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David Heinemeier Hansson says No to Use of Rails Logo

By Peter Cooper / July 24, 2007

(credit: yarrg)
This morning, Pete Forde of Unspace prodded me to write about a new book, "Beginning Rails" by Jeffrey Allan Hardy and Cloves Carneiro Jr. (with Hampton Catlin). And, when I receive my copy from Apress, I will be reviewing it here. Of more immediate interest to me, however, was a note that David Heinemeier Hansson, the creator of Ruby of Rails, had denied the authors the right to use the Rails logo on the front of their book:

Jeff wanted the Rails logo on the cover of the book but was informed by Apress that David Heinemeier Hansson has been “politely resisting” permission to use the logo, and has said in the future, it will only appear on his books. (emphasis mine)

I got in touch with David to get his take. He responded very quickly (thanks David!) and also posted his full response here. The key points, again with emphasis mine:

The use of the logo is restricted as it always is when talking about a trademark. When the logo is used in a commercial setting, such as part of the promotion of a book, it legally requires that the trademark holder has been involved and stands behind the quality of the book. If that's not the case, you're on the way to lose your trademark.

So I only grant promotional use for products I'm directly involved with. Such as books that I've been part of the development process for or conferences where I have a say in the execution.

David went on to say that he doesn't want to become an arbitrator for use of the logo on books (because of the obvious impracticalities) and that despite the MIT license being applied to the Rails source code, it does not override the trademark restrictions on any graphics provided, such as rails.png. He finished:

Trademarks are like commit access for brand use. Just like not everyone have commit access to the Rails codebase in order to ensure quality, not everyone gets to commit the Rails logo to their own promotional campaign.

While trademark arguments are new for the Rails world, they're familiar within the open source community as a whole, such as in the Debian vs Firefox dispute that resulted in a fork called IceWeasel. It's highly unlikely anyone will fork Rails merely to entirely open up its branding, however, but the message is clear: Don't use the Rails logo without DHH's approval.

(credit: rooreynolds)

One curiosity remains, however, in that not only is the Rails logo a trademark, but so is the word Rails (and the term "Ruby on Rails") itself. From

"Rails", "Ruby on Rails", and the Rails logo are trademarks of David Heinemeier Hansson.

So, legal minds, could DHH use this trademark claim even to the word "Rails" (in its trademarked context) to shut down or force a rename on, say, other Rails conferences, books, or Web sites? If so, we might have something to worry about.

(Addition: Marten Veldthuis points out that the logo's development was funded by an early community effort. Forgot about that!)


  1. Ryan Allen says:

    What if you're a consultancy and you want to use the Rails logo on your site?

  2. Peter Cooper says:

    I'd be interested as to what DHH has to say about that. It could be argued that you'd be using the Rails logo merely to reference to Rails itself.. but if that argument could be made, then it could also be made for the book.. so I dunno :)

  3. Marten Veldthuis says:

    Uhm... I understand where DHH is coming from, and normally would tend to agree. But in this case... the logo was a community funded effort (remember ?), and I think it would be rather strange not to allow the community to use the logo now.

  4. kale says:

    Legal mind? Thankfully no, but I would think he could restrict the usage in any commercial application just like any other trademark holder would do.

    Does this make David evil? I hardly think so. Without trademark law you could end up with multiple "rails" packages all using the same logo and name. That would be evil. In the end, the identity of the Ruby on Rails brand is very important not only to DHH, but to all of us involved in the community.

  5. Peter Cooper says:

    Marten: That's a really good point. I'll add that to the article.

    kale: None of it makes anyone "evil", though no-one has used that word yet :)

  6. Jeremy says:

    I can't see how that's possible, since he included the Rails branding in Rails applications before he received the trademark. I'm sure I'm totally ignorant of the relevant laws, but wouldn't that preclude him from being able to really enforce this? I understand _protecting_ the trademark, in the sense of making sure that no one can confuse his mark with another product, but I wouldn't think he would be able to prevent references in books and websites.

    But again, I'm very ignorant of such things. :)

  7. Peter Cooper says:

    kale: The identify -is- important, which is why Firefox forced Debian to change the name of their brand of Firefox because Debian wanted to use a different icon. In this case, however, people seem to want to use the consistent, recognized identity, but are being told they cannot (quite rightly, in a legal context, however).

    I wonder what would happen if everyone came up with a different "Rails" icon and used those on books, etc. If those books became popular, then there's extreme confusion as to the Rails identity and the situation is even worse. The only thing DHH can do then (other than ignoring it) is to pull rank on the trademark of the Rails *name* (as opposed to the logo) and stop people creating their own Rails logos. In any case, it's not a nice situation whatever way it goes (if the trademark is enforced).

  8. Alan Bradburne says:

    I hit the same problem with my book - Apress told me that the logo was a no-go, although the Apress Rails e-commerce book has the logo ( . Not sure how that got through.

    I just let the matter drop (although I was disappointed) and I can totally understand DHH's stance. However I had the same concerns about the trademarks on 'Rails' and 'Ruby on Rails'. It would be nice to fully understand what we can use, what we can't and if there is a need for a non-trademarked logo.

