If we go to the Ubuntu website, the first reference to Linux is mid-way through the page, as can be seen in this screenshot:

enter image description here

Here in "More than Linux", the word "Linux" is written without the registered trademark symbol ®.

This violates rule number 1 of The Linux Foundations rules on the proper use of the registered Linux® trademark:

  1. For each web page, advertisement, or publication, the first prominent appearance of LINUX should feature the “circle R” character adjacent to the X, as follows:


At the end of the Ubuntu web page, we can read that:

© 2021 Canonical Ltd. Ubuntu and Canonical are registered trademarks of Canonical Ltd.

There is no trademark attribution to The Linux Foundation. This violates rule number 2 of The Linux Foundation on the proper use of the Linux® registered trademark:

  1. At the end of your web page, advertisement, publication or media broadcast, include the following text in a legible font and size:

Linux® is the registered trademark of Linus Torvalds in the U.S. and other countries.

Why Linus Torvalds and The Linux Foundation does not sue Canonical, and other distributions that abide by the same practice?

Why they don't sue everybody here on StackExchange that uses the Linux word for the first time in their post without the ®? Or don't put the attribution at the end of their post?

If Linux should gain in the desktop market, can The Linux Foundation and Linus Torvalds one day just wake up and sue everybody?

*Linux® is the registered trademark of Linus Torvalds in the U.S. and other countries.

  • 1
    I think it's obvious why they shouldn't sue: because it would be public relations disaster. Jan 5, 2021 at 18:13

1 Answer 1


Considering that Canonical has a Silver Membership in the Linux Foundation, I think it's safe to assume the Foundation is aware of its use of the mark in Ubuntu marketing and has either granted tacit or explicit permission for this deviation from their trademark guidelines.

As for why the Linux Foundation doesn't just "sue everyone," there are two cases you identify in your question that are different in important ways:

  • General use of the trademark in written discussion about the Foundation or the software: trademark law affords a monopoly on the mark in commerce to identify the source of a good or service. A trademark holder may not use their trademark monopoly to suppress linguistic use of the mark altogether.

  • Use of the mark in the marketing for a specific product/service: now we are firmer ground for the basis of a suit. However, note that principle of "nominative fair use" for trademarks (N.B.: completely unrelated to the standard for copyright fair use) allows people to identify the use of a product of some particular brand, even in commerce, if the use of the mark accurately refers to the source of the product. However, such nominative users must take care to indicate that they are not themselves the source of the named brand, which might be a difficult standard to meet in a court of law. A court will examine the likelihood of the use causing "consumer confusion" among those who see it, which even diligent clarification may not be able to avoid for some uses.

The real reason the Linux Foundation does not sue anyone who fails to meet their trademark guidelines in commerce is that it would be a disastrous public relations move, possibly scaring people from using Linux-based systems outright, without affording any real benefit. Considering that distributions' use of the Linux mark is generally (1) accurate (i.e., the using product really does substantially use the kernel called "Linux") and (2) does not threaten to dilute their trademark (i.e., the users of the mark are not trying to claim something else is Linux or that they represent the Linux project), it is largely harmless to leave alone any uses that neglect to add a circle-R to their use of the Linux mark.

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