Linux Trademark Dispute

by Phil Hughes

At this point it looks like the good guys will win. As I write this (June 4) there is a verbal agreement which will give the Linux community clear title to the Linux name. By the time you read this article there should be a final, written agreement. For details, select the Hot Linux News button on our web page at

For those of you new to the trademark dispute, let me fill in a little history. In 1996, Linux vendors (including us) started receiving letters from an attorney representing Mr. William Della Croce, Jr. requesting royalties for our use of his trademark. Investigation revealed that he did in fact have a trademark on the Linux name.

The Linux vendor community decided to fight the battle together and, through Linux International, enlisted the services of G. Gervaise Davis III of Davis & Schroder ( Gerry Davis had already jumped on the bandwagon because he knew of the Linux effort. His willingness to take the case because he cared cut our costs substantially.

Being on the Board of Directors of Linux International, I was a participant as well as an observer in the battle. While not everyone agreed with every decision along the way, we all shared the common goal of getting the Linux trademark clearly into the hands of the Linux community. Even with our diverse backgrounds we managed to pull together the necessary information and resources to present a common front.

For example, when we found out that Mr. Della Croce's trademark was filed in 1994, Adam Richter of Yggdrasil Computing jumped forward with information that he was shipping Linux on CDs in December, 1992. Also, a few hundred thousand copies of Linux Journal published in 1993 certainly had to help our case.

Where Are We Now?

First and foremost, we have proved that while we may have competing commercial interests, we can work together for the common good of the Linux community. I also think that while this action was costly to Linux vendors it has helped Linux become legitimate in the eyes of the non-believers. Besides the vendors who are members of Linux International that supported the effort, we have received letters from many of our readers asking if there was a place to send money to help support the effort. This shows the sense of cooperation that made Linux possible in the first place.

Thanks to everyone that helped.

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