The Fight for Gnome

Gnome is a funny name as we know it, but two businesses went to great lengths in order to own it as a trademark. One of them is GNOME Foundation with its open source desktop environment, while the other one is a proprietary POS operation system owned by Groupon. The two couldn’t be farther away from each other.

GNOME Foundation

Source: GNOME Foundation

Nevertheless, as the GNOME project registered its trademark more than a decade ago, the Foundation was understandably pissed off.

“It was almost inconceivable to us that Groupon, with over $2.5 billion in annual revenue, a full legal team and a huge engineering staff would not have heard of the GNOME project, found our trademark registration using a casual search, or even found our website,” says the Foundation in an open letter.

Groupon's Gnome trademark

Source: OMG Ubuntu

The Foundation asked Groupon to change the name of their server, but the big company wasn’t really moved: it applied for the trademark Gnome in 28 cases.

“Trademark protection provides exclusive rights for the right-holder. Those who use a registered trademark for the same business activity commit trademark infringement” – according to the Hungarian trademark portal.

There is cause but no money

The GNOME Foundation began its fundraising campaign with the aim of collecting 80.000 to fight Groupon and their first 10 applications. If it wasn’t for their success in court, they could still have gained some “dislikes” for their enemy.

Something really happened

Groupon firstly published a statement:

“Groupon is a strong and consistent supporter of the open source community, and our developers are active contributors to a number of open source projects. We’ve been communicating with the Foundation for months to try to come to a mutually satisfactory resolution, including alternative branding options, and we’re happy to continue those conversations. Our relationship with the open source community is more important to us than a product name. And if we can’t come up with a mutually acceptable solution, we’ll be glad to look for another name.”

And then the company confirmed they would withdraw all their 28 applications for the trademark Gnome and change the name of their product.

Sentimental souls may believe that Groupon has come to this decision only for maintaining a good relationship with the open source community. However, it seems that their decision is based on the fact that this case caused them a real marketing nightmare.

It is worth noting that a trademark owner can easily take legal action against those who use the same mark in the same business activity without their permission – a fact probably known also by Groupon’s legal team. They have likely admitted the fact they have no chance of winning against the registered trademark of the foundation.

Was it for any of the previous explanations, here you can read a piece of “real” GNOME’s statement, reflecting on the case:

This matter is resolved! Thank you for all the support that you have given us! The response to this campaign was overwhelming, with 5622 individuals contributing USD 102,608.76 to help the GNOME Foundation defend its trademark. As a result of the campaign, Groupon decided to abandon all of their 28 pending trademark applications and will proceed with a name change for their product. We could not have done this without your help!

GNOME is humbled by the support we have received from the community and we are excited that the money raised can now be spent on making GNOME better. We look forward to reporting back to you on all the great things this will enable us to do!”

Emese Orbán
Georg Pintz & Partners LLC 

Source: Engadget