October 5, 2007

Symantec asks G4L to stop infringing on Ghost name

Author: Joe Barr

Michael D. Setzer II, the leader of the project once known as Ghost for Linux (G4L), recently received a cease and desist email message from a lawyer representing Symantec. The company is demanding that the project change its name because the use of "Ghost" violates a trademark held by Symantec for its Norton Ghost disk imaging software.

Chelseaa Bush, from the law firm of Heller Ehrman, emailed Setzer in late September, saying:

We ask that you not use GHOST, SYMANTEC, NORTON or any other Symantec trademark as the name of your program or in any other trademark sense. In addition, changing to G4L is not sufficient. The G in the acronym stands for GHOST so that you are still making reference to and drawing off of Symantec's proprietary name and products. Please adopt a new name for the program that does not draw upon or make any reference to GHOST. Ghost for Linux and G4L should be replaced with this new name everywhere--on all web sites, in the program itself, etc.

Setzer has asked the Software Freedom Law Center for guidance. "I do this 100% for free, and don't even accept donations, so I have no resources for doing any legal battle, but will take the legal help that I can get," he says. Unfortunately, the SFLC says it is unable to help with the matter, other than to point out that Symantec's lawyer should be able to provide the serial or registration number for the mark in question.

When asked, Bush did provide the registration number for the trademark on Ghost. It was first registered to a corporation in Illinois named Gimix, Inc., in 1978. The USPTO database reflects a change of address in 2003 from the original registrant to that of the law firm now representing Symantec in this matter, but the Gimix registered mark had nothing to do with the Ghost software product. Symantec acquired the software in 1998, when it purchased Binary Research, a software development firm in New Zealand, which had originally put Ghost on the market in 1996.

Setzer notes that the term ghosting has been in usage long enough to warrant a number of its own definitions on Wikipedia, one of which is given as "The act of creating a completely identical copy, or a ghost image, of a hard disk using backup software such as Ghost, on to removable media or a network drive to be used as a backup copy of a PC in case a restore of that PC is required. Also known as disk cloning."

As of now, Setzer has removed all references to ghost, Norton, and Symantec from the website, the code, and the documentation. He's hoping to be able to keep the name the same, but Symantec wants the G removed, too. Setzer doesn't want to do that, but can't afford a legal fight with anyone, let alone a firm the size of Symantec. He is still hoping to hear something from the legal staff at SourceForge.net which would allow him to keep the name unchanged. Our parent firm, SourceForge, Inc., owns both Linux.com and SourceForge.net, which hosts the project. They were copied on the original email from the Symantec legal team, but so far Setzer has heard nothing from them.


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