tl;dr: Using someone else’s trademarked logo in your plugin A plugin is a piece of software containing a group of functions that can be added to a WordPress website. They can extend functionality or add new features to your WordPress websites. WordPress plugins are written in the PHP programming language and integrate seamlessly with WordPress. These can be free in the WordPress.org Plugin Directory https://wordpress.org/plugins/ or can be cost-based plugin from a third-party icons or banners is a trademark violation, and they have the right to have us remove your plugin at any time.
We’ve posted about this before, and it’s apparently time for a reminder. Logos for brands are generally trademarked. Those logos cannot be used in your plugins banners or icons unless you have their express permission.
Trademark infringement is the unauthorized use of someone else’s registered trademark. This means you are using their logos without permission. When we talk about misuse, it’s more clear to think about it in terms of physical products. Lets say you make electronic gizmos and they happen to work with MacOS. If you put Apple’s logo on your products, you would be infringing on their trademark. Basically you’re misrepresenting yourself in a way that implies or suggests that the trademark owner approves of your work when this is not true.
If you got an email from us (either a warning or a closure notice) about this sort of matter, please address it promptly. Check your banners and icons, and your display names, to make sure you aren’t in violation. Remove all trademarked logos from your plugin banners and icons (yes, even social media ones), and make sure it’s clear that your plugin is not an official plugin (unless it is, and then you don’t have to worry).
Some quick questions:
Why do trademark owners care?
Trademark owners who do not protect their trademark usage end up being unable to enforce it legally later on. So it’s in their best interests to monitor the use and prevent misuse. Also, customers often get confused about the origin of the plugins, and will complain to the wrong people if there’s an issue. Finally, you are essentially profiting from the goodwill that the trademark owner has generated.
Who actually complains to [company] about a 3rd party plugin!?
A lot of people, actually. A high number of people complain to companies and the companies come back to us and say we’re encouraging the behavior which causes confusion with users and a loss of trust in the trademark owners. After all, if your unofficial plugin breaks someone’s site, and they blame the trademark owner? Well that wasn’t fair at all.
Why are other people getting away with it?
They aren’t. They’re just living on borrowed time, as the saying goes.
We have getting close to 100k plugins. They are all monitored by humans (not automated for this one yet) and a human has to check if you had permission or not, if you’ve been warned or not, if your plugin merits a grace period or not, and if the trademark owner has officially demanded we close your plugin immediately. Plus a large number of people argue about this, which eats up time. We do things in batches to try and stay sane.
Also … we strongly recommend you never use that excuse. It makes you sound like ‘sour grapes’ or childish to argue that someone else didn’t get caught yet, so you should be allowed to keep breaking the rules. That just makes this process take longer for everyone.
I reported someone, but you didn’t do anything! Why not?
Unless it’s your trademark, we generally don’t do anything right away because, again, we have close to 100,000 plugins. The number of violations is high, and in order not to ‘play favorites’ we do them in the order we’ve got them. We don’t bump people higher (or lower) on the list just because someone complained or is our friend. That would be terribly unfair!
If it was your trademark, we probably did bump them to the top of the list. We do try to get the developers to fix things before we close (especially for larger plugins that would have a massive negative impact on the community), but this isn’t always possible.
Isn’t it fair-use to use social media logos for related plugins?
No. Besides the fact that ‘fair use’ doesn’t apply to trademarks, it’s a matter of how you’re using it. Social media companies usually give permission to use their logos on your website as a direct link to your presence on their ecosystem. So a bird links you to Twitter. However. That is not the same as using a logo for advertising which is what many of them consider banners and icons to be. Their argument is that WordPress.org The community site where WordPress code is created and shared by the users. This is where you can download the source code for WordPress core, plugins and themes as well as the central location for community conversations and organization. https://wordpress.org/ is not your site. We’ve argued about this, but some companies have slapped us with legal threats so there we are.
What about screenshots?
Some trademark owners demand we prevent that too, some don’t. I wish we had a clearer answer here, but just to grab an example, there is a certain social media company who doesn’t want to see you use the logos in screenshots. Meanwhile, there are other credit card companies who don’t mind. Keeping track of those is incredibly hard! We recommend you not use them in screenshots.
What if I redraw my own version of the logos?
Then you’re probably going to get a legal demand from the owner to stop because you broke their usage guidelines for the logo. We should note here, when you intentionally try to get around trademark law, you are effectively confessing guilt. You know what you’re supposed to be doing and you’re actively trying to get away with something? The trademark lawyers will be able to take you down in seconds.
How can I promote my plugin’s associations without violating?
First and foremost, the directory isn’t for promoting anything, it’s for listing. If you’re doing all this to basically be a big “Click Here!” method, you’re going about it the wrong way.
Now if you’re really asking “How can I improve my usage by getting people to click on my plugin?” then you start by making a great banner that is memorable.
Stop treating a banner or an icon as a billboard. You don’t need to show off what your plugin can do, you need to be memorable and noticeable. The best banners are the ones that stick in people’s minds, and the odds are not a single person remembers “Oh you’re the one with the logos in this order…”
But no, you don’t need all the examples of the possible social media uses on your plugin banner.
What about Display Names?
In general, you can use “For [Trademark]” in your display name. There are some vendors who are particular and won’t even let you do that. We do our best to try and warn you ahead of time, but sometimes vendors change things on us without notification. Most are pretty cool about working out a plan so we don’t have to close plugins, some are not. I wish I had a better answer there.