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Cory on Trademarks

Posted by duncan on August 15, 2003 at 10:23 AM PDT

Cory Doctorow has just published an essay titled Trademarks over on the O'Reilly Network that the executives at Sun should all read. Why should they read it? Because of the following analogy that Cory makes:

Ask a lawyer for a 100 percent assurance of trademark protection and he'll give you plain advice: pay me to send a nasty letter to everyone who utters your name without due care and specificity, or I can't guarantee you that your mark won't slip out of your fingers and into the public domain. He won't be lying: 100 percent certainty is the kind of unrealistic objective that requires extraordinary, self-defeating measures to achieve.

Ask a security consultant to eliminate 100 percent of the shoplifting in your store, and he'll tell you to cavity-search all customers on the way out. Sure, it's effective, but if you want to stay in business, you'll need to consider trading off smugly complete certainty for a cheaper and more friendly 95 percent (or even 75 percent!) solution: say, magnetic door-monitors and a couple of plainclothes rent-a-cops in the aisles. Your legal counsel works for you: he's capable of giving you the same kind of 95 percent solution that your security outfit is -- and if he isn't, maybe it's time to seek better counsel.

Sound familiar when it comes to a technology(TM) that we all know and love(TM)? Applied to Java, it's way past time for Sun to loosen up a little bit with Java and the trademarks. Everyone knows who Java belongs to. It would serve Java and Sun to not pursue the trademark and copyright issues around Java so much and push a bit more on ways to make it ubiquitous.

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