Docker on your Server - legal fun

Written on December 17 2014 at 15:17

A few months ago, I was contacted by IP & trademark lawyers about the “Docker on your Server” e-book project that I wrote about earlier. Here’s the meat of their message, which was conveniently sent to me in a PDF attachment.

We recently learned that you run a website titled “Docker On Your Server” that is accessible at the internet address http://www.dockeronyourserver.com/. The domain name of your site includes Docker’s trademark DOCKER, and your site reproduces Docker’s distinctive whale logo, both without authorization or license. Based upon these uses, Docker is concerned that its current and prospective customers are likely to be confused into believing that your website is affiliated with, associated with, licensed, sponsored, or endorsed by Docker, which is not true. Docker does not permit the registration or use of domain names that include DOCKER as the first word in the domain name, and does not permit use of the Docker Whale Logo in a manner that suggests sponsorship or association. Your unauthorized use constitutes trading on the goodwill associated with Docker and Docker’s marks, and is actionable under the applicable laws.

Specifically, I was asked to make the following changes:

  • Discontinue use of the domain name dockeronyourserver.com, including configuring your servers or domain servers so that requests directed to dockeronyourserver.com return a 404 type error, or cause immediate redirection (without displaying a page) to a permissible domain name.
  • Select and use a different domain name that does not include the DOCKER trademark as the first word of the domain name. For example, “usingdockeronyourserver.com” is acceptable.
  • Change the title of the e-book to “Using Docker on Your Server,” or a similar title in which DOCKER is not the first word. This is intended to preclude any suggestion of sponsorship, licensing or association.
  • In all web pages that you make available, or e-books or other electronic or print publications, remove the Docker Whale logo. Display and use the Docker name only in plain typography, not using Docker’s logo or typography.

The logo usage is fine; this was an oversight on my part, although to be fair I started this project before Docker’s logo had gone from being a nice piece of open-source branding to the trademark of a growing, VC-funded enterprise.

Putting a different word in front of the domain seems a more tenuous request to me. Docker don’t own the word ‘docker’, or it’s usage. They can only object to its usage if it appears to infringe on their trademark, and here they are arguing that basically any domain that starts with ‘docker’ is an infringement. That seems wrong to me, but I still complied.

I bought a second domain (thanks, Docker), made some changes, and replied:

Thanks for your letter. While I disagree that my site was confusing, I’m obvious just an individual with far less legal power than a fully-funded startup. So, I believe I have now complied to the requests made in the letter. Namely:

  • The site is now ‘usingdockerwithyourserver.com’
  • The original site URL now redirects without an interstitial page
  • The book title is now prefixed with “Using”
  • Use of Docker logo and logotype has been removed.

I trust this will satisfy your legal team’s desire to enforce trademarks. If not… well, let me know.

Here’s what the site looked like then


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