There luckily aren't too many occassions where I find it necessary to criticize Adobe but lately there have been a number of actions by the legal department that do more harm than good in my opinion.
Back in the Macromedia days I've dealt with the legal department a number of times and all things considered it went relatively smoothly. Today I read that Geoff Stearns of FlashObject fame was forced to change his project name to SWFObject, apparently they've started taking objection to third party tools using the term Flash.
I'd estimate round about half to two thirds of all third party tools use the term Flash in their product name -- imagine what this means for the community. Now, don't get me wrong. I'm not opposed to any company protecting its trademarks but what we desperately need is clarity.
- What are acceptable uses of any Adobe trademarks?
- What is Adobe's position on open source Flash projects that use their proprietary protocols?
- Is Adobe commited to support its user base and open up communication channels regarding legal matters?
- Does Adobe recognize it needs to act internationally as opposed to the rather US-centric approach we've been seeing up until now?
Some of these issues were already there from the Macromedia era but it does look as though its getting more and more difficult to get a point across.
Legal departments move notoriously slow but in order to maintain a thriving community its vital that we get clear information from Adobe on what is acceptable and what is not. We need some assurance that efforts to contribute are not blocked months or years down the line because of legal issues the author wasn't aware of.
My suggestion would be for Adobe to set up an email address where people can submit any legal questions and a more comprehensive legal FAQ can be compiled.
With regards to the current situation why not have projects register with Adobe and, once approved, be granted a restrictive license to use the Flash trademark in its name. Approved third party tools could then be listed on the exchange. This gives end users assurance that the third party tool they are using is not contested by Adobe, something that is often a question mark these days.
Thanks for listening!