A lot of noise about nothing? Comment on the new Rust Foundation trademark draft

On April 7th, the Rust Foundation presented a draft restatement of the rules for using the Rust wordmark and figurative mark, and the internet went into a frenzy: “Too strict”, “Too restrictive”, “Not in the interest of the community”. , “Rust Foundation went Full Oracle” let announce some. To put it in the words of the Austrian crime writer Wolf Haas: Now something has happened again!

Stefan Baumgartner lives and works as a software architect and developer at Dynatrace in Linz, Austria with a focus on web development, serverless and cloud-based architectures. In 2020 he published his second book “TypeScript in 50 Lessons” for Smashing Magazine Verlag. Stefan organizes meetups and conferences such as Stahlstadt.js, DevOne, ScriptConf, Rust Meetup Linz, and the legendary technology chat. He is also a regular host of Working Draft, the German-language podcast about web technologies. When he has some free time left, he enjoys Italian pasta, Belgian beer and British rock.

First of all, the Rust Foundation must be clearly distinguished from the Rust project. The latter consists of a group of volunteers, or people that companies volunteer for the tasks that advance the programming language and ecosystem. This includes teams that maintain the compiler, language, standard library or Cargo and Crates.io, but also working groups that develop features such as asynchronous programming.

In the past few years, one thing has changed significantly: In the beginning, the Rust project was an open source project from Mozilla. When Mozilla laid off a quarter of the workforce in August 2020 – and thus almost everyone who works on Rust – the project members and Mozilla founded the Rust Foundation with the aim of providing legal and financial support to the project. This is absolutely necessary with the increasing size and scope of the project. The Rust Foundation also owns the trademark rights it inherited from Mozilla.

The proposed wording of the usage guidelines for the word and figurative mark is new. Despite all the excitement, it must be made clear that the guidelines are not set in stone, but are currently available as a proposal with an express request for open review by the community. The logotype must be legally protected, otherwise the project, the Foundation, and ultimately all developers are threatened that another company in the same industry will register Rust as a trademark and everyone else will lose the opportunity to use this name or this trademark. Remember Apple Records vs Apple Computers and the introduction of the iPod. It is also necessary to reformulate the usage guidelines. That they have so far been casual and open to interpretation could lead to problems as Rust’s reach and spread increases.

With sufficient context, the motivation and background of the new usage guidelines can be understood. In my opinion, the fact that so many people are upset is mainly due to two things: On the one hand, there is a lack of context, especially with regard to individual points in the usage guidelines, and on the other hand, the guidelines are too ambitious for their own good.

Here are a few examples that are directly within the scope of my projects: The previous usage guidelines allow meetups and user groups to use the logotype very generously, as it serves to support the project. However, another policy prohibits the use of the term “Rust” in domain names, which means that as the Meetup organization team, we are no longer allowed to advertise Rust Linz at rust-linz.at. A conflict arises here from two apparently independent specifications.

The Rust Meetup Linz logo would be prohibited under the new guidelines.

(Image: Rust Meetup Linz)

The policy on using the Rust logo and the options for changing it is similar: The Rust guidelines are intended to ensure that a company does not attach a modified Rust logo to the flag, for example the Rust wreath with its own company logo. However, as a Meetup we should no longer continue with the elegantly designed Rust-Linz logo.

Another policy allows and encourages using the name to create educational material, including for commercial purposes. However, a book or video course must make it clear that the material is not affiliated with or endorsed by the Rust Foundation. That’s perfectly fine considering the publishers’ marketing techniques – and my previously seemingly wise decision to buy the rust-book.com domain.

However, the directive goes so far that even blog articles must include a disclaimer at the beginning. For me as a blogger this is almost impossible. The right nuance is missing here: Which guidelines apply to private blogs, which to a publisher like Heise and which to articles from my consulting firm? Except that I can’t promote a book under a domain that has Rust in the name. The basic intention, on the other hand, seems clear: If a company decides to start a page with the title “Rust News Germany” that is designed for profit, it would potentially weaken the Rust brand with the content. Without the guidelines, a company could present content as official that is not related to the project, the Foundation, or the community.

The guidelines for events are very clear: the guidelines support community events and meetups and have very strict rules if events are profit-driven. That’s good for me as a community organizer because companies with enough budgets have the opportunity to boot out small events by using money for marketing. However, the rules also severely restrict me as a community organizer if they are interpreted too directly. Heise-Verlag should probably not have organized the two conferences betterCode Rust under the title if the specifications had already applied.

And I think that’s where the excitement comes from: People see their individual use of language and community limited – endangered by a document that describes many situations, but often does not take into account the context and intention. And in the public space of the Internet, such debates quickly boil up.

Many people don’t feel heard, but nothing is set in stone yet. We’re at the point where the Rust Foundation and policy makers are asking for feedback. The public document is a draft and the community should contribute to the design.

I’ve spent the past weekend evaluating and checking against the guidelines all my existing projects and upcoming projects. I reported all points that are problematic for me in the feedback form. There are many, but there’s nothing the Foundation can’t fix with more context or new wording. From my point of view, there is no malicious intent behind the guidelines, but a draft that leaves some points and the respective context open. And anyone who has concerns similar to mine should use the feedback form as well.

This context exists, for example, in the Apache Software Foundation’s trademark usage guidelines, which I am grateful to Jan Lehnardt, VP of Apache CouchDB, of Neighborhood Software for pointing out to me. It clearly distinguishes between commercial and non-commercial use and supports the creation of learning materials such as books and videos. The Python Software Foundation also creates context and areas of application in its guidelines and is very clear about correct use. So there are plenty of templates, and with a few iteration loops, hopefully we’ll get a community-friendly guideline for the Rust brands as well.

If you have concerns similar to mine and/or think the guidelines go way too far, you should also use the feedback form. In this way, the community can help determine the guidelines of the Rust Foundation, which has explicitly called for participation.

Meanwhile, it must be said that the communication around the topic was poor and those involved urgently need to revise it. The project directors of the Rust Foundation and members of the Rust Trademark Working Group have become aware of this, as a blog post on the subject shows.

I hope for a good revision.

More information about the guidelines:


To home page

Related Posts

Hot News


usefull links

robis robis robis