The Truth About

On July 8, 2015, I lost a legal battle against Automattic over, despite owning the trademarks for Thesis and Thesis Theme in the website software space.

Many of you have probably read the initial account of what happened on WP Tavern along with all of the comments. Unfortunately, as is customary with legal disputes involving WordPress that receive widespread criticism, Jeffr0 closed the comments on that post, effectively shutting down the conversation.

However, there is a lot to talk about on this issue. I’d like to walk you through how Automattic and I ended up in a legal battle for a domain, why this was connected—in a very personal way—to a public disagreement that happened years ago, and finally, what this could mean for business owners who operate in the WordPress ecosystem.

I think the most important place to start is by asking: Why would Automattic—a website software company with over $300 million in funding—buy when I owned the trademark for Thesis in the website software space?

Negotiating a Price for

By late 2012, my premium WordPress Theme, Thesis, had grown to tens of thousands of users, and I realized it might make sense to invest in the domain, Business was going well enough that I could justify the cost, so I decided to give it a shot.

Based on domain records, had been owned continuously but never used since 1999. Why is this fact important? It often means there isn’t much competition for a domain, and in cases like this, it’s not unheard of for the domain to go for a fair price.

In February 2013, armed with this knowledge and also SEDO’s domain pricing information, I opened negotiations with a domain broker named Larry of in an attempt to purchase I opened with an offer of $37,500 (which I still think is an awful lot to pay for an unused domain).

Larry thought the domain was worth quite a bit more and countered with $250,000. Well, that escalated quickly!

Consider that sold for $50,000 in 2014; given that the taxi industry in the US alone is worth $11bn per year, it is reasonable to think would carry a lower price tag.

After reading his counter, I felt like this negotiation was dead on arrival. I didn’t think the market value for exceeded $50,000 and couldn’t see how Larry would have any reason to think otherwise.

But I was wrong.

There was some back and forth, and Larry ultimately dropped the price to $150,000, which he still thought was reasonable. I didn’t see myself or anyone else in my position paying that much for a domain, so I decided to back out and accept the fact I probably wasn’t going to end up with

Nine months later, out of the blue, I received an email from Larry:

email from Larry of

Figure 1. Email from Larry suggesting Matt Mullenweg’s interest in

Well, I wasn’t expecting that. Apparently, WordPress and Automattic founder Matt Mullenweg wanted to buy as well.

This was interesting because, back in 2010, Matt and I had been involved in a very public interview and debate on Mixergy over Theme licensing.

During that debate, I got defensive and acted like an asshole. At the time, I was woefully ignorant about software licensing, and I felt as though I was being backed into a corner and asked to accept something I didn’t fully understand. Instead of handling it in a measured, polite manner, I was a jerk.

I made a mistake, and I paid dearly for it.

The interview caused a chain reaction of negative events for Thesis, and we lost a huge portion of our business. It also had a significant influence on the way people perceive me to this day, five years later.

The WordPress community’s reaction towards me was incredibly negative, but on top of that, Matt did whatever he could to further damage what was left of my business. His most blatant effort in this regard was making a public offer to buy Thesis customers the premium, GPL-licensed Theme of their choice if they quit using Thesis.

Few people seemed to mind this tactic. I had become a despised figure within the community, and I got what I deserved.

This was a tough—and especially costly—lesson to learn, but it was over, and I needed to conduct myself better. Rather than linger on the past or hold a grudge, I moved on, turned my attention toward the future of the business, and put this issue behind me.

But on January 15, 2014, over three-and-a-half years later, Larry forwarded me Matt’s inquiry into

email from Matt Mullenweg inquiring about

Figure 2. Email from Matt inquiring about

At this point, I still thought Larry was just trying to get some leverage in the negotiations. Why would Matt wait over three years to try and buy

And to spend upwards of six figures on a domain years after any kind of interaction between us? That didn’t make sense to me.

Why would the founder of a high-profile, VC-funded company even think about wasting significant resources on something like this?

Larry had to be bluffing.

Regardless, the fact he brought up Matt gave me the impression he really just wanted to close a deal. I countered with the following:


The truth is, I own the trademark for Thesis as it relates to web software and websites. If Matt were to buy it, he would have to change everything he’s done and plans to do; otherwise, the domain would be almost useless to him.

I do admire you trying to stimulate the sale by bringing him up, though. Tell me what you are willing to take to do the sale right now, and I can have the money wired into your bank account today.

We both know the last deal we discussed is grossly overpriced, and that’s the reason I decided to walk away from it.

Give me a realistic number, and let’s see if I can get this money to you today.

