About the VESC trademark

General topics and discussions about the VESC and its development.
benjamin
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About the VESC trademark

Postby benjamin » 17 May 2017, 16:17

It seems like several people are upset because I have obtained a trademark on the name VESC, so I would like to clarify a few things about that. For now this long post can be used as a reference if people are asking about the trademark.

At first I had no idea about trademarks and did not care about them either. Frank (from trampaboards) told me that it is very important to have a trademark and that I should get one if I want to take VESC project further. An international trademark is very expensive and I had no way to pay for it, so trampa offered me to pay for it hoping that the VESC6 production that we planned to do together would cover at least that cost.

To make the deal with trampa clear:

1. The trademark is registered in my name alone, and I let them use it when selling the VESC6. I have made the design, checked the production carefully and share the profits of the sales with them from the VESC6, so the VESC6 hardware sold by trampa has a strong connection to my name. I want to point out that I have no obligation to stay with trampa for the "official" VESC hardware in the future as the trademark is in my name, so this is really a choice that I make myself.

2. Trampa has the responsibility for the sold hardware. I would not sell hardware myself as I am afraid to get into trouble when doing that, so for me and the community this is a much better option than not having any hardware available at all where I have been involved in the production and quality checks to this extent.

3. Considering the costs for the trademark, legal stuff, testing, traveling, compliance testing etc, the VESC6 hardware is not likely to generate any profit any time soon. No one is even getting paid for the hours spent on this. For trampa the gain is that they will have a very good motor controller that they can sell with their boards for the best user experience, and for me this is a step in the direction of making a solid foundation for the VESC project.

Going back to the trademark, there are many good reasons to have a trademark and all major open source projects have one. For one thing, there are many countries where a trademark is first come, first serve and if a project gains critical mass there are people who will get a trademark and try to take advantage of that. Here is an example where that happens:

https://retropie.org.uk/2017/02/legal-help-needed/

Further, only one person or company can have a trademark, and for the VESC I think it is most appropriate that I have the trademark since I have literally spent years on the software development for the VESC. It is also kind of funny that many people see the VESC as the hardware that is around that many people have tweaked and made in the community; that is not where the value of the VESC project is. The great majority of the work is in the software. I can make a new PCB in a few days, and the software has taken me years to write. The hardware is only a tiny fraction of the work.

The trademark policies, which can be found here

http://www.vesc-project.com/trademark_policies_page

are very much based on the linux trademark policies, which is shared under a CC license. Other open source projects that have trademarks are raspberry pi, arduino, gnome, mozilla, joomla, drupal and many more. Joomla for example has some trademark FAQs that probably apply to most open source projects and their trademarks:

https://tm.joomla.org/trademark-faq.html

In general the trademark does not exclude the community from getting involved with the VESC Project and making/selling hardware, it is intended for making it possible to identify things that are called VESC with myself. Right now there are many websites out there that look like the official VESC website, and people who find them often think that they are from me. For example, many people have asked my about "my" site vesc.co.uk and products they bought there when in fact I have nothing to do with that site or their products. If you open that site and several others it is not easy to tell that they are not published by me, and that is a problem in general which a trademark is supposed to protect against.

Fair use of the trademark essentially is that you can base your design/product on all the open source software and hardware that I have published (following the license terms as usual), but you have to sell it under your own name and give attribution to the project. For example "XSC, based on the open source VESC(R) project". There are some examples of what is fair use and what is not if you read my trademark policies.

I think there is nothing wrong with me not wanting to be associated with things that I don't even know about or have anything to do with, and that is what a trademark is for.

I also want to mention the partner program briefly that I'm working on. People have gotten crazy ideas that I want to use the trademark to claim money from them for all the VESC4 that they have sold until now, and that is certainly not the case. Anyone can use the things I have published just as before and sell it under their own name; and they don't have to pay me anything. All they have to do, just as before, is complying with the GPL license for the software, meaning among other thing that if they change the software they have to publish the changes as well. The idea with the partner program is to have manufacturers for example pay a small amount per unit they sell in exchange for having them listed as compatible hardware under the VESC-project website and for me maintaining support for their hardware in VESC Tool and the VESC firmware for future updates of the software. But again, no one is forced to do that and they can just do their own thing with the VESC open source stuff using their own name and not pay me anything. I hope however that enough manufacturers will see some value in supporting the project so that maybe eventually the income will be enough to pay for a salary or two. Then development of e.g. open source apps can be accelerated by paying developers. This is not my only plan for trying to get a bit of funds from the project while keeping it open source and involving more manufacturers, but I will not write more details about that here. I'm working on the VESC Project website and trying to set everything up and explain things there.

linsus
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Re: About the VESC trademark

Postby linsus » 18 May 2017, 07:02

Read it all and I fully agree! The VESC Project has grown to something big and wonderful for all of us, but sadly with more attention comes more problems/responsibilities. Think it's only wise of you to explain your approach and standpoint in it all and it helps us to understand it from your perspective alot better as well. I'd even go as far as saying this post was abit overdue! ;)

rew
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Location: Delft, Netherlands.

Re: About the VESC trademark

Postby rew » 18 May 2017, 08:03

benjamin wrote:. All they have to do, just as before, is complying with the GPL license for the software, meaning among other thing that if they change the software they have to publish the changes as well.

This is a common misconception. There are two errors in this.
1) As long as you keep those changes to yourself you do not have any obligations to anybody about those changes.
2) If your changes end up in someone else's hands then you have the obligation to provide the sources to those changes as well. And this obligation is towards that one other person ONLY. You never have to PUBLISH the changes.

In the current world, it is much easier to just publish the sources, but according to the GPL, just sending a physical truck with machine readable media with the sources to the person who bought the hardware-with-the-software-inside and asked for the sources is fine too.

benjamin
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Re: About the VESC trademark

Postby benjamin » 18 May 2017, 10:41

rew wrote:This is a common misconception. There are two errors in this.
1) As long as you keep those changes to yourself you do not have any obligations to anybody about those changes.
2) If your changes end up in someone else's hands then you have the obligation to provide the sources to those changes as well. And this obligation is towards that one other person ONLY. You never have to PUBLISH the changes.


Of course they can ship every controller with a usb memory stick with the software and not share it using any other channel, but everyone who buys their controller can share what they got if they want to (since they have the obligation to give them that right), so it is not like using that approach makes any difference for a situation like this. If you write a piece of software as a consultant to solve a specific problem for some company the practical situation might be different though. For example, they can make a special motor control solution for a company that the company uses internally only, and that company does not have to share their solution with anyone unless they start selling them in products.

lizardmech
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Re: About the VESC trademark

Postby lizardmech » 18 May 2017, 11:13

People complaining are being silly most major open source projects have trade marks and sell memberships or support. It only impacts anyone planning to sell them for a profit. If you're lucky you might get some MCU companies offering to do ports and license the trademark. A couple of them pay about $2 to $4 per MCU to third parties for FOC software and they don't even let them see the source code.


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