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Intellectual Property and Open Source by Van Lindberg

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Chapter 5. Trademarks

In June of 2001, Slashdot led with the headline, “More Trouble With AOL And GAIM” (http://yro.slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=01/06/25/2115200). Mark Spencer, the author of GAIM (later renamed “Gaim”) explained it in his own words:

Well, AOL is at it again. In 1998, I wrote a program called GAIM which provided Linux users with a way to participate in AOL’s Instant Messenger (tm) service. GAIM is one of the best examples of Open Source software in action....

In July of 1999, I received a letter from AOL’s Legal Representation requesting that we remove their AOL trademark and logo from our web site and product name, which we promptly did. Now, in 2001, the same firm has sent us notice requiring that we change the name of the product...because they believe GAIM’s name to be confusingly similar to the AIM trademark....

The legal challenges from AOL continued for almost six years. A settlement was finally reached, but one of the conditions was that the project be renamed. Gaim was renamed Pidgin in April, 2007. The code continued, but the name had to go. And the reason was trademark law.

Trademarks Defined

The traditional definition of a trademark is a word, name, or symbol used to identify particular products or services offered by a particular manufacturer or coming from a particular source. Trademarks have their roots in manufacturing—in the trades (hence the name). As soon as people began to specialize in the manufacture of certain goods, they wanted a method of distinguishing ...

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