I brought up the trademark to Larry because even though I own the mark on, it could be used for another business so long as it wasn’t a website software business. Automattic couldn’t use the mark unless they suddenly started selling tractors.

There was more back and forth, and Larry revealed that Matt had allegedly offered $100,000 for the domain. I still thought this was phony and just intended to get me to agree to a deal, but at least I now knew could be had for far less than $150,000.

Unfortunately, further negotiations went nowhere, because although Larry had been willing to offer Matt a $100,000 deal, he was only willing to go down to $115,000 for me. That said, I didn’t think the domain was worth $100,000, much less $115,000!

I still assumed Matt was just a clever pawn to negotiate a higher price, and I made my final offer of $37,500.

Again, I didn’t see how Matt could justify buying the domain for $100,000. Because of my trademark, there was no way he could legally use the domain for Automattic, and therefore, I didn’t believe there was a reason for him to spend that much money.

Of course, Larry declined my offer, and I never heard from him again.

The State of the Word at WordCamp San Francisco 2014

By early November 2014, I hadn’t thought about for months. One day, however, a friend sent a message asking if I had seen Matt’s remarks during the State of the Word Q&A session at WordCamp San Francisco…

Beginning at 4:40 in this video, an audience member asks Matt a question about the relationship between WordPress and premium Theme providers.

Matt responds with a smirk and says:

“We have had some problems with Themes that violated the WordPress license…you can go to to learn more about that. Type it in. Seriously.”

If you type the domain into your browser, you’ll see that redirects to Automattic’s property,

Larry hadn’t been bluffing after all.

Automattic now owned, and they were redirecting it to their own property.

And right after Matt appears to gloat about owning, he says:

“…but I feel like that is something where we stay true to our principles.”

Principles? Matt spent $100,000 to buy—a domain in which he had no legitimate business interest—forwarded the domain to his property, and violated my trademark.

This is ironic considering how vigilant Matt has been about protecting the WordPress trademark—especially as it relates to domain names.

This felt like a “do as I say, not as I do” situation, and it also seemed to be reviving the licensing disagreement Matt and I had—that he won decisively—back in 2010.

Unfortunately, because of the way trademarks work, I was legally obligated to protect my trademark even though I would have preferred to leave this alone.

A Duty to Protect My Trademark, Just Like WordPress

Before I registered my first trademark, I believed trademarks accomplished two things:

  1. They establish a business asset related to one’s brand; and
  2. They make your business and brand look more official and important.

While I still think the above items are true, I can now add a third item based on my experience:

Trademarks shackle you with a formal responsibility to protect your brand in the face of challenges.

As far as trademark law is concerned, this responsibility is described as a “duty to protect one’s mark(s).” Failure to act on this duty could mean a forfeiture of the trademark(s) if challenged in court.

(For most businesses, this means spending a significant sum of money on lawyerly stuff every time your trademark is violated or infringed upon in some way.)

This is a big reason why WordPress has been so vigilant about pursuing—and shutting down—domains that include “wordpress” in the name. They have a duty to protect their mark.

Of course, this is also precisely why I had to take action once I learned was being forwarded to

Despite Automattic’s ownership of the domain, if it were not being used in any way (i.e., not resolving to anything), then no action would have been necessary, and I would have done nothing.

However, because it was being redirected to—which operates in the same market space as Thesis—I was forced to protect my mark.

There are many ways to protect trademarks, but these were the most appropriate options given my situation:

  • Send a cease and desist to Automattic asking them to stop forwarding the domain (cheapest option, but it relies upon the other party being compliant in order to work). If I did this, I was worried Automattic would just sue me so they could pick their court.
  • Open a Uniform Domain-Name Dispute-Resolution Policy (UDRP) hearing and attempt to have an ICANN forum rule on one or both of the following:
    • Require that Automattic stop forwarding the domain
    • Determine that Automattic acquired and was using the domain in bad faith, and based on that, grant the domain to the trademark holder (me)
  • File a federal trademark infringement suit against Automattic. Frankly, I did not want to push this far. I was hopeful that if the board of Automattic saw what had happened, they would at least agree to stop infringing on my mark.

But based on Matt’s comments from WordCamp San Francisco 2014 (video linked above), I felt Automattic had purchased the domain in a specific attempt not only to prevent me from getting it, but also to, for lack of a better term, show me who is boss.

In legal terms, this amounts to an argument of “bad faith.” In UDRP cases, bad faith is a deciding factor in whether or not the current domain owner is required to stop infringing activity or give up the domain altogether.

Given available evidence—and especially the forwarding of to—my counsel and I agreed that we had a very strong case for the bad faith argument.

