Power to the People

A snippet of open source code goes dark, causing hiccups to websites like Facebook®.

Why?

Because of an argument over trademarks. Yeah, trademarks. Here’s what happened.

The code’s owner, Mr. Azer Koçulu, named his open source software package KIK.

KIK Interactive Inc. wrote him a friendly email[1] asking him to rename his package because they had lots of trademark registrations for KIK for software.

Mr. Koçulu literally told KIK Interactive “fuck you.” KIK Interactive contacted the node package manager. The governing body applied their dispute policies and concluded that KIK Interactive, and not Mr. Koçulu, should be allowed to use KIK. Instead of cooperating for an orderly transition, Mr. Koçulu just removed the package causing a brief flurry of problems.

Mr. Koçulu had two basic arguments:

  • He didn’t know about KIK Interactive when he started using KIK; and
  • “Power to the People”.

The first argument matters not a wit. Infringement exists whether or not the infringer knows about it.[2] What you don’t know can hurt you.

As for Power to the People: Trademarks empower consumers by letting them know the source of goods at a glance. Think how frustrating and difficult shopping would be without trademarks.

Trademarks are all about Power to the People, but I guess those aren’t the people Mr. Koçulu was thinking about empowering.

 

[1] They even offered to help out financially with making the switch.

[2] What the infringer knew and when he knew it can matter for some stuff, like damages, but knowledge is not an element of infringement.

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