It has come to my attention that Scrum Alliance is trying to register a trademark on, “SCRUM USER GROUP,” at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. Word on the street is that that the Trademark Office has indicated that it will publish this trademark shortly for opposition. If no one opposes, I understand that the trademark will be registered in early September 2015. Even more astounding is that I understand that Scrum Alliance has actually made arguments to the Trademark Office that the terms, “SCRUM,” and “GROUP” are not generic terms, and so therefore are eligible for trademark. Unbelievable.
Jeff Sutherland and I developed Scrum in the early 1990s. We provided it to the software development community with pleasure, and with no copyright enforcement. To promote discussion about Scrum and all things Scrum, we made sure that there also were no trademarks. We wanted people to use the word Scrum in every form possible, to promote discussion, papers, books, conferences. We wanted Scrum to emerge, and not to follow a predictive path like waterfall and PMI.
As a great result, a Google search for the word “scrum” results in “about 26,100,000” hits. Scrum has spread just as Jeff and I hoped.
I founded Scrum Alliance in 2004. In 2009, its Managing Director, Jim Cundiff, send a notice to the Orlando Scrum User Group that the words “Scrum User Group” were a trademark of Scrum Alliance. He informed them that they needed to sign a licensing agreement with Scrum Alliance to continue using “its mark.”
I told Jim to knock it off, that the phrase was generic and we in no way wanted to restrict or control its use.
Fast forward six years. Scrum Alliance has continued with its ownership of Scrum User Group, pursuing a trademark as described above. Right now it looks like, if nothing is done, they will gain ownership of this mark in early September.
Interesting, what Jeff and I provided for free, others are claim as their own so as to make money and to control the community.
So what will happen?
- I can protest and file and appeal. This apparently will cost about $250,000. We will win but I hope I win the lottery.
- You can enter some comments here about whether you think I should file this appeal, and whether you believe the word Scrum or Scrum User Group are public domain, or can be owned by an organization like Scrum Alliance.
- You can create a lot of noise in the industry to let Scrum Alliance know that pursuing private ownership of public material is wrong. Maybe they will desist.
- If we don’t do enough and Scrum Alliance gains control of our wording and vocabulary, we will have to drop the use of Scrum in our everyday life.
Scrum Alliance claims to be “a membership organization that encourages and supports the widespread adoption and effective practice of Scrum.” However, its use of the trademark process actually negates their claimed goal.
Please refer to my next blog, Turning A New Leaf.