One of the features approved by the Fedora Engineering Steering Committee
(FESCo) at its February 6 meeting may come as a bit of a surprise to some:
adding Apache OpenOffice (AOO) to the distribution. There was a fair amount of
confusion in the fedora-devel mailing list discussion of the feature,
mostly surrounding which office suite would be the default—AOO or
LibreOffice (LO)—and there were
also calls to disallow packaging AOO altogether. Those calls were ignored.
But, since both suites have descended from the same parent, OpenOffice.org
there are some things to be worked out so both can coexist on one system.
Beyond that, though, some AOO project members are not happy that LO has
"squatted" on its program names—to the point where the issue of
trademarks has been raised.
Adding Apache OpenOffice (AOO) to Fedora 19 was proposed
by Andrea Pescetti, whose history with
OpenOffice goes back to 2003. As with all feature proposals, Fedora
product manager Jaroslav Reznik posted the
proposal to the mailing list for discussion. That resulted in a fairly long
thread—no surprise for fedora-devel.
There were calls to effectively ban AOO from Fedora, but that didn't really
seem like a majority opinion, no matter how loudly expressed. Those
arguments tended to center around hostility toward Oracle, which "shepherded"
OpenOffice.org for a time after acquiring it with Sun. That hostility has
to the AOO project after the code was donated to Apache. Some were also
concerned about users getting confused about which office suite to install
or that adding another large (>1G) package would be a burden on
In the end, though, there is nothing about AOO that violates Fedora's
packaging guidelines, and giving users a choice of office suites is
certainly in line with the distribution's mission (Adam Jackson's famous
"Linux is not about choice" message notwithstanding). Beyond
just OpenOffice.org descendants, Fedora already offers a number of other
(e.g. Calligra) or components (e.g. Gnumeric, AbiWord). As Martin Sourada
[...] when Fedora switched to LO, as I understood it, the old OOo was
supposed to slowly die off (or get closed), so LO was considered more
or less a spiritual successor and there wasn't much profit in keeping
OOo. Now that OOo was resurrected under the Apache hood and is
"blooming" under the slightly changed name, we can profit from
providing both, while still keeping LO default. And if there are people
willing to do the work to make them both work seamlessly, why ban them?
At the FESCo meeting, there was essentially no question about approving
AOO; the discussion was about technical issues in making LO and AOO
coexist. The main problem is that both projects share program
names (e.g. soffice, oowriter, ...) that originally came
from OOo. If both packages are installed, obviously only one can own those
names. FESCo decided to ask
the two projects (or really the
Fedora packagers of each project) to cooperate, but pointedly said that LO
did not have to
make any changes to accommodate AOO.
Pescetti announced the FESCo decision on
the AOO development mailing list, which resulted in numerous congratulatory
messages. The AOO project would clearly like to get into Linux
distributions, where its predecessor OOo has almost completely been
replaced by LO. Pescetti noted the clashing binary name issue in his
announcement, which led to some unhappiness in the thread.
From the perspective of some in the AOO camp, that project is the "real"
to OOo, and should thus be the inheritor of the names of the binary
programs. But, Linux distributions switched to LO as the successor during
the several years when there were no OOo releases and AOO either didn't
exist or was still incubating. When Oracle donated the code to Apache, it
also donated the OpenOffice.org trademark, which led Rob Weir to note:
But I would have trademark concerns if a statement like this installed
anything but OpenOffice:
sudo yum install openoffice.org
That is not part of the problem, though, as the package name for LO in
Fedora is not
"openoffice.org". The names of the binaries used to invoke the office
suite are a different story, though. It is not at all clear that an
upstream project gets to decide what the binaries used by a particular
distribution are called, trademarked or not. There has been no claim that
things like soffice or oocalc are trademarked (and it's
not at all clear they could be), but some
in the AOO project believe they "belong" to AOO. Jürgen Schmidt described it this way:
And again changing soffice means much more work and I really don't see
why we should change it because they belong to OpenOffice.
Some magic UNO bootstrap code used by UNO client applications used the
soffice alias for example. Changing it would break potential client
The other aliases like oowriter are obvious where they come from, why
should we change them?
It is important to come back in distros but we should not [easily] give up
what belongs to OpenOffice.
Weir is concerned about users
getting confused, noting that the project has already heard from some that
were confused by getting "something else" when they thought they were installing AOO. He called that
"classic trademark infringement". Later in the thread, he
made it clear that he is talking about AOO
vs. LO confusion, rather than some other form
of trademark confusion:
argument is even stronger when we have, as we do, documented cases of
users being confused, thinking they are getting OpenOffice, but
instead getting LibreOffice.
Exactly how that confusion has come about (by running
oocalc and getting LibreOffice Calc or by installing some package
with an ambiguous name, for example) is
not described. There is a largely unused openoffice.org alias in
the Fedora LO package (pointing to libreoffice), but Pescetti does
not think that getting rid of that will be a problem. Beyond that, it's
not really clear what trademark infringement disagreements AOO could have
LO (or more precisely in this case, Fedora's packaging of LO). As Pescetti
pointed out, even if there are any
trademark issues, they should not take precedence over actually packaging
AOO for Fedora:
Again, packaging is the real issue now. Let's make OpenOffice for Fedora
exist before we come to these issues.
Given a historical perspective, one can understand both sides of the "who
gets the binary names" argument. But, other than some possible (mis)use of
openoffice.org, it's a bit hard to see a trademark issue in play here.
In addition, Debian's "iceweasel" (which is its version of the
Firefox web browser) can be invoked by typing "firefox" at the command line—seemingly
without any trademark complaints from Mozilla.
Rather than muttering darkly about trademarks, working with LO and the
Linux distributions to find an amicable solution on binary names for both
projects would seem the proper course. There has been talk of prefxing
"lo" or "aoo" for things like oowriter, but the trickiest to solve
likely to be the binary name with the oldest provenance: soffice,
which hearkens back to the original StarOffice—grandparent of
both AOO and LO.
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