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Wednesday, 20 February 2013 09:16

Python trademark “troll” calls the police

Written by Nick Farrell



PSF crosses a line


An outfit which is trying to trademark the name "python" in Europe has called the cops after receiving death threats. The UK webhosting outfit Veber has been under fire from fans of the Python programming language after the Python Software Foundation (PSF) called for help after it claimed the Python language was "at risk" because Veber had filed an application for a community trademark on the word "python".

Hell hath no fury like a Python programmer who is miffed and the outfit claims it has received thousands of phone calls and emails, some of which were described as abusive and threatening. Veber has filed a complaint to the coppers over what it described as the threatening nature of the calls and emails. Its hosting biz has been knocked off-line by a 27.5GB DDoS attack. The outfit is very small and can’t really handle this sort of thing. Veber has has owned and used Python.co.uk for 16 years but the Schmidt hit the fan when it tried to trademark the name in the EU. Veber announced that the web domain and name would be used for a new hosting and backup service and this seemed to upset the Python Software Foundation.

Writing in its bog, under the headline "Python in Peril"  , the PSF claimed Veber was trying to claim “python... for all software, services, servers... pretty much anything having to do with a computer”. It said that when the Foundation contacted the owners of python.co.uk repeatedly and tried to discuss the matter with them. It blew the Foundation off and responded by filing the community trademark application claiming the exclusive right to use 'Python' for software, servers, and web services - everywhere in Europe.”

However the PFS should know that is not quite how it works. Under the European trademark process, an applicant is informed of those already holding a conflicting trademark and the application is either scrapped or amended. It would be up to the PSF to contact European trademark officials with its objections and it is by no means as done deal. All the PSF has to do is lodge an objection based on the fact that it has held a US trademark on the name Python. Our guess is that it is the PSF might think it is on shaky ground. The name was not trademarked in the US until 2004. The PSF claims that the Python trademark has been in continued worldwide use since 1991, but that was the year it was created.

The other issue is that there are a lot of companies with Python in their names or even trademarked it would be hard for the software code to prove exclusivity. To claim that it has a right to the name, the PSF should have been contesting all of these claims. But the biggest issue here is who the troll is. Veber wants the trademark to cover the use of its server operation; it has no interest in the language section of the trademark and it has apparently made this clear to the PSF.

However the PSF is claiming all rights to the use of the word “Python” which would mean that it could take out all other companies who are unfortunate enough to have the name. What might make them think twice about daring to oppose the PSF, as is that there is the very real concern that the open source outfit might post a similar warning knowing that some of its fans will get carried away and shut businesses it does not like down.

Nick Farrell

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