A New Home for the WordPress Trademark

As I write this, I’m on my way to Seaside, Florida to see 60+ Automatticians at our yearly meetup. More than sixty… that number astounds me! Automattic has grown so far beyond what I originally imagined and every day I’m amazed by my colleagues and the things they create. Today we’re growing in another way: Automattic has transferred the WordPress trademark to the WordPress Foundation, the non-profit dedicated to promoting and ensuring access to WordPress and related open source projects in perpetuity. This means that the most central piece of WordPress’s identity, its name, is now fully independent from any company.

This is a really big deal.

I want to recognize and applaud the courage and foresight of Automattic’s board, investors, and legal counsel who made this possible: Mike Hirshland, Phil Black, Tony Conrad, Toni Schneider, Gunderson Dettmer. I’d also like to thank Matt Bartus of Dorsey & Whitney for their counsel on the Foundation side. The WordPress brand has grown immeasurably in the past 5 years and it’s not often you see a for-profit company donate one of their most valuable core assets and give up control. However, I know in my heart that this is the right thing for the entire WordPress community, and they followed me on that. It wasn’t easy, but things worth doing seldom are.

When Automattic registered the WordPress trademark back in 2006, we were a small startup of a few people: a business founded largely to enable us to work on WordPress full-time instead of hacking around our day jobs. A lot has changed since then — somehow along the way we ended up with an audience of a quarter billion people — but a lot has stayed the same. We’re still a group of people in love with WordPress and free/open source software and we’re lucky to have figured out a way to contribute to the world and flourish as a business while doing it.

Automattic might not always be under my influence, so from the beginning I envisioned a structure where for-profit, non-profit, and not-just-for-profit could coexist and balance each other out. It’s important for me to know that WordPress will be protected and that the brand will continue to be a beacon of open source freedom regardless of whether any company is as benevolent as Automattic has been thus far. It’s important to me to know that we’ve done the right thing. Hopefully, it’s important to you, too, and you’ll continue your support of WordPress, the WordPress Foundation, and Automattic’s products and services. We couldn’t do it without you!

105 thoughts on “A New Home for the WordPress Trademark

  1. It is an honor to be part of the community. I am a WP fan, user and supporter.

    I agree that for and not for can co-exist however Matt you have taken it to a new level

    Thanks

  2. You have some issues with your font/alignment/spacing/something that is munging the words in this post (maybe others). I can’t really read it too well.

  3. Congratulations Matt for taking such a decision. I’m really interested in the way WordPress Foundation and Automattic are living in harmony to make a project as great as WordPress possible.

    I’m interested because I also run an opensource project called Piwigo (photo galleries in PHP), I own the trademark (registration in progress) and I own a company who tries to generate profit based on Piwigo and a Piwigo foundation also exists. Needless to say that such a decision will certainly influence me concerning trademark ownership!

  4. One reason so many people love WordPress is because you walk the walk. That was a really awesome thing to do for WordPress and for the community. Thank you yet again :)

    1. I agree with that Lori. It may sound easy to say that on Matt’s blog, but my feeling is that the way Matt manages the WordPress project partly explains the success WordPress has met in the recent years, beyond WordPress features.

  5. Read the new draft. When will there be a contact form or can I just ask – Can I use the Logo at WPAddict.net? I have been since November 2009 and the site follows the guidelines of this new draft.

    Just want to get my ducks in a row.

  6. Awesome, Matt. I know you will continue to build great things (and eat great food) for many years to come, and doing this is simultaneously ballsy, the absolute right thing to do, and very much appreciated. I know very few leaders and especially biggish companies would have the willpower to do this, even though they might talk about it.

    Thanks!

  7. Awesome news, Matt! Seriously: this is HUGE news, and such a great thing for WordPress.

    Congrats on getting it taken care of. And awesome to see a (draft) Trademark policy.

    You know I’m not afraid to criticize when I believe it’s warranted – but in this case, nothing but praise from me.

    Cheers!

  8. Wow. Glad I read this post. I previously didn’t realize the WordPress domain name policy. I had a site registered as MauiWordPress.com. Just transferred and redirected that to MauiWP.com. My question now is, what about Twitter and Facebook? I have @MauiWordPress on twitter and MauiWordPress Facebook page. Should I disable those as well? I’m definitely a WP fan and want to be compliant and not mislead folks, so glad to cooperate

    1. Thank you for fixing up your domain! I know it’s harder to switch Twitter and FB and we don’t have an official policy there yet, but I do think it makes sense for them to match the domain.

  9. Congrats, Matt! I’ve always been interested in and envious of the WordPress .com/Automattic & .org/foundation relationship. The trademark transfer is a huge deal which should solidify the legendary WordPress brand. I wear the WordCamp shirts with a little more pride starting today! :)

    If you may divulge, what were the general terms to the trademark handover? Obviously Automattic gets exclusive (transferable?) rights to continue using the mark. Any other interesting mentionable points? Again, congrats for making it happen!

    1. Correct — WordPress.com (Automattic) and .net/.org (me) are grandfathered in as part of the transfer, so they’ll continue to operate as before, but no special rights for any new domains which would need to go through the Foundation just like anyone else. I’m not really worried about that as there are no plans to call anything new “WordPress.”

  10. Congratulations Matt and everybody that had a hand in this. It might be a very small step on paper, but it is yet another example of the way the WP community has shown itself to be an innovative leader of the vanguard of the next generation that help shape our collective cultural consciousness in a positive direction for all.

