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Fun with trademarks. It all started when a domain name scalper (er - "reseller") announced that it was putting on sale a "huge and rare portfolio of Linux domain names." The folks at SeriousDomains probably figured that their fortunes were made; after all, who could resist the opportunity to spend big bucks and buy "LinuxOnSteriods.com" or "ScreaminLinux.com"? Truly such an opportunity comes but once in a lifetime.

Alas, it was not to be. A few days later, visitors to the SeriousDomains site were greeted with this sad message:

The auction for the pick of 250 corporate consulting type Linux® domain names has been discontinued at the request of attorneys for Linus Torvalds, trademark owner of Linux®. Our understanding of their position is that we cannot have an outright auction of domain names that contain the word Linux, and that those legitimate Linux consultancies or programming shops that are interested in any of our domain names that incorporate Linux® must approach Mr. Torvalds et al to make sure that the domain name is worthy to be granted a license, with a customary "nominal fee."
For those who are truly disappointed, the site still offers "OpenSourceProgramming.com" for sale. Since the "Open Source" trademark application was denied, they will probably get away with that one.

Few people are overly concerned about the damage to SeriousDomains' business plan. But there is an important issue here. The ownership of the Linux trademark has just been used to stop a business from making use of the name. The world is full of businesses wanting to use "Linux" in one context or another. Need they fear being shut down by Linus and his roving squad of ruthless trademark lawyers? That could poke a big hole in those IPO plans.

Linus Torvalds attempted to answer some of these concerns with this posting to the linux-kernel list. It's worth a read. The essential summary is that Linus will not attempt to shut down a use of the term "Linux" if its use is somehow Linux related. "George's Linux consulting and auto body shop" is not problematic - assuming that George really does Linux consulting. Trying to grab "LeapinLinux.com" as a domain name play is another story.

It is worth remembering that trademarks must be defended to remain in force. So it should not be surprising when this sort of action happens again in the future. Linus is almost as free with his trademark as he is with his software. He deserves support when he asks for a halt in use of it that he believes is inappropriate.

Linuxcare has filed for its initial public offering of stock. As always, the S-1 filing is a wealth of information on how the company works and what it is trying to do. For those who do not wish to plow through that document themselves, LWN has posted its summary as a feature article. Have a look to see what Linuxcare is up to, how much money it makes, who owns it, and so on. As a pure services company, Linuxcare comes across differently - and with a weaker revenue picture - than the other IPO filings we have seen recently.

The Gartner Group on Linux positioning. Here is the Gartner Group's latest proclamation on Linux. Gartner has traditionally been quite hostile to Linux; it is interesting that they are starting to get a little bit more supportive now. Here's some of Gartner's predictions:

  • For the next four years, 90% of all Linux server deployments will be on the IA-32 architecture. They do not expect to see Linux take off on the Itanium ("IA-64", "Merced") processor.

  • Linux is seen mostly as an OS for the bottom end of the server range. Gartner expects proprietary Unix systems to hold out in the more expensive applications.

  • Proprietary Unix will die on the 32-bit Intel architecture. That includes SCO and Solaris x86.

  • "Linux will not displace Unix wholesale from the high-end market in the next three to five years because: Unix is well-entrenched legacy technology, Linux is not easily portable to RISC architectures and would represent the same kind of fragmentation that Unix has, Linux would complicate existing OS heterogeneity problems, and Linux currently lacks a fast-track process to achieve mission-critical enhancements equivalent to those offered by Unix vendors."

    This claim looks almost entirely indefensible. Linux has been nicely ported to RISC architectures (Sparc, Alpha), has not fragmented in the process, and has been known for "fast-track" enhancements.

Gartner's bottom line is: "Enterprises should accept Linux as a low-to-midrange Unix substitute with a feature/function set similar enough to Unix's to warrant its widespread deployment, but only once vendors have integrated Linux seamlessly into their hardware and OS strategies." Reliability is briefly mentioned, but Gartner otherwise still sees no advantages to Linux beyond pricing. Still, this is probably the most positive Linux piece ever to come out of that organization.

Inside this week's Linux Weekly News:

  • Security: NSA code will be GPL'd.
  • Kernel: FireWire, cryptographic code, and 32-bit PIDs
  • Distributions: Enoch == Gentoo, Debian freezes.
  • Development: Sun-Netscape release source code to Mozilla.org.
  • Commerce: Transmeta comes out; Corel's latest announcements; Caldera's directed share program
  • Back page: Linux links and letters to the editor
...plus the usual array of reports, updates, and announcements.

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January 20, 2000


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