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From Shane Curcuru <>
Subject Re: Seeking CouchDB guidance
Date Tue, 13 Mar 2012 03:50:59 GMT
(Apologies for coming late to this thread; note I'm not on dev@)
(cc: trademarks@ for FYI)

On 2012-02-22 6:02 PM, Noah Slater wrote:
> Hello,
> I am reaching out to you in response to this thread on the CouchDB dev list:

Thanks for the comments and focus on the thread; they are very helpful. 
  I've found that trademarks law often seems quite non-intuitive to 
programmers.  We typically see things in binary: it compiles or doesn't; 
it's faster or it's slower.  Trademarks are fundamentally about ensuring 
that an informed consumer understands where their products are coming 
from based on the brand name of the product.  Thus, the perception of 
users - especially new ones to this territory - are important to consider.

As I understand it, fundamentally we had Apache CouchDB first, and then 
it's quick popularity bred several other companies and software products 
with names including the word "Couch" in them.  The fact that both a 
number of CouchDB committers and some normal end-users of CouchDB are 
expressing confusion over some Couchbase software products means that 
this is an issue we should seek to address, and is one that I hope 
Couchbase will actively help to address to prevent confusion as to the 
source of Apache CouchDB software.

I have a number of general comments for the PMC:

- The simplest and most direct step to take is to better tell our own 
story of what Apache CouchDB is and how it can help new consumers run 
their servers / data /business better, easier, and faster than other 

One key item would be improving the couchdb.a.o website, in particular 
so that it better describes what CouchDB is and how to use it to 
*newcomers* to the technology.  Separately, I bet it would be helpful 
for committers (and others) to blog and post about CouchDB individually, 
both to explain why CouchDB is so great, and also to explain that 
there's only one Apache CouchDB, and all the other Couches are less (or 
more) related to us, the first Couch-named No-SQL db.

- The number and detail of comments from both committers and users about 
"which Couch is which" and "How is Couchbase related to CouchDB" say to 
me that there is a branding issue here - hopefully one that we can work 
through amicably and with assistance from Couchbase.

To be frank, it's unlikely that we could prevent all other organizations 
from using "Couch" in their names.  However it is possible to take 
actions to ensure that other organizations do not confuse informed 
consumers as to the true source of Apache CouchDB software.

- When dealing with user confusion by a third party or even potential 
trademark infringements by a third party, the first step is to figure 
out what the PMC would like to see happen (you're doing this), and then 
to ask nicely (usually in private, to allow people to save face if they 
want to) the third party to make some changes.

In this case, think that it's probably unrealistic to ask Couchbase to 
completely rebrand themselves.  There are several Couch-something 
products out there, and it certainly seems (I'm guessing, I don't know) 
that they're as attached to their overall name as we are to the CouchDB 

It is realistic - and we should! - ask them to respect our trademarks. 
They can do this by being diligent at following our formal trademark 
policy, especially by explicitly attributing our marks on any pages or 
materials where they have products that are using similar names or 

For example, it would be appropriate in this case to ask that they 
attribute our CouchDB mark on their Couchbase server web pages, like 
this one:

Similarly, given the history in this case, it would be realistic to ask 
them to go further, and include explanatory text in various places on 
their website that explain what CouchDB is, that it comes from Apache, 
and that their product is not related to CouchDB (either in technical 
compatibility, or in terms of governance/provenance).

The web page they put up at is an 
excellent start to this, and is very much appreciated - thanks!

However it would be realistic - especially in the short term - to ask 
for some other explicit mentions of what CouchDB is in some places on 
their website that are closer to their actual Couchbase-named product 
pages.  I.e. it would be great if they'd put a small one-paragraph 
"Couchbase SuperThing And Apache CouchDB - to great (but separate) 
things...", perhaps with a link to their /couchbdb page.

Trademarks are about preventing user confusion over the source of 
products (in these cases, primarily software downloads).  Especially 
given that the ASF is a community-oriented non-profit, there are plenty 
of ways that third parties can do an aggressive job of marketing their 
own product(s), while still providing plenty of credit and links back to 
Apache project pages, recognizing the source (and volunteer effort by 
all our committers) of the underlying Apache software.

- The PMC should also update the couchdb.a.o website to ensure we're 
properly attributing our own marks.  Please update the trademark 
attribution in the footer to include:

Apache CouchDB, CouchDB, Apache and the CouchDB logo are trademarks of 
the Apache Software Foundation.


- And re: legal advice: yes, do ask if the PMC has specific legal or 
brand questions.  But please realize that the most effective way to 
address brand issues is to engage with the third party directly, and ask 
them to make changes to address specific issues we see.  Brand 
enforcement is a process, not a yes/no question.

Does that help?  I think this discussion and is a 
great start, but I'd be happy if the PMC wanted to ask - and work 
productively with - Couchbase to provide better attribution and 
recognition of the Apache CouchDB community and product on their website.

- Shane Curcuru
   V.P. Brand Management
   The Apache Software Foundation

Reminder: Apache projects should always feel comfortable reaching out - 
privately when needed - for branding (trademarks@) or legal 
(legal-internal@) advice.  This in no way should be seen as 
confrontational; it's just a good idea to get expert advice on these 
matters so the PMC can better understand what is possible (and what's 
likely not possible).

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