  9. Peter Cooper says:

    Alan: Possibly because the e-commerce title was one of the early books (in terms of Rails), so might have been before David began this policy (for example, he gave me the thumbs up to use the Rails logo in a "Rails UK" adaptation I created - but then never used). Of course, they might just have never asked ;-)

  10. Brian Burridge says:

    I understand where DHH is coming from. I certainly wouldn't want a book to come out that bashes Rails and freely uses its logo. I don't think there is any reason to behave as though the sky were falling over this. Personally, I can very much continue to use Rails and love every second of it, without having the Rails logo on everything. Obviously you can still write a Rails book and put Ruby on Rails on the cover, since its been done numerous times. You just don't use the logo.

    On a side note, I had one of the first JSP sites when it first came out, and I put Sun's Java logo on it, and they came at me and shut the site down.

  11. Peter Cooper says:

    Brian: I don't think this is any sort of crisis, but I think people just want to know what the policy is for various things. Sun make theirs pretty clear, for example, in that logo use is prohibited without explicit permission, whereas other marks may be used in a written form without permission in various ways. It seems Rails might have matured to the point where these usually "taken for granted" points need to be officially clarified.

  12. Daryl Fritz says:

    As nothing more than a programmer (definitely not a legal representative), I'm shocked and actually appalled at this effort. I could care less whether or not a book or product is sanctioned by DHH, I just care whether or not it is about Ruby on Rails.

  13. court3nay says:

    Trademark law works roughly like this: you claim trademark on a 'mark' (logo) or word, in a particular field (software engineering, or tshirts, or whatever). If you want to make it more official, you register it with the USPTO, but this is not required (that's the difference between the "tm" and "(R)" logos).

    Then, you have to vigorously defend the mark (by sending a cease & desist to anyone who uses it without permission / showing "registered trademark of ...".) This is the important part. You are obligated to enforce it, or you lose it. If you just let anyone use it, you can't stop other people from also using it.

    Now, interestingly enough "Rails", "Ruby on Rails" and the logo were only trademarked in March of this year. There was another (live) use of the word "rails", which was "software for engineering and logistics support". This indicates there may have been a bit of crossover (is Rails software?) but since the other party never enforced, you could say they had no rights over it.

    Finally, there is a trademark on the word "rails" on tshirts. So you can't print a tshirt that just says "Rails" on it, because someone else already owns the trademark on that.

    What does all this mean? DHH has a good point; the fact that the logo was, originally, a community effort, is irrelevant. Rails itself is a community effort. If you guys want a rails logo for the community to use, then you'll need one that's either free of trademark, or, trademark it and set up a committee to approve its usage.

  14. CG says:

    What's all the fuss about. We are used to not being able to use the MS Windows logo or name (or pretty much anything else) without either their permission or paying money or both.

    So it appears that Rails is now indeed becoming mature like Windows. If people don't like this there are plenty of alternatives such as jRuby, Ruby.Net, Iron Ruby ... well err ... maybe they will have to remove the "Ruby" part out of their name if it is trademarked - time will tell. Is the name "Ruby" trademarked? If so, wouldn't Ruby on Rails need to be changed to SomeKindofLanguage on Rails? For some reason I think Mat wouldn't do that.

    Perhaps it is time to look at Groovy or Python frameworks - does anyone know if there are logo or name restrictions on these? I love using Ruby that would be a shame, but maybe I can use Ruby along with another framework. I am afraid (at this point) to develop stuff in Rails for fear of some unspecified infringement warnings appearing - this doesn't "feel" like it's in the open source spirit anymore. Sad because I have invested quite a bit of time in learning Rails. I definitely need to read and try and understand the MIT license at this point, as much as a loath the need to do that, before doing anymore development in Rails. If someone with legal expertise in the MIT license reads this please chirp in as to whether there is anything to worry about here - I (and perhaps others) would appreciate it at this point.

    There probably is a lot of similar history - wasn't Gnome started because of a fear about parts of KDE being proprietary? Didn't people abandon SUSE in troves after finding out that possible future restrictions could apply?

  15. Jarkko Laine says:

    Alan: We got the permission to use the logo in an early stage of the process of writing Beginning Ruby on Rails E-Commerce. Later we got a cease and desist letter but it was all settled out since I had the original email from David where he gave his permission to use the logo. Obviously that was before the whole trademark debacle.

    As far as the words 'Rails' and 'Ruby on Rails' go, I don't think anyone can prohibit you from using them as long as you acknowledge that they are (registered or not) trademarks of their respective owners.

  16. Chris Mattocks says:

    I am disappointed that DHH has taken this stance with the R*ils logo.

    David paid 1/10th of the $1,000 donated for the logo. Many others contributed their time in design concepts and suggestions. How did his 1/10th turn into absolute control?

    Would those that contributed have done so if they understood that they were creating a Rails logo that David would eventually solely use and control?

    Has David forgotten that R*ils does have a community? Has he lapsed in his good marketing sense? Is it really a good idea to have a bevy of R*ils related products, books especially, that *don't* brandish the logo?

