Open Source Hardware Question

OSHWA needs some help. Give us some suggestions.

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First, just a quick note: "According to Pete" will run tomorrow - stay tuned! The Open Source Hardware Association (OSHWA) is this little non-profit group that's trying to figure out how to define and monitor open source hardware. The board is made up of six people and we've run into a problem. The OSI thinks our logo impedes on their logo.


OSHW   vs   Open Source Initiative


We have a few options:

  1. License the open source hardware ‘gear’ logo from OSI. 
  2. Continue to recommend the use of the ‘gear’ logo against OSI’s wishes. 
  3. Crowdsource a new logo to represent Open Source Hardware. 

I'm currently on the OSHWA board. We're trying to work out a solution with OSI but we'd like to get a little more input than just what six people think we should do. After all, everyone on the board believes that being open creates a lot more than being closed. So if you're into OSHW and have a minute, we'd love to get your input in the comments over on the OSHWA site.

The logo is just one of many things OSHWA is working on at the moment. If you get the chance, join us at the Open Hardware Summit in September. There's going to be some fantastic new ideas by awesome speakers and it should be a great time - hope to see you there!

Comments 50 comments

  • Jdlee77 / about 11 years ago / 12

    I am amazed and appalled that this is even a issue! OSI should be OPEN to the idea, not to mention grateful that the logo has a likeness to theirs. OF COARSE it has a likeness that is the point! If the guys over at OSI truly believe in the mission statement that is on their home page this would not be a issue. This is a huge step back for the Open Source community.

    • 172pilot / about 11 years ago / 1

      Couldnt agree more - Isn't the whole purpose of OPEN SOURCE to be so that we can use, and improve-upon other's creations without the worry of this nonsense? It CLEARLY is a logo which represents that the OSHW group is respecting the ideals of the OS software community, while expanding the concept to apply to a wider audience. How can the irony be lost on them?

      If they dont come back BEGGING for OSHW to use their logo, saying "Sorry - an overanxious lawyer who's new to the group got ahold of this..." then I think OSHW should create a whole new logo on their own.. No way should they PAY a LICENSE FEE for an OPEN SOURCE LOGO. That just defeats the WHOLE purpose and spirit of open source.

  • jakkjakk / about 11 years ago / 10

    "The OSI thinks our logo impedes on their logo" So much for being open source. If they were really open source then they shouldn't care!

    • Like it or not, organizations like OSI (and folks like the Free Software Foundation, etc.) exist in part to use copyright and trademark law in certain ways. It's unfortunate that this is an issue, and I hope/expect that it will be resolved cleanly, but it's not as simple as "open source means don't do the lawyer stuff".

      • dRudRu / about 11 years ago / 1

        brennen: I would only agree IF in some way OSHW could actually impede the goals of OSI.

        • I don't mean to suggest I think there should be a conflict on the trademark - quite the opposite. It's just that this stuff is going to come up at times with organizations who are leveraging trademark law in one way or another.

  • Member #279477 / about 11 years ago / 8

    Just turn the gear upside down so the keyhole points up. This will remove the similarity and I think make a better logo. The gear will resemble a vessel waiting to be filled with new ideas and hardware standards, yet the gear teeth will connote hardware. Register the new trademark and quit using the old one. This would be a cheap, easy way to comply and avoid unneeded contention.

  • pt / about 11 years ago / 8

    there isn't a new logo needed or required.

    as more information came in and i’ve looked at the OSI template for licensing – i do not think the OSHWA can license a logo they do not own from the OSI. the OSI does not own the community-made geared OSHW logo. i don’t think they will, or will want to test their trademark on this.

    that’s the most important thing to consider, the OSHW logo differs enough, for different uses that i do not think the OSI can claim ownership over it. the OSI board member(s) and president also thought this last year when i emailed them directly and ask (their response is below). there is not any confusion in the market place. hundreds of thousands of boards are out there with the OSHW logo now. when i talked with an outside lawyer for friendly advice, they also said the same thing. the OSHWA lawyer, or a trademark lawyer should quickly review this, i’m sure they’ll say the same thing.

    from a practical point of view, the OSWHA will never go to court over someone abusing the OSHW logo, it doesn’t make sense to sign anything you don’t own and will not enforce.

    the simple solution is just for everyone to use the logo as they have been and for the OSHWA and OSI to issue a joint statement on best practices for this community mark.

