Groupon retreats from claim on Gnome Foundation trademarks

After months of discussion on the name of a point-of-sale system, Groupon has backed down after the Gnome Foundation went public with the trademark dispute yesterday.

What a difference a day makes — 24 hours and a public showing of a dispute that has been ongoing for months was all it took for the Gnome Foundation to force Groupon to abandon its plans to name its tablet point-of-sale system "Gnome".

In a blog post calling for donations to raise $80,000 to allow the Gnome Foundation to oppose the registration of 10 of the 28 trademark applications that Groupon had filed, the Gnome Foundation said it was shocked that Groupon would use a trademark for a proprietary product that was closely related to the Gnome desktop.

"It was almost inconceivable to us that Groupon, with over $2.5 billion in annual revenue, a full legal team, and a huge engineering staff would not have heard of the Gnome project, found our trademark registration using a casual search, or even found our website, but we nevertheless got in touch with them and asked them to pick another name," the foundation wrote.

"Not only did Groupon refuse, but it has now filed even more trademark applications (the full list of applications they filed can be found here, here, and here)."

In the time since the Gnome Foundation posted its call for donations, over $87,000 was raised to fight Groupon.

For its part, Groupon said it would continue conversations to come up with a new name, before abandoning the trademark altogether later in the day.

"After additional conversations with the open-source community and the Gnome Foundation, we have decided to abandon our pending trademark applications for 'Gnome'," wrote Groupon senior vice-president of engineering and operations, Sri Viswanath. "We will choose a new name for our product going forward."

President of the Software Freedom Conservancy and former Free Software Foundation executive director Bradley Kuhn said that the Gnome Foundation had got off light.

"Based on my experience with GPL enforcement, I can assure you, Groupon had exactly two ways to go politically: Either give up almost immediately once the dispute was public (which they did), or start attacking GF [Gnome Foundation] with dirty politics," he wrote in a blog post.

"Please don't misread this situation: Groupon didn't 'do something nice just because GF asked them to' ... The real story is: 'Groupon stonewalled, wasting limited resources of a small non-profit for months, and gave up only when the non-profit politically outflanked them'.

"Fortunately, the gamble paid off, and Groupon caved when they realised that GF would win — both in the court of public opinion and in a real court later."

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