The trademark policy was introduced in 2009 to protect the Wikimedia marks. Since then, the Wikimedia community has introduced additional uses of the marks not anticipated by our current policy. We are therefore updating this policy to better balance permissive use of the marks with the legal requirements for preserving them for the community. Unlike our 2009 policy, which was modelled on the Mozilla Trademark Policy, the new document will be tailored to our community and will be based on their feedback. Having prepared a new draft trademark policy, we now invite you to discuss it here.
Trademarks play a crucial role in maintaining the reputation of the Wikimedia projects and the trust of users. By preserving the Wikimedia marks, we ensure that when users see a site that looks like Wikipedia and that carries the puzzle globe logo, they can feel confident that they are viewing free and neutral content that was created collaboratively. While it is important to preserve the reputation of the marks, we don’t want to prevent the marks from being put to use by the Wikimedia community to promote free knowledge and open collaboration. By clarifying our trademark practice, the new policy is meant to help community members determine when they have a legal right to use the marks.
Before preparing a new draft policy, we reached out to the community for feedback on our current trademark practices. The community responded with thoughtful suggestions on how to improve access to the Wikimedia marks, while maintaining legal protection over them. We used their constructive comments to develop a new draft. That draft is guided by the overarching objective of facilitating community uses through more permissive and clearer provisions, while deterring abuse of the Wikimedia marks.
Here are some features of the new draft:
The new draft makes it easier to use the Wikimedia marks. Because community members noted that our previous licensing process was unclear, the new draft clarifies what community members and others need to do to use the marks in different situations. Several approved community uses are listed directly in the policy for quick reference. These uses — including community-focused events, edit-a-thons, and various outreach activities — do not require separate permission. We also created quick Wikilicenses that grant immediate approval of other common community uses, like hackathons, GLAM wiki initiatives, and photo contests. The new draft further clarifies other permissive uses that were already a part of our trademark policy and practice, such as using the marks to link to the Wikimedia projects and decorating personal items with the marks. We also streamlined the application for obtaining a trademark license for all other uses by developing a trademark application form (this is just a mockup). At the end of this blog post is a table comparing the new draft to the 2009 policy for a brief overview of the changes.
We have included more information about fair use in response to questions about how the marks can be used in news reports, personal blogs and social media, slides for presentations, and other material. The draft includes special provisions for different types of fair use to make it easier for community members to know when they have a legal right to use the marks. Those provisions are extensively elaborated in the FAQ to address specific situations that community members raised in the trademark discussion. And as we get additional questions about uses that could be fair use, we will expand the FAQs to make sure that everyone can read about them. The fair use doctrine was also applied as broadly as possible to expand the number of uses that benefit free speech. We have embraced these types of uses because they are consistent with our mission to promote free knowledge.
Community members will now be able to use the Community Logo without a separate trademark license. In addition to the trademark practices discussion, we also started a community consultation on alternative routes of trademark protection for the Community Logo. That discussion showed strong support for registering the Community logo as a collective membership mark. We will now proceed with that registration, and we have included a provision with respect to the use of this logo in the draft policy. This provision will allow community members to freely use the Community Logo to show their membership in the Wikimedia movement without the need for a license. The provision sets out a preliminary standard for determining membership based on the Wikimedia voting rights only as a starting point because it is an existing global community standard. We welcome community members to expand on that standard or come up with another standard that is more suitable for this situation. The standard for membership under this provision should ultimately be determined by the Wikimedia community.
The new draft is supplemented with an extensive FAQ section. In response to the comments submitted during the consultation and the questions we received regarding trademark licenses, we prepared a more comprehensive FAQ section. The new FAQ responds to 79 different questions, compared to only 24 questions in the 2009 policy. The FAQ section has also been separated from the policy so it can be expanded with additional common questions once we start using the new policy. Each provision in the new draft is now also interlinked with the relevant FAQ portion to make it simpler to navigate.
The draft seeks to make trademark use easier by applying clearer language and a more intuitive format. It contains a user-friendly summary to provide a quick overview of how to use Wikimedia marks under the new policy. The policy is written using simple words, short sentences, and clear sentence structure. This is especially important because we are translating the draft into multiple languages (including Arabic, French, German, Japanese, Russian, and Spanish) to make it globally accessible. We also tried to avoid unnecessary words and legal jargon to make the text easier to read for non-lawyers. Throughout the writing process, we verified the simplicity of the text by applying various readability indices. These indices evaluate the readability of text and assign a grade level corresponding to the age of readers who would normally understand it.
We rely on information design principles to make the draft user-friendly. The simplicity of language is only one factor in the usability of a legal document. We also tried to organize the document in a logical manner so that users could quickly find provisions relevant to them without having to study the entire document. We worked on the appearance and format of the draft. For that, we teamed up with cutting-edge legal information researchers to organize two workshops to brainstorm ways to visualize the policy. You can read more about that design process here.
We are now returning to the community for feedback on the new draft and anticipate keeping the consultation open for two months. We want to know what you think. Does the draft address all of your concerns? Are the policy provisions clear? Is the design helpful? How can this draft be improved? We will continuously update the draft based on the discussion so that everyone will have the opportunity to reflect on the evolving policy. Following the consultation period, the final policy will be presented to the Wikimedia Foundation Board of Trustees for review and approval.
Comments from the community are invaluable to us. We rely on them heavily to make our policy as useful as possible. The collaborative development of this policy has so far produced a comprehensive and improved draft. We sincerely thank the community members who have already contributed to the trademark policy discussion.
Yana Welinder, Legal Counsel, Wikimedia Foundation
Geoff Brigham, General Counsel, Wikimedia Foundation