I've spent the better part of my career as a software developer, bouncing back and forth between Product Management/Marketing and Development since 2000, and programming since the mid-80's before that. In my transition to the Marketing "dark side", I have to admit that it took me a while to get what "Brand" really means.
Yeah, yeah, I know...it's simple stupid! Kleenex, Band-Aid, Google, and Coca-Cola are examples of good brands with well established trademarks. It's easy to spot good brands....but....how do you think they got to be valued brands in the first place? How much effort did it take for them to build real Brand Equity that fuels their business?
Red Hat spends a lot of time, money, and effort on establishing our brand. Red Hat has been named the industry leader in delivering customer value 3 years running. In order for our brand to maintain its value, we need to ensure our trademarks are used in a proper and consistent way. If not, then legally we can lose our trademarks. For example, "elevator" used to be a registered trademark but the owners allowed their trademark to be used unchecked as a generic name and ultimately lost their trademark protection. Band-Aid, on the other hand, has protected its trademark over the years and maintained its brand equity.
Red Hat and the proper use of the Hibernate trademark was a topic of debate in the news recently. Since I am not a lawyer, have no desire to be a lawyer, and want to avoid legal debates on this topic, I will simply point folks to the Red Hat Trademark Policies page which contains links to our detailed Trademark Guidelines document and Trademark Style Sheet/Usage document for the official details.
When you look at the details of the Hibernate issue closely, it really comes down to the importance of protecting the brand equity built up in the registered trademark. There are guidelines for how to properly use trademarks, such as Hibernate, and following these guidelines is really not an onerous task. Allowing people to not follow the guidelines is a sure path to losing your trademark and subsequent brand value.
Bottom-line: If you cherish the value of your brand, then every now and then you will need to defend what you stand for.