Open Source Library system threatened by trademark

Koha is an open source library management system that has been around for about 12 years. It began its life when a rural New Zealand library decided to bake their own system rather than change to something else. The Horowhenua Library Trust opened the source and gave Koha to the world. Koha is now used in a huge number of libraries globally and is highly respected.

I found out on Tuesday via a colleague* that the project is now facing a legal threat in the form of a trademark application.

While I won’t go into the finer details about the offending company in question (the last link has hints if you’re so inclined), I can assure you that they are not acting in the best interests of this open source project.

Koha is actually a word in the local Te Reo Māori language that means gift, and is also the custom of gift giving. The offending company is not only threatening the name of a project, they are attempting to trademark an important word in the local culture. Te Reo Māori is not a dead language by far; over 130000 people can hold at least some conversation in it, and in New Zealand many signs (especially government ones) include a Te Reo translation.

The Trust has made up its mind as to how they are going to deal with this, and that is their choice and their choice alone; they are going to defend the name and the Māori word by challenging the trademark application. To do this however, they will require help.

Right now the best help you can bestow upon the Trust and the project is to chip in a few dollars to help with the associated costs, or if the pennies are tight, you can assist in spreading the word.

After speaking to Jono on Tuesday about the situation, he graciously tweeted to help — please follow his example.

If you don’t feel this is worthwhile , then please please please don’t interject to be dismissive. Be courteous and respectful; this is far more than a trademark issue to many of the people involved. The decision to defend the name is their prerogative, either help or let it be.


* Full disclosure: The company I work for contributes to Koha and offers training and other related services.

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