The Day That Killed Groupon Reputation

This Thursday I was looking at the social networks in a moment of rest, when the hashtag #defendGNOME gained my attention. For the ones that are not Linux addicted, GNOME is a famous desktop environment that had several forks (XFCE, Mate, etc.) and it has been the main choice for Ubuntu for many releases.

All the messages in Twitter and Google+ (and I suppose Facebook too) linked to a communicate in the GNOME Foundation website. Below there is the relevant part of the message, followed by the request to donate.

[...] Recently Groupon announced a product with the same product name as GNOME. Groupon’s product is a tablet based point of sale “operating system for merchants to run their entire operation." The GNOME community was shocked that Groupon would use our mark for a product so closely related to the GNOME desktop and technology. It was almost inconceivable to us that Groupon, with over $2.5 billion in annual revenue, a full legal team and a huge engineering staff would not have heard of the GNOME project, found our trademark registration using a casual search, or even found our website, but we nevertheless got in touch with them and asked them to pick another name. Not only did Groupon refuse, but it has now filed even more trademark applications [...]. To use the GNOME name for a proprietary software product that is antithetical to the fundamental ideas of the GNOME community, the free software community and the GNU project is outrageous. Please help us fight this huge company as they try to trade on our goodwill and hard earned reputation. [...]

http://www.gnome.org/groupon/

In few words, last spring Groupon decided to create a tablet with a proprietary OS and name it Gnome, in spite of that name is already being used since several years from an open source project. So the Foundation started a fundraising with an associated social network campaign.

The result has been quick and massive. I just want to show you one tweet among the others, very representative of the dimension of Groupon fail:

Wow @Groupon! You are choosing to make enemies of those who RUN the internet. Good luck with that… 😳 #gnome @Kuningaskunta @nixcraft @gnome — Toby Sanchez (@tobyWan) November 11, 2014

Probably someone at Groupon had understood what was going to happen and quickly tried to calm the things down with this is the communicate (the emphasis is in the original).

Groupon is a strong and consistent supporter of the open source community, and our developers are active contributors to a number of open source projects. We’ve been communicating with the Foundation for months to try to come to a mutually satisfactory resolution, including alternative branding options, and we’re happy to continue those conversations. Our relationship with the open source community is more important to us than a product name. And if we can’t come up with a mutually acceptable solution, we’ll be glad to look for another name.

UPDATE: After additional conversations with the open source community and the Gnome Foundation, we have decided to abandon our pending trademark applications for “Gnome.” We will choose a new name for our product going forward.

https://www.groupon.com/blog/cities/gnome-update

So the happy ending has come. The name GNOME is safe and it will continue to indicate only an open source software. And Groupon will remember for many years that the community is more important than lawyers and money.


Image by ilnanny taken from DeviantArt licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported license.

Luca Sommacal

Luca Sommacal

Italian developer (mainly in C for embedded platforms), Linux learner, addicted to rock music, history, science and few other things. Follow me on Twitter

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