Gnome Foundation charges Groupon with trademark hijacking, pleads for help

The open source organization needs to raise $80K to fund its legal fight

The Gnome Foundation is claiming Groupon has infringed on its trademark and is seeking financial and community support to finance its fight.

The open source organization's Gnome project, which is behind the Gnome desktop for GNU/Linux and BSD, has been active for 17 years and owns a registered trademark on the Gnome name since 2006.

Nevertheless, it now feels threatened by Groupon, which has filed a flurry of trademark applications for the same name for a tablet based point-of-sale (POS) system it launched in May.

"The GNOME community was shocked that Groupon would use our mark for a product so closely related to the GNOME desktop and technology," the group said on its campaign site, adding that it was "almost inconceivable" that Groupon would not have heard of the Gnome project.

Gnome asked Groupon to pick another name for its technology but Groupon not only refused but proceeded to file more trademark applications, the foundation said, adding that so far, Groupon has filed 28 Gnome trademark applications.

"To use the GNOME name for a proprietary software product that is antithetical to the fundamental ideas of the GNOME community, the free software community and the GNU project is outrageous," the Gnome site reads.

The first set of 10 applications will have to be formally opposed by Dec. 3 and for that the foundation needs US$80,000 to cover legal fees, it said, vowing to use any remaining funds to bolster and improve their product. It has already received about $21,000 in donations.

However, Groupon indicated that it is willing to compromise. "Our relationship with the open source community is more important to us than a product name. And if we can't come up with a mutually acceptable solution, we'll be glad to look for another name," a Groupon spokesman said via email.

Groupon has been communicating with the Gnome Foundation for months to try to come to a mutually satisfactory resolution, including alternative branding options, and the company is happy to continue those conversations, according to the spokesman. "Groupon is a strong and consistent supporter of the open source community, and our developers are active contributors to a number of open source projects," he said.

Loek is Amsterdam Correspondent and covers online privacy, intellectual property, online payment issues as well as EU technology policy and regulation for the IDG News Service. Follow him on Twitter at @loekessers or email tips and comments to loek_essers@idg.com

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