When choosing a name for a new Apache project, or for a new downloadable software product within an existing Apache project, we need to ensure the new name will be suitable. First, we want to ensure that the new name won't infringe or unduly conflict with any existing software products that already exist, and second, we need to understand how well the ASF and the project will be able to defend our use of the name going forward.
These are general guidelines for considering new names, either for podlings
undergoing Incubation, or existing projects creating new software products
or subprojects. PPMC/PMC members must read the
detailed name search process to actually conduct a search.
"Apache" is our main trademark, or "house mark" for our overall software development process, and is shared amongst all Apache projects and podlings.
All top level projects must use the format Apache Foo for their branding. However in common usage it will get referred to as just Foo. So choose carefully.
Use internet search tools to be sure that there is no "similar" product, i.e. software for a specific purpose.
When people conduct an internet search after hearing about an ASF project, they will use some technical terms and a name. We want to appear near the top and not get confused with someone else in the same technical space.
Potential search confusion is important for another reason. Apache projects are often very quickly highly ranked. An Apache project with a similar name to someone else in the same technical space may quickly come to dominate searches in that space. If someone else holds a related trademark then this may lead to a legal dispute. As a non-profit organization, the ASF and Apache projects have no business conflicting with an existing trademark for software products or related services.
Even if a product name cannot be found via a search, if you are aware that it is being used for a similar product then we cannot use it.
You may want to choose a name that is easily remembered, is not too long, and is not difficult to spell.
Be culturally sensitive and avoid names that might offend.
Consider using functional names, especially for products of existing projects, e.g. for an "Apache Foo" project, the product name "Apache Foo Pipelines".
Be good citizens, i.e. do unto others as you would expect that they should do unto you. For example, treat the product names of others with respect, i.e. do not try a twist that is close to the name of a similar product.
Choose a sensible name early in a product's development, e.g. before mailing lists, package names, etc. Better to spend time now - your project will not want to change its product's name later.
See this as an important marketing opportunity, rather than a bother.
By carefully validating the uniqueness of our chosen names and clearly establishing first use in the field, we reduce the chances of future confusion.
The purpose of trademarks is to reduce the likelihood of confusion for users attempting to find our software - to distinguish our software from software coming from some other organization or individual.
Trademarks exist by virtue of use, not just registration. Once we publicly release a downloadable software product called Apache Foo, and refer to it with that name consistently, then Apache Foo is our common law trademark for that software.
The fact that a word or phrase is not registered as a trademark does not necessarily indicate that it is available for our use. If the mark is used in commerce but not registered, then we still cannot copy it for our goods.
Trademarks only apply within a specific class of goods - software products - and to a degree, only with products of similar functionalities.