingly similar. Although you may offer object 
oriented relational database mapping training, you may not use the Hibernate name to promote and advertise your products and services. 

We trust you will understand Red Hat's interest in protecting its valuable intellectual property and ensuring that consumers are not misled as to the source and sponsorship of goods and services sold and/or distributed under the RED HAT marks. We trust this matter can be resolved promptly and amicably and appreciate your attention to this matter. 

We look forward to your reply and request a response no later than {WITHHELD}. 


Meredith K. Robertson 
Legal Specialist 
Red Hat, Inc. 

Folks, RedHat has officially moved into the "Big Corporate Entity Seeking Profit At Any Expense" category. So much for the Open-Source-Can-Really-Make-Money-Too-We-Swear poster child, if you ask me...

UPDATE: Apparently, people at eWeek and Yahoo! News posted articles referencing this entry, so let me post some responses to the comments sent in.

First, I don't think this issue is about copyright law whatsoever or IP issues; it's a deeper, more fundamental issue than that. We can certainly argue whether "Hibernate" is a trademarked name or a generic name (such as the discussion over "Kleenex" or the act of copying a paper known as "Xeroxing" it), but that's not the interesting point here either--the point is that RedHat somehow feels that the use of the term "Hibernate" in Bill Dudney's training curriculum is somehow going to imply that Bill has received special blessing from RedHat to do so. Does that mean, then, that I need special blesing from Sun in order to offer "Java" training, or special blessing from Microsoft to offer ".NET" training? If that's the case, then there are a lot of training companies who'd better pull their training courses off the shelf and rethink offering training at all, because there's some serious copyright violations going on out there.

Besides, I thought OSS was a reaction against copyright law.

There's the deeper issue, too, of RedHat's heavy-handedness in this: why is it that companies continually feel that the best way to start these discussions is with cease-and-desist letters? It's pathetic when a corporation like Sun does this (as I went through with my small riff with them over ""), but even more so when an open-source company--who for years has proudly proclaimed their allegiance to "the community" and paraded it around as a compelling reason over commercial "evil corporation" solutions like Solaris or Windows or HP-UX--takes the same path.

I like the OSS stack, and when I write something that's worth putting into play, I will do so. (Arguably, I've already done so--the Java attributes facility I wrote years ago before JSR 175 and JDK 5 shipped was finished by Mark Pollack and used in several OSS projecs, but I call that more Mark's work than my own.) But it's time that we start making the critical realization that an industry cannot rest on the backs of volunteer work. And I, for one, do not want this industry to surrender its commercial aspects; I cannot pay for my house with "community spirit", and frankly, I don't want to give up doing what I love (writing software, and teaching others how to do the same) just because of an idea proposed by a guy who now makes his living from delivering keynotes and ranting about the evils of closed-source. I submit that Stallman would sing a different tune were he in fact still a working programmer with a mortgage and a family to feed.

If RedHat continues with this, they will simply demonstrate that they are, in fact, no better than any of the other "evil corporations", that they are in fact first and foremost concerned with turning a profit. And maybe that's not a bad thing in the long run. I'm certain the employees at RedHat are no more evil than anybody who works at Microsoft or Sun or Oracle. I'm certain RedHat is just as concerned with their image and their standing in the community as those other companies. I'm also certain that, at the end of the day, the people who work at RedHat want to make money doing what they love, just as I and thousands--if not millions--of other programmers do. Why do we think it's wrong for them to do so?

RedHat, you are under no obligation to retract your C-and-D letters. You are perfectly justified in defending your copyright and trademark. But it definitely puts a crimp on the socialistic tendencies that come out of the mouths of the most virulent OSS evangelist for you to do so, and almost puts the whole open-source argument into a strange discussion where now we're just arguing over the quality of the code and the costs... which is maybe where the argument should have been from the beginning, not over "free as in speech" or "free as in beer".

