Joe Youngblood, a digital marketer from Dallas, TX, had an unpleasant surprise on Friday the 13th. He was horrified after submitting a new WordPress plugin to the WordPress Plugin Directory and it was auto-rejected. The rejection message stated that the plugin could not include WP in the name.
In correspondence with the WordPress Plugin Review team, a team member told Youngblood that they were explicitly instructed to prohibit the use of WP in plugin names. Youngblood tweeted about his experience on Twitter and caught the attention of a fellow digital marketer, Andy Beard. Beard was able to quickly find when and where the change was made.
Beard found that approximately three months ago, a WordPress contributor added
wp- to their automated trademark checking code. The code specifies that WP is a trademark of Automattic and can’t be prepended to a plugin name.
After further investigation, Youngblood posted a tweet thread about everything he had learned about WordPress blocking plugins from using WP.
Here’s everything I know so far about this “WP” issue with WordPress
- Roughly 3 months ago The WordPress Foundation requested that the volunteer team block any plugins from using the term “WP” at the start of their name.
- The WordPress Foundation does not own any legal rights to the term “WP” only “WordPress”. WP is owned as a trademark in a few industries by @WhistlePigRye and Donegal Insurance for their internal software “Write Pro”
- WordPress plugin support told me that it was a good thing I couldn’t use the plugin name I had invested a lot of time and money into because it was bad for SEO anyways.
- The block list as uncovered by @AndyBeard includes a few well known WordPress plugin names including WP Mail SMTP, which ironically starts with “WP”.
- Whoever is at plugin support told me that “there are various legal teams hashing it out”, but there isn’t much to hashout since neither The WordPress Foundation nor Automattic own the trademark to “WP”.
- For those unaware, in 2010 the founder of WordPress Matt Mullenweg established The WordPress Foundation which took ownership of the trademark “WordPress” and declared that any developer could use “WP” in any way they wished. Many gave up domains with “wordpress” in them.
- It has been commonplace for over a decade that WordPress developers making a plugin start with the term “WP” to signify that it is a WordPress plugin. This convention is also used by hosting companies like WP Engine and theme developers.
- There at least a few plugins for WordPress with a USPTO registered trademark that start with “WP” meaning today if they launched, @WordPress would be violating their legal rights to their name by trying to force them to not use it.
It’s unknown how this new trademark policy will affect existing plugins. For now, it appears to only apply to new plugin submissions. However, if Automattic is serious about treating WP as its trademark, it may become contentious with established publishers and plugins developers that use WP in their name.