March 7, 2001

OpenSSH: No news is good news in trademark dispute

Author: JT Smith

- By Grant Gross -
Faced with threats of a trademark lawsuit, developers of OpenSSH are plugging away writing code after getting silence from SSH Communications Security Corp. since mid-February.

In mid-February, Tatu Ylönen, chairman and CTO of SSH Communications Security, sent a letter to the OpenSSH developers list, demanding OpenSSH stop using "SSH," which Ylönen claims to have a trademark on. On Feb. 15, Todd Fries, holder of the OpenSSH.com domain, received some legal-looking paperwork from Ylönen's lawyers, but members of the OpenSSH team say they've heard nothing since that initial round of emails and documents. (Read part one and part two of the OpenSSH trademark dispute.)

Ylönen didn't respond to emails this week and in late February asking about his company's next move.

OpenSSH leaders have promised to fight the trademark claim, and Ylönen released a statement and proposal asking that any products with "ssh" in their names be licensed by his company. OpenSSH developers, saying they're used the name for nearly two years without a peep from SSH Communications Security, pretty much thumbed their collective noses at Ylönen's proposal.

Says Theo de Raadt, one of the vocal OpenSSH developers: "If anything further comes, I think my statement is basically: We don't care anymore. It's all just a waste of time regarding an invalid trademark dispute (note he has not tried to sue us yet), and
thus cutting into our valuable time writing better free software."

Meanwhile, the OpenSSH team continues to write code. Late last week, the team released Portable OpenSSH 2.5.1p2 designed to run on Unix-based operating systems other than OpenBSD. Portable OpenSSH runs on Linux, MacOS X, Solaris, and several other Unixes.

Damien Miller, lead developer on the Portable OpenSSH team, said he's "not losing much sleep" over the trademark issue. "Personally I don't want to worry about the trademark issue -- I just want to get on with improving OpenSSH," he said.

Miller said the trademark claim has been "pretty comprehensively debunked," repeating earlier arguments by de Raadt and others.

Meanwhile, de Raadt is pointing people to current research on what implementations of SSH people are using. The graph shows a growing number of OpenSSH users.

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