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

Joe Harrington jh@physics.ucf....
Sun Jun 20 12:01:53 CDT 2010

>> 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:
>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:
>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).

Those are nice arguments, but neither of us is a lawyer.  If there's
one thing I've learned about the law, it's that precedent, argument,
and demonstration of a loss (whether justly attributed to the
defendent or not) play much larger roles in comparison to the text of
the law than folks like ourselves would like to believe.  You really
can argue, successfully, what "is" means, and a significant lawsuit,
even one defended successfully, can wreck a small company.  So, why
don't we see what the real lawyers have to say about it?  I was doing
just that but needed to respond to David's premature (and incorrect)
speculation.  I'm not saying that your arguments are wrong, I'm just
waiting for the lawyers who can say it based on precedent and their
expertise applying the law, rather than Wikipedia.


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