Trademark policy (2009-2014)
Pursuant to the Board's April 2009 resolution, the following revised trademark policy statement (with accompanying FAQ) is designed to outline and clarify Wikimedia Foundation trademark policy, especially with regard to Chapters and other affiliated organizations. This statement has been developed by the Wikimedia Foundation staff and reviewed by the Wikimedia Foundation Board of Trustees.
Wikimedia Trademark Policy
Updated: Oct. 10, 2009
This revision of the Wikimedia Foundation's general policy regarding the protection and licensing of its trademarks has been developed pursuant to the Wikimedia Foundation Board of Trustees' "Trademark statement" resolution, passed unanimously during its April 2009 meeting. That resolution can be found here.
This revision takes as its source and inspiration the Mozilla Foundation trademark policy, whose key documents may be referenced at “Mozilla Licensing Policies”.
This document outlines the policy of the Wikimedia Foundation ("the Foundation," for short) regarding the use of the Wikimedia Marks. Any use of any Wikimedia Mark must be in accordance with this policy. As used in this policy, "trademarks" or "Wikimedia Marks" means not just Wikimedia's logos, but also the names of its various products and projects, including but not limited the names "Wikimedia" and "Wikipedia." (The text forms of Wikimedia trademarks may also be called "word marks.")
The Wikimedia Foundation's trademark policy attempts to balance two competing interests. The first interest is the Foundation's need to ensure that the Wikimedia Marks remain reliable indicators of free content (as Richard Stallman has said, "Think free as in free speech, not free beer") and source/origin. The second interest is the Wikimedia Foundation's desire to permit community members, chapters, and others with whom the Foundation works to discuss Foundation projects and to accurately describe or communicate their association with us. Striking a proper balance is a tricky situation that many organizations — in particular those whose products are distributed electronically — wrestle with every day, and we've attempted to balance it here.
Underlying our trademark policy is the general law of trademarks. Trademarks exist to help individual human beings to identify — and organizations to publicize — the source of products (in our case, the products are free content and free knowledge). Some organizations make better products or offer better services than others; over time, individuals begin to associate those organizations (and their trademarks) with quality, with value, or with a particular philosophy. When such organizations permit others to place such organization's trademarks on goods of different quality, different value, or different philosophy, they find that individual trust in the meaning of the trademarks evaporates quickly. That's the precise situation that the Foundation seeks to avoid. People's trust in our name and offerings is crucial to us, especially when it comes to intangible products and services like free content and free knowledge, trust is all consumers have to decide on which product to choose. And we at the Foundation are the caretakers of the trust our community members have placed in us.
Frequently, we receive reports from websites selling or advertising Wikipedia-branded content, using the Wikimedia Marks to promote other products and services, or using modified versions of the Wikimedia Marks. The problem with these activities is that they may be deceptive, harm users, cause confusion, and/or jeopardize the identity and meaning of the Wikimedia Marks. Such cases range from good intentions, but improper use of the trademarks (e.g., overenthusiastic fans or community members), to people intentionally trading on the brand for their own benefit and/or distributing modified versions of the product, to a clear intent to deceive, manipulate and steal from users in a highly organized and syndicated fashion. When we receive reports of such activities, typically from our community members, or when we ourselves identify problematic activities, we at the Foundation analyze the reports and may treat each case differently based on the intent and severity of the matter.
In creating our trademark policy, we seek to clarify which uses of the Wikimedia Marks we consider legitimate and which uses we do not. Although the Wikimedia trademark policy includes a number of specific rules, including some that may be contained in companion documents, most reflect the overarching requirement that your use of Wikimedia trademarks be non-confusing and non-disparaging. By non-confusing, we mean that people should always know with whom they are dealing, and the origin of the content they are using or adapting. Websites and content that are not operated or distributed by the Foundation should not imply — either directly or by omission — that they are. Thus, you can't say you're raising money for Wikipedia when you're actually raising it for your own project. You can't say that you're offering or distributing "Wikipedia" when you're actually offering or distributing a modified version of the content (e.g., Wikipedia plus ads). And you can't use the Wikimedia Marks on the cover of your book or on your product packaging, unless you have express, separate, written permission from the Wikimedia Foundation. This isn't an exhaustive list of the things you're not permitted to do — it's just meant to suggest some examples of confusing uses of the Wikimedia Marks.
