Blocking WP From Being Used in A New Plugin Name Is Not as Bad as It Seems

It has been a while since anything newsworthy has popped up regarding the WordPress trademark. But if you wait around long enough, something will happen. Joe Youngblood recently submitted a plugin to the WordPress plugin directory and was upset to find out that it was rejected due to using wp in the name. According to a screenshot he posted to Twitter, the wp violates the WordPress trademark.

Three months ago, a change was made to the Trademark checker to include wp as one of the terms that would reject a plugin submission. The term wp is not trademarked by the WordPress Foundation but the Foundation has asked the plugin team to reject any plugins using the term in its name. This has led to some confusion as the Foundation is exercising their rights on a trademark they don’t own.

I asked members of the plugin review team if wp is banned from being used in plugins. What is actually happening is that plugins that use wp in their name are being flagged for manual review and at times automatically rejected. Plugins that are approved with wp in their name are often changed by the author to WordPress after the plugin is approved which bypasses the initial automated checks system. This in turn violates the WordPress trademark.

The way this process is being handled is part of a larger conversation the WordPress plugin review team is having with the WordPress Foundation to protect and limit the violation of the WordPress trademark.

When it comes to naming a plugin, the detailed plugin review guidelines state the following:

The use of trademarks or other projects as the sole or initial term of a plugin slug is prohibited unless proof of legal ownership/representation can be confirmed. For example, the WordPress Foundation has trademarked the term “WordPress” and it is a violation to use “wordpress” in a domain name. This policy extends to plugin slugs, and we will not permit a slug to begin with another product’s term.

For example only employees of Super Sandbox should use the slug “super-sandbox,” or their brand in a context such as “Super Sandbox Dancing Sloths.” Non-employees should use a format such as “Dancing Sloths for Superbox” instead to avoid potentially misleading users into believing the plugin was developed by Super Sandbox. Similarly, if you don’t represent the “MellowYellowSandbox.js” project, it’s inappropriate to use that as the name of your plugin.

Original branding is recommended as it not only helps to avoid confusion, but is more memorable to the user.

Detailed Plugin Review Guidelines #17

If you think about it, naming a plugin that’s more descriptive such as, Trademark Protection for WordPress sounds better than WP Trademark Protection.

The reason this news intrigued me about the Foundation extending its reach to protect its WordPress trademark by restricting wp from being used in new plugin names is that I wondered how far they planned on taking that kind of action.

We’ve known since 2010 that having wp in a domain name related to a WordPress site, product, or service was acceptable, but could it one day not be? I don’t think there’s anything to worry about considering the Foundation doesn’t own the trademark to wp and the trademark policy clearly indicates that using wp is fine.

The moral of the story here is to create better and more descriptive plugin titles without using WP or WordPress at the beginning of them. It’s fairly easy to do and in most cases, it looks and sounds better.

2 thoughts on “Blocking WP From Being Used in A New Plugin Name Is Not as Bad as It Seems”

  1. I think what they’re trying to prevent is fine but the way it’s being done could be improved. If people are renaming “WP” plugins to “WordPress” after acceptance then I don’t see why that can’t be dealt with using more precision: detect the change after an update is pushes, disable the plugin and send an email with the reason/instructions.

    “I don’t think there’s anything to worry about considering the Foundation doesn’t own the trademark to wp and the trademark policy clearly indicates that using wp is fine.”

    Yeah, safe there. It’s 100% impossible to trademark “WP” and preventing it altogether on .org would contradict everything the Foundation has been saying for the last decade.

    • Well, we’ve learned through a trac ticket later in the day that the entire mess is really centered around systems and processes. So, once those are addressed, I think we’ll see WP block go away.

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