WordPress.com, or better Automattic Inc, the company that had registered the term “WordPress” as a trademark back in 2007 after it has been used by the free software project with the same name and it’s numerous contributors for several years, has passed over the trademark to the January 2010 founded WordPress Foundation as of September 9. This was reported by Matt Mullenweg on his Blog recently (Jane Wells for the Foundation and WordPress.org).
Albeit it’s presented as news, according to the foundation, it was already announced in January this year that “the Foundation will be responsible for protecting the WordPress, WordCamp, and related trademarks.”
So probably the current announcements are more or less to signal only, that the ownership of the various trade- and servicemarks will get passed from the current owner Automattic over to the Foundation in the near future.
The USTPO’s website still reports the ownership of various trademarks to Automattic Inc (see Trademark and Servicemark of Automattic Inc. and WordPress Foundation).
Notably, Automattic Inc filed for registration of the “W” mark in April 2010. A comparable action was initiated by the WordPress Foundation back in December 2009.
With the new official usage policy, it remains undocumented which contract has been made between wordpress.com and the wordpress foundation that enables commercial usage in the toplevel domain name wordpress.com. The use in Product and in Toplevel-Domain Names of the term “WordPress” is said being prohibited by the new trademark policy.
The act of Automattic to pass over the trademark’s ownership is rated as something like a “honorable donation” (Jane Wells, WordPress Foundation; Automattic Employee) or as a “courageous” and “foresight” action (Matt Mullenweg, WordPress Foundation Founder; Automattic Founder; Webmaster of wordpress.org).
With the passing-over of the trademark’s ownership, the foundation has expressed their will again to foster the freedom of the software.
The trademark was never really constantly disputed by Automattic Inc (founded like the WordPress Foundation by Matthew Charles “Matt” Mullenweg), there were some stories in which the former trademark owner had accused some domain-name owners of violating it.
The copyright on the name as well as the incorporation of the term “WordPress” is unclear for years but community groups have never questioned the trademark’s status legally as well, albeit there was discussion about the usage of it in domain names. The licensing implications of the trademark and it’s policies on the GPL’ed software are still largely unreviewed. The non-product-name-policy on the terms might conflict to the GPL which does not allow to draw a restriction in use of the software. Other free software projects with similar restrictive trademark were re-branded prior distribution in the past to not put constraints on users.
- WordPress Foundation take control of WordPress trademark (The H online)
- For-Profit Automattic Gives WordPress Trademark To Non-Profit Foundation (Techcrunch)
- back into the shade (that girl again)