If this argument were upheld in the UDRP, then I would likely end up owning Although this was unexpected, it certainly seemed like a positive potential outcome for the future of Thesis.

In addition, considering Matt has been so vigilant about protecting the WordPress trademark in domain names, I believed there was a clear precedent set by Matt and the WordPress Foundation in my favor.

From the perspective of ideological consistency, if you require that everyone else adhere to your requests for trademark protection, then you ought to extend the same courtesy and respect to others.

Based on their actions with, I realized Automattic did not think these same rules applied to them.

Thus, I decided to open a UDRP case with the goal of being granted due to bad faith on the part of Automattic.

A Curious UDRP Case Ruling

I’ll spare you the boring details of UDRP proceedings, but here’s what you need to know to understand this situation:

In a UDRP case, the Complainant (me, in this instance) initiates the dispute, the Respondent (Automattic) responds to the claims made by the Complainant, final terms are established, and then the hearing takes place.

In order for me to win the dispute, the UDRP court needed to rule in my favor on all of the following requirements:

  1. the domain name registered by Respondent is identical or confusingly similar to a trademark or service mark in which Complainant has rights; and
  2. Respondent has no rights or legitimate interests in respect of the domain name; and
  3. the domain name has been registered and is being used in bad faith

After some back and forth, it was clear both parties agreed that points 1 and 2 above were likely satisfied. The question was whether or not the bad faith argument would hold.

In its official response to the UDRP, Automattic admitted they were, in fact, forwarding to

Thanks to both this and Matt’s comments at WordCamp, it seemed likely the UDRP would rule in my favor on point 3, and thus, I would be awarded the domain.

To avoid a potential loss and also provide me with some “incentive” to settle, Automattic’s attorneys took a different tact and opened a request with the USPTO in an attempt to cancel my trademarks.

Obviously, if the trademarks were to be cancelled, I would no longer have a claim on the domain.

With cards on the table, both sides had a chance to negotiate a settlement before July 9—the date on which the UDRP ruling was scheduled to drop.

Automattic’s attorneys drafted the original settlement, which included the following terms:

  • Automattic would keep
  • Automattic would withdraw the federal trademark cancellation request
  • I would withdraw the UDRP
  • Both parties would mutually release one another (agree not to sue over this issue in the future)

Nothing in the original settlement addressed the trademark infringement, and since this was the reason I took action in the first place, I added a requirement that Automattic no longer infringe upon my mark (which would mean they stop forwarding the domain).

At this point in the proceedings, I agreed to the settlement. Automattic had ratcheted up the pressure in a heavy-handed manner, and being a small business owner (and a new father), I thought it made no sense to involve myself in this any further.

Although I was going to lose, I was also going to defend my trademark (even if somewhat unsuccessfully) and retain it in good standing.

On the morning of July 8, Automattic sent over the finalized settlement, and both parties were set to execute it…

However, 10 minutes later—and before either party had signed the settlement—the UDRP forum issued its ruling on the case: Automattic had won because I “failed to bring sufficient proof to show that [Automattic] registered and used the disputed name in bad faith.”

The forum went into specifics about the insufficient nature of my claims:

The Panel notes that Complainant did not include an exhibit showing that redirects to a webpage owned by Respondent. The Panel suggests that the submissions might point toward use by Respondent that would support findings of bad faith, pursuant to Policy §4(b)(iv) if evidence had been adduced to that effect. However, Complainant failed to bring that proof to the Panel.

My attorney did not think an addendum showing a traceroute from to was necessary since Automattic had admitted to forwarding the domain in its official response to the UDRP claim.

Personally, I was considering this part of the claim to be a done deal since Automattic had already admitted to the forwarding, and the decision actually cites that fact earlier in the opinion! (Common sense was in play here, too: Go to your browser, type in, and see what happens.)

Needless to say, it was curious that the UDRP forum effectively threw out Automattic’s admission and awarded the case to them.

Shortly after the UDRP ruling, I sent a signed version of the settlement over to Automattic, but at the time of writing, they still have not signed.

By signing, they have the opportunity to close this chapter and put this issue behind them. The fact they have not done so suggests this may not be what they want.

Fallout from the UDRP Decision

In keeping with a warning they had given me prior to the UDRP ruling, Automattic held the trademark cancellation request open, so that issue is still ongoing.

Not surprisingly, in the 36 hours after the decision, public sentiment turned extremely negative toward both Matt and Automattic.

Many viewed the trademark cancellation request as a “burn the village” tactic designed to have a more damaging impact than the UDRP decision alone could have.

Others simply wanted to know what material interest Automattic could possibly have in a $100,000 domain name that also carried trademark implications.

Of course, the easiest way to answer uncomfortable questions like these is simply to have people stop asking them.

