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I've been looking at the Ms-PL license that ASP.NET MVC and DotNetOpenAuth are published under and 3A says this:

3 Conditions and Limitations

(A) No Trademark License- This license does not grant you rights to use any contributors' name, logo, or trademarks.

Does this mean that I cannot name my project ASP.NET MVC DotNetOpenAuth Sample Project and publish it if I use these two technologies or does it just mean that I cannot use the author's name to promote this project?

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Rob: Thanks for creating a tag for me :) – gligoran Nov 17 '10 at 3:21
up vote 6 down vote accepted

Trademarks are a business thing, so a personal name isn't a trademark unless that person uses it as such in a business or similar enterprise. Such things as Microsoft Windows and ASP.NET are trademarks. I could trademark "David Thornley" software if I were to write and distribute it (remember Peter Norton and the Norton Utilities?), but since I'm not actually in that business my name isn't a trademark.

Also, pay attention to the wording. The license doesn't grant any rights to a trademark, but it doesn't restrict any ability you already have. You can't call your project Microsoft software, but you can advertise that it runs on Microsoft Windows. The guiding rule (at least in the US) is if you're trying to create any confusion about who produces the software, or if a reasonable person could be confused. You'd probably be safe calling it "Project Gligoran, using ASP.NET and running on Microsoft Windows", but if you're worried consult a trademark lawyer.

Also, in the US, trademarks work on a "protect it or lose it" basis. If you use a trademark improperly, and the owner of the trademark finds out about it, the owner is legally required to take some sort of action against you or risk losing the trademark.

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Based on your middle paragraph "Sample Project for ASP.NET MVC DotNetOpenAuth" might be acceptable? – Peter Boughton Nov 17 '10 at 0:31
David, thanks for your answer. It doesn't clear things up for me all the way (I guess most things in law work that way), but it does further my understanding a bit. A project name like 'Microsoft ASP.NET MVC OpenID Starter Kit' would make users think that Microsoft made this, thus creating reasonable confusion. But a name like 'OpenID Starter Kit for Microsoft ASP.NET MVC' just implies that the project builds on/uses Microsoft's ASP.NET MVC platform. So the first name is not acceptable, but the second is? Am I getting this right? – gligoran Nov 17 '10 at 3:30
@Peter: If I understand things correctly now, the key word in your name sample is 'for'. That doesn't imply that ASP.NET MVC of DotNetOpenAuth has anything more to do with the project than simply use these technologies. At least that's what I understand. – gligoran Nov 17 '10 at 3:41
@gligoran: I can't really clear things up. I have a reasonable layman's understanding of the law (I believe) but I'm not a real lawyer and don't know trademark law inside out. The idea behind a trademark is to let people know easily that X is indeed from Microsoft and Y is actually from gligoran. Where the dividing line really is, and whether it's sharp or fuzzy, I don't know, and case law (in the US) may be more relevant than the acts of Congress. – David Thornley Nov 17 '10 at 14:59
Thanks David. I've accepted your answer as it's probably as close as I'll get without speaking to a lawyer. – gligoran Nov 18 '10 at 3:19

The author's name (assuming a real person) is most likely not trademarked, so I don't think the clause says anything about that; what it says that the license does not give you any rights to use trademarks like "Microsoft", "Windows", "ASP.NET" etc

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What exactly does "using a trademark" mean? – gligoran Nov 16 '10 at 20:38
see david's answer – user281377 Nov 16 '10 at 21:06
What the license is trying to say is you can't imply any kind of endorsement from the original author(s) on a derived work without permission. The MS-PL is one of the more problematic licenses due to this kind of ambiguity. – Tim Post Nov 16 '10 at 22:56
Implying something can, as far as I understand it, be quite a subjective thing. If I get this correctly a name like "Microsoft Windows OpenID provider" can be easily confused to be from Microsoft itself. But a name like "OpenID provider for Microsoft Windows" is not nearly as confusing. And it thus not violate any licenses. Is this right or wrong? – gligoran Nov 17 '10 at 3:47

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