By non-disparaging, we mean that, outside the bounds of fair use, you can't use the Wikimedia Marks as vehicles for defaming us or sullying our reputation. These basic requirements can serve as a guide as you work your way through the policy.
Our trademark policy begins by outlining some overall guidelines for the use of Wikimedia Marks in printed materials and merchandise. It then addresses a series of more specific topics, including the use of Wikimedia trademarks on distributions of Wikimedia content, linking to Wikimedia websites, and the use of Wikimedia Marks in domain names. At various points, the policy may link to other documents containing additional details about our policies.
List of Wikimedia Trademarks
You can see a nonexhaustive list of Wikimedia logos, including both registered and unregistered (but otherwise legally recognized) trademarks (a.k.a. the "Wikimedia Marks") here: Wikimedia official marks. The Wikipedia-specific trademarks, particularly the word mark "Wikipedia," the stylized text version ("WikipediA," typically rendered in the Hoefler Text font), and the puzzle globe are the most widely registered Wikimedia Marks around the world. As other trademarks are created or registered, we expect volunteers and/or Foundation staff to help make this list more inclusive and complete.
Overall Guidelines for Printed Materials and Web Sites
We encourage the use of the Wikimedia Marks in not-for-profit publicity activities and for associated non-profit organizations to show their association with the Foundation and its projects. An associated entity such as a Wikimedia Chapter may, consistent with its association agreement with the Foundation, use the Wikimedia Marks to communicate that association. A Chapter is also permitted to use Wikimedia Marks to engage in noncommercial fundraising (e.g., solicitation of donations and grants), so long as the Chapter has completed organizing itself as an independent legal entity under its local government, and so long as it has met the other requirements of the Chapters Committee, an independent committee staffed by Wikimedia volunteers. (See the Chapter creation guide.) Chapters in the process of formation may sometimes use the Wikimedia Marks to a limited degree subject to a limited independent agreement negotiated between the Foundation and representatives of the forming Chapter.
Whether you are a Wikimedia Chapter or not, it should be stressed that other than as set forth in this policy, efforts to raise money through use of the marks through commercial manufacturing or sublicensing are not approved, unless there is an independent written agreement between the Foundation and the money-raising entity. In addition, in the absence of an independent written agreement with the Foundation, no commercial entity is permitted to advertise, by using the Wikimedia Marks as a commercial brand, that it is shipping or disseminating Wikimedia products or services.
The following basic guidelines apply to almost any use of the Wikimedia Marks in printed materials, including marketing, articles and other publicity-related materials, and websites:
- Proper Form - Wikimedia Marks should be used in their exact form — neither abbreviated nor combined with any other word or words (e.g., "Wiki" or "MyWikipedia" rather than "Wikipedia");
- Accompanying Symbol - The first or most prominent mention of a Wikimedia Mark should be accompanied by a symbol indicating whether the mark is a registered trademark ((R)/®) or an unregistered trademark ((TM)/™). In general, the Wikipedia and Wikimedia marks are registered trademarks in most relevant jurisdictions. If you have doubt about whether the Wikimedia Marks are registered in your jurisdiction, please ask us. We will also try to keep an updated list of registered Wikimedia Marks.
- Notice - The following notice should appear somewhere nearby (at least on the same page or on the credits page) the first use of a Wikimedia Mark: "[TRADEMARK] is a ['registered', if applicable] trademark of the Wikimedia Foundation";
- Distinguishable - In at least the first reference, we ask that the trademark should be set apart from surrounding text, either by capitalizing it or by italicizing, bolding or underlining it. In addition, we ask that your website avoid copying the look and feel of the Wikimedia websites — again, we do not want the visitor to your website to be confused about which company he/she is dealing with.
- Attention Paid to Visual Guidelines - any use of the Wikimedia Marks should substantially comply with our Trademark and Logo Usage Policy and our Visual Identity Guidelines.
