The Hudson fight: Oracle's trademark may not guarantee its control

When vendors contribute less than the open source community, trademarks become weak control mechanisms -- especially when a project founder remains active

1 2 Page 2
Page 2 of 2

Project contributions and founder brand outweigh trademark ownership

Positioning Jenkins as a rebranding, not a fork, hinges on two important factors:

  • The trademark controlling vendor's contributions being outweighed by the community's contributions to the project.
  • The project's brand remaining tightly linked to the founder's personal brand.

Both aspects hold for the Hudson project. Labourey states:

The difference here is that Hudson has an "asymmetry" in its community: one of its community members, Oracle, claims it "owns" the brand and that every contributor has to sign a contributor agreement granting it a copyright license. This asymmetry is frequent in many projects (JBoss, Glassfish, etc.). Yet, what is less frequent is when the "owner" of such asymmetry contributes very very little intellectual property to the project (but receives a lot of free intellectual property from the contributors through the contributor license agreement).

Although several key leaders exist for the Hudson project, few would argue that Kawaguchi's personal brand is not intimately linked to that of Hudson and, soon, to Jenkins. This is especially true because Kawaguchi is involved in the day-to-day technical work and decisions of the project. In other projects, the founder becomes less and less involved in the day-to-day technical direction of a project to focus on other work items, such as the business surrounding the project. In these cases, even when the founder leaves or tries to start a competing project, the original project remains sufficiently viable despite the founder's absence.

Advice for IT decision makers

I encourage IT decision makers to identify the control that a vendor has over an open source project, before making vendor-selection decisions. Project contributions and the use of contributions from valued community members should be given more importance in your decision than ownership of project trademarks.

Even a vendor as large and established as Oracle is not immune to losing control over a community project. In this case, the fight over control is putting customers in an unenviable position of deciding between the vendor and the community.

Follow me on Twitter at SavioRodrigues. I should state: "The postings on this site are my own and don't necessarily represent IBM's positions, strategies, or opinions."

This article, "The Hudson fight: Oracle's trademark may not guarantee its control," was originally published at Read more of Savio Rodrigues' Open Sources blog and follow the latest developments in open source at For the latest developments in business technology news, follow on Twitter.

Copyright © 2011 IDG Communications, Inc.

1 2 Page 2
Page 2 of 2