PTFS/LibLime Acquires Koha Trademark in New Zealand

KohaThe Koha community was abuzz last week with the news that the American company PTFS/LibLime had acquired the Koha name trademark.  Many librarians were upset that a commercial entity had taken steps to acquire the Koha name.

Some background information: Koha is an open-source integrated library system (ILS) originally developed by the Horowhenua Library Trust in New Zealand in 1999.  The ILS made its way to the US and LibLime was one of the companies that sprung up to support it.  Some librarians argued that LibLime fragmented Koha as well.

Via the Koha Library Software Community blog, the Horowhenua Library Trust wrote a plea for help to the Koha and open-source community to help defend against the trademark approval:

The situation we find ourselves in, is that after over a year of battling against it, PTFS/Liblime have managed to have their application for a Trademark on Koha in New Zealand accepted. We now have 3 months to object, but to do so involves lawyers and money. We are a small semi rural Library in New Zealand and have no cash spare in our operational budget to afford this, but we do feel it is something we must fight.

It now appears that PTFS/LibLime intends to turn over the Koha trademark to a Koha Foundation.  In a press release, the company wrote:

Another one of the assets acquired in the purchase of LibLime was an application for the trademark of the term Koha as it applies to ILS software in New Zealand. That application has now been accepted. PTFS/LibLime will hold that trademark in trust as well, and will not enforce it in order to insure that no individual, organization, or company will be prohibited from promoting their services around Koha in New Zealand.

PTFS/LibLime is prepared to transfer the trademark to a non-profit Koha Foundation with the provision that the Foundation hold the trademark in trust and not enforce it against any individual, organization, or company who chooses to promote services around Koha in New Zealand. PTFS/LibLime encourages a direct dialog with Koha stakeholders to determine an equitable solution for the disposition of the trademark that serves the best interests of the libraries who use Koha.

Last Friday, the Horowhenua Library Trust wrote a follow-up announcement that it had received nearly $12,000 in donations and hired a law firm.  It acknowledged PTFS/LibLime’s intent to transfer the Koha trademark:

PTFS have issued a press release saying they are willing to hand the NZ Koha trademark over to a non-profit representing the Koha community. That organisation is the Horowhenua Library Trust, elected by the Koha global community, and we would be delighted to accept that offer and add the NZ Koha trademark to the store of other Koha community property we currently hold in trust ie domain names and trademarks. It would be a very simple matter for PTFS to assign the existing application to Horowhenua Library Trust and we invite PTFS to do so. The Library Trust has never stopped any Koha user or developer or vendor from carrying out their business. Our track record over the last 12 years of releasing the Koha code and supporting the Koha community to go about its business unimpeded is exemplary and we have no intention of ever changing that approach.

While the matter seems to be settled at this time, debate goes on over PTFS/LibLime’s original intentions and motivations for the trademark grab.