Trademark Trolling on the Python Package Index

24th October 2020


I found an odd email in my inbox yesterday from a company claiming ownership of a Python package, Ivy, that I registered on the Python Package Index back in August 2016, more than four years ago. The company is claiming ownership of the package on the basis of a UK trademark on the word "ivy" filed in August 2020.

Here's the full text of the email:

Dear Mr. Mulholland,

We are genuinely sorry to be the bearers of bad news, but we are writing after following the advice on the PyPI website. We would kindly like to request that the "ivy" package name be released from PyPI, on the grounds that it violates our trademark. PyPI lists trademark violation as grounds to invalidate a project on PyPI, with subsequent removal. If you would be more comfortable waiting for official involvement of PyPI before releasing the name, then we will gladly open a new issue with PyPI.

Please let us know if you have any questions regarding this request.

Kind Regards,
The Ivy Team

I have no idea what this company does, they didn't link to their website, but they probably sell yoga mats judging from the stretchiness of this stretch.

Name Shortages and Namespacing

Unfortunately the Python Package Index uses a single flat namespace for all packages so the name famine is a real and growing problem. I've been disappointed all too many times myself to find that a name I wanted to use was occupied by an abandoned project that hadn't been touched in years. (This isn't the case for Ivy which is being actively developed.)

The problem must be getting serious as the Package Index's maintainers have introduced a set of formal guidelines and processes (PEP 541) for arbitrating disputes over package names — I certainly don't envy them the task. I think the long-term solution instead is to introduce namespacing by username so packages like dmulholl/ivy and yogamasters/ivy can happily coexist.

I've actually been approached several times over the years by people wanting control over the ivy package. Usually they offer to buy it from me — this is the first time I've been threatened with a trademark. It'll be interesting to see how the Package Index maintainers handle the dispute.

Advice?

Have you ever experienced this kind of land grab on a package index yourself? If you have, I'd love to hear how it played out. You can get in touch with me here.