Why it’s finally time to give up on the name JavaScript

Автор: | 19.04.2018

Building a slide deck, pitch, or presentation? Here are the big takeaways:

  • Oracle is claiming trademark infringement for an iOS JavaScript editor app.
  • JavaScript has nothing to do with Java, the original name during development at Mozilla was «LiveScript.»

An iOS developer has apparently received a cease and desist notice from Oracle over the use of the word «JavaScript» in the title of their app. The developer, Tyanya Software, shared the notice on perennial internet soapbox Reddit to seek advice on how to fight the order.

According to the developer, the message reads, in part:

«As you are likely aware, Oracle owns US Trademark Registration No. 2416017 for JAVASCRIPT. The seller of this iTunes app prominently displays JAVASCRIPT without authorization from our client. The unauthorized display of our client’s intellectual property is likely to cause consumers encountering this app to mistakenly believe that it emanates from, or is provided under a license from, Oracle. Use of our client’s trademark in such a manner constitutes trademark infringement in violation of the Lanham Act. 15 U.S.C. § 1125(a)(1)(A). In order to prevent further consumer confusion and infringement of our client’s intellectual property rights, we request that you immediately disable access to this app. We look forward to your confirmation that you have complied with this request.»

To put it lightly, it strains credulity to state that the app in question: HTML5, CSS, JavaScript, HTML, Snippet Editor is «likely» to be mistaken for something developed or licensed by Oracle. Thousands of projects include support for JavaScript, and in so doing, name JavaScript a thing that the project uses. For starters, the Webkit rendering engine on which the Safari browser, among others, is based, references JavaScript in the source.

SEE: Job description: Java developer (Tech Pro Research)

If user reviews are any indication, the app is not even particularly good, with reviewers stating things such as «Not ready for production,» «Does not work as advertised,» and «Waste of money, don’t buy this.» The last update to the app was in 2014, which the changelog notes was only an upgrade to add support for iOS 8. The app developer is at least honest about the intent behind the unwieldy name for the app, saying in a Reddit comment that «we game the App Store ranking by adding all the keywords to the app name.»

While Oracle has a duty to protect their trademarks, this type of legal bludgeoning underscores a historical problem that has been left unaddressed for too long: JavaScript is a terrible name for the thing being described.

It has nothing to do with Java, an actual product developed by Sun (now owned by Oracle). JavaScript was developed at Mozilla, and the name was changed during beta releases of Netscape Navigator 2.0 from «LiveScript» to «JavaScript.» It has, for some time, caused confusion among casual web users about the difference between Java and JavaScript. Given that ECMAScript is also a trademarked term, it seems best to revert to calling the language «LiveScript» to undercut trademark-related legal posturing.

This type of reaction would not be without precedent. In December 1994, Unisys and Compuserve announced a licensing agreement for the use of LZW compression, an underpinning of the GIF file format. Misunderstandings about this led to the creation of the PNG file format, which does not use LZW compression. The problem further intensified in 1999, when Unisys announced changes to their licensing system, which allowed «billboard and intranet» website operators to pay a one-time license fee of $5000, as Unisys claimed «sites have had difficulty determining whether they need a license» for using GIFs. This was widely misconstrued as requiring website owners to pay, which further drove adoption of PNG. According to the Free Software Foundation, the patents covering static image GIFs expired in 2006.

Oracle declined to comment on this story.

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Image: iStockphoto/Andrey Bukreev

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