Libraries trust wins battle over trademark

MATHEW GROCOTT
Last updated 09:00 14/12/2013

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A bid by an American corporation, with links to the military, to trademark the word Koha has been thwarted by Horowhenua librarians.

Horowhenua Libraries Trust has successfully challenged a 2011 decision to let American company Liblime PTFS trademark in New Zealand the word Koha, the name of its library management system.

The trust, along with Katipo Communications, developed the software in 1999 and released it the following year as free-to-use software. It has since been translated into at least 30 languages, and is used in many libraries worldwide, particularly in developing countries in South America, Africa and Asia.

Katipo sold its share in Koha to Liblime which went on to release its own version of the software and tried to register Koha as a trademark in New Zealand in 2011.

That application was approved by the then Ministry of Economic Development, a decision appealed by the Horowhenua Library Trust and software firm Catalyst IT.

A judgment delivered by assistant commissioner of trademarks Jennie Walden found the two pieces of software were largely the same and that it was likely a "substantial number" of people would be confused or deceived if Liblime used the Koha trademark.

Trust chief executive Joann Ransom said she was relieved and satisfied with the judgment.

"We are very proud of Koha," she said. "It was developed for the Horowhenua Library Trust and it was their decision to make it free and open sourced to all libraries.

"To think a big American company could take over the name and shut us out was offensive.

"We are just so thrilled the assistant commissioner found in our favour."

Ms Ransom said she was grateful for the considerable support from libraries in New Zealand and overseas, as well as individuals from the Koha community all around the world.

Koha's original developer Chris Cormack, now senior software developer at Catalyst IT, said it was a great relief to have the case settled. "While it hasn't slowed down the progress of Koha, it has been a dark shadow hanging over us for nearly four years," he said.

"I would like to thank everyone involved in helping us, the many people who donated money, Buddle Findlay for representing the trust, my employer Catalyst, and AJ Pietras and Co who provided legal support, as well as the many thousands of people who sent well-wishes."

After putting out an appeal in 2011 for funding to help fight the trademarking, the trust had received money from all corners of the world and an offer from a law firm of pro bono representation.

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Koha has won a number of awards, including the 3M Innovation in New Zealand Libraries Award from the Library and Information Association of New Zealand in 2000, Les Trophees Du Libre in 2003, Computer World Excellence Award in 2004 and Telecommunications Users Association of New Zealand Award in 2000.

- Manawatu Standard

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