They could achieve this by signing the partially-executed settlement upon which they had already agreed in principle. However, they have not yet signed despite having the opportunity to do so since July 8.

And so, on July 11, in a move to outrun the onslaught of negative PR, Automattic cleverly attempted to reframe this entire issue by pivoting to a known hot button in the tech industry: Software patents.

The Software Patent Misdirection

Here’s what we know thus far:

  • Matt Mullenweg and Automattic paid $100,000 for, despite having no legitimate business interest in the domain.
  • By forwarding to, Automattic willfully infringed upon my trademark.
  • Matt has established a pattern of being downright militant about going after people and businesses that use the WordPress trademark in their domain names. Based on his actions here, he doesn’t think the same rules apply to him.
  • I opened a UDRP case against Automattic in an attempt to get because I believed they had acquired and were using the domain in bad faith.
  • In response, Automattic opened a request with the USPTO in an attempt to have my trademarks cancelled.
  • Automattic won the UDRP case on what many consider to be a controversial technicality given the fact that Automattic admitted to forwarding to
  • Despite winning the UDRP case, Automattic has refused to sign our settlement agreement and, instead, has kept the trademark cancellation request open. At the time of writing, this issue is still ongoing.
  • When the WordPress community first learned about Automattic’s—and specifically Matt’s—actions in this case, many were outraged.
  • WP Tavern—a WordPress news website owned by Matt’s “personal research and investment company,” Audrey Capital—is where most of this outrage was voiced. Opposition to Automattic’s conduct was nearly unanimous, but shortly after one of Automattic’s attorneys left a comment, site moderator Jeffr0 turned off comments and shut down the conversation.
  • Ironically, the most recent instance of WP Tavern shutting off comments occurred when the community vocally opposed the WordPress Foundation’s aggressive lawsuit against Jeff Yablon of over trademark infringment. The pattern here is that WP Tavern shuts off comments when legal issues begin to cast a negative light on Matt.
  • On Saturday, July 11, Jeffr0 posted a tweet about a patent application filed in 2012 by my company, DIYthemes. In my opinion, this was an attempt to steer the conversation away from the uncomfortable reality of Automattic’s willful and hypocritical trademark infringement. Software patents are a notoriously contentious issue within open source communities, and Matt hopes you’ll focus on this instead of his actions.

Having been involved with WordPress for over 9 years, I have seen an amazing amount of good come from this community. Most of the people I know who truly care about the WordPress project are well-meaning, astute, energetic, and happy to lend a helping hand to others. This is why WordPress has reached the massive popularity it enjoys today.

But this isn’t the first time that leadership has cast a long, negative shadow over the rest of the WordPress community. In fact, this is an ugly pattern that simply refuses to die. It even has its own hashtag, #wpdrama.

The community is WordPress. Regular, hard-working people who enjoy making things on the Internet are responsible for the WordPress you know and love.

Unfortunately, capricious leadership that is largely disconnected from the reality of the rest of the WordPress community is dragging the whole thing down.

It’s time for the community to ask itself if using $300 million in funding to purchase $100,000 domains, fund aggressive lawsuits, and fuel unending drama is properly representative of the WordPress project.

There’s nothing “open” or “well-meaning” in the examples set forth by Matt Mullenweg and Automattic.

There is a giant disconnect here, and the WordPress community deserves better because it’s full of people who are better—and more principled—than that.

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297 comments… read them below or add one

Astute Observer July 16, 2015

Also interesting to point out that in an admittedly “controversial” decision, Automattic was allowed to file late in the UDRP hearing. I haven’t seen if there was a motion to file late submitted and if so, what the reason was for being late. One could easily imagine that a company with more than a third of a BILLION dollars in funding, and in-house counsel, should be able to file simple paperwork on time.

The late filing alone is enough for me to question the objectivity of the panel. Their reasoning for allowing it was “in the interest of justice”. Why then, “in the interest of justice”, did they not simply type thesis[dot]com into a web browser (with which they’re certainly familiar) to see that it redirects to the Automattic property? Was the panel interested in” justice” insofar as it benefits the “correct” party? How can Automattic’s admission of the redirection and trademark infringement in the filing not be sufficient?

Too many things pointing to fishy behavior, intentional or not, by the UDRP panel.


Matt July 17, 2015

That’s explained here.


Adam December 27, 2015


Many of your actions have shown you to be a capricious, arrogant man who bedevils anyone who does not agree with your opinions.

That you would actually spend the time, money and resources to harass another member of the community–for something so trite–is very telling of your character.

You bought a domain that you knew Mr. Pearson had a vested business interest in for no gain for yourself beyond spite, but simply to harass him.

