Apache forges ahead with OpenOffice.org suite

Developer release planned; open source organization asserts trademark protection

In its new role as steward of the OpenOffice.org open source office suite, the Apache Software Foundation expects to offer an Apache-branded version of the package for developers in 2012. Apache also is carefully guarding its trademarks.

Apache on Tuesday is releasing a statement about its OpenOffice efforts, entitled "Open Letter to the Open Document Format Ecosystem," which notes the planned 3.4 release, tentatively slated for early 2012. Apache has just about completed with code clearance stage of the effort, said Don Harbison of the Apache OpenOffice project management committee in an interview.

[ Apache in October announced that OpenOffice.org had become an Apache "Podling" project, which is the first step toward becoming an official Apache project. | Subscribe to InfoWorld's Developer World newsletter for more insights on software development. ]

Built for testing and debugging, version 3.4 is not intended to be a feature release but is geared to comply with Apache IP clearance policies. New end-user releases of OpenOffice.org eventually will follow. Improvements are eyed in areas such as digital signatures and metadata, with the suite adopting technologies from the OASIS ODF 1.2 specification. ODF is leveraged by OpenOffice.org.

The "permissive" Apache License 2.0 reduces restrictions on use of Apache code and enables a diverse contributor and user base, Apache said. "Our license and open development model is widely recognized as one of the best ways to ensure open standards, such as ODF, gain traction and adoption," Apache said. OpenOffice.org code was donated to Apache by Oracle in June, but not before a forking of the project, LibreOffice, a result of uneasiness over Oracle's plans for the suite, acquired when Oracle bought Sun Microsystems in 2010.

Apache participants are free to set their own boundaries in collaboration, the organization said: "However, they are not free to use our trademarks in confusing ways. This includes OpenOffice.org and all related marks. To ensure that the use of Apache marks will not lead to confusion about our projects, we must control their use in association with software and related services provided by others. Our trademark policy is clearly laid out at http://www.apache.org/foundation/marks/."

Anyone wishing to use the Apache brand can have their efforts reviewed by Apache trademarks persons, said Harbison. "One concern we've had is making sure the brand itself is respected."

Apache in its statement is asserting its trademark ownership, an analyst said. "This statement from Apache is essentially a public reminder that while the code itself is permissively licensed and thus re-combinable with other assets, the associated trademarks are not," analyst Stephen O'Grady of RedMonk said. He also cited difficulties resulting from the forked codebases. "[When] two codebases spring from the same roots and yet are competing for the same users and asymmetrically licensed, there is bound to be friction over contributions, usage and more. Efforts to bridge the two projects have not been successful."

A representative of the Document Foundation, which oversees LibreOffice, noted his organization is free to use OpenOffice.org code. "It is then natural that the Apache OpenOffice code has the special intention from our developers and everything Apache OpenOffice releases that is of our interest will be considered for cherry-picking for integration in LibreOffice," said Oliver Hallot, of the Document Foundation board. But LibreOffice is ahead of OpenOffice.org, which may make it harder to include Apache code, he said.

OpenOffice.org features six personal productivity applications: a word processor with a Web-authoring component, spreadsheet, presentation graphics, drawing, equation editor, and a database. It is offered on Windows, Solaris, Linux, and Macintosh operation systems

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