    “By following the Open Source Hardware Definition you are free to apply the OSHW community mark to your products and projects”

    here is the email from the OSI from last year.

    =======From: OSI board member & lawyer 2011============ Begin forwarded message: Subject: Re: OSI logo question and working with On Sep 26, 2011, at 1:16 AM In my personal view, there is not enough similarity between the Open Source Hardware logo and the OSI logo to raise any copyright issues.

    With regard to our trademark registrations, all four of them specify and are limited to “software.” A substantially different logo like yours, used in the context of promoting open hardware or open-source

    hardware, doesn’t strike me as raising significant trademark issues.

    last up to throw a giant oddity in all this.. simon, the current OSI president has been made aware the logo i designed in 1999 (shown at OSCON at least a few times) and they may update the history of the OSI logo now that they've seen this (my logo, which appears to be what the OSI logo is based on, weird right?):

    • I think the "issue a joint statement" solution you're recommending is actually option 1: "license the logo".

      Licensing the logo doesn't necessarily mean that money changes hands. It just means that OSHWA is acknowledging that the logo is similar to the OSI logo, and that OSI is explicitly giving its permission for this similarity.

      Considering that we're all playing for the same team here, I think that's the best possible solution.

  • bbotany / about 11 years ago / 6

    This is not legal advice, but merely an opinion based on a few observations of the operation of some of the relevant laws.

    Do #1 twice - that is, cross-license with OSI.

    • This acknowledges that the breadth of the field of application of the two trademarks does in fact overlap, and sets a precedent regarding such breadth.

    • This may enable either group to go after improperly marked "firmware", possibly including the sources used to program programmable logic devices.

    • This sets a precedent of co-operation between the two groups.

    • It could acknowledged a visual similarity between the two in a way that reinforces the actual similarity in goals between the two.

    As strange as it may sound, this is probably a good opportunity for both groups. Use it to insure that there is no gap between them that can be "closed".

    Tl;dr? Ya'll are similar. Embrace it!

    • Far_Seeker / about 11 years ago / 2

      IMHO, this or the similar "joint-statement" idea is the best way to handle the situation. As mentioned in other comments, OSI may not even mind the similarity in this particular case. However they have to put forward at least some effort to defend their trademark, or risk losing it.

    • bbotany / about 11 years ago / 1

      Reread post... and then reposted to the oshwa thread where replies were requested.

  • Hobot / about 11 years ago / 3

    I think the OSI is being unfairly represented in this post and, as such, I believe Sparkfun and OSHWA are being needlessly aggressive by making the issue public in this manner.

    I was all set to viscerally defend Sparkfun, but then I read the discussion at OSHWA and realized the matter is much more nuanced and benign than I had originally understood it to be.

    Sparkfun needs to be careful and show much more restraint when making matters like these public; it has a large and very loyal following that can be easily whipped up into frenzy. People tend to make knee jerk reactions when they feel something they like is under attack, and quickly go on the offensive. Somebody needs to make a PSA called "When Online Communities Attack," because it's a scary thing.

  • Dent / about 11 years ago / 3

    This knee-jerk reaction I am seeing in the OSHW community about this logo reminds me of something one might see come out of a big litigation-happy company; it saddens me. Our OSI cousins are telling us something that we are doing needs working out before both of us have troubles from higher up (USPTO). First thing we do is I we get all up-in-arms about the whole thing. Calm down, set aside your pride over our logo and think about what has to happen so our OSI cousins and us get out of this situation with the least damage and obligation to anyone or anything. This is a growing pain we as a community are going to have to go through. We can not plan for every hurdle we come across as we get bigger.

  • MostThingsWeb / about 11 years ago / 3

    I like the gear logo, and I think you should keep it. Why should you have to pay OSI to license it? That doesn't sound very open source to me. Tell them to take a hike.

