The Linux Mark
Sublicense the Linux Mark
The Linux Foundation protects the public and Linux users from unauthorized and confusing uses of the trademark and authorizes proper uses of the mark through an accessible sublicensing program. The Linux Foundation offers a free, perpetual, world-wide sublicense to approved sublicense applicants. In return, the sublicensee holders must agree not to challenge Linus Torvalds’ ownership of the Linux mark in any jurisdiction, and to provide proper attribution of ownership on their goods, services and elsewhere.
Here, you can learn more or read our Frequently Asked Questions about the trademark and LMI’s sublicensing program, apply for a sublicense to use the Linux trademark as part of your organization’s trademark, review terms of the Linux Sublicense Agreement, and report abuses of the Linux trademark that you’ve encountered. Please see the section on Fair Use for more information about public usage of the mark.
If you are interested in using Tux the Penguin in connection with your product or services, please see http://isc.tamu.edu/~lewing/linux/ for details. Tux the Penguin is an image created by Larry Ewing, and is not owned by The Linux Foundation.
This page describes how to publicly acknowledge that Linus Torvalds is the owner of the Linux trademark.
Attribution is For Everyone
Even if your use of the Linux trademark doesn’t fall under the scope of the Linux Sublicense Agreement, you should still attribute ownership of the mark to Linus Torvalds in two ways:
1. For each web page, advertisement, or publication, the first prominent appearance of LINUX should feature the “circle R” character adjacent to the X, as follows:
2. At the end of your web page, advertisement, publication or media broadcast, include the following text in a legible font and size:
Linux® is the registered trademark of Linus Torvalds in the U.S. and other countries.
Attribution for Sublicensees
The Linux Sublicense Agreement sets forth how the mark should be attributed by sublicensees. Sublicensees are required to place the following legend conspicuously on each piece of authorized goods, and at least once in the area of the title page of any documentation or sales literature accompanying each authorized good or service:
The registered trademark Linux® is used pursuant to a sublicense from the Linux Foundation, the exclusive licensee of Linus Torvalds, owner of the mark on a world-wide basis.
The Linux Foundation understands that space limitations can make including these attributions difficult. When made necessary by space limitations, any reasonable facsimile of these attributions may be used. In case of doubt as to the proper shortened form, examples may be submitted to the Linux Foundation for approval.
Forms of the Mark
Linux is a word-mark, meaning that any form of the word is covered by the trademark registration. This includes all-caps (“LINUX®”) or the standard capitalized form (“Linux®”). Either form is acceptable to the Linux Foundation so long as it is presented in a legible font.
Who Needs a Sublicense?
In cases of fair use, members of the public may use or refer to a registered trademark without a license from the owner.
Examples of Fair Use
If you are a journalist interested in writing articles that include the term Linux, you do not need a sublicense. If you are printing up pencils, stenciling T-shirts, or distributing coffee cups with a legend on them like “Linux® is the greatest!” or “Even my Mother uses Linux®!” this is normally considered fair use.
Some uses of Linux require the user to obtain a sublicense.
Examples of Use Requiring A Sublicense.
If you plan to market a Linux-based product or service to the public using a trademark that includes the element “Linux,” such as “Super Dooper Linux OS” or “Real Time Linux Consultants” you are required to apply for and obtain a sublicense from the Linux Foundation. This is true whether or not you apply to register your trademark with a government.
When you are using the Linux mark pursuant to a sublicense, it should never be used as a verb or noun. It should be used only as an adjective followed by the generic name/noun. In other words, “Super Dooper Linux OS” is okay, but “Super Dooper Linux” isn’t.
If in Doubt, Find Out
Do I need a sublicense?
You need to apply for a sublicense if you are using the term “Linux” as part of your own trademark or brand identifier for Linux-based software goods or services. It doesn’t matter if your trademark is unregistered, or if you do not plan to make any money using the mark.
Answering the following questions (which break out each of the key issues) may help you determine if you need a sublicense from the Linux Foundation. If you are still in doubt, please contact the Linux Foundation and we will work with you to determine whether you need to apply for a sublicense.
If the answer to all three of the following questions is “yes,” then you need to apply for a sublicense. If the answer to any of these questions is “no,” then you do not need to apply for a sublicense.
- Is my mark a trademark (see how we define “trademark,” below)?
- Does my mark contain the following string of adjacent letters, in this order: “Linux”? These letters may or may not be capitalized, and in the case of foreign characters, phonetic translations also apply.
- Do I use my mark to identify software-related goods or services (see how that phrase is defined, below)?
What is a trademark?
The definition of “trademark” varies somewhat from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. Generally, a trademark is a name used in public to identify the source of specific goods and services. Trademark rights can be used to prevent others from using a similar mark to identify a source of similar goods and services. If you are unsure whether you are using a trademark, you should speak with someone familiar with the law where you are located.
What is fair use?
I am making T-shirts, mugs, etc. for sale, and I want to include the Linux mark on them. Do I need a sublicense?
I am the registered owner of an internet domain which includes the term "Linux." Do I need a sublicense?
When do I have to show proper attribution?
I am registering or have registered a trademark with my country's trademark authority. Do I still need a sublicense?
I am a commercial entity (for example, a company, partnership, or sole proprietor, profit or non-profit) selling software-related goods or services and using the word "Linux" in the entity's name. Do I still need to apply for a sublicense?
Yes, because you are using Linux as part of a trademark in connection with software-related goods or services. Software-related goods are computer programs and systems, or packages bundling software with tools, utilities, hardware, etc. Software-related services are services that deploy, document, facilitate the use of, or enhance computer programs and systems.
Even if you don’t use Linux as part of the entity’s name, if the entity has a product or service (whether sold or given away for free) that uses “Linux” in its name, you still need a sublicense for the use of the word Linux in the name of the products or services.
If I sublicense my trademark, will the Linux Foundation refuse to sublicense marks that are the same as, or confusingly similar to, my sublicensed mark?
Trademark Registration Consent: My organization has applied to register a trademark for software-related goods or services that includes Linux as an element. The application was rejected for confusing similiarity to Linus Torvalds' trademark. If I enter into a sublicense, will the Linux Foundation consent to my registration?
Domain Name Registration Consent: My organization has applied to register an internet domain name which includes the element Linux. If we enter into a sublicense, will the Linux Foundation consent to our registration?
Can I become a member of the Linux Foundation?
Formerly, the Linux Foundation offered memberships to sublicensees and anyone else who was interested. Please note this is no longer available.