Announcement of “OSI Certified” Open Source Mark
On June 15 1999 ZDNet broke the news that OSI’s application for an Open
Source trademark had lapsed, anticipating the public statement OSI had
planned to make following its board meeting on 17 June. Subsequently,
many people have expressed concern that the phrase “Open Source” might
be trademarked by some party hostile to the open-source community.
That’s not likely, for the very reason the application was permitted
to lapse. We have discovered that there is virtually no chance
that the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office would register the mark
“open source”; the mark is too descriptive. Ironically, we were
partly a victim of our own success in bringing the “open source”
concept into the mainstream.
So “Open Source” is not and cannot become a trademark. The purposes for
which OSI sought a trademark, however, are still valid. We believe the
open-source community gains much from the existence of a recognizable brand
name – one which certifies to users that software is being distributed
under the licensing model best shown to produce high quality software. We
believe that software vendors will seek to use an appropriate certification
mark to signify that quality.
For this reason, the Open Source Initiative is announcing a new
certification mark, “OSI Certified”. When the Open Source Initiative has
approved the license under which a software product is issued, the
software’s provider is permitted by us to use the OSI Certified
certification mark for that open source software. The details will be
spelled out on OSI’s Web site shortly.
In all such decisions, OSI will seek (as it always has) to advance the
interests of the community we serve, and to promote the winning
combination of open standards, open source code and independent peer
Because the phrase “open source” cannot be trademarked, we must rely
on market pressure to protect the concept from abuse. When you see
software that claims to be “open source,” look for the OSI Certified
mark as your assurance of compliance with acceptable licensing
If you don’t see the OSI Certified mark, please read the vendor’s
license for yourself to check that it is in conformance with the Open
Source Definition. Please encourage software providers to obtain
OSI’s certification and to use the OSI Certified mark, and do not
purchase software if it claims to be “open source” but does not meet
the terms of the Open Source Definition.
Issued by and for the Board of Directors of OSI
by Eric S. Raymond, President
16 June 1999