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Reaction to the Scrum Alliance Trademark Application for Scrum User Group

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In 2009 the Scrum Alliance registered a trademark application to register the term "Scrum User Group" as a protected trademark.  Ken Schwaber, one of the original founders of the Scrum Alliance, has written a blog titled "Greed and Control Can Ruin an Industry and Movement" in which he objects strenuously to this move, and has asked for the community to respond to the move, with the possibility of filing an expensive legal challenge.

In his post Schwaber says

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

He goes on to suggest ways he and the community could respond

  1. I can protest and file and appeal. This apparently will cost about $250,000. We will win but I hope I win the lottery.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.

 InfoQ contacted the Scrum Alliance CEO, Manuel (Manny) Gonzalez for his response to Schwaber's post.

In 2009 Scrum Alliance filed to register the mark “Scrum User Group” in an effort to protect users and build value for our global community.

Since that time, Scrum Alliance has invested more than a million dollars around the globe in user groups and provided tools and support to help them form, grow, and succeed. We believe that Scrum User Groups are created by the community and for the community to encourage discussions that will lead to transforming the world of work. 

Today, we continue to work hard to support our membership and we’re excited that our community has grown to over 400 user groups across the globe.

As the Agile Scrum community grows, we are working on launching a new platform that will increase engagement and ease of use, and provide a place for scrum practitioners to network, learn, and connect.

As at the time of publishing this news item there are 85 comments on Schwaber's blog post range from strongly in favour of lodging an appeal (with offers to contribute to the funding) to strongly supporting the Scrum Alliance in their move to trademark the term.  

By the time you read this there are sure to be many more.  

Feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments section below.  


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