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[P]
SSH to OpenSSH: Stop Using Our Name!

By acestus in News
Wed Feb 14, 2001 at 10:45:46 AM EST
Tags: Software (all tags)
Software

This morning I found an email in my box with an unsettling subject:

SSH trademarks and the OpenSSH product name
I thought I knew exactly what was coming: SSH.com was going to demand that people stop calling secure shell products [something]SSH. I was right.


The letter from Tatu Ylonen, creator of the original commercial SSH Secure Shell, is polite and somewhat nervous. He asks that developers of the free (like bash) version of his software, OpenSSH, change the name of their product, as it's diluting his trademark, which he's claimed since started his brand in 1995.

OpenSSH's home page claims that the code on which their product is based, SSH v1.2, was released partly under free software licenses and was therefore free to become part of their project. The question that will now arise is whether that license also covered the product's name.

Further, the trademarkability of a name like SSH seems suspect. The name is clearly derivative of other ?sh names such as rsh, which are standard descriptive names for UNIX functionality. Could a company trademark the name "Blue Car" for their blue car, or "CUV" for their "City Utility Vehicle"? Obviously SSH is a clear case, but it seems, to me, to be near the line.

What most upsets me about this decision on SSH's part is that it comes so late. OpenSSH has been both present and visible for at least two years, if not longer -- their site had little historical data. Why wasn't this concern brought up when the project first came to SSH.com's attention? By waiting for the OpenSSH name to become popular before forcing the developers to change it, Ylonen seems to be taking a stab at their place in the market. His concern is not only the protection of his mark, but the undercutting of his competition through unethical means. It makes me glad I switched to OpenSSH.

The full text of the letter is available for your inspection.

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Poll
SSH.com's Demands are...
o entirely fair 15%
o typical business nonsense 30%
o both of the above 30%
o both of the below 7%
o completely indefensible 15%
o a good argument for free software 0%

Votes: 26
Results | Other Polls

Related Links
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o OpenSSH
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SSH to OpenSSH: Stop Using Our Name! | 33 comments (30 topical, 3 editorial, 0 hidden)
It seems quite fair to me (4.00 / 11) (#1)
by streetlawyer on Wed Feb 14, 2001 at 07:40:10 AM EST

There is also a tradition in free software of playing fair by the makers of commercial products by giving names which make it a bit more explicit that there is no connection -- hence, GNU is Not Unix. I think the guy has a point that OpenSSH would be considered by someone who wasn't paying attention to be a kind of SSH, just as OpenBSD is a kind of BSD.

Thus, if OpenSSH is found to have a vulnerability, people will assume that it exists in SSH, which might not be the case. The obvious problem exists, not in the morality of what he's been doing, but in the fact that he's almost certainly left it too long to defend the trademark, as the article suggests.

On the substantive question of "Could a company trademark the name "Blue Car" for their blue car, or "CUV" for their "City Utility Vehicle"?", the answer is yes to both, if they did it correctly. Rollerblades is a trademark, for example; and if you designed a car for driving around town, Lincoln would suggest that you called it something other than a Town Car, because that's their brand of limousine. Anything can be a trademark if it is distinctive. But that, of course, would be a point in marketing, and it seems to be the given on this and other websites that marketing is evil, pernicious twaddle with no intellectual rigour (clue; it isn't) which can and indeed must be ignored.

--
Just because things have been nonergodic so far, doesn't mean that they'll be nonergodic forever

I don't think it's that simple. (5.00 / 2) (#20)
by Minuit on Wed Feb 14, 2001 at 04:44:23 PM EST

"I think the guy has a point that OpenSSH would be considered by someone who wasn't paying attention to be a kind of SSH, just as OpenBSD is a kind of BSD."
I think that someone who was paying attention would come to the same correct conclusion. OpenSSH _is_ a kind of SSH. It uses the SSH protocol, and is derived from the original SSH code. Not calling it SSH would have been misleading.