Thursday, March 22, 2007 1:41:48 AM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
What a sad day within the open source community, I live in the microsoft world and Hibernate of all things symbolizes open source. Bad Red Hat!
Thursday, March 22, 2007 9:28:14 AM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
If you would actually read the comments on that blog you would see that the letter is misinterpreted since it was out of context, and it was admitted by Red Hat legal that it could have been more clear. It was also explained that this applied to service marks, and also showed how you can legally refer to the product and not the service. Example: Hibernate(R) ORM Training.
Jason Greene
Thursday, March 22, 2007 8:06:04 PM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
Welcome to the FUD blog !
Austin Powers
Friday, March 23, 2007 7:07:33 AM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
This is silly.

Red Hat has trademarks. This is one of them. Just like you couldn't name this website "Fox Tech News" or something similar you can't offer training that uses TRADEMARKS inside of them.

Using your logic, Mozilla is a huge evil company now too because of their trademarks not being used in Debian.

Now I'm all for stopping a Microsoftian-type action in any company...but this is pure FUD toward Red's interesting that if you think this is wrong of Red Hat to do, you think it's ok to call your service their trademarked name...but what happens to their customers? Their customers get confused because 90 different people offer hibernation(tm) training then who is the authorized one? To dispel confusion, it is their right to protect trademark. IP is a different is copyright.
Friday, March 23, 2007 7:38:11 AM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
actually, red hat is legally REQUIRED to protect trademarks...if they don't they LOSE the trademark and the right to exclusively use it. this is standard business practice because of US laws not because of monopolistc behavior.

Is Ted Nedwards the next microsoft employee??? He has all the characteristics of one because he makes stuff up and then pretends they are right. usually against open source. This is called FUD. please go get a clue.
Friday, March 23, 2007 9:27:15 AM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
I'd recommend a brushing up on your understanding of IP law. Red Hat is REQUIRED to send you that letter once they are put on notice you are using their mark. Trademark owners have a proactive duty to enforce their trademarks or they can lose their rights to them. The same issue applies to the trademark "Linux" and so you can't put "Linux" in a product name without permission from the trademark owner.

This has nothing to do with being open source or "not evil" and certainly is not specific to Red Hat. Most trademark owners outsource to trademark companies the proactive enforcement of defending their trademarks b/c it can be difficult - especially in a global environment.

Please consult an attorney in the future to understand the legal reasons behind the letter before posting something like this in the future.
Saturday, March 24, 2007 7:49:18 AM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
OK, first point is I am disgusted with the other people who have posted insulting and aggressive comments. This is plain rude, and does nothing to further real discussion.

With that out of the way, I'd like to comment on the issue at hand. The letter from Red Hat is nonsense - you should be perfectly at liberty to offer training courses using the name of the product so long as your are not representing your product as theirs. Now, I am not totally sure about the motivation behind the letter, but I would be willing to believe that Red Hat really meant they want to prevent people misrepresenting things - which is vital to a company that allows people access to their code.

This is a discussion that is important - how much should Red Hat do to protect their copyright? At what point are they being overzealous?
Sunday, March 25, 2007 3:36:49 AM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
What I understand about the letter is that those training courses should have used the (R) special character and, on a footnote, specify that Hibernate is a product trademark owned by Red Hat Inc.
Sunday, March 25, 2007 5:10:56 AM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
Have you seen the follow up eWeek article?,1895,2107174,00.asp

Really, does your tune change at all when you can promote:

Hibernate(r) Object Relational Mapping Training?

What's so bad about making it clear that you are not associated with Red Hat in any way? Seriously, I'm curious to your thoughts.

Trademark is the cornerstone of an open source business. Without successful open source businesses, the software industry is going to go back to business as usual and Oracle and Microsoft will breathe a sigh of relief. Attacking an open source company's use of trademark is counterproductive to the open source movement, IMO.
Bill Burke
Monday, March 26, 2007 7:43:29 AM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
what a bunch of FUD aimed at Red Hat. Ted Neward: The Next Microsoft Employee.
Monday, March 26, 2007 11:24:43 AM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)

1. You (like many "programmers with a mortgage and a family to feed") owe a LOT to open source projects (including RedHat/JBoss-backed ones), from the ability to learn from open source code, to the ability to allow your customers to use them (and give *you* their money for your services instead).

