Perth-based lawyer Jeremy Malcolm has recently written to Australian Linux vendors asking them to relinquish any legal claim to the name Linux and purchase a licence for its use from the worldwide trademark owner.
"The e-mail is part of the process that LMI (Linux Mark Institute) has been undertaking to secure the trademark to the word 'Linux'.", he wrote, pointing out the institute was acting on behalf of Linus Torvalds and was cooperating with LA to register the trademark locally.
"I realise that the message came out of the blue and has got some people upset," he said, "and I apologise for that. However it's an important part of the process of securing the trademark so please take the time to go through it".
Malcolm himself acknowledged on LA's public discussion mailing list he had received a number of questions about the letters, and directed the community to read an explanatory Web site he had set up.
While the lawyers' original letter stated it would be necessary for businesses to obtain a formal licence from LMI for future commercial uses of the Linux trademark in association with goods and services, Malcolm's site -- created after the letters went out -- appears to have backed away from those comments, noting he had not been asked to pursue those who had not bought a licence.
The lawyer also corrected his original letter, which stated the cost of such a licence would be between US$300 and US$600. In reality, he said, the fee "is on a sliding scale between US$200 and US$5,000, as determined by the sub-licensee's projected revenue in connection with the sub-licensee mark(s)."
However, he noted, "most sublicenses fall within the US$200 - US$500 range".
At least one prominent community member has had initial concerns allayed by the actions, while another has expressed his wholehearted support.
"Having been in contact with Jeremy, I now understand the intent of what Jeremy is trying to do, and support the idea of Linux being trademarked for its protection," said Si2 principal consultant Marc Englaro, noting he still had reservations about the approach taken by the letters.
Opengear's Bob Waldie -- whose company uses Linux in its console management solutions -- told ZDNet Australia he had signed and returned to Malcolm the statutory declaration assigning Torvalds all rights to the trademark.
"Opengear as you are aware is a very active participant in the Linux and open source community," said Waldie, "and as such we do appreciate the value that lies in the Linux name."
"The initiative being pursued by [Malcolm's firm] iLaw is aimed at maintaining the integrity of the Linux mark, and this is in the best interests of all user, developer and commercial members of the Linux community."
In general the community appears support the need for a locally registered Linux trademark, with Oxer saying Malcolm had told the Linux Australia governing committee on Tuesday night most people had responded very positively to the initiative.