    • Did they say "pay"? They said "license". That's different...

      • MostThingsWeb / about 11 years ago / 1

        Yes, I am aware of the differences, but when I hear licensing I usually assume "cost". If the license is free, though, then they should just do that then. Unless the license would have some crippling restrictions.

  • nnuleo / about 11 years ago / 3

    (Standard disclaimer: IANAL)

    Part of the problem that OSI is facing, I'm sure, is a fairly little-known aspect of trademark law (at least in the US): failing to defend the trademark causes you to risk losing trademark rights. If a company is aware of a potential violation of their trademark, but chooses not to pursue the issue, it opens them up to a loss of trademark rights completely. That's why companies like Google and Xerox make at least a minimal effort to discourage the use of terms such as "Googling" for web searches and "Xerox" for a photocopy.

    While this may be an unfortunate issue for OSI to pursue, I can at least understand why they would do it based on the fact that the OSI logo is a registered trademark. That's why I couldn't advocate for option 2, since it would likely only do more harm to the open source cause. Either of the remaining options would solve the above issue, and I can see the benefits and drawbacks of each of them.

  • Gus Issa - GHI / about 11 years ago / 2

    This is Gus Issa with GHI electronics. We have been using the open source logo on about 50 different circuit boards that we produce and sell. We even encouraged our community to add the logo to their design. I do not have exact figures but we have sold thousands of boards with OSHW logo and we have thousands in stock as well. Also, there are numerous boards made by the community that have the OSHW logo.

    What I am trying to say is that, for us, changing the logo will be impossible at this point. Not only will cause us huge losses but also discourage us, other companies and community members from using any new OSHW logo.

    For us and our community, the answer is defiantly “License the open source hardware ‘gear’ logo from OSI”. Of course, we expect OSI to really simplify this process. All we want, OSHW and us followers, is to share our work with the world in good faith.

    Gus Issa, CEO GHI Electronics

    • adamj537 / about 11 years ago / 1

      This is an important point. If the logo is old enough, then there will be many existing designs using it already. I've seen this cause problems at my place of employment when a slight change to the CE logo caused thousands of PCBs to become obsolete.

  • dRudRu / about 11 years ago * / 2

    Just a few comments:

    1) The OSI needs to explain what they mean by "impedes". OSHW and OSI have the same goal for two separate yet frequently related products containing intellectual property, so how does the OSHW logo 'impede' their logo? Having similar logos in existence does not mean copyright infringement. There must be proof of a potential loss on OSI's part.

    2) The OSHW logo exists on products heavily already. Changing it would be asking designers to change a significant amount of existing and completed designs. I am tempted to open source a few of my designs and specifically add the existing logo to strengthen my point.

    3) The first obvious solution is to try to work with OSI to develop whatever agreement necessary to retain the existing logo and resolve any of the concern. Their mission and Open Source Definition (OSD) could be used nearly word for word for OSHW.

    4) They must see that similarity between OSHW and OSI is beneficial to their own goal. If they do not see the benefits, their mission is a big fat lie, and all you should do is just reply to their concerns with a simple "deal with it".

  • JRiggles / about 11 years ago / 2

    I may be oversimplifying the issue(s) here, but how about this?

    That way you get to keep your spiffy gear logo, and resemble but be legally distinct from OSI, to paraphrase a certain popular cartoon series.

  • TheRegnirps / about 11 years ago / 2

    I have never seen that OSI Miss Packman logo before. I suggest they come up with something more memorable or meaningful so an idea can stick to it. It looks like a Eurosign for a person waiting for a green light. The OSHW is one color of silk layer printing. You can't even use the OSI logo that way. What happens to the OSHW logo if you fill the hole with a shaft and key way?

  • philfromseattle / about 11 years ago / 2

    First off, it is a bad thing when they are spending energy fighting with you guys. They should be focused on broadening the reach of OSHW.

