Call for community input on our trademark policy and practices

The Legal and Community Advocacy team is seeking community feedback on the Wikimedia trademark policy and practices, and ways in which they can be improved. In the trademark practices discussion, we point out some concerns with the current policy, what we think works well today, and raise some practical improvements that we feel would benefit everyone interested in our marks. Now, please tell us what you think.

We appreciate and welcome all points of view. The LCA team’s history of community involvement on Wikimedia policies shows innumerable member contributions that have steered our policies and practices.[1]

This time, we’re asking for comments as we consider drafting a new policy. The community’s early involvement will guide our course of action in this process from its first stages. We are looking forward to a collaborative, interactive, and international conversation.

Trademark rights function to protect the goodwill of our community’s efforts against harmful uses by third parties. Such uses at best confuse users as to Wikimedia’s involvement in a website, app, or other product. At worst, they willfully deceive users and undermine our values of openness and independence. We are tasked with simultaneously maintaining our marks’ effectiveness for the movement’s myriad uses and furthering these values.

The current trademark policy seeks to balance these interests. It welcomes trademark use by many members of our community, who can make use of the Wikimedia marks in a variety of ways without the need for permission. Further, we are eager to approve uses that require permission, provided they are consistent with our mission. Uses that conflict with the Wikimedia values – say, the use of our marks to sell counterfeit prescription drugs – are not permitted and, if necessary, are fought by our legal team. And our legal team works to protect our community’s rights abroad, where the territorial nature of trademark law could allow a third party to preclude local use by the movement if we do not remain vigilant.

However, our current policy is under stress from several directions. We must be sure to avoid “naked licensing,” where trademarks are found invalid because of a lack of quality control. At the same time, the community’s efforts continue to expand in size and scope.  We must ensure licensing is a frictionless process. All throughout, we must uphold our community values and protect the goodwill of those very values that are expressed through our marks.

The discussion touches on these, and many more specific, issues around our trademark policy and practices. So far, we have seen discussions on community logos, use of the marks by bloggers and news organizations, and the practicalities of trademark licensing for our diverse and decentralized community.  These issues and any others around the use of our marks are a part of this early-stage conversation. We hope that community involvement at this point in time will ensure that the final policy reflects the issues most important to the Wikimedia community.

Feel free to leave your comments on the discussion page, which we hope will serve as a sounding board for sentiment regarding our trademark policy and practices. The legal team is grateful for the opportunity to hear your thoughts and benefit from your knowledge and perspective. We will review your comments and take them into consideration as we contemplate drafting a new policy for further community comment.

We anticipate closing the comment period in a few months. However, we value international participation and, if more time is needed to allow for translations (and please, help in these efforts) or comments, we will take that into consideration.

We appreciate and look forward to your thoughts.

Matthew Collins, Legal Intern, Wikimedia Foundation
Yana Welinder, Legal Counsel, Wikimedia Foundation

  1. Our discussions on the proposed terms of use, conflict of interest guidelines, political and policy affiliation guidelines, and legal fees assistance program all featured robust community participation.

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