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Brit web biz waves white flag in Python trademark bout

Veber flees snake pit of online attacks and death threats

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

UK website hoster Veber has binned its bid to exclusively trademark the word “python” in Europe following talks with the Python Software Foundation (PSF).

In an agreement described by both sides as “amicable”, Veber will also rebrand its hosting and online backup service that it had called Python. The British company and the PSF locked horns over the trademark attempt as Python is also the name of a decades-old popular programming language.

Veber CEO Tim Poultney said in a statement that he’d reached a speedy settlement with the PSF that would “remove potential confusion between the Python software language and our cloud services business”. PSF chairman Van Lindberg said Veber was “willing to recognise the Python brand without protracted negotiations”.

Lindberg thanked Python fans for “their immense outpouring of support throughout the dispute” both financially and in writing letters to officials in the European Union.

Earlier, though, Linberg and an another PSF official condemned a campaign of online attacks against Veber's servers and its staff from the Python faithful, who were outraged after Lindberg claimed Python was in peril.

Poultney told The Reg that Veber staff received death threats in phone calls and emails as more than 4,000 messages poured in; the company's main and Python websites were also knocked offline in a distributed denial-of-service attack.

Lindberg responded with a follow-up plea: “We put out a call for civility - and we want to emphasize that any hacktivism or threats will end up hurting the Python community in the long run. This is not who we are or how we act.”

Veber filed its trademark ownership claim on the word "python" having owned and operated the Python.co.uk domain for 16 years without bother from the PSF.

The programming language was conceived in the 1980s and came into being in 1991, predating Veber’s domain, but it wasn’t awarded a US trademark until 2004. In an email to The Reg, Lindberg asserted the PSF had the right to use Python in Europe due to prior use of the word on the Continent.

“The fact that we have used 'Python' for so long has given us prior rights. When Veber started using 'Python' for their software and services, and applied for the exclusive right to do so, it was confusing to the point where we had to object purely to defend ourselves and our community,” Lindberg said.

Numerous companies in the US use the Python name, both in tech and non-tech sectors. According to Lindberg these companies are using the mark with permission and according the PSF’s published trademark policy.

He claimed Veber’s use of the name Python is confusing and could be seen as passing off under UK law. The PSF would have to rely on evidence gathered by Python fans to argue that it owned the word by association rather than actual registration. ®

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