Debian trademark, EAN, proposed letter, SPI heads-up

Ian Jackson ijackson at
Thu Aug 31 14:19:18 UTC 2017



Debian would like to sign, jointly with SPI, a letter stating that we
do not intend to apply for EANs.  A draft of the letter is below.


We (Debian, me specifically) are about to ask Free Software
Conservancy for legal advice - specifically whether there is anything
wrong with this proposed letter.

If the advice is favourable, and subject to comments we get from SPI,
we will sign this letter on behalf of Debian and we would like the SPI
Secretary to sign it on behalf of SPI.

We will need approval from the SPI Board.  I doubt there would be any
problem with this, but I thought I should let you know.

I will CC the Board on the request I make to our legal counsel and ask
them to send you a copy of the advice we receive.


Debian was recently asked by a vendor of Debian CDs to help them
out with an issue relating to EANs.  An EAN is the (number
represented by a) barcode which is used to identify physical products
at the point of sale.

Some large online trading platforms prefer everything they sell to
have an EAN where possible.  (Presumably this makes their database
management easier or something.)  It appears that they particularly
don't want their clients to be selling without an EAN, items that do
have an EAN.

And they want (for some reason) to ensure that products sold without
EANs, which bear trademarks, are sold in that way only with the
consent of the trademark holder.  I assume that this is part of their
efforts to try to ensure their clients do not breach trademarks.

After investigating the issues, we (Debian) don't think we want to
issue EANs (in part because Debian provides data files, not physical
embodiments, which probably should not have EANs).

I drafted the letter you find below.

I have now been delegated by the Debian Project Leader to take care of
this issue.

Thanks for your attention.


=== draft letter ===


   To Whom It May Concern

   The Debian Project ("Debian") and Software In The Public Interest
   Inc ("SPI") wish to make known that:

   1. Debian, through its Trusted Organisations including SPI, owns and
   controls the trademark "Debian" in various jurisdictions.

   2. Debian does not provide European Article Numbers (EANs).  Nor do
   any of Debian's associated organisations do so on Debian's behalf.

   3. Debian and SPI give public permission for products embodying
   Debian's software and documentation to be sold, according to the
   Debian Trademark Policy (which can be found at  That policy does not make any
   requirement about EANs.  Therefore (provided the the policy is adhered
   to) we have no objection to Debian branded products being sold without

   4. Debian do not anticpate this situation changing in the next 2
   years.  Specifically, we do not expect to be issuing EANs within the
   next 2 years.

   5. Please therefore allow vendors of Debian merchandise to trade,
   notwithstanding any lack of EANs for those products.

   6. This is without predjudice, of course, to our right to enforce our
   trademarks against anyone found violating our trademark policy.  We
   are simply saying that lack of an EAN is, in itself, completely fine.


   for the Debian Project          for Software in the Public Intere

=== email from trading platform support desk to a Debian vendor ===

   From: Support Vendeur ****
   Subject: RE:[CASE ****] Demande de courrier

   Dear Seller,

   Thank you for contacting ***. My name is **** and it has been a
   delight to talk with you on the phone. Once again, thank you for
   taking the time to answer me. It is my pleasure to assist you with
   your query related with your EAM exemption application.

   As regards as your case, I can see that you would like to products from
   the brand Debian without having to buy EAN codes.

   Please note that in order to do that, as you are not the manufacturer of
   the concerned products, you need to apply for an EAN exemption approval.

   In order to have your application processed, the fields below should be
   populated in the form.

   Estimated annual revenue
   Condition of your product
   Company website
   Company description
   Brand to be exempted and seller connection to the brand
   How do you upload your listings
   Number of products needing UPC or EAN exemptions
   Justification for UPC or EAN exemptions
   Company name

   You also need to prove a letter coming from your manufacturer that
   states those facts:

   -your manufacturer doesn't provide you any EAN codes.
   -your manufacturer allows you to send his products without any EAN
   -your manufacturer is not going to buy any EAN code during the 2 next

   Incomplete applications will not be processed. EAN or UPC exemptions
   cannot be granted for single ASINs sold in product bundles or in bulk.
   With the exception of antique products, the condition of an item for
   which an EAN or UPC exemption is requested must be New.

   Please find more info about those EAN exemptions requests by clicking on
   the following link: ***

   No answer is require from your side, but if you have further questions
   concerning your sales, please never hesitate to contact *** again [...]

Ian Jackson <ijackson at>   These opinions are my own.

If I emailed you from an address or, that is
a private address which bypasses my fierce spamfilter.

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