Legal considerations, including copyright and trademarks, apply to software distributed either under open source or proprietary licenses. Open source software operates under a set of principles related to how it can be used, copied, modified, and re-distributed. The specific conditions that apply to its use and distribution are specified through any of a number of open source licenses. The creators of the product select the license most consistent with their expectations. In broad terms, an open source license allows any individual or organization to make use of the software without having to pay its creators a fee and to obtain its underlying source code. Different licenses specify how it may or may not be used in other commercial products, how modified versions can be distributed, what attribution is necessary, and other terms. In contrast, proprietary software does not provide access to source code and requires some type of payment for its use.
The product names of a software product are subject to the trademark assignments in the relevant jurisdictions. Koha finds use in many parts of the world, and the ownership of its trademark has been a point of concern in its home country of New Zealand, in the United States, and in the European Union.
LibLime applied for the trademark for Koha though the United States Patent and Trademark Office in October 2008 and received registration of that patent in February 2009. The assignment of the patent was transferred to PTFS following its acquisition of LibLime. PTFS therefore owns both the koha.org domain name and the United States trademark for Koha.
PTFS also applied for the trademark for Koha in New Zealand in February 2010, which was tentatively granted in November 2011. HLT and Catalyst IT protested the award of the trademark. A ruling was issued by the Intellectual Property Office of New Zealand on December 11, 2013 supporting the challenge of HLT and denying the PTFS application for the trademark in New Zealand. BibLibre had acquired the trademark for Koha in the European Union, which it has since transferred to HLT. HLT, as the organization recognized by the international group of Koha developers, now owns the trademark for Koha in New Zealand and the European Union.