"[...] if you designed a car for driving around town, Lincoln would suggest that you called it something other than a Town Car"
Your analogy would be more apt if Lincoln had attached the following sign to the inside of every Town Car(tm):

"As far as I am concerned, the design of this car can be used freely for any purpose. Any derived versions of this car must be clearly marked as such, and if the derived work is incompatible with the driving experience in the owner's manual, it must be called by a name other than 'Town Car'"

OpenSSH is a derived version of Tatu Ylonen's SSH 1.2, which was released under a very liberal license. It allowed the code to be "used freely for any purpose", and specified that "if the derived work is incompatable with the protocol description in the RFC file, it must be called by a name other than 'ssh' or 'Secure Shell'"

I don't pretend to be a lawyer, but it sounds to me like that license not only allows allows me to create derived versions of ssh, but also implies that I can call it 'ssh' or 'Secure Shell' provided that it is compatable with the ssh protocol described in the appropriate RFC and clearly described as a derived version. This is exactly what the OpenSSH team has done -- They took software with an open license, played fair by doing exactly what the author told them they could do, clearly describing in the documentation how their program was derived from the original, and giving their derived work a name based on the protocol which they were implementing. I can't see how they have done anything wrong here.

Still, I am of two minds on this issue.

One the one hand, I feel that the OpenSSH developers have acted in good faith and done nothing wrong in writing, releasing and naming OpenSSH. It is an open (as in OpenBSD) implementation of the SSH protocol, based on the SSH program, so it is called OpenSSH.

On the other hand, Ylonen has been quite polite about this issue, and he does make a valid sounding argument regarding confusion between the two names. It would be impolite not to address his concerns in some way. Perhaps the name "OpenSSH" could be changed to "OpenSSHWhichIsDerivedFromSSHButIsntTheSameThingAnyMore".

On the third hand, anyone who confuses "OpenSSH", "F-Secure-SSH", "OSSH", "TTSSH" or "SSH Secure Shell" with one another is probably also going to think that guinnesssucks.com is the home page for Guinness or that "Barq's Light" and "Coors Light" are the same thing just because they have a few letters in common. These people should all receive a lifetime supply of ice cream. (What flavour? Boot to the head, of course.) But that's just me.

-D


If you were my .sig, you would be home by now.
[ Parent ]

What does he mean by this? (3.40 / 5) (#3)
by enterfornone on Wed Feb 14, 2001 at 07:51:59 AM EST

The confusion is made even worse by the fact that OpenSSH is also a derivative of my original SSH Secure Shell product, and it still looks very much like my product (without my approval for any of it, by the way). The old SSH1 protocol and implementation are known to have fundamental security problems, some of which have been described in recent CERT vulnerability notices and various conference papers. OpenSSH is doing a disservice to the whole Internet security community by lengthing the life cycle of the fundamentally broken SSH1 protocols.
He seems to imply both that OpenSSH used his code without permission and that OpenSSH has a number of know vulnerabilities. What is the story there?

--
efn 26/m/syd
Will sponsor new accounts for porn.
OpenSSH's Derivation (4.50 / 4) (#8)
by acestus on Wed Feb 14, 2001 at 08:36:53 AM EST

OpenSSH was originally written with some code from SSH. The code that was used was freely released code, and so OpenSSH was free to use it in their free software. You can see some more details of this on the OpenSSH history page. I don't believe anything was used where his permission was needed!

As for security holes, that's only slightly more complicated. SSH originally used what are now known as SSH1 protocols. These protocols were broken, and new versions of SSH use SSH2 protocols. When you use SSH, you're using either major version 1 or 2. SSH2 is -not- backwards compatible with SSH1, but you can force it to be if you want. It's done that way so that you know when you're connecting to a broken server. (A broken SSH1 server is still much more secure than a telnet connection.) OpenSSH, however, includes both SSH1 and SSH2 within the OpenSSH application. It tells you when SSH1 is being used, but it is much less strict by default. This isn't really a security hole; it's a way of letting you connect to sites, even though they have a security hole.

Acestus
This is not an exit.
[ Parent ]

bad wording? (none / 0) (#30)
by Estanislao Martínez on Thu Feb 15, 2001 at 09:34:24 PM EST

OpenSSH is also a derivative of my original SSH Secure Shell product, and it still looks very much like my product (without my approval for any of it, by the way).

I guess he means more like "endorsement": "Despite the fact that I gave out my code, I did not specifically condone them to make a derivative product with essentially the same interface, similar product name, and exact same command name."