    While the logos may have some similarities, the cogs on the oshwa logo make it very clear it's not the same. Would a reasonable person be confused? Not at all. Are they sending d*ckhead letters to the Inifinti people - their logo seems closer than yours does. Though, I think their's is a better logo because it will look clearer at small sizes.

    It's not clear to me what they are asking for. Do they want you to change your logo? Or are they just protecting theirs? I would suggest your group focus most energy on things other than a logo fight. If you can, just "take a license" and leave your logo alone, they are protected.

    Eventually you will probably change your logo anyway so I wouldn't put a lot of effort into it now.

  • scharkalvin / about 11 years ago / 2

    Add a second cog to the logo with the two meshed and the open end of the second is horizontal. Gears always come in twos (or more) anyway!

    • cdv123cdv / about 11 years ago / 1

      something like this?

      • scharkalvin / about 11 years ago / 2

        Maybe make the secondary gear smaller and draw them closer so they look meshed with the teeth in power transfer, but yeah that's the idea.

  • I think that creating a new logo would be better. You might even be able to incorporate a qr type code into the logo for tracking purposes.

  • christinasc / about 11 years ago / 1

    NEW LOGO. Don't waste your time fighting this.

  • Member #132302 / about 11 years ago / 1

    I love the gear logo! I've got two on my vehicle and one on my laptop. There are some great suggestions in the comments here on how to tweak it. The only real similarity is the angle of the cut out of the shape.

    hex-shaped middle Maybe make the center hole on the gear be hex-shaped? And possibly flip it upside down as JRiggles suggested.

  • laserhawk64 / about 11 years ago / 1

    So let me get this straight. The "Open Source Initiative", which is supposed to be promoting not just monetarily-free software but software that anyone can use and/or change to make their own... is closed-minded about their logo?

    Get a grip, OSI. That's warped.

    In related news, I would recommend the licensing bit, up until money comes into play. If they're wanting money, shut down the talks and walk away. If they try to take this to court... I don't think they'll get very far, simply because the judge (if s/he has any humanity at all) will point out exactly what I did in the first two paragraphs here: OSI has no right to be closed about their logo if their express purpose is promoting openness of any meaningful kind.

    This sounds more like a Microsoft or Monsanto type move than anything I would expect of the crowd we're dealing with. That's a really bull move, and no matter what happens, OSI comes out the loser. If they lose, they lose. If they win, they've rendered their own organization's job description inoperable, and they will slide from irrelevance to nonexistence in a rather short period of time. Public opinion in a niche market situation can be pretty vicious.

  • ventolinmono / about 11 years ago / 1

    Why not name it Free Hardwdare? Same discussion of Open-Source vs Libre.

  • Kamiquasi / about 11 years ago / 1

    Option 3 sounds like the road that has already been traveled - the current logo was the result of exactly such an endeavor.

    A runner-up in turn ended up being used as the logo for .

    I guess if the submissions to that first attempt were unsatisfactory then a second 'logo design contest' could be run, but it seems redundant.

    Hopefully you can just work out any licensing issues with OSI - especially since the current logo is already in active use on various products (primarily, but not exclusively, SparkFun's - just hit up google images for 'oshw'), although I suppose the earlier 'open hardware' logo SparkFun used had to be replaced just as well.

  • tnstaafl / about 11 years ago / 1

    Just make the gear solid. It will then be more like the "O" in "O"pen anyway.

  • Joi F / about 11 years ago / 1

    Surely OSI must be open to an agreement. The simplicity of those logos is what makes them great .. copyright (C) rotated 90° (which makes it look like a keyhole): The stuff people create falls under copyright (as per Berne convention), but those people allow other people (through free, libre, licenses) to reproduce, copy, share, modify and share modifications.

  • L3W / about 11 years ago / 1

    Personally, I would recommend that they work with the OSI to be a sister entity. This would allow the logos to be similar. Also, I read somewhere a while back that artwork only has to be changed 10% before it is considered not copywright infringement. I may be wrong. This is more than a 10% change, correct?

