Nagios Trademark Page
Nagios Trademark Statement from 30 September 2010
Nagios Enterprises posted a blogpost at their community site, accusing me, Julian Hein the owner and managing director of NETWAYS to have taken away their Nagios trademark and that they want it back. While some of the facts in the blogpost are true, some assumptions are not, some are taken out of their context and some may be just a result of misunderstandings.
At first I did not want to react, but the blogpost and the Twitter messages make us look very bad. So I would like to explain the events that lead to the problem from our point of view. I would prefere to comment on this directly in the Nagios Community Blog, but I could not register an account. Additionally our IP addresses have been blocked so I cannot access the site from our office. So I think a real discussion in the blog is unwanted.
First of all, I have signed all the transfer papers that I received from Nagios Enterprises and sent them back. I had to removed two lines from the text concerning liabilities where I have no idea what they could mean to me. I'm not a lawyer, my main language is German and I have no knowledge about US law. Of course I left everything concerning a transfer intact, so I hope that will settle the situation soon. See the document here.
This is how the events occurred from my point of view:
At the time when I registered the German trademark, Ethan was not doing any business in Germany, had no German website and did not care about the trademark situation here in Germany. So I did not take anything away from Ethan as it was unregistered and everybody could have registered it. At that time I thought it would be a good idea to register a trademark to make sure that nobody else does. Mainly to protect us as a company, our Nagios related open source projects and the German community from any third parties. It has happened here in Germany before, that people registered trademarks from open source projects and tried to get money from companies. I wanted to be safe from that. At that time it looked like a good idea. When I finally received the trademark, I filed it somewhere. I never used it against anybody, I never tried to sell it, I did not hurt anybody with it. I just filed it away doing nothing with it. So saying that I am messing around with their trademark is not correct. I did not do that.
What happend before the dispute
NETWAYS is very committed to open source and we are a pure service based company. We do not have a single line of closed code. Every line of our code can be downloaded freely from the internet under GPL license. And so over the years we created a lot of add-ons for Nagios. As everybody else was doing, we gave them Nagios related names, like "NagiosGrapher", "Nagios EventDB" or "Nagios Portal". This was normal an most of the Nagios Addons are called that way. See here for examples
Additional to our projects, we also created a site called "NagiosExchange" (the original NagiosExchange, now called MonitoringExchange) back in 2004 to provide a catalog of Nagios add-ons and plugins. We built the site completely from the ground up and put together more than 2.000 projects. Ethan was even promoting the site on nagios.org and it was made the official 3rd party plugin repository in 2005. I archived the statement in our blog, but it was later deleted from Sourceforge. I think everybody, including Ethan liked the fact that the site was helping the Nagios project and made everybody's life easier. We did not see a problem, Ethan was fine with it and also other sites were called that way. There are multiple other sites called Nagios-Wiki, Nagios-Forum or something else.
The Problem starts
At our conference in 2008, Ethan approached us regarding our use of the Name Nagios in our web sites, the addons and the conference name. He said that he will no longer allow it. But the sites and the add-ons were already there. The worst thing for us was that he demanded to hand over all our Nagios related domains, especially the NagiosExchange Domain to him. This was our main show stopper. We ran the site for multiple years and we invested a lot of our time and heart's blood into the site and so we did not want to transfer the domain. During this discussion he also stated that it might happen that he will not allow community projects to use the Nagios name anymore. Imagine Linux Torvalds to request that all domains containing Linux must be transfered to him.
Although we could not reach a solution on that day and in later conversations, we started to rename our stuff and give new add-ons compliant names. We renamed the conference to "Open Source Monitoring Conference" we called new add-ons "Something FOR Nagios" as directed, and so on. We did not want to create any new issues, but we could not rename all the older add-ons, e.g. "NagiosGrapher" as it was part of many distributions packaging systems like SUSE or Debian and we had no idea how to rename them. But all the new things and all our professional offerings got new names in order to comply as much as possible.
When the discussion about the trademark came up later, I immediately agreed to transfer it to him. As I mentioned, I did not use the trademark for anything and had no intention to use it in the future. So there was no reason to keep it. But Ethan coupled the complete and immediate transfer of all domains to the trademark transfer. And we just could not hand over NagiosExchange without an intermediate solution for the Domain. It did not feel right. But Ethans answer during all the negotiations was always like "sign all our documents; unconditional surrender; I will not move an inch". The partnership was just subject to negotiations. We and the lawyers were mailing back and forth and in the end nothing happened. I hope that it is understandable that while I was generally willing to transfer, I could not accept any fine print, opening me to unknown liabilities under the laws of Minnesota. So I could not sign his documents and the process came to an halt.
More trademark issues
In the meantime the trademark situation got worse with others as well: First Nagios Enterprises forced the French Nagios community to change their Name. They used nagios-fr.org and because they wrote a few articles about Icinga (mostly negative by the way) they had to change their name. See this post (its in french, but you can use Google Translate). Some of their email was posted and later removed, but I created a screenshot. The fight resulted in an open letter to the community and many mails on the nagios-devel Mailing list, which did not help to calm the situation. The only result was the creation of a nagios-drama mailing list.
Later on the same happend with Shinken, a Nagios compatible monitoring engine written in Phython, when the project was accused of having stolen their ideas and intellectual property. Please see this and the following comments on their blog. They way of attacks is much similar to the blogpost about the trademark.
An it also has happend with the German Community. People that spent significant parts of their last 5 or more years for the Nagios project were asked to change the Name of their projects or to add disclaimers that they are not officially affiliated with Nagios. While this is legally OK, it felt like a slap in the face of most of them. Some of them even came up to me and asked if it is possible to protect their projects with the help of the German trademark. I have no links to prove that, because it happend in phone calls and personal meetings. The frustrations in the community was one of the reasons for the Icinga fork: messing around with the community, while the program itself lacks development.
Last Days Escalation
A few days ago accusations started to spread on twitter. A twitter user @bossi1234
started to affront me and was asking questions about the trademark situation. I am pretty sure that he is a fake user. He has never tweeted anything else before and almost no follower and always posted at the same time than people from Nagios Enterprises. When others moved into the feud, I tried to respond on twitter, explain the situation and again stated that I am willing to transfer the mark. Because NagiosExchange is now renamed to MonitoringExchange, our main concern is gone. So after asking Ethan what he wanted from me, I immediately signed the documents, except the liability clauses. Now I got another mail that it is not enough that I agreed to the transfer, I have to accept the liability clauses as well.
Nowing now that registering the trademark would cause so much drama years later, I would handle things differently today. But it seemed right years ago. Nevertheless I wanted to explain the situation we were in and why we couldn't transfer the trademark earlier. We are not trying to mess with an open source project. The contrary is the case. We invest a significant part of our productive time to develop, release and support open source software.
The way the attacks on me were made and even carried on, when I already had signed the documents show that there is more than just the trademark. Otherwise the signed documents, clearly stating that I will transfer the trademark would have been enough. But they were not accepted. Why is it not enough declaring that I will transfer the mark? Why do I have to surrender under liability clauses I do not understand? I guess it is also some kind of revenge that we support the Icinga fork. I just hope that there will be no additional pressure on the German community, once Ethan owns the trademark as there was in France.