Resolution 2003-06-03.bmh.1: Trademark Committee

This resolution is superseded by 2023-04-06.jln.1.

June 3rd, 2003

The following resolution has been accepted by the Board of Directors of Software in the Public Interest, Inc.:


SPI is in control of DEBIAN, a registered trademark in the United States, and may in the future come to control registered trademarks for other member projects.

Debian, and possibly other SPI supported projects in the future, is in the unusual position of desiring to encourage the open use of its trademark without abandoning the quality control and source designation functions inherent in a trademark.

Toward this end, Bruce Perens wrote a trademark policy and posted it to a Debian mailing list in 1998 1 that has served as SPI's trademark policy up until this point. While this policy successfully captures the spirit of SPI's intentions in regards to its member project's trademarks, it is informal and not well known.

In recent months, SPI has been involved in several trademark issues regarding the use of the DEBIAN trademark. While these cases have been resolved, they alert SPI to the need to review, reconsider, and re-articulate its trademark policy with respect to the DEBIAN trademark, and potentially with respect to trademarks held for other member projects, in more formal and legal terms.

SPI is in the unique, and perhaps unprecedented, position of drafting a policy that aims to balance the control called for in trademark law with the openness, freedom, and flexibility at the center of many SPI supported projects.


  1. The board shall create a committee (the "Trademark Committee") comprised of Chris Rourk (Legal Counsel for SPI), Greg Pomerantz (SPI Contributing Member), Bruce Perens and Benjamin Mako Hill to act as a liaison for the SPI Board of Directors and Martin Michlmayr (Debian Project Leader) or a delegate representing the Debian Project and open to participation by other board members and SPI contributing members, for the purpose of reviewing SPI's trademark policy. If the committee feels that there is sufficient justification for elaboration of the existing policy, the committee will draft a new trademark policy with the DEBIAN mark in mind, and present this policy to the board for consideration.

  2. The Trademark Committee shall have the authority to retain Cleary, Gottlieb, Steen & Hamilton, on a pro bono basis, solely for advice concerning the foregoing activities.