Sunday, April 22, 2018

Oracle Claims Trademark Infringement for an iOS JavaScript Editor App

James Sanders:

To put it lightly, it strains credulity to state that the app in question: HTML5, CSS, JavaScript, HTML, Snippet Editor is “likely” to be mistaken for something developed or licensed by Oracle. Thousands of projects include support for JavaScript, and in so doing, name JavaScript a thing that the project uses. For starters, the Webkit rendering engine on which the Safari browser, among others, is based, references JavaScript in the source.

If user reviews are any indication, the app is not even particularly good, with reviewers stating things such as “Not ready for production,” “Does not work as advertised,” and “Waste of money, don’t buy this.” The last update to the app was in 2014, which the changelog notes was only an upgrade to add support for iOS 8. The app developer is at least honest about the intent behind the unwieldy name for the app, saying in a Reddit comment that “we game the App Store ranking by adding all the keywords to the app name.”

While Oracle has a duty to protect their trademarks, this type of legal bludgeoning underscores a historical problem that has been left unaddressed for too long: JavaScript is a terrible name for the thing being described.


According to Crockford, Netscape called it LiveScript, originally. In their attempt to ‘destroy Microsoft’, they teamed up with Sun. One of Sun’s original goals with Java was making it the client-side scripting language for the browser. However, Netscape had LiveScript. Apparently the negotiations almost broke down over this point.

In an enlightened moment, (probably) Marc Andreessen proposed renaming LiveScript to JavaScript (despite the fact that the languages have very little in common), and joy was had. Sun got the JavaScript trademark (and passed it on to Oracle), and Netscape got a perpetual exclusive license to use it.

When JavaScript was standardized to avoid Embrace, Extend, Extinguish, Netscape refused to share its license, and so the official language was renamed to ECMAScript, after the standards body. When Sun was bought by Oracle, it also got the trademark, and presumably, Mozilla inherited the exclusive license from Netscape.

See also: Reddit.

2 Comments RSS · Twitter

I just said no my partner, "But JavaScript had nothing to do with Java, this is weird....," and then I read the second part of the post. I never knew this fact and it explains that while almost everyone simply calls it JavaScript, there are apps that explicitly refer to the technology as ECMAScript.

I still have no understanding why Netscape agreed to call the technology JavaScript and why Sun would think this had any advantages for their Java ecosystem, but then I remembered Java Desktop System was once the GUI name for Solaris. Point of fact, this "Java" interface was just a rebranded Gnome Desktop.

To be fair, of all IP lawsuits, Trademarks are the only ones that require some sort of active defense. However, inconsequential infringement is understood to require a lawsuit in order to avoid cancellation of the Trademark so Oracle seems to be overstepping the statutes. Oh well. It's Oracle. Duh.

Sorry, silly typo, "However, inconsequential infringement is understood to NOT require a lawsuit in order to avoid cancellation of the...."

The "not" is important here. 1000 pardons. Very sorry. Again, you do have to a. actively use a mark and b. defend against obvious and intentional infringement. But in this case, where do we stop? Any app that has JavaScript listed as a feature/setting? Safari has a disable JavaScript option? Infringing or find because it's buried in preferences? I suppose don't name your app "JavaScript" something and people will be fine. It's definitely borderline.

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