Recently there has been a kerfuffle over the University of Guelph trademarking “open ed”, and rightfully so. This is asshat behaviour. Clint LaLonde describes some of the changes that BCcampus will need to make.
First, it’s an ironic move as the open education movement, like many other open movements (open source, open access, open data, open government) seek to remove barriers to collaboration and sharing. Second, it doesn’t appear that University of Guelph actually does much open ed work. As Brian Lamb and others have mentioned there is no mention on their website of open education projects like open textbooks, open pedagogies, and open access. Third, as Clint LaLonde writes BCcampus hosted the Open Ed conference in Vancouver in 2009, so there is documented use before University of Guelph started their trademark claim.
This reminds me of something that happened with an open source library software project. Koha, the first open source integrated library system, was developed in New Zealand. The word “koha” means gift in Māori. In 2009 LibLime, an American software vendor tried to obtain the trademark for Koha in New Zealand. Thankfully LibLime lost in 2013. The Koha free software community entrusted TE Horowhenua Trust (the home library that funded the initial development in 1999) with the trademark for New Zealand nd the European Union. Unfortunately koha.org is owned by LibLime and koha-community.org is the free software website. This can be confusing for people who don’t know the backstory.
These legal battles are expensive, time consuming and on an individual level very stressful. Clint writes that BCcampus has been trying to resolve this for 6 months. The Koha case took 4 years. Dealing with these legal cases took time, money and emotional energy that was diverted from the open projects that are creating a new model of doing things.
I love working in open communities. I love the unlikely creative collaborations that happen. I love working with people with similar politics but completely different backgrounds towards making libraries, education and heck, society as a whole, a better place. I’d hate to see new initiatives be bogged down in creating foundations and ensuring protection of their shared intellectual property, instead of working together to make something new, innovative and beautiful.
There’s got to be a better way to do things.