Do I need a sublicense?

You need to apply for a sublicense if you are using the term “Linux” as part of your own trademark or brand identifier for Linux-based software goods or services. It doesn’t matter if your trademark is unregistered, or if you do not plan to make any money using the mark.

Answering the following questions (which break out each of the key issues) may help you determine if you need a sublicense from the Linux Foundation. If you are still in doubt, please contact the Linux Foundation and we will work with you to determine whether you need to apply for a sublicense.

If the answer to all three of the following questions is “yes,” then you need to apply for a sublicense. If the answer to any of these questions is “no,” then you do not need to apply for a sublicense.

  1. Is my mark a trademark (see how we define “trademark,” below)?
  2. Does my mark contain the following string of adjacent letters, in this order: “Linux”? These letters may or may not be capitalized, and in the case of foreign characters, phonetic translations also apply.
  3. Do I use my mark to identify software-related goods or services (see how that phrase is defined, below)?

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What is a trademark?

The definition of “trademark” varies somewhat from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. Generally, a trademark is a name used in public to identify the source of specific goods and services. Trademark rights can be used to prevent others from using a similar mark to identify a source of similar goods and services. If you are unsure whether you are using a trademark, you should speak with someone familiar with the law where you are located.

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What is fair use?

The term “fair use” applies to non-trademark uses of a term that would normally occur in everyday communication. Fair uses of “Linux” do not require you to obtain a sublicense. Examples of fair use can be found at the "Who Needs a Sublicense?" page.

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I am making T-shirts, mugs, etc. for sale, and I want to include the "Linux" on them. Do I need a sublicense?

No, this is generally considered fair use. However, your goods still should attribute ownership of the Linux mark to Linus Torvalds. For more information on attribution, follow the “Trademark Attribution” link at the right.

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I am the registered owner of an internet domain which includes the term "Linux." Do I need a sublicense?

The Linux Sublicense Agreement applies only to trademarks, but we recognize that internet domains are sometimes used as trademarks. If you are using your domain name as a trademark, then you will need a sublicense from the Linux Foundation. For help determining whether your domain is a trademark, see the questions and answers at the top of this FAQ page.

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When do I have to show proper attribution?

Whenever and however you use the term Linux in print, on the internet, or in audio broadcasts, you should always give proper attribution to Linus Torvalds, the owner of the trademark. For more information see “Trademark Attribution.”

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I am registering or have registered a trademark with my country's trademark authority. Do I still need a sublicense?

Yes, assuming your trademark includes the element Linux and it is being used in connection with software-related goods and services. Please note, the Sublicense applies to Linux trademarks whether or not they are registered with a trademark authority. If you are using the term Linux as a trademark (whether or not registered), you need to apply for a sublicense.

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I am a commercial entity (for example, a company, partnership or sole proprietor, profit or non-profit) selling software-related goods or services and using the word "Linux" in the entity’s name. Do I need to apply for a sublicense?

Yes, because you are using Linux as part of a trademark in connection with software-related goods or services. Software-related goods are computer programs and systems, or packages bundling software with tools, utilities, hardware, etc. Software-related services are services that deploy, document, facilitate the use of, or enhance computer programs and systems.

Even if you don’t use Linux as part of the entity’s name, if the entity has a product or service (whether sold or given away for free) that uses "Linux" in its name, you still need a sublicense for the use of the word Linux in the name of the products or services.

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If I sublicense my trademark, will the Linux Foundation refuse to sublicense marks that are the same as, or confusingly similar to, my sublicensed mark?

No, the Linux Foundation will not attempt to ensure exclusivity or protect sublicensee marks from infringement. The Linux Foundation considers the protection of trademarks against infringement to be the responsibility of the trademark owner. The Linux Foundation is not a dispute resolution authority, and does not become involved in disputes between trademark owners.

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Trademark Registration Consent: My organization has applied to register a trademark for software-related goods or services that includes Linux as an element. The application was rejected for confusing similarity to Linus Torvalds' trademark. If I enter into a sublicense, will the Linux Foundation consent to my registration?

No. The Linux Sublicense Agreement is not a consent for the registration of sublicensed trademarks. To protect the Linux mark from dilution, the Linux Foundation does not consent to the registration of trademarks found to be confusingly similar to the Linux mark.

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Domain Name Registration Consent: My organization has applied to register an internet domain name which includes the element Linux. If we enter into a sublicense, will the Linux Foundation consent to our registration?

The Linux Foundation and the Linux Sublicense Agreement have no control over the registration of domain names, which are distinct from trademarks (see related FAQs above). The Linux Foundation does not oppose the registration of domain names. You do not need a sublicense to use a domain name which includes Linux, unless you use your Linux domain name as a trademark.

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Can I become a member of the Linux Foundation?

Formerly, the Linux Foundation offered memberships to sublicensees and anyone else who was interested. Please note this is no longer available.

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