    I hardly see any reason to deny the use of the R*ils logo on a book about R*ils. I really thought the R*ils logo identified not just R*ils, but the community that has embraced it.

    What about all the commercial consultancies, hosting and other companies that use the logo? Has he reviewed each one for DHH approved quality? If not, he needs to protect his logo and have them taken down immediately. Otherwise, he may jeopardize his trademark and others will be able to use it as well.

    DHH, please be more supportive of the community that supports R*ils. The logo is central to the identity of R*ils and it's community. Having another book published without the logo misses an opportunity to further brand it.

    In this instance, less is not more David.

  17. Chris Mattocks says:

    Sorry about the double post.

    court3nay, the fact that the development of the logo was a community effort IS relevant. A collective of people helped develop and fund the logo. Protecting the trademark is fine and fantastic, but there needs to be more flexibility with it's use. At the very least, more consistency. If this is David's policy, he needs to state it officially and publicly so that there is no confusion about how it can be used.

    CG, R*ils is becoming mature like Windows? That doesn't even make sense. Comparing R*ils, an open source project to Windows is just silly. And, you really ought to correct your priorities. I mean really, this logo nonsense is enough to motivate you to use another framework? Yikes, look at what this is doing already.

    This is not about the trademark. Legal details aside, this is more about intent and openness. R*ils is guarded like a Tiffany & Co. store, thank you. But, come on, lighten up on the logo leash.

    This book should bear the logo. Good or bad. End of story.

  18. DHH says:

    CG, the MIT license doesn't take much effort to understand. You could almost fit it on the back of a napkin. See the full thing here:

    Again, this license gives you the right to do just about anything with the code, but it doesn't relate or extend at all to the brand ("Rails", "Ruby on Rails", or the Rails logo).

    If you want to use that brand to promote commercial products, you have to get permission. And to give permission, I'm legally bound to enforce quality control on the grant (which means getting directly involved, like I've been with the AWDwR book and the RailsConf conference).

    This is nothing new. See all of O'Reilly's books on pretty much any piece of software that has a trademarked brand. They never slap the logo on the cover of those.

  19. Thijs van der Vossen says:

    So I've basically donated $150 for a logo that can't be used by the community. Nice.

  20. DHH says:

    You can definitely use the names to refer to the brand. But you can't use them in a way that's confusion as to whether there's an official sanctioning (as that requires quality control from the trademark holder). The line between the two is unfortunately often quite blurry and determined on a case-by-case basis.

  21. Control Boy says:

    > You are obligated to enforce it, or you lose it.

    This is not true.

  22. David Berube says:

    Remember, folks, you cannot trust others to act reasonably in these situations; that's what's great about the GPL and why the right to fork is so important.

    Take it easy,


  23. CG says:

    DHH and Chris

    Thanks for the clarification - I assumed as much - but perception is fragile and powerful at the same time.

    This could spin out of control and have people worried about infringement rights and not use Rails because of that. I hope not, and I hope the clarifications will keep anything like that from happening because I want to use Rails for several future projects and therefore to remain popular.

    Unfortunately there will probably be some fallout on this from those that would just as soon not see Rails become more popular - for whatever reason, valid or not.

  24. DHH says:

    CG, the trademarks are not news. What perhaps is news to some is how trademark protection works (I had to be educated by a lawyer on the subject as well). The rules requiring quality control and trademark enforcement are the same for all trademark holders. Whether that be MySQL or Ubuntu or Rails.

    But hey, selling a song to get out the pitchforks and torches is often a popular one. So I wouldn't be surprised to see it happen again. But I'm frankly not going to get riled up about that. There's more important work to be done (like getting Rails 2.0 ready to roll).

  25. Peter Cooper says:

    Rails: Now with extra pitchforks.

    Well, we have some official word on the whole situation now (thanks David), so we have a better idea of what is/isn't allowed.

  26. Dave says:

    The only thing that I can see coming from this is the weakening of the Rails community and certain short-term benefits for DHH.

    If DHH wanted to protect the Rails logo from "evil" use he'd still have let it go on that book. This is quite obviously motivated by personal gains, be it profit or power.

    If Rails is going to be DHH Land, then why not just slap on a licensing fee for it, actually pay those poor core developers to work full time on it, build a better Rails, make a fortune and skip this "we are such a free community" talk? It's not like its worse than what MS and Sun is doing, just not better either.

  27. Bob says:

    Please note that DHH has still not addressed why it is that the logo he provided 10% of the funds for ends up belonging 100% to him. If the others did not provide their 90% with the understanding that they were allowing DHH ownership, then I do not see how he can legally or ethically assert the claim.


  28. DHH says:

    The logo is the trademarked representation of the brand that I launched by releasing Rails into the wild. That donations were made to help pay for the graphical design of that logo has no legal (or in my mind ethical) bearing on the fact that the logo is merely a representation of the brand.

    Regarding using a trademark to protect the brand of an open source project: If that violates some moral code you hold, you'll quickly be limiting your options as to what open source packages you can use. Obviously, MySQL, Ubuntu, and a long list of other projects that have trademarks on their brands are now off-limits.

