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Apache Trademark Reporting Best Practices

Here are best practices for reviewing the use of Apache® projects' brands and trademarks and for contacting other parties when there may be an infringement or misuse of any Apache trademarks. This document for Apache committers and PMC members; outside parties should start with our Apache Trademark Policy.


Apache trademark use reporting best practices

The Apache Software Foundation (ASF) strives to promote appropriate uses of all Apache marks for the benefit of our project communities and for the ASF as a whole. The mission of the ASF is to provide software for the public good, and the way we accomplish that is by supporting our community and our consensus-based projects. Having clear trademarks and service marks that identify our projects and software products is important to the health of our communities, to encourage the sense of community, to ensure that our projects run independently of outside or commercial influence, and to allow new consumers to discover our many freely available products and services.

Likewise, our project communities bear responsibility for managing their own brands and marks, as well as treating trademarks of other Apache projects and third parties with respect. The ASF relies on every PMC to manage their own brand, and to monitor the use of their brand by third parties (i.e. anyone outside of the project). We also welcome assistance from the many users of our software in respectfully promoting our software.

Reminder: This document is not legal advice. If you have a legal question, you should contact your own lawyer. Apache committers may contact the private legal-internal@ mailing list (monitored by the ASF's VP, Legal Affairs officer and legal counsel) with any specific legal questions about Apache projects. Outside parties with legal questions about trademarks may contact us privately.

What kinds of trademark uses might be infringing?

If you're browsing a website with "Hadoop" plastered all over their marketing materials, and there's no mention of Apache anywhere on the page - what should you do? The first thing is to actually ask: is this actually a problem, or is it really nominative use of the Apache Hadoop® name, and it's just fine?

Trademarks exist to prevent customer confusion about the source of goods or services. When you buy an HP® printer, you know what kind of quality and service to expect, because you know it came from HP. Likewise when you order a Coke® beverage, you'll expect that particular tartly sweet flavor, instead of the more brightly sweet flavor of Pepsi beverages. The name, logo, and other branding are a clear association of that product with its manufacturer in the mind of the consumer of the product.

The majority of times we use trademarks like Apache Hadoop are just fine, because we're talking about the trademarked product. Often, the only way to refer to the Apache Hadoop® software product is to use it's name. Discussing how great Hadoop software is, or how slow it can be, is typically not an infringing use, because it is not likely to confuse consumers as to the source of Hadoop software. These uses are called nominative use; that is, a third party using the name to refer to the thing itself - i.e. our software product.

The problem comes when people or companies use trademarks in an infringing manner: when a third party's use of a trademark would confuse a reasonable consumer about where the product comes from. For example, it's just fine to write about how well BMWs handle or drive; it's probably not OK to start a website to sell BMW Cars that you make in your own shop. It may or may not be OK to start a business called The Best BMW Service; that depends on how it's marketed (presented to consumers), and how BMW as the owner of the trademark decides to license (or not) its trademark. It all boils down to: would a new consumer looking for a car or service related to this "BMW" brand they've heard of be led to believe that your independent shop is related to the international BMW® company.

The Fedora® project has a useful chart of appropriate and inappropriate ways to use their FEDORA trademark in common situations. While that policy is written for the Fedora mark, the examples generally apply to Apache marks, and even most software product marks.

Checklist of issues to evaluate for trademark misuses

When reviewing a potentially troublesome use of an Apache mark by a third party, you must think through the context of that specific use of Apache marks before you contact the third party:

IMPORTANT: If the name being used happens to match an Apache product name, but the software product is unrelated to our Apache product, you must check with trademarks@ before contacting the third party. In particular, we must check to see if the other party has registered that name as their trademark for their software.

Reporting potential misuses of Apache marks - how-to for users

If any user or other person (i.e. not a committer on any Apache project) is aware of potentially-improper third-party use of any Apache marks, you should inform the relevant Project Management Committee, or PMC. Email that project's PMC at and inform them of the third party and its use of Apache marks. Please include a URL link to the specific page that shows the Apache mark in use, and a brief description of the situation.

The project's PMC should then examine the third party use of their mark, and take appropriate action if needed as described below. In general, we prefer if a member of a project's PMC contacts any third party that may be improperly using that project's marks, rather than having non-PMC members contact them directly. While we very much appreciate our users bringing these issues to our attention, from the legal perspective, only the ASF and it's projects can directly enforce the proper use of our marks.

If you do not receive a response from that project's PMC within a couple of weeks, please contact the ASF privately, including all the details of the issue and your communication to the PMC, to request an update. Note that it is the ASF's responsibility to police our trademarks, so while we strive to acknowledge every report, we do not discuss enforcement activities publicly.

Reporting potential misuses of Apache marks - how to for PMCs / Committers

A project's PMC (or podling's PPMC) should be responsible for being aware of significant third party uses of their project's marks. PMCs should be responsible for managing the process of contacting any third parties that may be infringing on their project's brand in conjunction with VP, Brand Management on the trademarks@ private mailing list.

If the PMC does not get a positive reply to its request to any third party in a reasonable amount of time, or any time legal counsel for a third party contacts you, you must contact Brand Management to decide how to proceed. Also: PMC members other than the project VP do not have the power to grant any exceptions to Apache brand policy for third party use of Apache marks.

Reporting potential misuse of Apache marks - how-to for Apache Members

If you are a Member of the ASF and spot any issues with any use of Apache trademarks, contact trademarks@ and the private@ list for that PMC.

How to report improper use of your trademarks by Apache projects

Apache projects always strive to be respectful of other organizations' trademarks, but, as in all volunteer organizations, mistakes sometimes happen. If you see any questionable use of trademarks on any website - either of your marks or of Apache marks - please contact the relevant project's PMC through their mailing list.

If you are a third party with a serious concern about potential misuse of your trademarks, and the relevant PMC is not responding to your official requests in a timely manner, or if you are legal counsel, please contact our Brand Management Committee privately.

Other trademark guidelines

For more information about Apache marks, see our formal Trademark Policy. PMC members should also read the PMC Branding Responsibilities and the Project Website Requirements. See also the site map of Trademark Resources.

Important note

Nothing in this ASF policy statement shall be interpreted to allow any third party to claim any association with the Apache Software Foundation or any of its projects or to imply any approval or support by ASF for any third party products, services, or events.