As for the vulnerabilities part, he's talking about the SSH protocol version 1 and his original implementation, on which both his SSH1 suite and the derivative OpenSSH are based. The holes affect both.

There is a SSH protocol version 2; clearly, he wishes protocol v1 to be phased out, and people to adopt protocol v2, and his SSH 2 (not free software), which, accordingly, does not include v1 support. (You can install both together, and SSH 2.x can be configured to recognize v1 connections and start a v1 daemon, but you have to do extra work to get this.)

OpenSSH started out doing just v1, and only recent versions do both protocols. I think the default installation enables both. Thus, while SSH 2.x is not vulnerable at all to any of the holes in question (unless you also install an older version which he wants to phase out), a default OpenSSH installation is.

--em
[ Parent ]

Yes (2.70 / 10) (#4)
by Value removed on Wed Feb 14, 2001 at 07:58:22 AM EST

It's like if someone opened up OpenMcDonalds, and started selling Open Big Macs.

It's clearly ripping someone else off - you're using their brand name.

The law is clear, the morality of the situation is clear - no-one would complain if this was OpenMcDonalds being shutdown; it's just because it's the internet/computing, and people seem to think there exists a greater license to do wrong.

There doesn't, and hopefully some time soon people will start treating IT the same way as they do everything else.

Hardly (4.33 / 3) (#6)
by enterfornone on Wed Feb 14, 2001 at 08:08:17 AM EST

SSH is a fairly generic sounding name. It would be like AT&T trademarking sh and going after the makers of bash, tcsh etc..

--
efn 26/m/syd
Will sponsor new accounts for porn.
[ Parent ]
Complications (4.00 / 4) (#10)
by slaytanic killer on Wed Feb 14, 2001 at 08:42:13 AM EST

The SSH protocol apparently (judging from the original email) has been submitted as a standard to the IETF. As it is an open international standards body, submitting a protocol to the IETF may decrease the strength of the protocol's trademark.
"It's like if someone opened up OpenMcDonalds, and started selling Open Big Macs."
Let's keep the analogy closer to reality. Suppose "McDonalds" is a generic term for some kind of restaurant, and someone used SMcDonalds as their trademark. Then someone comes along with OpenSMcDonalds. Not only that, but the SMcDonalds corporation submitted a protocol of the same name to an open international standards body, with the hope that SMcDonalds becomes a household generic term for a protocol which people commonly implement.
"There doesn't, and hopefully some time soon people will start treating IT the same way as they do everything else."
This is one place where people are not likely to share your sentiment.

[ Parent ]
To answer your questions (3.58 / 12) (#5)
by Value removed on Wed Feb 14, 2001 at 08:04:57 AM EST

> Further, the trademarkability of a name like SSH seems suspect.

No. SSH can be trademarked.

> The name is clearly derivative of other ?sh names such as rsh, which are standard descriptive names for UNIX functionality.

That's not strictly true. Standard descriptive would be 'Secure terminal' - this is purely descriptive, whereas ssh clearly is not.

> Could a company trademark the name "Blue Car" for their blue car,

Probably not - copyright law states that generic terms are not trademarkable - so you couldn't trademark the word 'motorbike', although 'motamobile' would be trademarkable, since although derived, it is certainly not a generic term.

> or "CUV" for their "City Utility Vehicle"?

Yes. They would definitely get away with CUV, regardless of the fact that it is an acronym - you are trademarking the letters, not what it stands for.

The exception, of course, would be if CUV were a generic term [I don't know if it is; I'm not really a car person].

CUV? (none / 0) (#22)
by sl4ck0ff on Wed Feb 14, 2001 at 06:41:01 PM EST

I think it's SUV...Standard Utility Vehicle.
/me has returned to slacking
[ Parent ]
bzzt (none / 0) (#23)
by Wah on Wed Feb 14, 2001 at 09:51:31 PM EST

at least here in the U.S. SUV stands for Sport-Utility Vehicle.