    That's of course totally fine. A certain number of people won't use anything but GPL software either.

  29. Akira says:

    Hmm, so what's up with this:

    Or is that just metaphorical open sourcing?

  30. Noah Stern says:

    Our company launched a website this last Friday (July 20th, 2007) and I emailed DHH the link to our website and asked his permission to use the logo in conjunction with a link to and the verbiage "Powered by". David gave me permission to use it with a verbiage change. No problem, I complied with his request and it is going out with the next deploy.

    I'm not sure what the problem is. Work with him in an appropriate fashion and I'm sure the issue can be resolved.

  31. Peter Cooper says:

    Akira: Basically there's a distinction between /licensing/ and /trademarks/ that DHH is making regarding visual identity, so despite the "open sourceness" of the thing, that doesn't necessarily extend to the trademark / brand.

  32. Trek Glowacki says:

    Meh... old one was open source, correct? DHH seems to be referring to the new one. Use the old one and be done with it.


    The language seems pretty clear the old one is free for use. "Open sourcing the Rails logo", "Once you share the source, improvements are bound to occur."

    While it may not have been DHH's intent to give away rights to the old Hicks' logo, you might be able to argue (should it come to court) that his languages implies public ownership of the old logo.

  33. Andrew Pike says:

    Perhaps when the logo was "open sourced" [ ] it should have been done with a Creative Commons license. Even doing that now might at least define what can and cannot be done with it.

    DHH, why can one "definitely use the names to refer to the brand" in an un-confusing manner, but not the logo (in an un-confusing manner) if they're all trademarks?

    Here's a recent entry on the DHH blog I find interesting and potentially relevant: "Why there's no Rails Inc."

    I find it interesting that "a large group of core committers would have an unfair advantage in the training and consulting space — easily siphoning off all the best juice and leaving little for anything else" but there are no such concerns when it comes to books.

    "It's much more satisfying to see a broader pool of companies all competing on a level playing field." -DHH, June 05, 2007 13:39

  34. BradM says:

    I am shocked how some people can become offended with a programming framework, simply because the owner is protecting the brand (trademark) of that framework. Think about all the time and sweat put into developing the code.

    Nothing is stopping you from developing with it. Why would you care about the logo in the first place? Get your application done. That's what's important here.

    So DHH wants to protect the image that he's developed. Big Deal! It's his to protect. If I cared, then I may go out and develop my own. But that's foolishness. Well, back to work I go.

  35. Peter Cooper says:

    I think there might be some missing of David's point here. It's not an issue of licensing. It's also not an issue that people can't write Rails books. It's a trademark issue in the use of the branding.

    I don't particularly believe that this stuff /should/ be trademarked, but that's David's right.. but it should be recognized that David is clearly stating this is a trademark issue and not a licensing one.

  36. SMERF says:

    It has been said before and needs to be said again. D.Hannsson is a _fucking_ asshole!! (emphasis mine). And the sooner you morons stop pulling his goddammned gravy train, the better.

    Fuck You DHH
    Fuck your bullshit marketroid BS Speak
    FUCK your LOGO
    FUCK YOUR stupid shit.

    What you fucking bitches need to do is to stop sitting aroud TALKING about forking,



  37. Kamal Fariz says:

    DHH has explicitly said that consent is required before slapping the Rails logo, "Rails" and/or "Ruby on Rails" to a commercial product.

    Here I have a slightly weird twist in scenario.

    I recently joined a startup that is unimaginatively named Ruby on Rails, LLC registered in Malaysia. We are not selling services, i.e. we are not doing Rails consulting work for others. We are your run of the mill startup building consumer Internet applications spun off as different brands (like Obvious Corp is to Twitter).

    Yes, I have repeatedly asked the boss to change it. It pains me that we can't get our word out without fear of being ridiculed and scorned by the community. I'm almost hoping that DHH would send a C&D letter to us if that would finally make the boss change his mind.

    In the meantime, I internally refer to ourselves as RSB (the Malay-language translation for LLC is Sdn Bhd, so Ruby on Rails Sdn Bhd (RSB)), and sometimes RoR Sdn Bhd ("RoR" is not trademarked).

    Please get me out of my misery and send us the C&D already!

  38. Rodrigo says:

    As said in the article "Rails", "Ruby on Rails", and the Rails logo are trademarks of DHH. Or as said on Kamal's comment: DHH has explicitly said that consent is required before slapping the Rails logo, "Rails" and/or "Ruby on Rails" to a commercial product.

    Is there any need to ask for his consent to use the word "Rails" or "Ruby on Rails"? In this case it doesn't "requires quality control from the trademark holder"?

  39. Shaun says:


    Thanks for the great example of why DHH is forced to maintain control--to protect it from angry people like yourself.

    We only know who DHH is because he implemented the Active Record pattern from Martin Fowler's book, and made many people's live better as a consequence. I've never met the man, and he's never met me. But I'm standing up for him because of what he's done for the community.

    What have you done?

  40. Pete Forde says:

    Hey folks, I just got off a plane from Toronto to San Francisco, where I'm giving two talks at The Ajax Experience on Thursday. (Come say hi!)

