Linux Trademark

William R. Della Croce, Jr, filed for and received a US registered trademark on the name Linux.

September 4, 1996

What is Linux?

Linux, a Unix-like operating system, was originally developed in 1991 by a Finnish college student, Linus Torvalds. The word Linux is derived directly from its developer's first name.

Linux is free -- people can use it without paying a licensing fee to anyone, and the source code comes with the system. Linux can run on most 386, 486, Pentium-based personal computers, on DEC's Alpha system, and the Sun SPARC. Development on MIPS and the PowerPC is underway.

Linux is the result of an international collaboration directed by Linus Torvalds. Linux is licensed under the Free Software Foundation's General Public License, which specifies that the source code to Linux always remain freely available. The name Linux is considered by the Linux community to be in common use.

How did there get to be a registered trademark on the word Linux? After all, Linux was coined in Finland in 1991, used on the Internet and by the Linux Documentation Project, and has been used in publications since 1993: in the magazine Linux Journal and in many other books. The name, Linux, has been in consistent international use since at least 1992.

The trademark by Mr. Della Croce was registered 8/5/94 with a first use date of 8/2/94. The registered description for his trademarked Linux is "Computer Operating System Software to facilitate computer use and Operation".

Linux Journal attempted to contact Mr. Della Croce to get more information and he e-mailed back a brief note, stating that LINUX (R) was proprietary to him and that they would be hearing from his attorney.

In August, 1996, Linux Journal and other Linux companies reported that they had received letters from Mr. Della Croce informing them that

"LINUX (R) is proprietary. Information about obtaining approval for use and/or making payment for past use may be obtained by writing to the following address: [...] "

In August, 1996, Linus Torvalds reiterated his determination that Linux, as a system and as a name, remain in common use.

Yggdrasil Computing, in San Jose, California, already started the trademark protest. Adam Richter of Yggdrasil Computing said they filed for a trademark on their book title "Linux Bible" in March, 1995. Their trademark had been turned down because Linux was considered by the trademark office to already be a registered tradename to Mr. Della Croce.

Richter said that in March, 1996, his company wrote back, showing that Linux was a generic term and that Yggdrasil's use was prior to Della Croce's anyway. Yggdrasil Computing should hear back by the end of 1996.

The trademark office usually doesn't cancel trademarks without separate action taken. It is very likely this fall, after we hear of the result of Yggdrasil Computing's actions, that, Linux companies and individuals will band together to fight to return the word Linux back to the Linux community.