  11. Its heartening to see such a move from you. Bowing myself to you Matt. This is indeed a GREAT news among all those guys who raises venture capital and so on.

    It also provided some clarity on things which I am looking at currently. Thanks and way to go!

  12. Congratulations Matt on the great move. Not only has your work provided the online community with an invaluable tool but your foresight and dedication have ensured that the work will endure.

    I’ll also add, I’m sure that this will in turn give substantial commercial return – from a branding point-of-view, you have essentially managed to bulletproof and lock-in your identity for indefinite period and at a market leading price.

    Thanks again for all the hard work.

  13. This is great news Matt, thanks to both Automattic and the WordPress foundation for all they have contributed to the growing community of WordPress users and developers.

  14. Good job, thanks Matt! It’s great to see you protecting WordPress(.org) against the future unknown (including yourself). It really shows that you think WordPress is more important than just one person, or company.

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  16. I do some work for a “not-just-for-profit” company that makes and hosts fundraising software for non-profits and charities. A few years ago, ownership of the software was transferred to a 501(c)3 charitable foundation. It was a tremendous amount of work and a lot of new ground for lawyers to work through. There were many who thought transferring control of the company’s core asset was crazy, but embedding the values and goals of the community we serve into the ownership of that core was simply the right thing to do.

    All that to say I understand a little bit of the effort and character that goes into a move like this. Thank you for being willing to do all it took to make that important step.

  17. that’s amazing news! Does it bring you great joy to do stuff that’s, a lot of times, the exact opposite of what most minds think of doing these days? Fear not, the WP foundation and community will see to it that the name “WordPress” shall echo in eternity.

    Deja vu, I just randomly googled “echoes in eternity” (with quotes), and found the first result to be “Echoes In Eternity is powered by WordPress 2.2.2″ (www.echoeseq.com)

  18. Congratulations! It sounds like this has been a major goal for some time and it’s nice to see you do this.

    Hopefully you are not retiring anytime soon…

    Very happy to be a part of the WordPress community!

  19. This is what I love about WordPress and all open source projects that let the community truly own not just the code but the project itself. Many thanks to Automattic and all those who contribute. I have used WP since late ’05 and and recall when the WP brand came into being. I am very confident this will encourage the WP community to continue express their generosity as well.

  20. This sound like a great step forward. I totally can not live without wordpress and I’m glad to see that you have made moves to prolong and extend its longevity. Bravo. I’ve been a WP user sine 2006 and I’ve seen it grow to an international phenomenon.

  21. Wow Matt!

    You have been my role model for ages, the way you have changed the world, using open source, and then, when you could still make profit, you decide to pass this onto a charity, making a difference to the world, protecting your trademark, whilst removing any future personal gain.

    You were my role model since I even knew about WordPress, and I just think, from the perspective of a 12-year-old, you are a true awesome, cool and terrific man! Plus you’re under 30, and you have made such a difference! Whatever could you come up with next!

    You are probably only one of the businessmen I know that maintains a blog, with open comments, and sets the time out of your busy schedule, just to maintain user interaction, and for us to see a different, informal approach! You are a truly awesome person!

    Thank you!

  22. Thanks for all of your hard work, Matt. WordPress is just freaking amazing. I’m celebrating my one year anniversary of being on the platform and my only regret is that it took me so long to see the light.

  23. Thank you for this.

    I’m a vocal supporter of both Automattic and the overall WordPress project from a pure business and technical point of view.

    This philanthropic move just adds to the positive karma that the whole organisation deserves.

  24. Sounds like you transferred the only thing worth money (the wordpress name) to a tax sheltered organization. Great work!

    1. Automattic is a rapidly growing profitable business with more than 65 employees and tens of millions of users. :) The WordPress name is hugely valuable but this has nothing to do with taxes (which aren’t a concern or most startups anyway because they re-invest all the money they make).

  25. Hey Matt:

    You continue to demonstrate to entrepreneurs everywhere that success in today’s environment is about authenticity and doing what’s right .. not necessarily what would be assumed to be profitable or “smart business”.

    Your talk at Engage was one of the highest rated, and I really appreciate all that you do and what you’ve achieved (with no interest in taking credit for any of it).

    Hope all is well and that our paths cross again soon.

    Regards,
    Greg

  26. Woow!!! Great, Matt! This is incredibly unbelievable. You have surely set a precedence in the entire open source community and the world at large.

    I was recently hurt by Java and MySQL being taken over by Oracle. It has caused lots of confusion and we only wait to see what the future holds for the two.

    However, with such a great move for WordPress, even though the community was certain that WordPress was safe, it is even more certain. Thanks so much for your brave decisions. May WordPress and the community continues to grow and grow.

  27. I’m in love with WordPress. In fact, I might even marry it. That’s how much I love this software. A HUGE congratulations to everyone from lil’ ol’ me.

  28. Amazed this story hasn’t been more widely circulated. I only found out from my dashboard on an infrequent update. Such altruism ought not to be overlooked. So a thank you from me, a simple user.

  29. Awesome move Matt and Automattic HQ !!

    Big thanks in the name of the quarter billion community members.

    Blogging wouldn’t be as we know it without all this awesome work and development . . .

    Now this step to ensure WordPress will remains free to the community who made WordPress go sky-rocketting.

    A vision of a world where great pieces of code can be free !!

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