OSM Trademark Violations and Lack of Enforcement, General and Specific Examples

This post is a response by @woodpeck to the initial post of the “Announcement: OpenLandCoverMap” Thread. This and other responses were split off from the original topic per multiple requests by community members. This thread is concerned with perceived violations of the OSM trademark.


the OSM trademark policy at
Trademark Policy - OpenStreetMap Foundation explicitly states:

“You may not: … substitute words in the mark (“OpenStreetThing” or
“OpenThingMap”), especially where the new combination sounds similar to

You should therefore either find a different name for your map, or come
to a trademark agreement with the OSM foundation.



:popcorn: :popcorn: :popcorn:

Of course, this observation was summarily ignored. As we know, the Foundation has few resources to spare and certainly aren’t paying lawyers to enforce the trademark or attribution requirements. The worst the OP can expect is a strongly worded letter of protest.

But, cool map.


I do not think this humble non-commercial community project aimed at improving OSM data quality and entertaining OSM-community members has anything to do with trademarks.

Anyway, OSM-community projects with names OpenXxxMap are existing for decades (OpenSeaMap.org etc) so it seems that I should not worry about the name too much.

Also, I would not like this project to be called zkir’s-landcover-map, it would not be modest. :slight_smile:

the worst the OP can expect is a strongly worded letter of protest .

I hope this issue will be eventually resolved to mutual satisfaction, if it ever comes up for real.

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Just consider you being hit by the proverbial bus, and your relatives selling off the domain to the highest bidder, lets say google.

Regarding the trademark issue, (1) a humble non-commercial community project could afford to play by the rules that the very community has created, don’t you think? and (2) it is true that many OpenXXXMap projects exist but have you researched how many of them have actually asked for, and been granted, a trademark license by the OSMF? I know that OpenRailWayMap has, for example…

by the way, do you know whether “ArcGIS StreetMap Premium” has applied?

Is there a public list of applications for osm trademark use, and which of these have been approved / denied?

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I fail to see the connection.

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ESRI’s ArcGIS StreetMap is a product based on OpenStreetMap data, judging from the screenshots.

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The screenshot showing Auckland suspiciously looks like OSM-Carto. The documentation though states, that the street data is sourced from HERE, c.f. What is ArcGIS StreetMap Premium?—ArcGIS StreetMap Premium | Dokumentation

ESRI has long had an OSM-carto vector tile lookalike, it is literally not possible to determine the data provenance from the styling.

All that said, this is rather off topic and should all be moved to a separate thread.


“StreetMap Premium” isn’t necessarily related to or named after OSM. If I’m not mistaken, the OSMF trademark policy covers the “Open…Map” and “OpenStreet…” patterns, not “StreetMap”. “Open…Map” is was what started this whole topic anyhow.

That said, Esri does offer its customers an “OpenStreetMap Vector Basemap” option that uses the Daylight distribution and a style based on osm-carto. Some of the local government agencies I contact about releasing data are already using the OSM basemap option in their public ArcGIS maps, which probably helps the conversation a bit.

If they’re now offering the same style in conjunction with non-OSM data, that probably isn’t relevant to the trademark policy. Besides, OSM Carto is licensed quite permissively (public domain) so that it doesn’t restrict the kind of data you apply it to.

As we know, this is factually incorrect.

That the foundation picks its battles mostly wisely doesn’t mean that they don’t happen. In particular the foundation has multiple times opposed the registration of conflicting trademarks, taken legal action against missing attribution and had problematic apps taken down (and most of that involved paying lawyers and fees).


I have a couple of spare bridges in stock, would you like to purchase one?

Absolutely! More on point, if OSMF is concerned about that kind of encroachment, maybe the trademark policy should say so instead of leaving it up to interpretation. “StreetMap” could sound like OpenStreetMap, but naming it in the policy would be a better defense.

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OpenStreetMap was of course founded back in the days when there were two pre-eminent mapping sites in the UK: multimap.com and streetmap.co.uk. So there’s always been awareness that “other mapping sites may be called ‘street map’”.

(Multimap was sold to Microsoft in 2007, two years after Google Maps launched, for £lots. One of the founders reputedly earned £25m from the sale. Streetmap struggled on, at one point filing a case against Google for unfair competition, and has only just recently given up and advertised its domain name for sale. I have to admit I was almost tempted to put in a - very low - offer just for nostalgia’s sake.)


There are two observations to make:

  • the policy lists all the uses that are licensed on the base of the policy. Full stop.
  • not every, in this case -very obvious-, play on OpenStreetMap makes a trademark case (there is a potential avenue to protection even here, but historically nobody has had the money and nerves to pursue it).
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I would just love it if our community could rally behind the trademark
policy and say “yes, this is what we want as a community”, instead of
constantly violating it and then claiming “I am just an innocent
community member” (or worse: “everyone else does it too”, or still worse
“the OSMF is too toothless to enforce it anyway”). If even our own
community cannot be bothered to follow the trademark guidelines then how
can we expect others to?


We cannot expect others to bother for the exact reasons you lay out.

An OSMF web page which lists the projects that have been granted permission to use the trademark, the date on which permission was granted, and a link to the process for requesting use of the trademark, would go a long way towards convincing people that the OSMF is serious about defending the trademark.

The OSMF could routinely send letters to projects using the trademark without permission.

The OSMF could adopt the stance that permission is routinely given as long as you ask and unless there’s a good reason not to.

In short, there are a number of things that the OSMF could do to demonstrate any level of seriousness around trademark defense and give the community something to “rally” around.


It would be helpful if the trademark policy was clear about why the following project names (not an exhaustive list) are allowed, but new projects named in the same way are not.

The trademark policy says:

You may not:

  • abbreviate the wordmarks, combine them with other words (“OpenStreetMapThing”), or substitute words in the mark (“OpenStreetThing” or “OpenThingMap”), especially where the new combination sounds similar to OpenStreetMap.

I couldn’t find any part of the policy saying it is ok to name your project “OpenThingMap” if you get permission. It simply says this is never allowed. When the policy doesn’t seem to match reality, of course people are going to ignore it.


There was some communication about grandfathering around the time the guideline was adopted. But yes, there could be more, apparently.