Mark Shuttleworth Apologizes for Trademark Kerfuffle

by Ostatic Staff - Nov. 13, 2013

Canonical's Mark Shuttleworth is out with a new blog post in which he apologizes for a cease and desist notice that was sent from Canonical to the founder of the site, which Canonical had accused of violating the Ubuntu trademark. While Shuttleworth notes that Canonical does have to enforce its trademarks, he writes that the company "made a mistake in sending the wrong response to a trademark issue out of the range of responses we usually take." He also notes, though, that some people were carrying "pitchforks and torches on this issue," and that was certainly true in the press.

As a company focused on open source and the principles that go along with it, Shuttleworth is right to apologize for this kerfuffle. But, as he writes, the reaction to a bad decision made was pretty overblown:

"The internets went wild, Wired picked a headline accusing Canonical of a campaign to suppress critics, Debian started arguing about whether it should remove all references to the distro-that-shall-not-be-named but then decided to argue about whether it should enforce its own trademarks which lead to an argument about… oh never mind."

It turns out that the source of the whole problem was than employee at Canonical sent out the wrong template in an email. 

While in apology mode, Shuttleworth has also written that he is sorry for using "the label 'open source tea party' to refer to the vocal non-technical critics of work that Canonical does." 

"For the record, technical critique of open source software is part of what makes open source software so good," Shuttleworth added. "It is welcome and appreciated very much at Canonical; getting reviews and feedback and suggestions for improvement from smart people who care is part of why we enjoy writing open source software."

Micah Lee, who received the trademark cease and desist note from Canonical, has posted his own version of events on his blog.  He notes that "Canonical shouldn't abuse trademark law to silence critics of its privacy decisions." It sounds like that really was never the intent.