Potential abuse of GitHub trademark?

Hi folks,

I spotted a potentially misleading use of name ‘GitHub’ on Chinese company Baidu’s webpage BCTF . The sentence is quoted below.

BotHub是一个bots托管平台,可以理解为自动化攻防机器人程序的 GitHub。

BotHub is a bots hosting platform which may be interpreted as GitHub for automated attacking-and-defence bots.

Is this use legal?


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I wonder. “May/can be interpreted/understood” isn’t quite a blatant legal claim, it doesn’t imply official representation nor endorsement, but it’s still using a registered trademark for promoting a commercial service with which GtiHub may or may not like to be associated with.

I’m very curious about how this thread is going to develop; although my guess is that GitHub is so popular worldwide that it can’t really bother having its legal team looking into every service that mentions it.

Some products and service become so popular that eventually their name takes a life of its own, often becoming synonymous with any similar product or service — think of Post-It, which is a trademarked product, but it’s generally used to mean any sticky note, and many other similar words in our everyday language. So much so that unless you add the trademark symbol, most readers won’t think that by Post-It you intend the specific original product, in general conversation (not on catalogues, of course).

PS: I got an almost identical translation on DeepL:

BotHub is a bots hosting platform, which can be understood as a GitHub for automated attack and defense bot programs.

Hi Tristano,

As ‘bothub’ is not currently released I am not sure if it will fall in the rules in the ‘allowed’ section defined in GitHub Logos, depending on whether they are actually using GitHub’s service:

:heavy_check_mark: Use the Octocat or GitHub logo to advertise that your product has built-in GitHub integration

But either way GitHub is a registered trademark of GitHub, Inc. even in China.

Agreed with this.

In all I am very curious about how this will go on.


PS. I made the translation by myself.

I think they used “GitHub” as description of what their service is: A repository management software for bots. GitHub doesnt own the git software and “comparing” 2 things with each other or using the name of the number one software to help understand what your own software is about is not copyright infringement.

BTW: Anyone could host a git service and name it anything like “Git[…]” or “[…]Hub” because those words in itself are not enough to be claimed by a company.
Another example would be Nintendos Logo. A quote from Wikipedia on this:

This logo image consists only of simple geometric shapes or text. It does not meet the threshold of originality needed for copyright protection, and is therefore in the public domain .

It can still be subject to other restrictions though. I think you get the point.

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Surely, there’s no case of Copyright infringement here, but I believe that a company owning a registered trademark can ask others who are using it’s company name to desist from associating it to their product, if they disapprove, or at least ask for a disclaimer note to be added. It’s true that GitHub is a compound word formed by Git + Hub, but GitHub is also a registered trademark.

Some countries (e.g. the USA) even allow advertisement to compare the promoted product to its competitors, stating why the former is (allegedly) better than the latter; but other countries don’t allow this.

Laws surrounding these topics differ from country to country, sometimes in subtle ways, others in significant manners, and I believe that the Chinese legal system is quite different from that of Europe or the USA.

Well, we read all the time of big corporations suing other companies because their logo uses the same colour palette, or the font is too similar, etc. Often these legal actions are just intidimidatory actions against rivals, and land nowhere, but sometimes you do see some cases going all the way though and setting a legal precedent — which is, of course, what makes these cases so interesting to developers.

One could argue that the Coca Cola logo is anything but original, yet it’s a strongly recognized and well protected logo, maybe because it’s so iconic and known worldwide. Apple’s logo looks like something out of a clipart-collection from the 80s, yet its shape and colors are well protected, and anyone imitating them does so at his/her own risk.

These are fuzzy boundaries, which is why they are so intriguing. Are palettes and color scheme copyrightable? There’s been a lot of debate around this, some claiming that certain precise colours combinations are eligible for protection, other that they aren’t.

Quite interesting case. Not sure if they would seriously use GitHub as their name, because it`s too popular all over the World.