UNIX based controversy

The Open Group is suing Apple over their use of the term UNIX Based to describe its OS X operating system. The Open group claims the use infringes on their trademark. Apple is countersuing claiming that the trademark has become a generic term.

The claim seems to be made easily as a read of a recent Sys Admin magazine will show. The logo for Sys Admin shown here and it's tagline were modified this month to include UNIX and Linux but since 1992 it said just UNIX.

Sys Admin apparently violates The Open Group's claim of trademark in several ways:

  • Attribution - The Open Group's legal page says "Blanket or generic attributions are not acceptable." While Sys Admin says "All trademarks are respectfully acknowledged."
  • Sys Admin recognizes (with the TM or (R) marks) trademarks which have not become generic such as Solaris(TM)
  • Sys Admin uses the term UNIX generically in its tagline as well as in its text. For example the June 2003 issue has an article titled Freeware Forensics Tools with the subtitle that starts "Westphal examines three popular UNIX freeware tools." After introducing the tools the article states "All three tools mentioned in this article were utilized in a Linux 7.3 environment."

The use of UNIX to describe Linux will raise many hackles amongst purists but it goes to show how much the term UNIX has become generic to describe an entire class of operating systems. This is only one example of how diluted The Open Group's once trademark has become. So it seems likely that UNIX will join escalator, thermos, linoleum, yo-yo and zipper as one-time trademarks that have become generic.

Sys Admin is but one of the fronts on which The Open Group has failed to maintain it's trademark. FreeBSD has long used the term UNIX on their home page to describe their product (which is also the foundation of Apple's OS X).

These are two of many prominent examples proving that The Open Group has abandoned their once trademark on the term UNIX. Apple Computer's case should have many examples to draw upon.