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Re: Renewal of STAR File trademark registration

An interesting perspective on trademarks in the context of free software as seen by a lawyer is at https://lwn.net/Articles/673677/

The two key benefits identified by the lawyer are provoking the trademark owner to sort out their governance structures (not an issue for us) and allowing well-intentioned actors to run a trademark search and detect that their proposed mark is already taken. I think that CIF is already so well-recognised in the crystallographic domain that it is unlikely to fly beneath anybody's radar, so that benefit is also not relevant.

The remaining issues that I can see are (1) abuse of 'CIF' in the context of crystallographic data interchange (e.g. calling 3-column ASCII a CIF syntax file) (2) somebody else trademarking CIF and then demanding that we pay for the rights to use it

As for (1) this has not happened yet and one easy way to combat it if it ever does eventuate is for the IUCr to provide a 'CIF conformance' badge. As Peter says, our community norms are good protection.
As for (2) It is likely that the good guys will win such a dispute in court, as per the background given at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Linux_Mark_Institute (somebody trademarked 'Linux' and started demanding money), but of course money must be spent.

So my inclination is to let these trademarks lapse.


On Thu, 9 Jul 2020 at 03:04, Peter Murray-Rust via comcifs <comcifs@iucr.org> wrote:
I have bought (UK) Trademarks in the past (for VHG and CML) and am not enthusiastic about them. 

I Am Not A Lawyer but have been involved in Copyright (especially "reform" in Europe) and also Patent litigation and my experience is:

* everything is domain/jurisdiction-dependent. Protecting IP (Copyright/Trademark/Patents, which are all different) in all jurisdictions is complex, expensive and time-consuming. Ultimately problems are resolved in courts which is costly and time consuming. This is almost all civil law ( but not France https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Copyright_law_of_France ) A good lawyer may be able to frighten the other party and avoid litigation.

* copyright. This protects the work but not the use of the work. Thus IUCr can limit the reproduction of the CIF standard but copyright cannot dictate how it is used. Copyright is inherent in the creation of the work whereas trademarks and patents have to be applied for. 
* patents. (I am personally strongly against software patents. Others may differ).
* trademarks. These can be an effective control on usage, but it is up to the owner to police potential infringements. This is likely to cost time and money. You have to select the "class" - for example IUCr "CIF" would be in a different class from "Cif" cleaner.
* European database rights. These cover collections of data, such as Crystallographic databases. Probably not relevant here.

There are few absolutes (France excepted). It is difficult to predict the outcome of borderline cases. A German district court held that teaching was a commercial activity, but this was later overturned. It is usually a balance of risk.

The biological community has done very well without formally protecting the knowledge they create. There were few copyright notices, although Creative Commons has made this more straightforward. "Community norms" seem to work well; if you have a large enough, responsible, user base then this is an effective defence. I suppose in the modern world we may be attacked by copyright/patent trolls who claim they own the IP. Some companies take out defensive patents but I doubt that we should do the same. The trolls only want money.

CIF and STAR are very well known, respected , and I would expect the risks are low.



"I always retain copyright in my papers, and nothing in any contract I sign with any publisher will override that fact. You should do the same".

Peter Murray-Rust
Reader Emeritus in Molecular Informatics
Unilever Centre, Dept. Of Chemistry
University of Cambridge
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