    I joked with Peter Cooper when I sent him the link ("now with 100% more controvery") because as a promoter of Jeff's efforts, I know that sometimes having a backstory sets the groundwork for discussion.

    That said, I am pretty disappointed with the response of many of the people in this thread, and on our blog. I'm not a close buddy of David's, as I live in a different city. However, I consider him a friendly acquaintence and trust that he knows a poke in the ribs from me is just that. For all of the talk of David's pride and arrogance, every time I've spoken with him, he's been friendlier than I usually am, and in a situation where he's being mobbed by the same people that are coming on here to call him a sellout.

    Jeff wanted the logo on his book because he's proud to be working with Rails; we all are. It's a handsome logo, and it's a valuable marketing tool. However, at no point were we counting on the logo to get the word out on the book; I believe the quality of the content, delivered by respected members of the Rails community, sells itself.

    Everyone really should focus on the good news: there's a great new introduction to the framework on the block!

  41. Chris Mattocks says:

    Kamal: Does that mean any business, good, or bad, can display the R*ils logo on their site?

    SMERF: Fork you. Just kidding. I'm not like DHH. Just kidding.

    Thijs van der Vossen: Sheesh, get over it. It's not your baby anyway. Just because you bought clothes for it...

    Maybe all of this wouldn't be an issue if the R*ils community just agreed to pay a R*ils tax directly to David. I think a nominal tax of $49 per application with a 3% on profits would be fair. Later of course, this could be increased as he needs.

    Also, DHH will eventually need a Ministry of R*ils established to help him to select and certify the use of the logo along with policing it's abuse by the unruly in the R*ils serfdom.

    Finally, if DHH is an anus, SMERF is a dick. We may just get to see a good solid fork if the two of them spend some time together.

  42. Bob Sams says:

    Well he's an asshole. And his "framework" is constantly losing it's appeal. Let him squeeze money out of it as long as he can.

  43. Frank Pole says:

    Branding is overrated (I mean in this case). The logo is free advertising, it won't weaken the "brand" in any way. Scary how, even the young, don't learn. Should send this guy to Lawrence Lessig and let him explain what it is all about. He could create a own spin-off logo, funded by himself, for his books. If logo use is seen as a threat to the brand, oh dear, what about the code base? So many people can weaken it by monkey patching the stuff, or god forbid, submitting code.
    I think it's careful preparation to maximize future profit out of something the community created (or at least improved and brought to success). Let them pay for it (or create it), then claim ownership and make use of it for personal profit. Nice move. Kapitalism at it's best. Nothing wrong with it. Should have said so before, though. Next thing that'll fall is rails core, some freaky licensing model that makes good benefit can be found, for the future, I bet. I've worked on open source projects when DHH was still in kindergarden and I said from the very beginning that there's something wrong with the DHH guy. Not the typical open-sourcer. Lean back, enjoy the show.

  44. Peter Cooper says:

    Frank Pole: When you say "spin off logo" I really like the idea of there being a "Ruby on Rails Officially Approved" type logo and a generic branding logo that everyone can use. That way DHH and DHH approved products can use the "Official Approved" logo whereas the other can just be used for branding and recognition purposes.

    All this said, I am extremely unconvinced the logo has any traction outside of our community anyway. I'm not sure a Rails logo on a book is going to help sales and doubt even many in our community (who haven't read this page) would realize it's a guarantee of quality.

    I am also intrigued that most of those who are giving the most negative comments here are tending to remain anonymous (bar one or two).

    Pete Forde: I don't consider your remarks or comments (or mine) as any way antagonistic towards DHH. We're just saying it as it is and letting people know something that could be quite important. I'd hate for an independent author to use the logo in innocence, only to get shut down with a C&D. This post, if not the comments, should hopefully at least open people's eyes to the fact that this is a trademark that WILL be defended.

    Indeed, DHH should be glad for this debacle as it gives him more ammunition in a situation where the trademark comes under threat. He has clearly demonstrated that he is defending it here.

  45. infrid says:

    I think the logo freely available, and a dhh approved logo is fair play.

    I'm switching all my dev, training, company, everything to rails - I think it's great - but I feel uncomfortable about this whole - can't use the rails logo without dhh's permission..

    I think the talk of it watering down the brand is erring a little too far on the side of caution - no disrespect to dhh, but I can work out for myself if a book is shite or not, I don't need him to tell me, or be involved in writing every ruby book I read. For example, he doesn't write on the blogs where I get excellent advise, or on irc channels, and without his quality seal, or input, I'm getting answers, training and help..

    However, If he feels like he should audit , then why not make his own: "I am dhh, I have fucking huge balls and this book is great" logo? (please dhh, word it like that, perhaps 2 ruby's ;-)

    I'm no trolling, honest - so please don't fanboy flame my arse or anything, just tryna be helpful.. I'd rather buy books with the rails logo on, than not and be free to make up my own mind about the books I buy.. I might even want books where dhh isn't an author, or doesn't get any money.. I don't see why these things are mutally exclusive..

    Just my tuppence..