The fact that you hide behind your lawyers whilst arrogantly proclaiming yourself defender of the GPL, while attempting to financially ruin someone you had a rather trivial, sophomoric spat with over software licensing intended to empower the user shows you to be a hypocritical fool.

More important than the GPL, more important than WordPress, and more important than software licensing is that users have a choice with whom they do business, with whom they wish to engage with, and with what themes they want to use.

Your blatant attempt to strip users of choice makes you not a defender of the GPL or even WordPress itself, but makes you it and open source software’s public enemy number one.

The vision of the entire framework is to have choice and transparency. You can argue trivialities semantics, but throwing around your weight using money that was made using the very foundation you pretend to protect is not only personally shameful, but destroys the very fabric of the WordPress Community.

You should be ashamed of your antics. Shame, however, is often unknown to the vainglorious.


Haroun July 16, 2015

Hectic. Followed the drama from the first engagement between you and also thought you were a jerk but in this case the jerk is plain to see. I hope it works out for you and congrats on being a new dad. May your child bring you much joy that these frustrating legal wranglings just won’t diminish…


Chris Pearson July 16, 2015

Thanks, Haroun. And you’re right—I was a jerk.

But the best thing about being a jerk is that you don’t have to be one forever :D


Matt July 17, 2015

So why do the exact same thing you did before, change your license to violate the GPL and take rights away from your users? And then litigate against someone else?


Chris Pearson July 17, 2015

Despite your hyperbolic phrasing, I’d defer to my users here. You should ask them if they feel as if I’ve taken “rights” away from them.

My customers use Thesis voluntarily because it enables them to build faster, more efficient websites in less time. On top of that, Thesis gives them tools and management capabilities that make running a website easier over time.

As far as litigation is concerned, most people seem to think I’ve done something few in this space were willing to do—stand up for myself in the face of one of your hypocritical challenges.


Gabriella July 17, 2015


Thesis users don’t need you to play our knight in shining armor defending our ‘rights’!! I’m pretty sure we’re all nice and grown up enough to look after ourselves without the likes of you.

Thesis gives me the power and simplicity to do some really amazing things. That’s why I happily agree to whatever licensing is required for me to have access to something as powerful as Thesis. And that’s not even taking into account the amazing community and the superb support.

So do us a favor Matt, go find another group of people who need their ‘rights’ saved – we’re just fine thanks.


I’ve been using Thesis since the beginning. You have my full support. You are doing the right thing by standing up for yourself against a bunch of bullies. I salute you!


Rob Pickering July 17, 2015

Matt, you’re clearly a jerk, and a troll. If I wasn’t already using Thesis, I’d find another CMS and move away…you should stop why you’re *perceived* to be ahead.


Merrill Guice July 18, 2015

Actually, Matt, I could give a shit. I bought the product because I liked it and I’ve renewed more than once because I continue to like it. Whatever it is you think I’m missing, I haven’t noticed it.

But, today, I noticed this little controversy. When you engage in a pissing match, you get piss all over yourself. If you had any self-respect you would go dry off and stop.

Now, I”m closing this page and ignoring both of you.


Chris August 16, 2015

Matt, just keep something in mind: Pride comes before a fall.

It is clear to me, and likely many others, that you are a vindictive person. I have absolutely no respect for people like you. You are a low-life bully!


Hilary December 15, 2015

Matt I have been a supporter for many years and although I do not like thesis and how it locks in the novice user it was a leader in its time, no doubt you learned from what was being done as I have seen in the past (remember the plug-in up date nightmare that used to be solved by a plug-in?) and rolled some of what you learned from the community back as as you have always done.

However, this is petty.

Imagine how you would have felt if the originator of the blogging platform you borrowed did this to you?

Its bad enough we live in a world effectively in the middle of world war three, millions of people starving and people dying every day. The money that you spent on this whole debacle make you sound & seem like a egomaniac.

This makes me sad. You could have done so much better and instead of holding a grudge against a jerk – to be the better man it would have been smarter IMHO to let it go.

As a serial start myself I understand how it feels when someone takes what you intended to be open and transparent and locks it up. Not cool, however this is not about being the cool guy, its about being the good guy.

You can fix this. Take some good out of this situation and talk to each other, you really should use some Emotional Freedom Techniques tapping and tap on the issues that are bugging you.

Hell if you wish to do something great donate to the poor charity I run and let go of after all there is also (these days) thousands of variants such as club etc and if Chris Person was bothered he could easily crowd out of the way by buying every single variant possible.

I wish you both well and do hope that instead of being small you can both be big and generous and let this go.

Best of luck to you both and share the love y’all.