Main Entry: SUV
Function: abbreviation
sport-utility vehicle

I'm sure there's a list of funny ones somewhere too dealing with how the folks that buy them most often never do many sports but are more likely to kill while talking on cell phones.
--
Fail to Obey?
[ Parent ]
They should call them FGGMVs... (none / 0) (#27)
by Anonymous 6522 on Thu Feb 15, 2001 at 02:48:27 PM EST

Fashionable Gas Guzzling Mini Vans. I don't know anyone who has an SUV who didn't buy it because it was the fashonable thing to get.

[ Parent ]
I would think that it would boost their popularity (3.42 / 7) (#11)
by lucas on Wed Feb 14, 2001 at 08:55:12 AM EST

...as security consultants.

What I thought SSH was a while back was a company formed to further develop SSH technologies... because Secure Shell is such a generic word.

Here's what I would have done: make it known that you were the original author, that you maintain the highest quality distribution, etc. Enterprise solutions still come to you and end-users will not be upset or angry. This individual, had he marketed his programming talent to the community, could be very well-known and respected.

When you squabble with the free software community about IP and threaten to sue, you're asking to be put into your place. Yes, it's reasonable to say that OpenSSH ripped "SSH" off, but there is no use in trying to recover the trademark after it has become generic.

It's like, ok, so we ditch SSH and call it ABC. People forget about what SSH means and refer to SSH as an "ABC" . SSH, Inc. still does not have the exposure -- OpenSSH gives the company some exposure, at least, by legitimizing the technology.

It's credibility that sticks for the long run. You can either be a tyrant or you can be "one of the hackers", but you have to figure out how you're going to pursue the strategy beforehand.... not two or three years later.

Trademark is probably indefensible (4.36 / 11) (#12)
by DontTreadOnMe on Wed Feb 14, 2001 at 08:57:02 AM EST

It is quite possible that the SSH trademark will not stand up to a legal challenge. Consider:

  • The original ssh 1.x free license allowed the code to be used "for any purpose," with the note that, if a project derived from the code didn't adhere to the RFCs, then it "shouldn't be called SSH."
  • SSH is an IETF standard IIRC. I am not sure on the trademarkability of standards names, however ...
  • ...a standards name does imply a generalized use of the term, which trademark law doesn't normally allow. For example, you can't trademark the term "car" or "automobile" if your an auto manufacturer, as the term is too generic.
  • OpenSSH has been publicly using the name for over a year. This "enforcement" is probably too little, way too late, to be legally enforcable.

Now, perhaps the OpenSSH folks will, out of the goodness of the hearts (or the thinness of their wallets) not contest the claim and change their name to something more descriptive (on slashdot someone suggested "Fresh" as an acronym for Free Remote Encrypted SHell), but I really doubt they can be compelled to do so if they do not want to, and it would arguably be a disservice to the community, and the numerous other projects (FreSH, etc.), to allow the trademark of an IETF standards name to stand.

Finally, if we must resort to analogies that involve dead cattle (as another poster did), naming a product "OpenSSH" is not at all akin to calling a hamburger joint "Open McDonalds," as McDonalds was never a generic term for a hamburger joint. At most it is akin to calling a place "Open Hamburger," or perhaps "Open Fast Food Hamburger Consiting Mostly of Synthetic Chemicals bearing a Remote Resemblance to the Flavor of Beef."


--
http://openflick.org - Fighting Copyright with Free Media
It doesn't matter (none / 0) (#33)
by one61803 on Fri Feb 16, 2001 at 08:15:09 PM EST

I'm not a lawyer so I'm not going to argue the merits of your legal points (as obviously, I'm not qualified to). But then again, we are not at the lawsuit stage yet.

Indeed, the heart of the matter is what our response should be and so far, it seems that the OpenSSH community has raised a collective middle finger to Ylonen. I fear that sometime very soon, he's going to reach the limit of his tolerance and send in the lawyers.

Do you really want that to happen? Are the OpenSSH people ready to spend thousands of dollars contesting the trademark in court? Do you want to risk an unfavorable precedent being set?

And for what? Stubbornly thinking that everything you do is right and that anyone who dares to say otherwise is some sort of a fascist/corporatist?

I'm no saying that we should give in totally but that we should at least try to negotiate with Ylonen and settle this matter outside of the courts. What's wrong with that? From his emails, he sounded as if he would be willing to compromise. It's not as if he is threatening to sue for anything other than total compliance with his demands. I'm sure a mutally acceptable agreement can be reached.

