24 Nov 2011

Global backers support library in Koha trademark battle

8:26 am on 24 November 2011

A small town library has received support from overseas to fight the hijacking of its cataloguing software system Koha by a United States corporation.

The Horowhenua Library Trust issued an online plea for help after the Ministry of Economic Development's trademark division gave provisional approval for PTFS LibLime to trademark the Koha brand.

Koha is free software, which the trust developed 12 years ago.

The trust intended it to live up to the spirit of its name and be free to users.

However, it has been tweaked by LibLime, which intends to charge clients who use it.

The head of the trust, Joann Ransom, says she will lodge an objection to the trademark bid.

She says $9000 has been donated to the fight so far from New Zealand and around the world.

If the trust loses the case, current users will not be affected but others will be stopped from using the software for free.

LibLime chief executive John Yokley says it bought the rights to Koha from Wellington-based Katipo Communications but the company denies that.

Rachel Hamilton-Williams from Katipo says it has never owned the software.

Victoria University intellectual property lecturer Aroha Mead says the trust has a high chance of succeeding in its appeal because soon after the software's creation the trust registered it with the Open Source Library System.

"That should satisfy any legal requirement to prove their ownership and a right for attribution," she says.

Aroha Mead says the case is a warning to others who want to provide free software that they need to register the product properly.

A previous president of New Zealand's open source society, Don Christie, believes LibLime is trying to trademark Koha is because it is losing customers to the free software.