Who gets to use the ODK name?

I (as Yaw, not as a member of the PMC) currently define the ODK suite as tools maintained by the core team of contributors, under the governance and preferred licenses of this community, and stored under the ODK Github organization.

There are a number of tools with ODK in their name (e.g., ODK Meta, ODK Hamster, ODK Aggregate VM) that do not fit this definition. I think this situation:

  • Confuses users (e.g., this forum gets odkmeta support questions)
  • Has potential conflicts of interest (e.g., Nafundi charges money for the ODK Aggregate VM)
  • Is dangerous for organizations (e.g., ODK Hamster has no license, so it's not actually open source)

While the use of ODK in a product name does provide advertising for ODK, there can be real confusion in the community about what exactly an ODK tool and who is responsible for said tool. Historically, the core team has defaulted to not policing use of the term ODK, but I think that stance is untenable in the long term.

I am not a lawyer, and I don't know what the right approach is, but I'm guessing we will have to:

  1. Trademark Open Data Kit and ODK
  2. Write up clear guidelines on how to use the ODK brand and how we will enforce those guidelines
  3. Ask projects that have ODK in the name to comply with those guidelines

I'm curious if others see this as a problem, and if so, what their proposed solution and what potential risks are with that solution.

Great points @yanokwa.

When I was working with OpenMRS, we had similar challenges within the ecosystem, so I developed a logo policy that included the following language:

You may not use, include, or modify the OpenMRS logo icon (round "cross" graphic) or wordmark in any way to adapt it for use in any other project or product. If you are building a derivative work from/using OpenMRS, you may use the phrase "Powered by OpenMRS" or "Built on OpenMRS" (or an equivalent local translation) in conjunction with your product's own name or logo. If you display the OpenMRS logo with or near your own product's logo, you should be sure that the OpenMRS logo appears no larger than 25% the size of your product's main logo.

So, as is often said on the Internet, IANAL (I Am Not A Lawyer), but I would suggest that "Open Data Kit" is already a "trademark" of the folks who have created it over the years. It may not be registered with any government entity, but that doesn't mean it's not a mark indicating the uniqueness of a particular product or service.

In other words, it's the difference between (R) and (TM).

In $DAYJOB at the DIAL Open Source Center, we have adapted and adopted a "trademark policy" (mostly for good practice) that is both educational and probably informative here. It's available for review at: http://osc.dial.community/en/latest/trademark-policy.html

That said, generally, there is value in registering trademarks in one or more jurisdictions. One of the services our program provides is working with legal experts (in our case, Software Freedom Conservancy) to provide "easy and painless" (my non-doer terms!) registration of trademarks. When a trademark is registered, a legal entity such as an individual or organization (e.g. Software Freedom Conservancy) can hold that registration on behalf of another person or group of people. Something like this might be useful for the ODK community at some point.


Hi Yaw,

Along with developing the guidelines and following up on compliance, do you think there's value in developing an alternative naming option – Powered by ODK, Built with ODK, ODK Inside :slight_smile: – that would encourage the idea of an ecosystem as well as distinguishing official products from 3rd party products?

I think we touched on this at the convening, and apologies if this discussion is already taking place elsewhere on the forum.

Cheers, Ben


I really like this suggestion. Since ODK is already heavily in use it would be difficult to control things in a way other branding might. Though with guidelines we could at least push people in a direction we as the community would want things to go.

One thing that might be important though is to at least be aware if there are other attempts to register Open Data Kit as a trademark. Sometimes these things can manage to slip through.

I don't think this is a huge priority, but @downey just put some guidelines in Slack, so I figured I'd share them here so we don't forget.


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This hasn't been widely announced yet, and it might not yet be urgent, but the DIAL Open Source Center is now offering its participating projects trademark registration at no charge, facilitated and managed by our partners at Software Freedom Conservancy. The PMC (and/or its successor entity) members individually would need to sign off on the arrangement with Conservancy, and the agreement would allow the trademark to be re-assigned should ODK become its own entity or sign an agreement with a comprehensive fiscal sponsor, for example.

Happy to share more information about this option if there is interest.