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

David Goldsmith d.l.goldsmith@gmail....
Sat Jun 19 13:11:41 CDT 2010

On Sat, Jun 19, 2010 at 10:38 AM, Benjamin Root <ben.root@ou.edu> wrote:

> On Sat, Jun 19, 2010 at 8:18 AM, Matthew Brett <matthew.brett@gmail.com>wrote:
>> 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'.
>> I would also like to point out another possible source of issues.  There
> are times when we might compare a function's behavior against another
> system, like MATLAB.  While I don't recall an example in SciPy, I have seen
> it in matplotlib's pcolor() functions.  I wouldn't be surprised to see it
> elsewhere, considering how we do try to cater for those moving from MATLAB.
>> But - 'I am not a lawyer' (TM).
>> "But I play one on the internet!" :-P
> Ben Root

In Matthew's defense, he didn't only cite Wikipedia. ;-)

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