  46. Brian Burridge says:

    If you do a search on amazon for Rails books you'll see maybe 20 books on the topic. I also looked at Borders last night while there, and found about 12 there. However, I did not see the Rails logo on any of the books, not even one DHH wrote a foreword for. So why is this new book so much more special than all of them that it should have the logo while the rest don't?

    I can't believe I'm wasting my time debating logo use on the best web framework available. Who cares. I'm sure DHH is more shocked at the complaints than any of you are that you can't use the logo.

  47. Yurii Rashkovskii says:

    While I though it was just more or less fine to trademark RailsConfs (so you can't make your local RailsConf) — I got to know this on Feb 9, 2007 — but this decision is really sorta confusing.

  48. Dan says:

    Can we expect the rails.png file to be removed from the rails application generator?

    It doesn't seem like a good idea to have it in the public directory by default, if you need to have the permission to use it. People may assume they're free to use it however they'd like if it's there.

  49. San says:

    A quick check of the site shows that 'Ruby on Rails' is trademarked, but "Rails" and the "Rails Logo" are not. I suggest telling DHH to go blow it out his ear until he files for those additional marks. Use the logo with impunity.

  50. Peter Cooper says:

    I like your spirit, San, but I think trademarks still apply even when they're not "registered". Of course, IANAL!

  51. Nei Wilson says:

    You should be able to use the graphical logo within Rails as it is, because you can point to the MIT licence DHH has granted you to use it. What you can derive from it before you run into the trademark issues is what keeps the lawyers in the clover they are used to.

  52. SPP says:

    DHH: Could you please let us know your position on other website's using the trademarked Rails logo? For example if a software consulting firm uses the logo in a long list with other logos to show where their expertize lies in a visual way would that be acceptable or not? If not, then there are at least 200 websites I have seen just in the last month that violate this.

    Or have some of these firm asked your permission for their use of the logo and if so, how is that to be done?

    I hope this doesn't sound condescending (it actually isn't supposed to AT ALL), but I was about to deploy a new website for my consulting firm that uses the Rail logo along with others purely as a visual indicator of our consulting expertize rather than representing ourselves as official Rails representatives, so after seeing this I would like to know whether I should remove the Rails logo and just textually represent that or what?

  53. Gabriel Pereira says:

    DHH cited MySQL and Ubuntu in his comment. In my opinion these cases are really different. Behind MySQL and Ubuntu there are two commercial firms (MySQL AB and Canonical LTD) offering commercial services related to their open sources products. So it is clear why they need to defend their trademarks even if the software itself is open-source. In the case of Rails, 37signals is currently selling subscriptions to web-apps that are simply based on Rails. Their customers really don't care for what framework the apps are based on.

    In fact the owner of Rails trademarks is a single person (DHH). In my opinion the trademark for open-source projects should belong to a non-profit organization (see the Python Foundation or the Linux Mark Institute).

    The case of the Linux mark is really enlightening: in 1996, a third party attempted to take control of the Linux trademark for the purpose of selling the right to use it. The Linux Mark Institute ("LMI") was formed IN OPPOSITION to this attempt. So if you search the US trademark database you will find applications/registrations (by different firms) for any kind of ventures related to Linux: magazines, conferences, etc. Anyone could name his/her magazine "Linux Times" and register the trademark. He simply need a sublicence from the LMI granted according to precise written policies.

    That is impossible with Rails at the moment: magazines, sites and conferences are not able to use the Rails word in any form without the capricious permission of DHH. What if DHH begin to collect fee for grant his permissions on trademark usage? He could be the next Bill Gates :)

    If you consider the fact that Rails is currently a community effort and is based on an open source language, this is not really fair. Moreover the name itself "Ruby on Rails" registered by DHH include the term "Ruby" that belong (morally) to Matz. (Of course Matz didn't registered the word "Ruby", in the true open-source spirit). So DHH can use (and even register!) the word "Ruby" (in "Ruby on Rails") but we can't use the term Rails to name a conference "Rails in Paris" or a magazine "Rails Observer" without DHH permission!

    Please, DHH, start a non-profit organization and write down some precise conditions for trademark usage (see Of course the aim should be to protect the Rails trademark for the benefit of its open-source community (and not to let a single person profit from the brand trought "authorized" conferences, books, magazines, etc.)

  54. Pereira in a Nutshell says:

    Rails trademark usage governed by the capricious will of a single person? That scares me.

    Ruby on Rails is clearly a community effort: the Ruby language, the Active Records idea and many other pieces of the Rails framework originated in the open-source community. Moreover the framework itself is currently maintained and improved by a large and active community.

    In my opinion, the actual trademark owner (DHH) should start a non-profit organization and write down some precise guidelines for trademark usage. Of course the purpose should be to protect the Rails trademark for the benefit of its open-source community and not to let a single person profit from the brand through “approved” conferences, books, magazines, etc.

    Good examples to imitate are the Linux Mark Institute and the Python Foundation.

  55. Chris Mattocks says:

    Peter Cooper: I generally like your idea, with a slight modification. Just leave R*ils to it's single logo with a separate and distinct "DHH Approved" stamp that he can anoint where he chooses. Also, I do agree that the logo won't help sell books or vouch for their quality, but I don't see that as the intent. The logo brands and unifies the R*ils world. Consistent use of it will help it gain traction and recognizability outside the community.