Yes also give the equivalent amount to charity.

Even the one I run in Africa.

#DoGoodBeGoodGiveBack to the poor.

The poor world wide would benefit so you would both be doing something good.


Cory Miller July 16, 2015

Chris, we’ve only met once … but I gotta say, I really appreciate your humility in this post … both admitting up to making mistakes and being a jerk.

I’ve always admired your talent … but today, your maturity.


chuck reynolds July 16, 2015

^^ this


Chris Lee July 16, 2015

Yep. Was a Thesis user back in the old days but was quite put off in the past.

In this occasion, can’t see how this is anything but a petty vendetta against you.

Matt and Automattic should be above this.


Chris Pearson July 17, 2015

Thanks, Cory. I appreciate you stopping by to read this!


adam mclane July 16, 2015

This was a long and interesting read. Thanks for taking the time, Chris. Like all things of this nature I’m sure there is another side to the story.

What’s sad to me is that we’ve all kind of seen this before about 10 years ago when Joomla split off from Mambo. Not exactly the same situation, but licensing and premium themes/add-ons were at the heart of that disagreement. (In my opinion)

I’d hope this can get resolved over a beer and a handshake and not more wasted dollars with an attorney.


Sam Moffatt July 27, 2015

The Joomla/Mambo split was about Miro, the owners of the Mambo trademark, wanting to charge folk large sums of money to develop for the platform and for even more money then direct the volunteers of the project. Those same volunteers were less than interested in third parties being paid to tell the volunteers what to do.

Joomla had a later GPL situation based on similar SFLC advice to what WordPress was given.


Wes Linda July 16, 2015

Chris, you and I have never met and who knows if we ever will. I’ll be the first to admit I was really bothered by the whole 2010 incident. I was one that dropped Thesis like a bad habit and moved on.

I truly appreciate the candor you’ve displayed today. It means a lot and I just wanted to say thank you.

I do hope that this issue can get resolved in a way that bring our community together and makes us stronger.


Mike Schinkel July 16, 2015

Did your lawyer discuss the legal concept of “Clean Hands?” Although IANAL I would think the fact that Matt did what he did and your trademarks means that he is potentially putting the WordPress trademarks in jeopardy. I wonder what his investors and those who are being sued for fade mark violation might think about that?


Chris Pearson July 16, 2015

Mike, I am not keen on pushing the legal aspects of this issue any further. I do, however, wonder what Automattic’s investors and board members think of this.


Mike Schinkel July 16, 2015

Chris – The point was, you may not need to. Anyone that Matt sues for WordPress trademark violation might become your instant ally, and they might fight the legal battle for you. Especially if you provide an amicus curiae on their behalf.

OTOH, I hear is available, or some other similar combination…


Tevya July 16, 2015

Chris, I’m curious if you’ve tried to reach out to Matt directly? Your sincere admissions here might go a long way in a private conversation. “Hey Matt, I’m sorry I was a jerk years ago. I got cornered and didn’t fully understand. But we both love WP and the community and want both to be better. Can we just sign the agreement and put this behind us?”

Not sure that’s possible. But an apology can go a long way. There’s a lot of us who’d really like to see this resolved and some healing take place. While we may not always love Matt’s or Automattic’s actions, he’s not a bad guy. He/they do tons of good. Perhaps a little private conversation with these same kinds of admissions on your part would cut out “the bloodsucking lawyers” and get things on the right track on a human level.

As I see it, you can continue to make it a fight, or try to remedy what you started years ago, and maybe set a new standard for how the community can handle and heal these rifts. It’s amazing how enemies can become friends if one is willing to admit they were wrong.


Matthew Horne July 16, 2015

Why should Chris apologize for Matt’s behavior?

Chris thought this issue was dead. Matt resurrected it by buying and redirecting it to a theme development site knowing full well he was violating someones trademark, knowing full well that person would have to legally defend said Trademark because that is how Trademarks work.

Matt is 100% wrong on this and could have left it alone. Instead he used his position to take another shot at Chris 5 years after the fact which show deep irresponsibility by Matt and paints a bad light on WordPress as a whole.

Matt has done this without considering the community because his ego is apparently more important.

If someone raped you “metaphorically speaking” would you apologize for it?


Matt July 17, 2015

The issue isn’t dead — Chris went back on his word and re-changed his license to be 100% proprietary and violate the GPL, sneakily sometime in the past 5 years since the last time he did that. He also patented how themes work, and color pickers.


Chris Pearson July 17, 2015

In October 2012, I released an all-new version of Thesis that carried the same name as the original (which had a split-GPL license), but that’s where the similarities stopped.

