The Postgres Core Team tries to Shut Down a Postgres Community Conference

Monday, Jul 24, 2023| by Álvaro Hernández | Tags:, postgresql

The Postgres Core Team tries to Shut Down a Postgres Community Conference

In 2019, Fundación PostgreSQL organized the first edition of Postgres Ibiza, an event that was recognized as a Postgres Community Event. It was also announced in the events section of the official PostgreSQL website and it had among its attendees one member from the Core Team.

In 2023, after the pandemic, Fundación PostgreSQL is organizing the second edition of Postgres Ibiza with the same core tenets, website and goals. Yet this time the Core Team is trying to shut it down, despite admitting that it complies as a Postgres Community Event. The Core Team is banning Fundación from using “Postgres” as part of the “Postgres Ibiza” name for the conference.

But why? In which way shutting down a Postgres Event (Community or not) is a good thing for the Postgres Community?

Preventing a Postgres Event from using the term “Postgres” in its name?

According to a recent announcement published by the Core Team “Fundación PostgreSQL does not have our authorization to use trademark “POSTGRES” or any identical or similar trademark to POSTGRESQL”. We guess that the Core Team wants this Postgres event to be named instead “The World’s Most Advanced Open Source Relational Database - Ibiza” or something like that.

Not only they made this public announcement and sent it via mail to many thousands of subscribers, but the Core Team also:

  • Censored publication of Postgres Ibiza in the Events page.
  • Censored using the newsletter facility to announce the Ibiza event.
  • Sent a “cease and desist” letter (from the Postgres Association of Canada’s lawyers) giving Fundación seven days to remove “Postgres” from the “Postgres Ibiza 2023” name or face potential legal actions against Fundación.

For full transparency, here’s the document we received (in Spanish) which requires us to “Comprometerse formalmente a no utilizar en el mercado la marca POSTGRES o cualquier otra confundible con la marca POSTGRESQL, en el evento previsto para finales de agosto 2023 en Ibiza o cualquier otro similar” which can be translated as “formally commit to not use the trademark POSTGRES or any other that can be confused with the POSTGRESQL brand, for the event scheduled by the end of August in Ibiza or any other similar one”. The letter also mentions that Fundación “aprovechándose del público que conoce las marcas de mi cliente y llevándolos a confusión con ese nombre” (translated as “taking advantage of the public that is aware of the [Postgres] trademarks and leading them to confusion with that [Postgres Ibiza] name”.

Why does the Core Team legally threaten a Postgres Community Event? Have they thought of the consequences this has on its very own Postgres Community? Have they thought of the attendees that want to attend the conference? Have they thought of the organizers and volunteers putting hours and hours of effort behind it? Have they thought of the speakers that invested into submitting talks, booking trips and that want to share their knowledge? Have they considered the economic losses derived from these legal threats? Is this the right thing to do? How does having such a conference named “Postgres Ibiza” hurt the Community?

Even commercial database vendors allow user groups to use their names to refer to events for the Community. For example, Oracle User Groups (OUGs) include in their name the word “Oracle”. It would be hard to otherwise understand what a user group or a conference is about. It’s unprecedented that the Core Team is going beyond where no one else has gone, open source or proprietary, hurting the Community in trying to shut down a Postgres Event.

In reality, the conference name “issue” is no more than a smokescreen. Their real motivations are revealed at the end of their public communication: “The PostgreSQL community is willing to support Fundación PostgreSQL’s event should it end its infringement of the PostgreSQL brands”. So it’s not about the event. This is just a tactic to strong arm Fundación in an unrelated (to the conference) legal dispute.

Does the end justify the means?

The Postgres Core Team is making false claims. Here are the facts

  • Core Team’s Trademark Policy includes under “Fair Uses That Don’t Require Prior Approval” uses that “accurately advertise PostgreSQL® software-related content in a public event”. Therefore, Postgres Ibiza 2023 falls under their own fair use policy and doesn’t even require prior approval.
  • The Core Team mentions in their communication “an infringing trademark on what is claimed to be a PostgreSQL community event”. Yet they don’t clarify how the trademark is infringed. Because it isn’t. Trademark Laws 101: trademarks exist to protect consumers from potential confusion. If this event would be a conference to talk about Excel spreadsheets but was marketed as a Postgres conference to gain an advantage, that may result in confusion for the potential attendees. But this is a Postgres conference (and unconference), with Postgres talks, selected among many talks all about Postgres, with a CFP focused on Postgres and a talk selection committee that are well-known and recognized Postgres experts. To put it simply, it is a Postgres conference. And a Community one. No confusion. No trademark infringement.
  • Furthermore, the Core Team states that “Fundación PostgreSQL does not have our authorization to use trademark POSTGRES”. However:
    • “POSTGRES” trademark was only registered by the Postgres Association of Canada (PGAC) in 2018, when it was already a commonly used term and was thus a “non-distinctive mark” (it is instead a descriptive one). That’s why the trademark registration was denied in the Principal Register and only granted in the Supplemental Register. This means that there is no presumption of ownership, validity or exclusivity of the mark. With less legalese this means that they cannot enforce exclusivity of a brand that has been used by everyone that uses or talks about Postgres and its ecosystem for decades.
    • Trademarks have classes. And classes matter. “Postgres” could be a valid trademark for cars, since it is in a different class, and there’s no chance for a consumer to be confused between the database software and a car.
      The Postgres Association of Canada has no trademarks registered on Class 41 (“Education; providing of training”) which is where conferences belong to. They only have the registration for Class 9 (“recorded and downloadable media, computer software”).

Postgres Ibiza will happen as planned. You (and everyone interested in Postgres) are invited

At Fundación, we take very seriously our commitment with the Postgres Community. And because we believe that Postgres Ibiza 2023 is a positive event for this Community, Postgres Ibiza 2023 will happen as planned. No attendee, speaker, sponsor, volunteer, organizer or any other stakeholder will be affected by Core’s unsubstantiated and unfair claims. We will not let the Community be hurt by Core’s unjustifiable behavior.

Please join us in Ibiza, on August 29-31, 2023, for two days of Postgres Conference plus one day of Postgres Unconference. We wholeheartedly invite the Core Team members to attend and see with their own eyes why Postgres Ibiza is positive and beneficial for the Community. We should all be collaborating in order to make our Postgres Community better.