Sun Confirms Inflexability & Community Disregard

Posted on February 14, 2008

On Monday OGB Chairman Rich Teer posted Sun’s answer (crafted by Mr Bill Franklin with the assistance of Mr. Simon Phipps) to the OGB’s request for clarification regarding the highly controversial decision to name Project Indiana “OpenSolaris”. The issue is highly mixed, on one hand you have Sun Microsystems looking for a way to monetize OpenSolaris, on the other hand they are redefining the term “OpenSolaris”, around which everything is based, without a single regard for the community. Here’s the full statement:

Date: Fri, 08 Feb 2008 17:08:11 -0800
From: William dot Franklin at Sun dot COM
To: ogb-private at opensolaris dot org
Subject: [ogb-private] Sun's Responses to the Trademark

Rich et al:

In response to the OpenSolaris Governing Board (OGB) meeting in early
November, and a number of other directed questions I, as the Sun
Executive liaison to the OGB, have been asked to respond to those
queries. Here is Sun's statement.

1. International trademark law requires trademark owners to take certain
specific actions to protect their brands, and the OpenSolaris trademark
and brand is no different. The OpenSolaris trademark, as a mark derived
from the Solaris trademark, belongs to Sun Microsystems Inc., and Sun
must defend it or risk not only the OpenSolaris trademark, but the
Solaris trademark as well.

When Sun originally set up the OpenSolaris project and invited the
community members to join it, it informally granted some uses of the
OpenSolaris trademark to the community, such as the use of the name to
identify the community. At that time Sun continued to reserve to itself
the right to name any operating system distribution with the Solaris or
OpenSolaris trademarks, and did not allow community members building
their own distros to use those marks in their distro names.

With the three years of experience since then, Sun has decided that it
would be better for both the community and for its own business, if
distros were allowed to use the OpenSolaris trademark so that they could
form an ecosystem of compatible software package and services.

To jumpstart this ecosystem, Sun has decided to fund Project Indiana to
build a base distro, which it will name OpenSolaris, and to allow others
to use the OpenSolaris trademark in approved ways in the name or
marketing of their distros.

2. In support of this effort, Sun invites the OpenSolaris community to
collaborate in the definition of a set of guidelines that will enable
others to build derivative operating systems that are compatible with
the goals of the OpenSolaris operating system and, as an expression of
that compatibility, are eligible to use the OpenSolaris brand in clearly
defined ways. Trademark law requires the mark owner to maintain
objective quality control measures that apply to uses of the mark. Sun
welcomes the input, expertise and influence of the OpenSolaris Community
Groups in developing these measures. The work is already in progress at

3. Legally, for the purposes of many nations' trademark laws, all other
uses need to be reserved by Sun, but terms for use are negotiable.Sun's
statement specifically left out bumper stickers, key chains, user groups
and book titles. The original debate was about distributions,and Sun
wished to clarify that naming position. Sun allows things like 'Solaris
User Group', and 'Java User Group', and 'I Love Java (J2SE1.4)' Coffee
mugs. Sun has a published fair use policy
( and Sun feels that this
would work for the use of OpenSolaris in 98% of the cases. Sun certainly
would love to see the next good computer thriller movie use OpenSolaris
as the platform that the good guys use to protect the earth from
impending galactic doom.


William L. Franklin
Vice President, Engineering
Solaris Core Operating System
Sun Microsystems

This response is condescending and inflammatory. Apparently 98% of trademark disputes are going to be over community generated swag and marketing. The legal gibberish is utter garbage and tries to gain some kind of sympathetic response. Linux has found solutions.

The problem here, which I’ve outlined to the involved Sun parties again and again, is not that Indiana will be named OpenSolaris. The problem is the way in which they did it. If this was proposed in an Indiana CG by the Core Contribs, then blessed by Advocacy, and then sent to the OGB for approval which would then take it to Sun, all this would have been a happy affair. Sun made this decision, debated the impact internally at length I’m sure, and consciously decided to make the change regardless of the communities opinion.

Bill Franklin passed drafts of this statement by the OGB privately over the last 3 months soliciting feedback. I was only involved in the last round, just days before this statement was made. During that meeting I outlined my objection, only one of which had an impact in what was produced (all prior drafts didn’t explicitly state that OpenSolaris == Indiana, they danced around it). In that final meeting I explicitly asked if Sun was willing to negotiate or find some kind of compromise on this matter, the answer was no.

Lets face facts… Sun owns the trademark and clearly has no interest in adopting a Linux like “just don’t be bad” enforcement policy. Sun is making decisions “for” the community with no regard to the membership or Governing Board which include redefining the meaning of the name of the community itself. The community has no control over its own website on top of it all. Sun is holding all the keys and while I trust 99% of the Sun employees involved in the community, the fact remains that it would seem that none of them had a hand in this decision.

This only drive home the reality we’ve been hoping to avoid… OpenSolaris as it was conceived by the community is a sham. Dr. Fielding who wrote our Constitution is fed up, Simon Phipps now believes that the framework of the community is wrong (he supported Dr. Fielding but didn’t actually write the final constitution) and should instead follow the MySQL model, and we have disenfranchised members all over the place.

There is only one way out of this mess, and thats to embrace our constitution, do the painful restructuring we need to finally conform to the constitutional framework, and begin working from that base. Suggesting that we should scrap the works without bothering to ever really conform to our own community ratified constitution is idiotic. The community needs to be behind the OGB, so we need to build that trust relationship, and Sun needs to utilize the OGB, so we need to build that trust relationship. Frankly, thats difficult to do and will require a lot of hands on face-to-face meetings to get everyone lined back up and working properly, and who has that kind of time outside of Sun?

I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again, we have open source but we don’t have open development. Sun has done an admirable job with releasing code, but Sun’s track history in the arena of open development efforts with the free software community has been abysmal. Many engineers inside of Sun “get it” (look at IPS, or almost anything Dr. Stephen Hahn is involved in, just beautiful) but somewhere in that middle-management there is a disconnect.

If Simon Phipp’s and others like him have their way the community will be “rebooted” from what most of us envisioned, an open development effort in which Nevada is developed as a community effort, to a glorified support infrastructure in which the “community” is really just a bunch of bi-standers with no real involvement. The later case is apparently closer to the MySQL model, which I refer to as “glass house development”, that is, you can look in at whats going on but you’re not part of the action.

My friends, if you are passionate about Solaris and its future the time to get involved is now! Solaris will continue to be “open source”, Sun can’t change that stance now, but if things continue to proceed as they seem to be right now very soon the idea of external Hg repositories just won’t matter anymore.