Open source is another trademark issue

Summary:This is open source according to Orwell. It's using the trademark, open source, it's using the open source community's efforts, the open source process, then it's shutting that down and making people buy the results.

Dan Farber has a great, in-depth post up about how a company called SugarCRM is using the term "commercial open source" to mean what shareware used to, back in the day.

I'm old enough to remember this. You'd get a simple version of a program for free, but if folks wanted the real deal, they had to pay.

sugarcrm foundersFarber chatted with SugarCRM CEO John Roberts (that's him on the left, with co-founders Cliff Orum and Jacob Taylor)  who was pretty straightforward about what is going on. Here's the way the process is described on his Web page:

By leveraging the combined intelligence of CRM developers across the globe, SugarCRM has built a more revolutionary CRM application than what is offered by most proprietary software or hosting companies’ today.

This is open source according to Orwell. It's using the trademark, open source, it's using the open source community's efforts, the open source process, then it's shutting that down and making people buy the results. Attaching the word "commercial" to the term "open source" in this case negates the second term.

Dan has a great discussion going about the general issue, but I want to continue the thread based on some recent posts here. Should the term "open source" have a trademarked meaning? What should that meaning be?

And if it has no meaning -- other than what someone wants to place on it -- should we continue to use the term? Can we?

One more point. As with my post earlier today about Mambo, we're talking here about developing CRM software -- mission-critical stuff. Can we really depend on the open source process for such products? What these two cases seem to be telling us is, sadly, no.

Topics: Open Source

About

Dana Blankenhorn has been a business journalist since 1978, and has covered technology since 1982. He launched the Interactive Age Daily, the first daily coverage of the Internet to launch with a magazine, in September 1994.

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