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How do you check against project name/mascot conflicts?

We’re (the company I’m working for) is considering creating a mascot to go along with some projects.

The question is, how would you check to make sure you’re not conflicting with someone else.

Sort of like that no one in their right mind would use a penguin if it wasn’t related to Linux (IMHO at least).


I always start with a Google search. Search for your intended name with relevant keywords. For example, if you were writing a Twitter client, you might search for “myname Twitter”, “myname social media”, etc. In the U.S., you can search for existing trademarks at the USPTO website.

Excellent question, and kudos to you for thinking about this before you finalize any new logo or mascot.

Trademark law generally only applies within a class of goods - that is, within software products or services - as well as primarily with goods that users might possibly confuse for each other. So you need to consider what kind of functionality your software project provides when considering if there’s a conflict with any existing marks. If you’re building an end-user audio player with a fancy UI, it’s unlikely to conflict with a similar logo of a developer command line tool. Obviously, you couldn’t use the exact same logo, only a similar one, and only if the two products have clearly different user bases.

More resources:

http://fossmarks.org/ an excellent site written by lawyers with practical advice on how to create and use trademarks for software.

http://www.apache.org/foundation/marks/naming Name search process for new Apache software products/projects. Every new podling coming through the Incubator at Apache goes through this process for choosing their primary brand name for the project/product. Since you’re coming up with a mascot - or a secondary brand element - your level of search may be a little different, but this has a solid list of aspects you should think about.

http://www.apache.org/foundation/marks/resources Listing of other trademark related resources I’ve published for use by Apache software projects.

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The issue is a bit more broad. Before I scrape the USPTO et.al. I want to do a check to make sure I’m not stepping on anyones toes. Let’s use a accepted example, a walrus.

Do any other open source projects us the image of a walrus? (note “image”)

What O’Reilly books use a walrus on the cover?

What other places should I check.

(And I’m using walrus here purely as an example. Not project name, not product tied, just use the image.)

Doing an “Open source walrus” search in google leads to Eucalyptus Walrus (n equivalent of S3), two+ github projects, Walrus controller and so forth.

Using image search, the logo-ish imags are rarer, e.g. Coderwall achievements badge

Anyway, I think the aforementioned Apache pointers are great.

But I think it’s partially a grind it out and beg for forgiveness as necessary.

Ah, I get it. Note that trademarks only apply when there’s a potential for user confusion. So if you get lots of hits, you can restrict search(es) to some similar kinds of functionality for your product. Slightly increases risk.

Oh, and don’t forget to search for any software with similar functionality - not just open source software. Proprietary companies are more likely to use lawyers to contact you if they feel like their logos might be infringed upon.

In most cases this is good enough, and if there are minor conflicts, begging forgiveness is sufficient. But please do remember that without a more thorough search (especially of USPTO and/or other registries), there’s always a tiny risk that you’ll be forced to rebrand later if a pre-existing and registered mark is out there (and if they complain to you).

Oh, and hopefully it goes without saying, but you should always defer to a trained lawyer specializing in trademark law & with knowledge of your specific situation, rather than only relying on this forum, as smart as we may be. :wink:


Yep all those things are already on my list. ( I’m not an IP lawyer, but I can talk it well enough that IP lawyer think I am one.) This really isn’t trademark or copyright; I’m trying to be a good citizen and not step on anyone.

Still, a simple curated lists of O’Reilly books to images would be useful…


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