    Brian Burridge: You're missing the point entirely.

    Dan: Great point. Perhaps a notation should be included with R*ils about use of the logo.

    David enlisted the help of the R*ils community to both contribute their time and money. Thijs van der Vossen, who posted a comment earlier, contributed $150 to it's creation. By the tone of his comment, he did not understand that David would claim full control and authority over it. Would have contributed his $150 if he had known?

    You see, I don't think any of this would be an issue if David had clearly communicated his desire to solely control the logo. Many of us assumed it was to be for the entire community, as opposed to a select few commercial interests that David supports.

    It feels deceptive, and whether or not David meant for things to unfold this way, he really should address this issue with more clarity and consideration for those who helped create and pay for what he now solely controls.

    And, for those of you who are posting here to slander DHH without reason, stop. If you don't like David, fine, but, you are making this entire discussion less objective. Vent elsewhere.

  56. Thijs van der Vossen says:

    Chris, I would still have contributed. It just would have been nice to know this was going to happen beforehand. However, I'm pretty sure DHH had no idea this usage restriction was needed to retain the trademark while the logo was being designed two years ago.

    I'm actually happy the brand name and the logo are trademarked so that they're harder to misuse. This avoids confusion as to what Rails actually is, which is a good thing for our clients and the business we're in.

    In an ideal world it would have been nice to have a community committee that could grant promotional use of the logo based on the quality of the product, but in the real world that's probably just a waste of resources.

  57. BillSaysThis says:

    IANAL but this still seems very odd to me. In a response to the underlying book blog post, DHH wrote:

    "The fact that rails.png is part of Rails is not related to this point. The image is only included because it’s used on the “Welcome to Rails” screen you get when you start your new project. Not because it’s intended to be used in whatever promotional context you see fit."

    American law, as best I understand it, does not allow for distinctions based on intent; actions are all that count. IANAL and court tests of open source licenses have been rare (at best) so I would not claim to be authoritative but I believe that DHH would have difficulty restricting use of the logo image file, as distributed, if someone decided making a legal stand was worth the time, money and--not least--community ridicule that would surely occur.

  58. David Berube says:

    It seems reasonably clear to me that DHH does not have a moral right to the logo - and by extension, possibly not a legal right as well. Does anyone know what'd be required to oppose his trademark application?

    Take it easy,

    David Berube

  59. Manu says:

    Here are some details about the Rails-related trademarks registered by DHH:

    Source: United States Patent and Trademark Office

  60. Chris Mattocks says:

    Thijs van der Vossen: "It just would have been nice to know this was going to happen beforehand." I agree.

    I do not understand why DHH does not just simply create a formal policy for the logo's authorized use. Without it, it seems to me that he is using the reason of trademark protection as an excuse for his exclusive use and control of a community created/funded logo.

    In the case of this book, why not allow it? Why only on his? If he authorizes the use of the logo on this book, I do not understand how it would jeopardize the trademark. Doesn't he only need to enforce *unauthorized* uses of the trademark. Of which, I'm sure there are many, which *are* jeopardizing the trademark.

    I find it hard to believe that a common trademark will forever limit the use of the logo to only places that DHH chooses. I would imagine there is flexibility in allowing use of the logo, based on an official stated policy for authorized logo use, without putting the trademark at risk. And more, wouldn't it be wise if the community helped look after the trademark by helping identifying unauthorized use? I would think that a policy would even make this a possible.

    IMO: Due to it's origin, it's a community logo. Use the trademark to protect it from misuse, but also allow it to continue to be used by the community according to a formal policy for authorized use.

  61. Jeff Barczewski says:

    I agree with Peter that if DHH wants to restrict use of the logo to his approved uses, then there should be a logo that is not official but is usable by anyone working with the Rails framework.

    If Ruby on Rails, Rails, and the Rails logo is trademarked and restricted from use, then what marketing term/logo should one use to identify that your book/product/website is referring to and/or working with this open source framework (Ruby on Rails)? Do we really want everyone to do their own thing?

    Are we really going to have to resort to calling it R*ils?

    The community is what makes this framework great! So let's not forget about the community. If we are working with the real Ruby on Rails framework, then we should have some way to refer to that. If there needs to be a different term/logo for approved things, that's fine, but anyone working with the real open source framework that is Ruby on Rails should be able to refer to it in some standard fashion that everyone can agree on (terminology, logo, etc.).

    Let's outline the desired goals for the community and DHH, and find a way to fix this for everyone. The solution may involve separate logos (officially approved and generic), acceptable use description, disclaimer clause (indicating the trademark owners and that the use is not an endorsement...) or some combination there of.

    This can be resolved in a way that works well for everyone and there are plenty of smart minds in this community to help if we simply have all the goals and concerns listed up front. Please don't force us down the path like *nix. There should be an acceptable way for everyone to refer to this framework we love.


