How to Use the WordPress Logo and Trademark Properly
The internet is not the lawless wasteland some people assume it to be: most of the content you find online belongs to somebody and is protected by intellectual property law, such as trademark or copyright. Some content found online may indeed be free for everybody‘s use – provided you attribute it to the original creator, for instance. Even then that can only happen because the original owner wills it. Other content, such as the WordPress logo and trademark which we will be talking about in this article, is even more deeply entangled in rules and caveats, even as WordPress stays true to its central tenet of the internet being for everyone.
And while we can‘t dispense legal advice, we can – and will – talk about some of the rules regarding the WordPress logo and trademark. Here‘s what we‘ll be discussing:
It is often said that a large chunk of the internet is “powered by“ WordPress. Chances are, if you are reading this, that you are using WordPress to run your website, or that you are designing a WordPress website yourself. WordPress is everywhere and used by everyone.
There is a lot to be gained by being affiliated (even unofficially) with WordPress, and using the WordPress logo and trademark to promote one’s own business or design. Just think: businesses the world over are dependent on WordPress for their profits, and developers are dependent on it for their solutions. “Powered by WordPress” is a powerful label – you really should know when you are entitled to use it.
Small wonder, then, that, even though WordPress is “free“ (as per GPL; see below), the owners have taken steps to safeguard the WordPress brand and trademark. These are now owned by the WordPress Foundation, an organization dedicated to upholding the basic principles of WordPress.
The logo and trademark of WordPress have achieved global recognition, and if you develop, distribute, or sell WordPress-related software or run your website on WordPress, you are entitled to some degree of association with the brand and its “Websites are for everyone“ ethos.
But before we get into the details of use of the logo and trademark, let us take some time to cover the basics of licencing. What does it mean to say that WordPress is “free“?
GPL stands for General Public License. It is a type of license which grants everyone the freedom to download, make copies, use, and modify code. WordPress is released under GPL, meaning that it is free, in a sense. The extent to which WordPress is freely available is defined in the (WordPress) Bill of Rights on WordPress‘s About Page.
This section lists the four WordPress freedoms, in order:
The freedom to run WordPress for any purpose;
The freedom to study how WordPress works and modify it as desired;
The freedom to copy and distribute WordPress;
The freedom to distribute copies of your modified software.
Note that we are talking about WordPress the software, not WordPress the blogging platform. There are important differences between WordPress.org and WordPress.com, as they are not one and the same.
But what does all this mean in terms of the WordPress trademark and logo? Well, while you can modify WordPress software and distribute its copies, that doesn‘t mean you can call it WordPress. You can, though, if certain conditions are met, distribute it under the WordPress trademark.
WordPress being a registered trademark, it‘s no wonder that the WordPress Foundation is concerned with its proper representation. On one hand, the Foundation wishes to make it easy for anyone to use the WordPress trademark for WordPress-related products and services, but, on another, they are keen to make it hard on anyone to profit off the trademark unfairly.
The general rule is that the use of the WordPress trademark requires permission from the WordPress foundation. Permission will be granted for use in a project:
if the project is non-profit (though it can cover its costs or contribute to non-profit entities);
if the primary purpose of the project is to promote the spread and improvement of the WordPress software;
if the project does not promote or is not associated with non-GPL compliant entities.
But that‘s not all: the trademark can be used without permission in order to refer to a product, project, or service, as referring or related to the WordPress open source project without claiming affiliation. This is what is probably of interest to most web developers: you can use the WordPress trademark even for commercial purposes if your business is somehow related specifically to WordPress: website design, theme design, plugin development, and the like. Therefore, we strongly encourage you to use terms such as “independently developed“, “powered by“, and “third party“ when describing your product, project, or service.
There is an important exception: you cannot use WordPress as part of a domain name. WP, for instance, is completely allowed.
One final thing: it‘s WordPress, with capital W and capital P. If you are going to use the trademark, use it correctly.
The conditions for use of the WordPress logo are the same as the ones for the trademark, as we have explained above: if you can use the WordPress trademark, you can also use the logo.
There is one specific, though: you have to use the correct WordPress logo. For unclear reasons, a “fake WordPress logo“ is widespread, and WordPress is justified in disliking that. The WordPress logo is a white letter W on a dark grey circular background, or sometimes reversed.
You can find several correct versions of the WordPress logo on the WordPress website.
And there you have it: the rules of correct use for the WordPress trademark and logo are clear and simple. To summarize, if your business, service, or product is in any way related to WordPress, you are basically free to use the WordPress name and logo to promote it, so long as you make it clear that you are not working directly for the WordPress Foundation.