The new Thesis is not a Theme—it is an operating system for templates and design. This system runs Skins and Boxes, which are similar to Themes and Plugins, but with a boatload of built-in efficiencies that Themes and Plugins cannot provide.

Skins and Boxes carry MIT licenses, which are not only open source, but also easy for anyone to understand and use.

There is nothing sneaky about the licensing structure that has been in place since October 2012. DIYthemes customers must agree to the proprietary licensing on the Thesis core before downloading and using the software. If they don’t care for the licensing, we will happily issue them a refund so they can use a solution that is licensed in a way they prefer (and this has indeed happened a few times).

DIYthemes also owns a patent application covering the way the Thesis template and design operating system works, but that system has nothing to do with Themes or with WordPress.

Finally, DIYthemes abandoned the ColorScale patent after it was discovered that there was a better—and more accurate—way of producing a similar effect. At this time, DIYthemes has no plans to patent this new method of picking colors.


Matt July 17, 2015

I’m very sorry that you once again think the GPL doesn’t apply to you, even as you make your living off the back of GPL software. I hope that gets resolved, as it’s an affront and insult to the thousands of people who have contributed to WordPress’ GPL code.

Is there any time limit to when people who bought Thesis can get a refund if they didn’t notice it violated WordPress’ license? And where/how can people get in touch?

If you’re no longer trying to patent color pickers you should update your homepage, which implies that you are in several places:

Chris Pearson July 17, 2015

Matt, good point about the ColorScale patent. I had forgotten that was included on my home page.

And as I said above, customers must accept the license agreement before downloading Thesis. I know you wish it weren’t so, but most people just don’t give a damn what license a piece of software carries; they just want a product that works for them.

Thesis has been that product for tens of thousands of people for over 7 years.

Of course, as you also know, some people do care very deeply about software licensing. Thanks to your efforts in 2010 and beyond, many (most? perhaps all?) of them left Thesis for other solutions that carried a license they preferred.

I support those people in their decision and wish them the best with their websites. It’s a shame you can’t do the same for people who choose to operate in a way that isn’t precisely consistent with what you would prefer.

Regarding this whole licensing issue, there’s a simple question I (and many others) would like you to answer…

On balance, Thesis brings people to WordPress. Many of our customers say they can’t imagine using WordPress without Thesis.

With that in mind, what motivates you to continue down this path of what appears to be an attempt at annihilating something that makes WordPress better? (Especially if it means alienating tons of WordPress users—not just Thesis users—in the process!)

Gabriella July 18, 2015

Geez Matt,

So now you’ve gone from ‘Thesis user rights’ to ‘ affront and insult to the thousands of people who have contributed to WordPress’ GPL code’. If there’s one thing more annoying than an over inflated ego it’s someone who insults the intelligence of others.

So why don’t you stop insulting our intelligence and just be honest – this is a vendetta against Chris it’s got nothing to do with ‘Thesis user rights’ or ‘the many who have contributed to WP GPL code’.

You’re using your comments here to detract from what YOU did by buying and redirecting to a

And if you’re so concerned with rights, then why are you infringing on the Thesis trademark?

We DON’T CARE about how to get a refund on Thesis!! Perhaps you’d like this said in another language since clearly the English version doesn’t make sense to you.


Matt July 17, 2015

I don’t know the last time I got an email from Chris directly (3+ years?), and myself and Automattic didn’t hear anything from him before we got the litigation notice he was trying to seize the domain. No questions, no concerns, no offer to resolve, no discussion, we were just hit with legal action out of the blue.


Chris Pearson July 17, 2015

Were you aware that forwarding the domain amounted to trademark infringement?


Matthew Horne July 17, 2015

Because you bought a domain knowing full well it violated someone else’s Trademark, then proceed to try and cancel those trademarks when challenged knowing that that is the duty of being a Trademark owner.

What planet are you living on Matt? Where is this practice ever justified?

Do you assume the WordPress community to be at your every whim?

Do you take the community for granted?

Do you think you can do whatever you want, whenever you want, however you want?

Do you think you can preach ethics to people only to go and violate them yourself?

Practice what you preach. You wrote the rules on ethics for WordPress, perhaps its time you followed them yourself or step aside and let someone else step in.


Tevya July 17, 2015

Fortuitously, I stumbled across this article this morning.

I’m a nobody. So there’s no reason either of your should listen to me. But what I was trying to convey in my comment is that neither of you are bad people. And we all make mistakes. Ultimately neither can control the other person’s next action. But what each of us can control is our own actions. You can keep escalating this, or you can reach-out on a personal (and I’d suggest private) level, build on common ground (you both love and are heavily invested in WordPress and the community that’s grown around it), and apologize for mistakes. If one does this, you might find you like each other on a personal level, even if you disagree on some major issues.