Related and Derivative Works of the Wikimedia Content
Wikimedia project content is designed to be reused and extended, and we recognize that community members working with free Wikimedia content need some way to identify their source material. Our main concern is that consumers not be confused as to whether the content is a derivative work or is the initial Wikimedia content. To address that concern, we request that the names of derivative works not include, in whole or in part, trademarks such as "Wikipedia" or "Wikimedia," the puzzle-globe logo, or other clearly identifiable Wikimedia Marks except that, where appropriate, such uses as "Source: Wikipedia" or attributions to individual authors of Wikimedia project material may be allowable, consistent with the free licenses under which that material is available, and in ways that do not confuse the public as to whether the derivative work is itself a Wikimedia Foundation publication or product. In short: attribution is fine (and we want you to attribute collaborative works in ways that make sense for your project), but we don't want you to risk identifying your derivative work as coming directly from the Wikimedia Foundation or projects.
We invite you to link to Wikimedia website(s) for the purpose of allowing your visitors to go directly to the source of Wikimedia project content.
This use is allowed as long as you:
- Follow the Wikimedia Trademark Policy (this policy).
- Point the destination URL to the official Wikimedia websites. You may not use a Wikimedia trademark, banner, button or logo to point to your own website (except insofar as you are allowed to do so through an independent agreement — e.g., the Wikimedia Chapter agreement).
- Don't alter any of the Wikimedia Marks including our logos.
- Don't do anything with the Marks that might confuse visitors to your website into mistaking the origin of the material being downloaded — e.g., suggesting that the material is Wikimedia Project content when in fact it is yours.
You may customize the buttons in the following ways:
- Localize the text (but not the Wikimedia Marks, except to the extent that those Marks are localized as Chapter identifiers).
- Change the size of the button or banner.
Remember the Wikimedia Marks generally must not be altered in any way, except as localized through agreement with a Chapter. If your use of these banners or buttons violates our Trademark Policy, we reserve the right to rescind the license granted here.
If you want to include all or part of a Wikimedia trademark in a domain name, you have to receive written permission from the Wikimedia Foundation. People naturally associate domain names with organizations whose names sound similar. Almost any use of a Wikimedia trademark in a domain name is likely to confuse consumers, thus running afoul of the overarching requirement that any use of a Wikimedia trademark be non-confusing. If you would like to use a Wikimedia Mark in a project local to your region, we encourage you to join an existing official chapter or local organization with an affiliation with the Wikimedia Foundation.
Services Related to Wikimedia Projects
If you offer services related to Wikimedia projects, you may use Wikimedia's word marks in describing and advertising your services relating to a Wikimedia project, so long as you don't violate these overall guidelines for the use of Wikimedia Marks or do anything that might mislead customers into thinking that either your website, service, or product is a Wikimedia website, service, or product, or that the Wikimedia Foundation has any direct relationship with your organization. For example, it's OK if your website says, "Source: Wikipedia, <date-month-year>." It's not OK, though, if it uses the Wikipedia puzzle globe, logo, or word mark in the same way that Wikipedia itself uses those marks, in the absence of a license. Without an independent written agreement, you must avoid suggesting that the Foundation or Wikipedia is related to your business, or that the Foundation or its projects contributed to your business directly. In addition, your website may not copy the exact look and feel of any Wikimedia website, other than the extent to which using default themes of MediaWiki or other free and open-source software we use makes your website look similar to ours. Again, we do not want the visitor to your website to be confused with whom she/he is dealing. When in doubt, err on the side of providing more, rather than less, explanation, information, and differentiation.
Wikimedia Marks and Merchandise
When it comes to the Wikimedia Marks, there are some cool things you can do and some cool things you can't do — at least not without asking the Wikimedia Foundation.
You may make t-shirts, desktop wallpaper, or baseball caps with Wikimedia Marks on them, though only for yourself, your friends (meaning people from whom you don't receive anything of value in return), and donors and other Chapter or Foundation supporters, so long as you are giving them away rather than selling them. You can't put the Wikimedia Mark(s) on anything that you produce commercially (whether or not you make a profit) — at least not without receiving the Foundation's written permission. Of course, the Foundation may own and operate online stores (such as the Wikipedia store within CafePress), and the Foundation may authorize and license other commercial stores in the future that may offer a variety of Wikimedia Foundation trademarked merchandise.
