Apache® Project Branding Best Practices provide recommendations for all Apache projects who are interested in promoting their software and maintaining a long-lived, independently managed project community.
Apache PMCs should take these three simple steps to improve their project brand and image and encourage new contributions from a variety of sources. Similarly, these steps can greatly reduce the impact to your project community if trademark issues arise later due to third party misuse or infringement of your brand.
A key way to keep a strong community and a strong brand image is to draw in new project contributors. Ensuring that your project presents a friendly face to newcomers on the homepage, being consistent in the core branding for your project (so newcomers understand what your project is, versus other Apache projects or other vendor products), and documenting clear paths for newcomers to get involved are easy steps to take. Taking the time to mentor newcomers, and fostering a community ethos where answering questions and helping out is valued helps encourage new contributors to step up and help. Actively seeking out these new contributors and considering nominating them for committership is a great way to empower a larger community.
We all want other people and organizations to use our great software, and the permissive Apache license allows this. But it's important to ensure that your project community gets the credit you deserve for the work you've done, and that when other organizations use your trademarks they provide attribution to Apache.
Being aware means reviewing the vendors and other websites that talk about or use your Apache project, and ensuring that they're respecting our trademarks and treating your project's brand appropriately. Raising any brand misuse or infringement is critical to ensure other organizations use your project brand in an appropriate way. We have detailed best practices for reporting trademark misuse by third parties.
The simplest way to ensure that other organizations respect your project name is to register it as a trademark. All Apache projects are encouraged to request registering their software product names as trademarks.
Registration costs are covered by the ASF, and the request process is very simple for your PMC. Registering your name ensures that other organizations - especially software vendors - will use your trademarks appropriately, and will give your project community credit for creating your software product. Registration also makes dealing with misuse or infringement in the future much simpler, because virtually all companies will respect registered trademarks once they are pointed out.
While we consider all Apache project and software product names to be common law trademarks, registration provides simple formal and incontrovertible notice to the rest of the world that your project trademarks belong to the project and to the ASF.
Requesting registration of your software product's name is as simple as
having a PMC member email firstname.lastname@example.org with
Subject: [REGREQUEST] Please Register Apache ProjectName trademark with the
Date the ProjectName name was first used in commerce. This is the date that the ASF (or whatever organization may have previously released this software product using the same name before incubation) shipped an official release that was available to the general public to download. The first use in commerce is essentially the first date that an end user could have actually downloaded the complete software product (i.e. not just the source code), and would have recognized it using the ProjectName name.
Date the name was first used to refer to the software in public (before a release). That is, if there is a provable earlier date where you had public web pages talking about "The ProjectName Product will process all your data!", thus clearly establishing to end users that there was going to be a ProjectName software product, even if it wasn't downloadable yet. If you don't have a specific date for this (many projects don't), we will just use the first use in commerce date, from above.
Brief description of the functionality of the software product. This is a very high level and somewhat generic description that is used for legal purposes, not end user purposes; it doesn't need to be perfect, since the Trademarks Committee and our counsel can often find the appropriate terms to use once you provide an overview. The USPTO website has legal examples of trademark descriptions, but a more familiar example description is our LUCENE registration:
"Downloadable computer software for full-text searching, hit highlighting, faceted searching, indexing, dynamic clustering, database integration, rich document handling, and geospatial searching."
There are detailed example descriptions for Tomcat and OpenOffice.
URL to a download web page clearly showing your ProjectName product name in use describing a downloadable software product, that counsel can take a screenshot of. The USPTO trademark examiners need to see a webpage displaying the ProjectName name with the ™ symbol, in direct connection with a link where an end user would download the software product itself. Traditionally, you would send a picture of an actual box of software, but the ASF only offers online downloads.
Note that this is one of the few times where it's better to use just the bare ProjectName name, without the "Apache" before it - like an underlined hyperlink "You can download ProjectName software here" on the download page. It is often simpler to register just the bare ProjectName name, rather than the Apache ProjectName form of the name that we normally use.
Patience, and a commitment by the PMC to use consistent branding and appropriate ™ symbols, as well as to police uses of your project brand by third parties.
NOTE: Please ensure that you use the appropriate ™ symbols for the first and most prominent uses of your Apache ProjectName product name on both your project's homepage and on your download page. This is required to ensure that the trademark examiners see that the ASF is treating your name as a trademark before they review the information. Trademark examiners tend to be very literal, and will be reviewing a static screenshot of your download page.
What Comes Next
The Brand Management Committee will let you know if there is more information needed. Once the application is submitted, we will let your private@ list know. Currently, US trademark registrations take up to 6 months to process through the examination process. If questions arise we will work with the PMC directly.
After a trademark registration has officially issued (but not before) your PMC will need to update your website to use the proper ® registered trademark symbol, as well as ensure that you address potential infringements of your name by other users.