  • BBB / about 11 years ago / 1

    Don't get distracted by the little stuff or let emotion drive a wedge where it will just be destructive. There is nothing sacred about a gear. Make it a wrench or something that cannot be confused with the open circle and move on.

  • Kenneth Henderick / about 11 years ago / 1

    I'd take a lisence. This way, you respect trademarks and show that this is the correct way to do so. I'm sure you can agree a price that is correct, maybe even just create a win-win agreement. The current logo is perfect and choosing another one would only create diversity.

  • Ichbinjoe / about 11 years ago * / 1

    Nevermind... A little research does wonders.

  • R0B0T1CS / about 11 years ago / 1

    We need a logo which anyone can use on a design which they intend to be open source. A logo you guys can use. A logo I can use. A logo which that 18 (Ahem.. 6) year old in Timbuktu can use. A logo which communicates to anyone, "Here is my little creation. Now, please, take my inspiration and run with it. Copy it. Sell it. Take the next great step. ;)" This group of 6 people are the ones to make that little detail happen and this is the time to do it.

  • Member #343595 / about 11 years ago / 1

    I had the same problem with OSI when I asked them about an Open Source Everything logo. My two cents on your logo: utterly brilliant, tell them to piss off. I have saying for some time that OSI should have expanded to embrace OSH and other opens, but they just could not get a grip beyond their narrow niche.

    Above headline and link is going into tonight's Open Source Everything Highlights at Phi Beta Iota the Public Intellience Blog. short url is twitter hash is #openall I wrote the book recently, tried to include all the opens, THE OPEN SOURCE EVERYTHING MANIFESTO: Transparency, Truth & Trust, the book is cheapest at Amazon ($10), the book page with free stuff is

  • swort / about 11 years ago / 1

    what a nonsense, colors are different and they have a similar purpose. Why do people make it so tough on others.

    The solution: - forget OSI, create something new for that "SFFS" (SparkFun Free Software) - create 2 new logo's which they can never cry about - Solved the solution and helped the community going on without 1 million new logo's per year.

  • Member #335098 / about 11 years ago / 1

    Time for a new logo. Better now than later. Licensing has its own set of issues. Even if you structure the license such that OSHWA has complete control over how the mark is used in the hardware space, you'll still have other concerns like giving OSI "fair consideration" for the rights to the mark. Both entities are looking for marks they can control. Next time, OSHWA needs to trademark their own logo for that exact reason.

  • Member #220272 / about 11 years ago / 1

    The similarities are slight really... I think the first step would be to determine which logo/artwork is actually older... but in all honesty if similarity was a "good" reason to throw their weight around exercising laws I would think that companies like Nike would be having a heyday, seems like every where you look you see something similar. But I guess they are probably counting on lawyers fees to be an issue, most people back down from that kind of expense. Though You could just rotate the gear, its not like the open part has to be facing any particular angle to be effective. Not to mention Good logo design usually doesnt include words, especially when a symbol is used. Both logos look amateurish to me.

    • "Good logo design usually doesnt include words" Logotypes are more common in advertising than you may have noticed. Would you know an authentic Sony product if you saw it? What's Sony's logo?

      In the case of OSI at least (and I believe OSHW as well) The logotype, symbol and combined standard logo are separately defined in the documentation. Use of the symbol without the logotype is permitted under the license.

      Your analysis is reasonable but blanket statements about good design can get you in trouble unless you're, say, Dieter Rams. lol

  • baum / about 11 years ago / 1

    Send them a cease and desist! That should solve the problem.

  • homebray / about 11 years ago / 1

    A quote form the OSI's web page:

    "The Open Source Initiative (OSI) is a non-profit corporation with global scope formed to educate about and advocate for the benefits of open source and to build bridges among different constituencies in the open source community."

    Seems to me that the similarity of the logos, promotes their mission. Hmmm.......

  • L1011 / about 11 years ago / 1

    Just 6 people? Bypass them, make them obsolete, start your own open source initiative. I don't think I've ever seen their logo before, surely don't recognize it. I do however recognize your logo... Sparkfun has the strength to make this move, go for it. Before you know it, they will be asking you to forgive them.

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