There are two additional broad categories of things you shouldn't feel authorized to do with Wikimedia Marks (absent express permission from the Foundation).
- The first is to produce modified versions of them. A modified mark also would raise the possibility of consumer confusion, thus violating Wikimedia's trademark rights (remember the overarching requirement that any use of a Wikimedia trademark be non-confusing?).
- The second concerns high-resolution copies of Wikimedia Marks, which you cannot have or use. If you've a very good reason to seek an exception to the rule against having and using high-resolution copies of Wikimedia Marks please contact the Wikimedia Foundation for permission to use those logos.
Things You Can Do, a Summary
To summarize, provided that the use adheres to our trademark policy and visual guidelines, here are some of the things that you can do with the Wikimedia Marks that do not require our permission:
- use the Wikimedia Marks in marketing, and other publicity-related materials, provided that you are affiliated or associated with the Wikimedia Foundation in an established relationship, e.g., a Chapter Agreement;
- distribute unchanged Wikimedia content, including appropriate attribution, for as long as you distribute them without charge or receipt of anything of value and do so in accordance with this policy;
- describe your content as "source: Wikipedia" or "derived from Wikimedia free content projects" (or something similar).
- link directly to Wikimedia's website(s) by using banners and buttons derived from Wikimedia trademarks and logos.
- use Wikimedia's word marks in describing and advertising your services or products relating to a Wikimedia product, so long as you don't do anything that might mislead customers. For example, it's OK if your website says, "encyclopedic content derived from Wikipedia available here," and
- make t-shirts, desktop wallpaper, or baseball caps though only for yourself and your friends (and here we broadly define "friends" as people from whom you don't receive anything of value in return). In other words, merchandise to give away as part of an affiliation, but not sold or given in trade for a specific donation. (If you want to give away t-shirts or other branded merchandise to donors, that's up to you, but you can't do anything that appears to be a "sale" of merchandise in return for a donation.) In practice, this means that Chapters, as a function of their organizational association with the Foundation, need no special licensing agreement to use the Wikimedia Marks to manufacture such products as long as they do so in accordance with this policy.
Reporting Trademark Abuse
We have several places for everyone to report any misuse of the Wikipedia Marks. You may choose to bring these up in one of the several Wikimedia forums, or you may wish to contact the General Counsel's office directly (legal-tm-viowikimedia.org) to bring infringement to the GC's attention. Having the support and help of our community makes our work easier and more worthwhile.
We have tried to make our trademark policy as comprehensive as possible. If you're considering a use of a Wikimedia trademark that's not covered by the policy, and you're unsure whether that use would run afoul of Wikimedia guidelines, feel free to contact us at trademarkswikimedia.org and ask. Please keep in mind that Wikimedia receives lots and lots of similar questions, so please review all available documentation, including any FAQs before contacting us.
- In this policy, you reference buttons that I can use to link from my site to yours. Where can I find these buttons?
- We haven’t yet released buttons in any formal way yet, but one common button that is already in use is the W-in-a-square button that we’ve licensed to Google Maps and others. You can use that button, consistent with our policy, and we may release other button designs over time.
- The stylized ‘W’ wordmark can be found on Wikimedia Commons: commons:File:Wikipedia's W.svg.
- The policy says I can’t “have or use” high-resolution versions of the trademarks. But there are high-resolution versions available publicly on Wikimedia Commons.
- Properly, the trademarks themselves should not be available on Wikimedia Commons, or, if available, it should be made clear that they are subject to licensing limitations, and not freely licensed for anyone to use.
- What if I want to give a bunch of merchandise to someone, and in exchange they will make a donation to the Wikimedia Foundation or to a chapter. Under this policy, would that be acceptable?
- The Foundation supports a chapter’s giving t-shirts and other branded merchandise to donors, provided that the transaction with a donor is not understood to be a commercial sale. (Commercial sales of merchandise create tax issues that may be burdensome to a chapter or similar entity, and they may also create legal liability for the chapter and the foundation.)
- When it comes to evaluating and approving trademark usage requests, does the Wikimedia Foundation distinguish between not-for-profit usage (e.g., publicizing a volunteer activity, or use in schools) compared with commercial usage?
