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All Apache Podlings, and any Apache top level project (TLP) must use this process when coming up with a new project name, or when coming up with a name for a new subproject or downloadable software product.

Why do we need a project/product naming process?

When it comes to trademarks conflicts it might be necessary to show other parties that ASF trademarks were chosen in good faith and with appropriate research. As a non-profit, we have no business infringing on pre-existing trademarks for the software products or services from other organizations. Nor would you want to start with a new software name that's likely to be confused with some other organization's software products.

For pre-existing projects being submitted to Apache, we still need to follow this process. This ensures both that we fully understand any past or potential name conflicts around your project name, as well as to ensure that all trademark rights are properly transferred to the ASF in a timely manner. Note that the ASF must own all trademark rights to any new top level projects (i.e. trademarks must be transferred before Incubator Podlings may graduate).

Who needs this process?

When do I need to start this process?

You need to start this process early enough to complete your search and to give the trademarks committee time to review. Preferably start this process well before:

Please note: renaming projects (later, if a change is required) requires a lot of resources from our Infrastructure team. It is recommended to run the process as early as possible. Incubator podlings could run it after they have been accepted, but before they start to request resources. This will cause a few days delay, but might save a lot of trouble later.

How To: Perform a Suitable Name Search

After you have carefully read Project Naming And Descriptions and the trademarks main page and some common-sense hints for choosing names, make sure your PMC (Podlings: PPMC) has decided on a name. Usually this is done by a public vote.

When your PMC has decided on a name, a "suitable name search" must be done.

Create an Name Search issue

First, create a an issue in Suitable Names Search JIRA space. Good examples are:

Describe the origin of your name and please include a description of the product's functionality in the issue. It's important to understand what kind of functionality the product offers if there is a question with another company's similarly named software product. In particular, do not use fluff or marketing-speak here: this should be a factual description of the functionality your software provides to users.

Research common software sources

Please consider to research at least the following sources:

Start by searching for just your chosen name, for example "Foo". If that finds a lot of hits that are clearly unrelated, try searching for "Foo software". This is the first step to narrowing to relevant results, since trademarks generally only apply within a specific class of goods - in our case, the software products we offer for download.

Note all results in the according JIRA issues. When done, inform trademarks @ apache.org that you have finished your research. Please wait until the trademarks team has responded, as we rely on Apache volunteers to organize this work.

Please don't include any interpretation in the JIRA issue, just try to note all facts you can find. If you have specific questions on what the results mean, please ask trademarks@ and include your project/podling's private mailing list (i.e. not your public dev@ list).

Research Registered Trademarks

Perform the same search as above, but for registered trademarks. A thorough review of registered trademarks in countries your project is active in is important, because if a third party has already registered a similar name for a similar kind of software project, it is unlikely we'll be able to use the name.

Again, it is important to store the factual results of your name search, but do not offer comments or interpret the results of the search. Review of the results happens afterwards with trademarks@.

USPTO Search Tips

For common words, you will end up with a long list of mostly irrelevant registered marks, so you will want to narrow your search to only relevant kinds of marks. Try this search criteria to narrow the results:

  1. Open the USPTO website
  2. Click to go to directly to the Trademark Electronic Search System (TESS) search system
  3. Click to do the Word and/or Design Mark Search (Free Form)
  4. Enter your product name with the following search string and submit:

(ProductName)[BI,TI] and (software or computer)[GS] and (live)[LD]

If this produces zero results, that's a good start: mark that in the Name Search issue! If this produces a handful of results, you will want to click through to review the Goods & Services description of each one to see if they offer similar functionality to your product. Copy the blue TDSR link (not the URL from the search, but the TDSR link within each page result) into your Name Search issue.

If the above search produces a lot of results, you may want to experiment with the USPTO's search query criteria, or review only results where the marks are directly related to your name.

USPTO Search Criteria

The above search string is a good starting search query for most software products:

Note that there is a reasonable query syntax for the USPTO freeform search, in particular if you need to search variants or phonetic versions of your name.

Result interpretation & Approval

The trademarks team will interpret your findings and probably discuss it on trademarks@apache.org (please note: this is a private list, all messages from there should be treated as such).

The VP, Apache Brand Management will approve the PODLINGNAMESEARCH issue. Note that project members are not authorized to approve name search issues.

Important: you must wait until your trademark has been approved. There is no lazy consensus. In particular, approvals will typically not be issued until the podling is nearing graduation.

Once the name is approved, you can work with your new trademark - and be sure to update your website with the appropriate ™ or ® symbols. Incubator Podlings: please don't forget to update your Incubator status page.