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I'm thinking about releasing an extension package for PyPA's Twine. I wanted to name it twine-exists, but after giving it a minute of thought, I have doubts about whether that doesn't encroach over their trademark rights.

The answer to this question would indicate, that the issue is separate to licensing, and (in US at least) the protection is established via "use in the marketplace". But I've seen many different projects that would use such naming strategy.

Do I need a permission from the authors of a project X, in order to use X-Y as the name of my own project?

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Trademarks exist to avoid confusion in the public about who or what a particular name refers to. Trademark right are not given automatically, but trademarks have to be explicitly claimed and actively defended.

A quick search shows no trademark registration on the name "Twine" in the context of Python packaging, nor any statement in the project's repository and documentation that Twine is used as a trademark. There is a Twine trademark for a tool for "telling interactive, nonlinear stories".

As trademarks are intended to prevent competitors to use "confusingly similar" names, the scope of a trademark's protection is in part determined by how the name in question is known among the general public. The name "Twine" is not associated in the public's mind with one particular company, so the trademark's protection is effectively limited to the market where the holder of the trademark operates.

If there would be a trademark on PyPA's Twine, then the question becomes if your name "twine-exists" would be interpreted (by the average Python user) as a third-party add-on to PyPA's Twine or as something offered by PyPA as a tool belonging to or replacing Twine. For the first case, the use of the trademark's name in your name is typically allowed (but it is good to get explicit permission), and in the second it isn't. Personally, I would read "twine-exists" as a PyPA tool to check if Twine is (properly) installed.

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    You are referring to registered trademarks ®, but there are also unregistered trademarks, which are sometimes - but not always - labeled ™. And, at least in the US, you gain those more or less automatically (i.e. without registration), just by using them in the marketplace (as OP has correctly stated). They don't offer as much protection as a registered trademark, but you can still sue someone trying to use such a trademark without permission (in the US). In many other countries, such unregistered trademarks provide no protection at all though. – Felix G Aug 13 at 9:07
  • @FelixG, I imagine that even for an unregistered trademark, you have to claim the trademark by making it publicly known that you are using name X as a trademark. There just might not be a public registry that you could check if somebody else already uses X as a trademark. – Bart van Ingen Schenau Aug 13 at 9:29

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