I would like to distribute on CTAN a package providing the beamer theme of my institute. So my colleagues and our doctoral students can easily use it.

This theme is easily customizable to be used outside my institute. And it has some peculiarities that may interest beamer users. This justifies its distribution by CTAN. My code is under the LaTeX Project Public License.

In this theme, by default, the logo used is that of my institute (with some technical modifications not visible to facilitate its integration in the slides). It is the only element that is not open source since this logo is protected as a trademark. It can be freely distributed but it cannot be used freely for public documents without the agreement of my institute.

(Note: my institute authorizes me to distribute this logo on CTAN.)

In this case, will this package be included in TeXLive and MikTeX with this logo?

Additional information

Logos distributed by TeXLive (probably with similar legal limitations):

  • 1
    It somehow seems odd to me to worry about this. If someone from your institute ever gave a talk and uploaded pdf slides with this logo, anyone can copy it. I can understand that the institute can have an interest in preventing random people giving presentations that suggest that they are affiliated with your institute (which is why I personally would not want to make this something that can be downloaded from CTAN), but I am not sure if I understand how a logo can be not free. However, I am not a lawyer.
    – user194703
    Apr 23, 2020 at 7:10
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    we can not answer this. Ask on the texlive mailing list, and include some details about the license you want to add to your package. Apr 23, 2020 at 8:21
  • ...or do like I'll do (even if I had not submitted it to CTAN, hoping that somebody picks it up...): I did the theme we use but substituting all the images/log with ducks or tikzlings and provide a simple command to replace the images ;-). I stopped short of the last step for lack of time...
    – Rmano
    Apr 23, 2020 at 8:26
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    I know some universities do this but it seems completely wrong to me. If every university world wide distributes its customised beamer and thesis templates to everyone, then ctan (and texlive and miktex) will be completely swamped with packages each of which individually is only usable by a tiny fraction of the users. If the package is only on ctan it is no easier to install than if it is on a university server and if it is in texlive then you are installing it on millions of machines world wide. Apr 23, 2020 at 9:05
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    @PaulGaborit if you are asking the legal question of whether you can distribute in that form I think that won't be answered here as a matter of policy, if it's a general question I would still say that university specific styles should not be on ctan and if your template isn't university specific it doesn't need a logo in the ctan version. Apr 23, 2020 at 16:05

1 Answer 1


Here is the answer from Karl Berry (from TeXLive):

Hi Paul - re trademarks and TeX Live, Donald Robertson at the FSF reminded me that they did write guidelines about this issue wrt free system distributions: https://www.gnu.org/distros/free-system-distribution-guidelines.html#trademarks

The basic point being that trademarks in and of themselves are not a problem -- yay. The problem would be if there is some kind of statement in the (copyright) license saying that the trademarks must not be removed, or otherwise forbidding redistribution, etc.

I don't think that's the case with the Masaryk packages, or thesis/etc. packages in general, or fontawesome. Anyone modifying those packages or logos can remove the trademarks (if they're doing something different), or keep them (if they're making something relevant to the university), according to the usual rules for trademarks. Which is, don't make use of them to refer to something else.

In general, whether a given trademark is copyrightable or not is clearly a massive gray area. If an organization asserts copyright on their logo (unless they use a free software license for it, which I expect would essentially never be the case), I'm certainly not going to argue about that, and the packages would have to be removed. On the other hand, if there is no explicit information, or the only information is that it's not copyrightable, as you found at https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Logo_Masaryk_University.svg then that's fine, we can accept it until and unless a problem shows up.

I have updated https://tug.org/texlive/copying.html with a brief statement along these lines.

Thanks for bringing this up. --best, karl.

Here is an extract from the FSF guidelines:


Trademarks are associated with some software. For example, the name of a program may be trademarked, or its interface may display a trademarked logo. Often, the use of these marks will be controlled in some way; in particular, developers are commonly asked to remove references to the trademark from the software when they modify it.

In extreme cases, these restrictions may effectively render the program nonfree. It is unfair for someone to ask you to remove a trademark from modified code if that trademark is scattered all throughout the original source. As long as the practical requirements are reasonable, however, free system distributions may include these programs, either with or without the trademarks.

Similarly, the distribution itself may hold particular trademarks. It is not a problem if modification requires removal of these trademarks, as long as they can readily be removed without losing functionality.

However, it is unacceptable to use trademarks to restrict verbatim copying and redistribution of the whole distribution, or any part.

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