[Osmf-talk] Question about permission to use OpenStreetMap name

Frederik Ramm frederik at remote.org
Thu Aug 22 14:42:10 UTC 2019


On 29.07.19 21:40, Steve Jackson via osmf-talk wrote:
> I'm subscribed to this mailing list. However, I am addressing it with a
> different email address

... which is why your email only came through 20 days after you sent it,
when a list moderator spotted it and let it through. This list is
configured to allow only postings from OSMF members.

> Is it possible for the OSMF to prohibit an organization from using the
> name OpenStreetMap, even if it had previously allowed it?

This is a multi-faceted question.

First: Do people even need our permission to use the name OpenStreetMap?
This depends on the trademark law in the respective country. While it is
our bold position that we control the OSM trademark and everybody needs
to abide by our trademark guidelines, we have only *registered* in
select countries.

Second: We would have to analyse in which form we have "previously
allowed" the trademark use and what promises or contractual obligations
exist. I am not aware of us having given anyone an irrevocable license
to use the trademark though. More likely than not, people are simply
using our trademark without us allowing it - at best, we're "not
forbidding" it.

Third: If we find someone using our trademark in violation of our
trademark policy - and there are many groups around the world that are
in technical violation, for example any group calling itself
"OpenStreetMap <countryname>" without being a registered local chapter -
then we would have to form an opinion on what to do. Depending on who
and where the perpetrator is, our options are, among others, (a)
friendly engagement with them and asking them to abide by certain rules;
(b) informing the public about a third party using our name without our
consent; (c) sending legal threats and claiming income that was
generated by pretending to be OpenStreetMap; (d) forcibly taking control
of domain names; ... - all these have various risk and cost levels
assigned to them.

If your concern really is HOT US Inc. then I believe that the right
course of action is to make it clear to them that they need a license
from us to use the term "OpenStreetMap" (*especially* when connected to
representations they make to third parties, like when fundraising or
starting joint projects). Such a license should be granted through an
agreement, and this agreement would then contain wording to the effect
that they must take care not to give rise to misunderstandings like
"OpenStreetMap has a project with Facebook" when indeed it is just HOT
and not OpenStreetMap. This kind of wording (avoid misunderstandings) is
already widely present in our trademark guidelines.

While the stick of "we can stop you using the name OpenStreetMap
altogether" is of course something that can be used to get negotiations
started, I do not think that it would be wise or politically viable to
actually stop them from using the name without first having tried to
come to a mutual agreement.

> What would be formally the correct procedure within the OSMF to discuss
> and make a decision about it?

Procedure-wise, you have the option of requesting that the board discuss
it but there's no guaranteed timeframe or guaranteed response; you would
be limited to regular nagging.

You can also bring it up as a resolution at the next OSMF AGM; if more
than 50% of our members agree that HOT should be stopped from using the
OpenStreetMap name immediately, then the members can make this decision
and force the board to execute it.

Getting such a motion to pass at an OSMF AGM would, however, require
lots of work, you'd have to argue your case compellingly, and many
people would probably say "please try to solve the matter amicably
first" - i.e. unless you can show a honest negotiation attempt that has
failed, it is unlikely that you will get a majority behind your idea.

Many people will not even understand the problem, and you would have to
start documenting it and collect evidence that it actually is a problem,
and a problem likely to persist or grow if not tackled.

You would also likely need the courage to lift your anonymity at some
point if you want to convince members to vote for "your" resolution.

A more promising course of action could be to simply work in/with the
OSMF in one of the many working groups or even the board. This is a
long-term game that will allow you to influence decisions and actions
with your opinion, and you could slowly help develop the OSMF into a
body that is a little more assertive instead of letting everyone just do
whatever they want.

But this is not done in an afternoon writing a pamphlet.


Frederik Ramm  ##  eMail frederik at remote.org  ##  N49°00'09" E008°23'33"

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