- The Foundation definitely looks at whether the proposed trademark usage is not-for-profit versus commercial usage. Keep in mind, though, that any licensing to a third party needs to be approved by the Foundation.
- I just want to correctly label my Wikipedia-related work—for example, a data visualization—so that people know it’s about Wikipedia, and uses Wikipedia material. Do I need permission for that?
- In general, so-called “nominative fair use” of trademarks will not be challenged by the Foundation. But please keep in mind that such fair use is generally a limited, referential use, and not a promotional or publicity use.
- I am writing an academic paper about Wikipedia. Do I need permission to use screen captures from the site?
- In general, trademarks included in screen captures qualify as nominative fair use, provided that the captures are used inside a work rather than on the cover or in other promotional or commercial material.
- When I send in a logo usage permission request, either my own or on behalf of a third party, how long will it take to get a response?
- Because Foundation staff is limited, and work flow is not always predictable, we cannot guarantee how quickly we can respond to a request. That’s why it is best to make your request as early as possible, to make sure that Foundation staff has adequate time to consider the request and respond to it.
- The Wikimedia Foundation Board of Trustees has indicated that it wants to enable the creation of less-formal organizational structures supporting the Wikimedia movement, such as WikiPods or Wikipedia social clubs. Structures that are less formal than chapters, but more official than just Wikimedians hanging out. How will these less-formal structures fit into this policy?
- In general, the Foundation needs some kind of person or legal entity to be responsible as a trademark licensee. Normally, this will be a chapter or some similar formally organized group. Occasionally, we may grant limited licenses to trusted individuals or organizations (such as educational institutions, libraries, museums etc.) in ways that promote Wikimedia’s mission and goals. Mainly, we have to rely on licensing to legal entities in order to be able to have legal remedies in the event that there are problems or disagreements with the scope of a license.
- What if I am a chapter, and I want to allow a commercial entity to use the trademarks, and in exchange they will make a donation. Under this policy, would that be acceptable?
- Commercial licenses to use the trademarks need to be negotiated directly through the Foundation. Remember that commercial arrangements may create tax issues and legal issues that are problematic for chapters, and that may make it easier for chapters to be sued for Wikipedia content, or for the Foundation to be sued on the basis of chapter activities.
- I have been approved as a chapter, but I don’t yet have a chapters agreement signed with the Wikimedia Foundation. Can I use the trademarks?
- We normally allow a chapter that has been approved limited use of the trademarks until the final chapters agreement is signed.
- I am a chapter, and I’ve been approached by an organization in my country that wants to use the Wikipedia trademark. Can I give permission, or do I need to ask the Wikimedia Foundation? Does it make any difference if the requester is non-profit or for-profit?
- In general, the Wikimedia Foundation should be the only organization that approves third-party licenses for trademarks. Note that this should not be a limitation on a chapter’s use of trademarks in making chapter-labeled merchandise or other non-commercial products. The reason for this degree of discipline in issuing trademark licenses is that we have to ensure that use of the marks is consistent with our overall mission and strategy, and to ensure that the marks are not licensed in inconsistent or conflicting ways.
- The Wikimedia Foundation is also responsible for tracking all of the permissible uses of the Wikimedia trademarks around the world, including the tenure or term of an agreement. It’s essential for us to have a central resource with all of this information so we can ensure those who have had permission to use the trademarks do so within the specified terms of the agreement.
- In this policy, you suggest that chapters can localize the marks for their own chapter-specific usage. If I am a chapter, who do I need to get approval from, to start using marks that I have localized?
- In general, the WMF head of communications will review proposed localized trademark designs. It is also often a good idea to get feedback from other chapters or the Chapters Committee (ChapCom) over potential designs—there are a number of people who can provide good feedback about your proposed variation of our distinctive marks.
- A visual identity guideline is also being finalized that provides a specific grid system for optimal design of the localized marks. These don’t have to be followed to the letter, but it should be a useful way to standardize design and provide the most consistent look and feel across regions and projects.
- In the policy, you say that if I would like to use a Wikimedia trademark in a project local to my region, I should join an existing official chapter or local organization with an affiliation with the Wikimedia Foundation. What if there is no such organization?
- In general, we prefer that you organize or identify a formal organization that can enter into a legal relationship with the Wikimedia Foundation. On rare occasions, we may license the trademarks in a limited way to a trusted individual or institution with whom we have worked in the past.
