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The Horowhenua Library Trust, the birthplace of the Koha integrated library system, the first such open source project, finds itself in a peculiar position today, that of having to fight to regain rights to its own name.


This follows the successful application by the American defence contractor, Progressive Technology Federal Systems/Liblime, for a trademark on the name Koha in New Zealand. Koha is a Maori term that means reciprocity in giving.

The Trust has no funds to hire lawyers and has thus sought donations to regain rights to its own name. It has three months left to object to the acquisition of the trademark.

"The situation we find ourselves in, is that after over a year of battling against it, PTFS/Liblime have managed to have their application for a Trademark on Koha in New Zealand accepted," the Trust wrote in its appeal for funds. (New Zealand radio coverage of the issue is here, here and here.)

"We now have three months to object, but to do so involves lawyers and money. We are a small semi-rural library in New Zealand and have no cash spare in our operational budget to afford this, but we do feel it is something we must fight.

"For the library that invented Koha to now have to have a legal battle to prevent a US company trademarking the word in NZ seems bizarre, but it is at this point that we find ourselves."

Koha is 12 years old and the first open source system for managing libraries. Initially used only at one public library in New Zealand, the system is now used worldwide in over 1000 institutions. The project releases its code under the terms of the GNU General Public Licence.

The original author of Koha was Chris Cormack. He worked for Katipo Communications which was hired to build an integrated library system (ILS) for the Trust. The existing system was both old and not Y2K-compatible.

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Sam Varghese

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A professional journalist with decades of experience, Sam for nine years used DOS and then Windows, which led him to start experimenting with GNU/Linux in 1998. Since then he has written widely about the use of both free and open source software, and the people behind the code. His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.

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