Web feed icon trademark, licensing and usage guidelines

Web feed icon copyright Stephen HorlanderI am encouraged to read Mitchell Baker’s posts (part 1, part 2) about the usage of Stephen Horlander’s web feed icon which is seen in Firefox, IE7 and on an increasing number of web pages. She suggests that Mozilla should work with the web community to set usage guidelines for the icon. This is a great idea. Guidelines are necessary to avoid confusing web users about the meaning of the image.

It’s puzzling that Mozilla has already applied for a trademark on the web feed icon: http://tarr.uspto.gov/servlet/tarr?regser=serial&entry=78836825. In light of Mitchell’s recomendation against the formal trademark option, does this mean that the Mozilla’s application will be withdrawn?

There’s also the question of the icon image license. Mitchell’s post implies that the feed icon is not subject to an open source license like the rest of the Firefox code. This is news to me. When Stephen Horlander and I checked in our images for Firefox and Thunderbird, we were told that they are covered by the Mozilla tri-license. In fact part of the move to replace the Qute theme before Firefox 1.0 was driven by the desire to have artwork that is free of proprietary licensing. I hope Mozilla will clear this up soon.

We should move quickly to come up with an icon kit that web sites can use and a clear set of usage guidelines. There has already been some good starts by Khoi Vinh, Matt Brett and others. I look forward to the discussion.

Update: Mitchell Baker posts details about the Mozilla Foundation’s trademark application.

9 thoughts on “Web feed icon trademark, licensing and usage guidelines”

  1. One thing that horrified me is the overly common use of the ugly, inconsistent orange linear gradient as the background, as opposed to the original radiant gradient.

  2. I wonder if that means Firefox will no longer be distributed in Debian and other such Linux distros. Debian already required as “free software” version which removed the Firefox logo. They’d now have to remove the feed icon as well.

  3. We’ve backed out the Mozilla RSS Icon from our projects too and replaced it with the old one we had.

    We were under the impression that all images were under the Tri-License apart from the Firefox logos.

  4. […] I don’t think the question in this case really revolves around the question of the meaning of icons so much as the enforcement and consistent use of symbols that come to mean something to a given community. For what Mitchell is really proposing is something more like reverse trademark, where you compel someone to use your mark in a certain way in order to produce consistency. Let’s face it, by restricting the use of the mark or icon, you’re actually moving away from your goal, which in this case is to establish a symbol, to be used in common, to identify a particular interface interaction. […]

  5. Some quick points:

    First, the trademark registration for the icon was done at a time when we thought we’d go with a formal trademark licensing program. Mitchell’s current proposed approach is not to do such a program (and note that I agree with that approach).

    Second, I think Mitchell’s reference to open source licensing of the icon was in regards to the approach of just doing an open source license and nothing else, i.e., no usage guidelines whatsoever. That’s what she referred to as “option 1, and that’s what she was arguing against, at least as I understood it.

    Finally, I’ll have more to say on the topic of the feed icon in the next day or two, including posting some proposed usage guidelines. I had meant to blog about this before now, but I’ve spent the better part of that last two days in hospital emergency rooms. I apologize for any confusion that might have ensued.

  6. Mozilla verlangt Unterschrift für RSS-Icon Nutzung…

    via Opera WatchMozilla verlangt die Unterzeichnung einer Vereinbarung für die Benutzung ihres RSS-Icon ……

  7. […] o Original OperaWatch story on the Opera/Mozilla argument o Opera’s weekly build release notes discussing the ssue o Mozilla’s trademark filing o Post from Kevin Gerich (one of the two creators of the icon) about the fact that Mozilla MIGHT NOT own the trademark in the first place o Post by Frank Hecker (executive director of the Mozilla Foundation and the person who signed Mozilla’s trademark application) about the mark o Chris Pirillo blogging on the subject o Randy Morin of RSS blog blogging on the subject and a follow up, and another follow up o Post by Randy Morin to the RSS Public list on the subject o Post from Mitchell Baker (head of Mozilla Corp) on the subject, also see this and and this earlier posts o Microsoft’s decision to use the same icon for IE7 and a related post from Mozilla’s Asa Dotzler o Blogger reactions from around the web: here, here, here, and here; and yet here; and here o A blog post from an Opera employee o A blog post at Oreilly’s XML.com o A forum post on MozillaZine o On open source leadership […]

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