NOTE: not all project names may be registrable. Generic or descriptive project names - like "MetaModel" - often will not be allowed registrations. Similarly, if there are any pre-existing software product registrations that are closely similar to some part of your project name, we may not be able to pursue a registration depending on the similarity or the owner of the pre-existing registration. trademarks@ will work with your PMC if issues like this come up.
If your Apache project is very widely used, the PMC is organized about policing uses of your brand, and you have a specific need to request registration either as a service (i.e. for providing support about your software product) or registration in countries other than the US, please contact tm-registrations@ Similarly, if there is a specific reason that your project wishes to register your primary product logo, please let us know.
In general, the ASF will attempt registration for any active Apache project that requests it in the US. US registrations cover our home market (i.e. the ASF is incorporated in the US), tend to cover a significant portion of users and developers, and are fairly inexpensive to submit. We will attempt to make a US registration for every active project that requests one.
For well-organized projects in industries where there is significant risk of infringement by other software vendors, we can consider registering your mark(s) in either other countries/jurisdictions, or as a trademark for the support services that your project offers to developers and users. Note, however, that international registrations have much higher registration fees, and in some cases may incur additional legal costs that we must justify outside or above the brand budget.
Important: If your project is requesting any international registrations (popular projects) or a service mark registration (rare), you must provide a written justification for the additional expenses. Explain in your PMC's own words why registering your project's name in other countries is important to the success and long-term health of your project. The board and President will review the request and authorize the additional expenses.
A trademark is the legal instantiation of your brand. Branding includes many elements, including the look and feel of your website or product, logos, and other presentation. Trademarks are the specific symbols that you use to promote your software product or service to end users. A consistently used project name and logo are typically the trademarks that a new end user or consumer associates with the actual software product releases your project produces.
Apache project names can also serve as trademarks for the developer support services that you provide, however from the legal perspective, it's much more important - and simpler - to protect the name of the software product itself.
The description of functionality that we provide with a trademark registration application is the legal claim that the ASF is making for that specific registration. That is, a trademark registration serves as notice to the world that the ASF claims the ProjectName name as a software product that does X, Y, and Z. Typically, as long as the claim is a brief approximation of the functionality that the ProjectName software product provides, it's sufficient. Most ASF trademark infringements cases are handled directly with the business or technical contacts at the potential infringer, based on what the Apache ProjectName product actually does; thus the specific legal details of the functionality claim are rarely used.
Some projects may wish to be more specific in their functional claims, to ensure that if any future issue does become a legal one, that the ASF has a more detailed claim to functionality for their trademark. Similarly, the ASF's trademark counsel often makes suggestions for putting functionality descriptions into terminology that better matches the trademark examiner's expectations. These are some more detailed examples.
Counsel has recommended this trademark functionality description for Apache Tomcat:
"Downloadable computer software for hosting Java Enterprise Edition web applications written using the Java Servlet, JavaServer Pages and/or Java WebSocket specifications for use in developing and executing other computer programs on computers, computer networks, and global communications networks; downloadable computer software for hosting web applications for use in navigating, browsing, transferring information, and distributing and viewing other computer programs on computers, computer networks and global communications networks; downloadable computer software for hosting web applications for use in measurement and analysis of video images from composite video sources and pre-digitized formats in the field of science, engineering and industrial research; downloadable computer software for hosting web applications for use in utility programs, language processors and interpreters."
One of the many Apache OpenOffice related trademarks uses this description:
"Computer software for image processing; computer software for word processing; computer software for network management; computer programs for testing compatibility of computer programs; computer software for developing computer programs; computer software for facilitating manufacture and production of computer hardware and computer software; computer software for use in workflow automation; computer software for video games; computer programs to enhance the audio visual capabilities of multimedia applications for the integration of text, audio, graphics, still images and moving pictures; computer programs used in accessing databases; computer programs for use in navigating, browsing, transferring information, and distributing and viewing other computer programs on computers, computer networks and global communications networks; word processing software; computer programs for document processing, namely, computer programs that automate document routing and approval, that provide security features for documents, that provide revision control for documents, and which allow for sharing, collaboration, access and management of documents; spreadsheet software; presentation graphics software and utility software for use therewith; data management and database management software; organizer, calendaring, and scheduling software; project management and project scheduling software for general use; computer software for use in capturing, organizing and distributing data, information and knowledge to be shared within a workgroup; electronic mail software; software for use in accessing, using, creating, and maintaining computer newsgroups; software for performing mathematical calculations; web page design software; computer networking software; computer software for navigating, browsing, and transferring information on computers, computer networks, and the Internet: computer software for distributing and viewing other computer software; computer operating system software; computer security software for information access control and secure communications; computer software for testing compatibility of computer software; computer software for computer emulation; computer software for creating graphical interfaces; computer software for developing, compiling and executing other computer software; user manuals supplied as a unit."