2. OSS has NEVER been against Copyright law. To the contrary, it strongly depends on it (otherwise, the GPL wouldn't exist)

3. What's wrong with "a guy who now makes his living from delivering keynotes and ranting about the evils of closed-source" ? Aren't you doing the EXACT same thing ? (just with different rants)?

Tuesday, March 27, 2007 9:17:30 PM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
Of course Bill Burke has to comment here. Yes, copyright is the cornerstone of the people behind open-source that screw over the rest of its developers and making bug bucks with it.

Originally the trademark was obtained in order to prevent commercial companies from taking over the name used by a open-source project but lately this has turned around so that you can finally sell an open-source project at least the one that owns it.

Finally I have to admit that the Apache model is a better model for open-source that the JBoss etc. model because it prevents a single person from screwing over the rest.

I am wondering if all authors of Hibernate books are getting a C-and-D letter as well because they use the work Hibernate zillion times.

Unfortunately this incident is nothing new because when Marc Fleury was running the show this type of letters were sent out as well. Maybe even noting that I worked on the JBoss projects is violating their trademark, isn't.

Friday, March 30, 2007 10:27:16 AM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
Having no clue about trademarks I had to look it up on Wikipedia. In doing so there was a section on "Maintaining trademark rights — abandonment and genericide" to which I felt proper to append this moment in history
Matt Cox
Tuesday, April 10, 2007 3:21:29 PM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
"If RedHat continues with this, they will simply demonstrate that they are, in fact, no better than any of the other "evil corporations".

Well, for one, protecting one's trademark is not evil. Red Hat, just as much as any corporation or entity, has the right to protect it's trademark.

Also, if you are referring to MS, or perhaps Oracle, when saying RH is no better then other "evil corporations, then you are way off base.

MS is a convicted monopolist, has run afoul of anti-trust laws the world over, has been continually sued for violating other people's IP (to the tune of defending against, on average, 35 IP violation lawsuits at any given time during it's entire history), constant FUD against competitors, attack by proxy, via SCO, against Linux, and a mafia style extortion threat from Steve Ballmer (saying, without proof, that Linux violates it's IP, and non Novell users are in danger).

Red Hat has never done anything even remotely like the above.

Put simply, by practically anyone's moral standards, MS is evil, and Red Hat is not, period.

Now, MS certainly isn't the only "bad boy" in the corporate world. But Red Hat has not put itself into "evil corporation" territory, simply because they defend their trademarks.

I mean, it's not much to ask to change your service title from "Hibernate Training" to "Hibernate(r) Object Relational Mapping Training", to help clarify that it's not training from JBoss/RH. That's not evil.

Constantly breaking anti-trust laws, and stealing other people's IP (and getting sued for it), and spreading lies about your competitors, like MS has, most certainly is evil.

And please do spare me the standard "business is a dog eat dog world, if you can't stand the heat, stay out of the kitchen" speech.

And, just for clarification, Stallman, or anyone from FSF, or any OSS advocate, has never been against people being paid for writing code. Nor have they been anti capitalists and/or socialists. People in the OSS are very much in favor of being paid for writing software. It's just that OSS software shifts the payment from paying for X amount of licenses/installs/users, to paying for customization, implementation, maintenance, and software as a service. Either way, programmers still get paid, and since most paid programming jobs are in the area of services and customization, it's all good for programmers.

And capitalism is still maintained. If fact, OSS supports free enterprise, competition, and a market driven economy much more than, typically, traditional proprietary software. OSS almost guarantees a level play field, and almost ensures the best wins.

Nor have they been against copyright, or trademarks - all open source licenses are built on copyright, and intellectual property, just as much as proprietary licenses. It's just that OSS licenses have different requirements/limitations then proprietary licenses. But it's still intellectual property.
Jeff Salter
Thursday, April 19, 2007 11:05:39 PM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
Well said Jeff.


"If that's the case, then there are a lot of training companies who'd better pull their training courses off the shelf and rethink offering training at all, because there's some serious copyright violations going on out there.

Besides, I thought OSS was a reaction against copyright law."

Hang on - we are talking about trade and service marks here, nothing to do with copyright.

Ted, please stick to technical blogs, you are much better at it.
Austin Powers
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