  62. Jonathan Bourque Olivegren says:

    Why not just use the Ruby logo? That's what I will be doing on my site... it's licensed as Creative Commons... Here is the link:

  63. Bob says:

    Jonathan Bourque Olivegren:

    First, there is a distinction b/w Ruby and Rails. The logo for one does not and should not imply the other.

    Second, DHH's claiming ownership and control on a community-funded and community-designed image seems to many to violate some basic principles.

  64. Chris Mattocks says:

    I like what the Ruby Visual Identity Team has done. Why not use the Creative Commons license with the R*ils logo and trademarks?

  65. Rowan Hick says:

    If you look at the MySQL logo / trademark there are some clear guidelines around it's useage. Why not just put up a page on showing the guidelines. ( Use that as the model, create a couple of variations "We code for ... " "Powered by ... " etc. Will save DHH getting a whole bunch of emails, and will actually clear up the use of the Rails logo. I can see DHH's point, slap the logo on anything and it could be Rails (but it's not!).

    And for those that contributed to the logo; DHH why not just give them their money back. It's on morally shaky ground (as the community in this commentary has obviously shown), a paltry $1000 is nothing.

  66. LouisXIV says:

    DHH's policy on trademark use is simple. If I understand correctly, he says: "the words "Ruby on Rails" / "Rails" and the Rails logotype are mine and I use them for my books and my conferences. Nobody else can use them. Please don't ask permission: Rails, c'est moi!"

    Probably no other open-source software has such a tyrannical brand policy!

  67. Bob says:

    Rowan Hick:

    I think your first proposal of using guidelines is reasonable.

    However I think your second point is flawed. The logo was a community project and now belongs to the community. DHH cannot buy it back for $900 (or $1000), because the original group of contributors (money & ideas) do not, even collectively, own the logo.

    So add guidelines to the community-developed logo. And DHH can create his own, separate trademarked "Official Rails" or "DHH Approved" logo, if he so desires.

  68. Mark C says:

    Well it's great that Dave wants to protect the trademark. The problem is that he's protecting it for Dave and Dave alone. The rest of us won't be able to use it (he's flat-out stated that it can only be used for projects he's involved with), so it's damn well irrelevant to us if it's protected or not.

    Seriously sleazy move.

  69. Michael Bamford says:

    It seems to me that if the logo was a community effort, some sort of community organization should be the authority to approve the use of the trademark. Use of the trademark should be regulated so that when it is used, it's considered authoritative. Nonetheless, if it was well understood and made clear at the start of the community effort to design the logo that the trademark was the property of David, there's no complaining to be had now.

  70. Stani Bottlefield says:

    DHH just made a total ass of himself.

  71. Vincent Smith says:

    Apart from books, magazines and conferences, Rails trademark policy could have a big impact on hosting companies. They generally use the Rails logo and the words Ruby on Rails / Rails to advertise their plans.

    If DHH is really set to pursue trademark infringers, he should begin with hosting companies. No doubt they are using the Rails logo to boost their sales. In DHH's view only hosting companies associated with him can use the Rails trademarks.

    If a publisher can't place the Rails logo on the cover of a Rails book, similarly a hosting company should not be allowed to display the Rails logo on its site.

    The only way to rightfully use Rails trademarks is to associate (in business?) with DHH.

    IMHO David has clearly lost his way...

  72. shut up says:

    You're all a bunch of greedy assh*les. Who give's a sh*t if you can't use the logo to put on your crap books.

    IMO you can find fault with just about anything anyone says, and it seems the rails community usually does. You expect too much guys. I guess that's a negative of rails, it does so much for you that you get friggn lazy and expect everything to be handed to you.

  73. Mark Ansel says:

    shut up: The Rail's community cares about how it's logo is used. You apparently do not. Either because you are new to Rails or do not care much about it's future. If you really had an interest in Rails, you too would be interested in seeing it's community-created logo remain open to fair use.

    Also, it's really poor of you to characterize the Rails community with such disdain. I have not found any of what you said to be true. You really should just do as you say.

  74. Pat Maddox says:

    I'm looking forward to Obie Fernandez's upcoming "The Ruby-based-framework-that-must-not-be-named Way"

  75. Peter Armstrong says:

    This is scary: I'm about to publish a book "Flexible Rails", about using Flex with Rails. Now, chances are that DHH won't approve of using Flex with Rails, so do I need to call my book "Flexible R--ls?" How can you talk about Rails without calling it Rails?

  76. BcH says:

    I think David is very smart to trademark and control the logo and is perfectly within his rights to do so. If you don't the logo WILL get abused, miss-used and end up looking cheap. Just look at all the bad uses and modifications of Tux (yes I know the origins are different but you can get what I mean) and the PHP logo. Don't we as Rails users care about how the framework is portrayed? Obviously David cares about it, as he should. It isn't as if he is preventing people from publishing books about Rails, he is just controlling the use of the logo and name. We should consider ourselves fortunate to have the ability to use Rails at all.

  77. henry wong says:

    Please let's not get carried away here.

    As soon as someone designs a BETTER logo, nobody will care to use David's.

    Geoffrey is already starting this process.

    Pretty soon David's logo will look about as fresh as the PHP logo!

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