Canonical appear to require that you remove all trademarks entirely even if using them wouldn't be a violation of trademark law.

-- Matthew Garrett

Each time Matthew brings this up, and as evidence continues to mount that Canonical either actually intends their IP policy to be read that way, or is intentionally keeping the situation unclear to FUD derivatives, I start wondering about references to Ubuntu in my software.

Should such references be removed, or obscured, like "U*NIX" in software of old, to prevent exposing users to this trademark nonsense?

joey@darkstar:~/src/git-annex>git grep -i ubuntu |wc -l
joey@darkstar:~/src/ikiwiki>git grep -i ubuntu |wc -l
joey@darkstar:~/src/etckeeper>git grep -i ubuntu |wc -l

Most of the code in git-annex, ikiwiki, and etckeeper is licensed under the GPL or AGPL, and so Canonical's IP policy probably does not require that anyone basing a distribution on Ubuntu strip all references to "Ubuntu" from them. But then, there's Propellor:

joey@darkstar:~/src/propellor>git grep -i ubuntu |wc -l

Propellor is BSD licensed. It's in Ubuntu universe. It not only references Ubuntu in documentation, but contains code that uses that trademark:

data Distribution
        = Debian DebianSuite
        | Ubuntu Release

So, if an Ubuntu-derived distribution has to remove "Ubuntu" from Propellor, they'd end up with a Propellor that either differs from upstream, or that can't be used to manage Ubuntu systems. Neither choice is good for users. Probably most small derived distributions would not have expertise to patch data types in a Haskell program and would have to skip including Propellor. That's not good for Propellor getting wide distribution either.

I think I've convinced myself it would be for the best to remove all references to "Ubuntu" from Propellor.

Similarly, Debconf is BSD licensed. I originally wrote it, but it's now maintained by Colin Watson, who works for Canonical. If I were still maintaining Debconf, I'd be looking at removing all instances of "Ubuntu" from it and preventing that and other Canonical trademarks from slipping back in later. Alternatively, I'd be happy to re-license all Debconf code that I wrote under the AGPL-3+.

Update: Another package that comes to mind is Debootstrap, which is also BSD licensed. Of course it contains "Ubuntu" in lots of places, since it is how Ubuntu systems are built. I'm no longer an active developer of Debootstrap, but I hope its current developers carefully consider how this trademark nonsense affects it.

PS: Shall we use "*buntu" as the, erm, canonical trademark-free spelling of "Ubuntu"? Seems most reasonable, unless Canonical has trademarked that too.