We have achieved a major victory in regards to the gross violations and misuse of the Nagios trademark by German company NETWAYS with the help of the community.
A few weeks ago I exposed gross violations of the Nagios trademark to the greater community in my blog post titled “Nagios Trademark Truth”. After nearly five years of trying to resolve these issues directly with NETWAYS and Mr. Julian Hein, and having to counter misleading statements and untruths being publicly parlayed by them, I felt there was no other option left other than to bring the issue before the community publicly.
Once the community was made aware of the details of the violations, many individuals exerted pressure on NETWAYS and Mr. Hein to do the right thing and transfer the domains and German trademark to us. Although they had previously refused to do so, Mr. Hein and NETWAYS acted quickly to resolve the matter after the issue was publicized and they received pressure from the community.
I would like to extend my deepest gratitude to all of the supportive community members that helped to bring resolution to this problem. Of particular help were individuals on Twitter that prompted a discussion about the violations, which led me to take the issue before the community. To David McKendrick (@DavidAndGoliath) and Michael Bossi (@Bossi1234) – you have my greatest thanks.
This trademark win has not come without its costs. I started trying to work with NETWAYS nearly five years ago to amicably resolve these issues and I personally spent several man-months of time trying to bring these matters to resolution without success. Tens of thousands of dollars were spent on attorney fees after Julian Hein and NETWAYS refused to resolve the issue amicably. Neither the countless hours nor the attorney fees were easy to absorb when I was just getting started generating revenue for Nagios by offering consulting services.
Other costs that are not as easy to calculate, but which have certainly had an impact, relate to personal attacks and Nagios brand damage perpetrated by NETWAYS employees. Once NETWAYS realized I intended to defend the Nagios brand against their violations, they began to attack myself, the company I started, and the Nagios project using social media, press releases, blogs, and magazine articles. Their statements and articles were full of deceptions, half-truths, and outright FUD. As someone who’s not used to being attacked in such a public manner, these were not easy to take. Based on my experience with their business practices, I was not surprised by what they did (and continue to do). Their actions speak very loudly as to their integrity.
For Open Source developers that do not understand the value of trademarks and protecting their brand, the following will hopefully serve as an example of why you need to learn about trademarks and protect yours from infringers… In the spring of 2009, Mr. Hein and NETWAYS founded the Icinga project. NETWAYS promoted Icinga as being a fork of Nagios to “help improve Nagios”. Once NETWAYS launched Icinga, they proceeded to leverage the Nagios trademark and their Nagios domain violations to redirect users to sites that promoted Icinga and that contained mistruths about Nagios and the Nagios trademark policy. Sites such as nagioswiki.org, nagiosforge.org, and nagiosexchange.org were redirected in an attempt to hijack the Nagios brand and extract as much value as possible for NETWAYS. Interestingly, Mr. Hein owns the Icinga trademark, NETWAYS funds the Icinga project, and the majority of Icinga contributors are on the NETWAYS payroll. A reality check for most people would lead them to a conclusion that Icinga was designed to serve the long-term business interests of NETWAYS, rather than to “help” the Nagios project. To this day, NETWAYS and the Icinga team continue to bash Nagios and the Nagios community on the one hand, while leveraging and violating the Nagios brand on the other. Its really a rather sad statement about what people are willing to do when faced with the ineffectiveness of their own efforts. Its also a lesson to Open Source developers everywhere – you must protect and manage your brand or others will attempt to leverage it to their own benefit at a (sometimes big) cost to you.
Most Open Source developers will hopefully never face such problematic issues relating to their project name and brand. To those unlucky few that do, you have not only my sympathy and understanding, but also my support. I’ll gladly offer my assistance to other OSS projects that need help with trademark issues they may face. Both because I’ve had my share of experience with trademark trouble over the years and because the community always helps out however it can.
Thanks again to the awesome Nagios Community!