- I am a member of a Wikimedia chapter. You say I can make t-shirts, desktop wallpaper, or baseball caps with Wikimedia logos on them, as long as I don’t sell them. Does this mean I can make any kind of product? For example, could I make USB sticks with the Wikipedia logo on them, or coffee mugs, or stickers?
- As long as you’re making them for your own use, or to give to chapter members, (or to the public freely?) these activities should be fine. It’s only commercial sales that significantly increase legal and tax risks.
- Can a chapter ask people to chip in to cover the costs of making t-shirts or USB sticks or coffee mugs? In other words, is cost recovery okay, as long as we do not make a profit?
- Cost recovery of this sort should be fine, so long as it is limited to chapter members.
- I am not a member of a chapter, and I don’t want to join a chapter, and/or there is no chapter in my location. If I want to get t-shirts made up for the members of my wiki-project, can I do that?
- The Foundation occasionally approves limited licenses to produce the kind of merchandise on the scale you suggest here. In general, however, it’s best to work within a chapter or similar affiliated organization.
- I am planning to stage a Wikipedia Academy. There is no chapter in my geographic location. Do I need permission to use the Wikipedia logo?
- It depends on how you plan to use the Wikipedia logo. Posters are fine, so long as they are limited in number and not sold commercially. T-shirts and other merchandise will require a license of some sort from the Foundation.
- If I want to use the Wikipedia logo on my book cover (for a book about Wikipedia and other online information sites), do I need permission? Does it make a difference if the book is being published by an educational publisher?
- Yes, you do need permission to use the Wikipedia logo on your book cover, even if you’re producing a book for an educational publisher. Book covers are a form of advertising, and even educational publishers are commercial entities.
- If I want to use the Wikipedia logo in my movie, television show, or on-line production, do I need permission to do that? Does it matter how many seconds the image is shown onscreen?
- Yes, in general you need to obtain permission to use the Wikipedia logo in all of these situations. We normally review the script pages related to such use to determine whether the context of your use is appropriate, and we may request compensation for the services we will have to provide.
- Do I need permission to quote from Wikipedia on my own website? How do I correctly attribute the quote?
- Quoting from Wikipedia is almost always fine. Best to attribute the quotation by linking back to the original article and its editing history. On every Wikipedia article page, in the left-hand menu, you will find a link ‘cite this page’ which you can refer to for specific information on how best to cite the article or its contents.
- If I want to assign my students to make T-shirts, posters or other work that incorporates Wikimedia trademarks, is that okay? Does it make any difference whether they intend to sell the work, and/or whether it will be published, for example online?
- In general, if you plan to sell the work or give it away, and you’re not already affiliated to the Foundation (e.g., through a chapter), you need a license from the Wikimedia Foundation.
- I am planning to stage a Wikipedia Academy, but it’s very low-key and informal. For example, there won’t be any official signage. Since I am not planning to use the logo or broadly publicize the event, I am assuming I don’t need any special permissions. Am I right?
- Yes, you may schedule a Wikipedia Academy that doesn’t use any Wikipedia logos or other branding (other than the name “Wikipedia” for reference), you don’t need any special permission from the Foundation.
- You say I can bring up abuse of the trademarks in one of “several Wikimedia forums.” What are those forums?
- The Wikimedia Foundation uses a number of forums, including everything from mailing lists to user talk pages. The general discussion wikis operated by the Foundation allow for the discussion of trademark policy and other matters of general concern. Specific questions or problems with potential trademark abuse should probably be brought directly to the Foundation staff.
- I have a logo usage permission request. To whom should I send it, and what information should I include?
- In general, the more detail you can include about the scope and manner of the proposed use, the better. A commercial permission request should go to the General Counsel or the Head of Business Development. Promotional uses may also be directed to the Head of Communications.
- If I have questions about this policy, who do I ask?
- In general, you should address questions about the legal aspects of this policy to the General Counsel. Questions about design aspects should be directed to the Head of Communications. Whereas questions about commercial licensing of the trademarks can be addressed to the Head of Business Development. For the commercial and legal questions, please send them to: trademarkwikimedia.org.