[SciPy-User] Matlab trademark - was: Re: SciPy-User Digest, Vol 82, Issue 49

Matthew Brett matthew.brett@gmail....
Sat Jun 19 08:18:14 CDT 2010


Hi,

> I've pressed our lawyers to look for established cases and precedents
> for use of undecorated trademarks in commentary and review, but for
> the docs, which are part of our "product", I think the safe route is
> to use MATLAB(R) as the Mathworks recommends.  Quite frankly, I think
> doing so also makes us look more competent and serious to our own
> users.

As far as I can see, it doesn't make any legal difference to the use
of the term, whether you attach (R) to MATLAB or not.

It's difficult to see how a phrase such as 'MATLAB file format' could
be anything but nominative use:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fair_use_%28U.S._trademark_law%29
http://www.publaw.com/fairusetrade.html

and therefore fair use.

I guess that you mean that putting (R) next to MATLAB in every use
will make the Mathworks feel better and therefore less likely to sue,
but it seems vanishingly unlikely to me that they would attempt this.
 For example, on the Sage home page:

http://www.sagemath.org/

we see an undecorated 'Mission: Creating a viable free open source
alternative to Magma, Maple, Mathematica and Matlab.' - and this is a
much more directly comparative use than we have.

I think the best way is the way I suggested a while back; that is
something on the lines of:

These are readers for the MATLAB [1] file format.  Blah Blah.  The
MATLAB file format specifies that...

[1] MATLAB is a registered trademark belonging to the Mathworks inc.
We use this trademark without permission from the Mathworks..  Our use
of the trademark is not authorized by, associated with or sponsored by
the trademark owner.

(see http://www.publaw.com/fairusetrade.html).

Putting (R) for the many mentions of MATLAB seems like overkill to me
and conveys the impression that we are a bit scared of lawyers for no
good reason, and thus makes us seem less competent than not doing so.
 On the other hand, sticking to MATLAB rather than Matlab is probably
safer (http://www.publaw.com/fairusetrade.html again).

Our only possible problem is that we also use 'matlab' as a module
name.  I can't imagine that this will exercise the Mathworks much, but
it does mean we sometimes don't use 'matlab' in a nominative sense.
If we want to avoid that, we'll have to rename the module to something
like 'matfile'.

But - 'I am not a lawyer' (TM).

See you,

Matthew


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