But if the community continues with this childish refusal to budge even and inch, we will definitely have problems.



[ Parent ]
I say make the change (3.62 / 8) (#13)
by Mawbid on Wed Feb 14, 2001 at 08:59:01 AM EST

I'm in no position to tell the OpenSSH people what to do, but I'll put my two cents in none the less.

Do as Tatu asks, even if you don't have to. The names are confusingly similar and if I want anyone to profit from a trademark, it's the guy who gave me SSH.

Besides, there's already great suggestion for a new name: FRESH (Free Remote Encrypted SHell.

Genericicity (4.00 / 9) (#14)
by Ludwig on Wed Feb 14, 2001 at 09:23:14 AM EST

"Secure Shell" is definitely a generic term ("A generic term is one that is commonly used as the name of a kind of goods .... Unlike a trademark, which identifies the source of a product, a generic term merely identifies the genus of which the particular product is a species." Liquid Controls Corp. v. Liquid Control Corp., 802 F.2d 934, 936 (7th Cir.1986)), so just change the official name to OpenSecureShell and have everybody continue to informally refer to it as OpenSSH, the way people do with Kleenex or Xerox.

Scott Tissue can't market a brand called "Kleenex," but they can't stop anyone from calling their product that. The "term limit" for trademark abandonment through non-use is three years (Lanham Act s 46, 15 U.S.C. s 1127 (1994) amended by Pub. L. No. 103-465, 108 Stat. 4981 ("Nonuse [of mark] for three consecutive years shall be prima facie evidence of abandonment.")), but I don't know if that applies to "failure to protect" as well.

But... (none / 0) (#29)
by Estanislao Martínez on Thu Feb 15, 2001 at 09:17:48 PM EST

"Secure Shell" is definitely a generic term

Yeah, but is "SSH" a generic term?

--em
[ Parent ]

So change the name... (4.14 / 7) (#15)
by ucblockhead on Wed Feb 14, 2001 at 11:56:16 AM EST

The company that created the first popular compression software for the PC, using the 'ARC' format, sued the crap out of another company for coming up with a better implementation that used the same name ("pkarc").

So "pkarc" become "pkzip" and very soon, everyone was talking about "ZIP" files, not "ARC" files.

And the company that did the suing ended up a has-been despite "winning" exclusive rights to the name.


-----------------------
This is k5. We're all tools - duxup

On the other hand... (none / 0) (#18)
by rwg on Wed Feb 14, 2001 at 02:47:51 PM EST

On the other hand, Phil Katz (the "pk" in "pkzip") died from alcoholism in a hotel room, wanted for skipping court dates stemming from drunk driving. From the articles I read, he seemed to have a very rough life, so the SEA folks might have gotten the better deal after all.

[ Parent ]
Commercial vs. open source... (none / 0) (#19)
by ucblockhead on Wed Feb 14, 2001 at 02:50:37 PM EST

That's mainly because he was in it for the money, and because once he copied someone else's product, it was easy enough for someone else to do the same to him.

For an open source project, though, that's not an issue, because they are mainly concerned with open standards and such, so the important part of the example here is that the "zip" format dominates.
-----------------------
This is k5. We're all tools - duxup
[ Parent ]
OpenSHH has only been around since Dec 1999 (3.75 / 4) (#16)
by clover_kicker on Wed Feb 14, 2001 at 12:55:16 PM EST

>OpenSSH has been both present and visible for at least >two years, if not longer -- their site had little >historical data.

OpenSHH was released with OpenBSD 2.6 in December 1999, so it's only been around for a year or so.

It seems longer, I know :)


--
I am the very model of a K5 personality.
I intersperse obscenity with tedious banality.

And the command name is... (4.00 / 4) (#17)
by jason on Wed Feb 14, 2001 at 01:08:43 PM EST

This is cute. I type ssh for openssh at home, and for whatever's installed elsewhere. If openssh is forced to change their moniker, will they also be forced to change their executable name? That's due to be a royal PITA.

