Copyright question: DrWatson


(I didn’t know exactly where to post this, please move it to appropriate section if need be)

So I have been developing a Julia software, called DrWatson which is a scientific project assistant.

I recently present the software at my Max Planck Institute and it made a veeeery good impression! (hooray)

One of the directors pointed out that I may have copyright problems, legal issues etc. with microsoft, because they have a debugger called: Dr. Watson

Since I know absolutely nothing about these things, is there someone here that can guide me to appropriate sources of how to handle this, of whether I have a problem, or whether I don’t need to worry (since DrWatson is a fictional character)?

thanks a lot for any help!

If it is a problem, I think it’s a trademark problem. My understanding is that it is ok to have products carrying the same name as long as there is no way of confusing the two (or confusion in general). Example, it wouldn’t be ok to make a car company call Ford but it would be fine to have a bakery(-company) of that name. (And it would never be ok to call a product Coca Cola.) So, I’d say that you’d be fine, but who am I to decide.


Indeed, if there’s an issue it would be a trademark issue. I am not a lawyer or expert in the area but from what I do know, under US law, you have a lot of leeway since you are not charging any money for your software. If you put a note in your readme making it crystal clear that your software is unrelated to theirs that should put you even more in the clear. Of course, you could also rename your project.


Thanks for the replies. Okay it looks brighter than I thought.

Putting the disclaimer is a good first step. I’ll also point out there that we are not charging for it.

I would like to avoid this, given how super cool our logo is :wink:


Maybe also provide a link to the Microsoft product, in case people find yours by mistake. That’s one of the main complaints with Trademark issues, that you’re looking for some product online and land in some other page with a similar name. If you make it clear from the beginning, it shows you’re not acting in bad faith and are aware there’s another product with a similar name.


Just want to point out that there have been quite a few examples of free projects getting shut down in the video game world. Most of these were “cease and desist” type deals, and I’m not sure if they would have gone anywhere in court, most people of course fold pretty quickly when a big company with unlimited resources threatens to screw them.

In this particular case, Microsoft making a claim against you would likely be a bit of bad press for them considering that they’ve been trying mightily to court developers recently (and have in some cases even done an admirable job), so my guess is they won’t care, but who knows.

(All the JuliaDynamics stuff looks awesome, btw, wish I had more reason to play around with it all.)

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The USPTO has a website that lets you find active trademarks: (US only, but since your concern is a Microsoft product, if they had filed one it’d likely be there). While there have been a few for Dr Watson in the past, I don’t see any of them that are live. You’ll be fine ;). I’d just let it go. (Not legal advice).


Thanks everyone. I think I can now put this behind me! :slight_smile:

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Totally agree!

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