Jason

yeah that would suck (5.00 / 2) (#24)
by enterfornone on Wed Feb 14, 2001 at 11:38:55 PM EST

for people with OSs that don't support symlinks

--
efn 26/m/syd
Will sponsor new accounts for porn.
[ Parent ]
symlinks in win32 (none / 0) (#28)
by pin0cchio on Thu Feb 15, 2001 at 07:15:08 PM EST

yeah that would suck for people with OSs that don't support symlinks

Which OS? Windows supports two types of symlinks: Explorer shortcuts and batch files. Create an Explorer shortcut by right-dragging an exe file. Create a batch file by putting the program's path into a new text file and renaming it to .bat. Mac OS also supports aliases (select file and press Cmd+M).


lj65
[ Parent ]
Get over it and change the name. (2.50 / 4) (#21)
by WinPimp2K on Wed Feb 14, 2001 at 05:36:50 PM EST

He didn't start griping until his company actually was being confused with OpenSSH. He did the original work and released the source that was the basis for OpenSSH. Stop being a whiny little wanker and play nice. He sure as hell is.

wm (5.00 / 1) (#25)
by enterfornone on Wed Feb 14, 2001 at 11:40:41 PM EST

They could always do a Window Maker and change the name in such a way that it doesn't look like the name was changed at all.

How about Open's Shell, abreviated to opens sh

--
efn 26/m/syd
Will sponsor new accounts for porn.
[ Parent ]
Hoovering (5.00 / 1) (#26)
by PenguinWrangler on Thu Feb 15, 2001 at 06:25:40 AM EST

Everyone talks about "doing the hoovering" when they mean "use the vacuum cleaner" - even when their vacuum cleaner is of a different make.

However, if you started marketing vacuum cleaners and called them "OpenHoover" then you bet the Hoover company would be on you like a ton of bricks.

There's a difference between registered trade marks (such as SSH, for example) and generic use of the word.

Personally I think that the SSH guy is handling this quite politely, from what I've read, when it would have been quite easy and within his rights to hit OpenSSH with the lawyers. Although if OpenSSH don't take the hint, this will probably happen.
"Information wants to be paid"
A comment I saw on /. (4.50 / 2) (#31)
by Giant Space Hamster on Thu Feb 15, 2001 at 09:56:08 PM EST

I'd like to post a comment I saw on Slashdot.org by an Anonymous Coward.
When it comes to Microsoft, Jeff Bezos, et al, Slashdot cries out in unison, "why don't you do what's right, not just what's legally allowed."

Now it's open sources' turn. The right thing to do is honor the wishes of the guy who created SSH, the guy who made SSH available to you (albeit with a license you didn't like), and the guy who still tries to make a living from his hard work.

Give up the conflicting name. Not because you have to. Because it's the right thing to do.



-------------------------------------------
The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, but wiser people so full of doubts.
-- Bertrand Russell
Re: A comment I saw on /. (5.00 / 1) (#32)
by Minuit on Fri Feb 16, 2001 at 12:22:17 AM EST

When it comes to Microsoft, Jeff Bezos, et al, Slashdot cries out in unison, "why don't you do what's right, not just what's legally allowed."
The only thing Slashdot ever cried out in unison was 'First Post!'.
Now it's open sources' turn. The right thing to do is honor the wishes of the guy who created SSH, the guy who made SSH available to you (albeit with a license you didn't like), and the guy who still tries to make a living from his hard work.
Absolutely. His wishes were that the protocol and code he developed be used "freely for any purpose". That's why he made it available to the world with a license that everybody did like, and even stated under what conditions people could use the 'ssh' name. And the OpenSSH developers honoured his wishes by doing exactly that.

If he wants to change his mind, then so be it. But trying to squash OpenSSH now is like giving a friend an expensive watch for their birthday and then reporting it as stolen a week later. Very poor form.

Give up the conflicting name. Not because you have to.
s/conflicting name/threats of legal action/
Because it's the right thing to do.
And a delicious way to do it. Sadly, life isn't as simple as an oatmeal commercial and all of our problems can't be resolved within thirty seconds just by buying the right products and singing along with the jingle.

-D
If you were my .sig, you would be home by now.
[ Parent ]

SSH to OpenSSH: Stop Using Our Name! | 33 comments (30 topical, 3 editorial, 0 hidden)
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