That personal connection, and willingness to admit and apologize for mistakes, could lead to a friendship, or at least collaboration that can’t exist if both sides continue to see it as a fight in which only one can win. The article I linked to is a very good example. There’s also an excellent book titled The Anatomy of Peace that I think you’d both find very valuable.

Even if you never come to agree on licensing, at least you could have conversations about it and gain insight into why people see things differently than yourselves on this issue. I firmly believe the best result for everyone will only come when one person is willing to apologize and extend the opportunity for understanding, healing, and forgiveness.


Justin M. July 17, 2015

That’s stupid. This is business. You expected that move to “spark a conversation”?

Love you, Matt. But come on, now.


Rick Horowitz July 17, 2015


And in this article, he fully explains why.

To be as frank as I can be, this activity by Matt & Automattic has me automatically looking for another platform for my websites.

I have a trademark that I am considering abandoning because of the costs of trying to police it. Maybe I can piss off Matt, and he could try to by the domain from me?

Seriously, this totally changes my thinking about WordPress, and Matt Muttonberg.


Joanne July 18, 2015

Hit with legal action out of the blue? Seriously?

He’s supposed to open a dialogue with you after you KNOWINGLY and INTENTIONALLY infringed his trademark?

You’ve used your clout to take business from him and damage his livelihood.

You actively try to sabotage him when the opportunity arises.

You twist his words in debates to try to make him look bad.

Frankly, Matt, you act like a spoiled child throwing a fit because Chris won’t cowtow to you. You should just stop now, because you may have won the battle in acquiring, but you’ve lost the war.


Stefani July 16, 2015

Wow! I read this with so much intensity – as if I were reading a thriller! So many thoughts came to mind as I got this in my inbox and then started making my way through it. The first of which was quite selfish: “Oh no, Thesis better not go anywhere! It’s the best, and my business depends on it!”

I am really shocked by this whole situation and honestly didn’t know anything about it until now. I never knew why it was vs., but I guess I know now.

I really admired Matt and even wrote about him in one of my blog posts after learning that he’s from Houston and went to high school just minutes away from where I live. But after reading this, it’s just very disheartening – especially because it’s towards/surrounding you, Chris.

Thesis is so wonderful and I ONLY use it to build ALL of my sites. I often wonder (and worry) what I would do if Thesis ever went away, but I try not to think about it.

Thank you for writing this and educating all of us on the situation. I support you fully…and I’m part of a big web design group that supports you as well (and we ALL use and swear by Thesis!).


Chris Pearson July 16, 2015

Thank you, Stefani! I sincerely appreciate your support.

And don’t worry—Thesis isn’t going anywhere :D


Chris July 22, 2015

Agreed, I came here from James Farmer’s WPMUDEV article and *wammo* hours have passed reading, listening to the 2010 interview, comments, etc. This is some entertaining stuff. It’d make a nerdy daytime drama.

I’m still not sure who is right or wrong (the truth tends to lie somewhere in-between), but one thing is clear… Matt you have to get some PR advice. As CEO you need to filter and manage this conversation privately.


Tim July 22, 2015

THIS. CEOs shouldn’t be carrying on like fair dinkum pork chops like this.

It makes me want to give you fifty cents to call the Waaaambulance.


Leah McClellan July 16, 2015

Hey Chris,

I’ve only been vaguely aware of all this since I’m just a longtime Thesis and WordPress fan and that’s that. (Thesis since v. 1.7 I think, around 2010). I do hope you can work everything out in a good way, though. And like others have said, kudos for realizing your mistakes. We’ve all been jerks from time to time (me too), but not everyone learns from it. Let’s hope any other jerks in this scenario also come around. (I don’t have all the facts, but it does look like some jerk-ness is involved. $100k for The redirect? Oy. Come on. Let’s play nice everyone.)


Chris Pearson July 16, 2015

Thanks, Leah. And by the way—your site is looking fantastic with the Promo Skin!


Leah McClellan July 22, 2015

Thanks Chris! That feels like high praise–I’m just a writer with a strong tech streak. I learned almost everything I know about WP from working with Thesis with the help of the fabulous support folks on the support forum. I have Genesis too, and I’ve played with it and used it, but Thesis feels like family, and I stick with it just because I like it a lot more. Kinda corny, I know, but that’s how it is for me. So I just hope everything holds together and work out well; I’ve had my eye on Effectus :)


Community Guy July 16, 2015

You should seriously start thinking about a reappeal… may be not to soon though. As a theme / wp developer there are too many who feel betrayed by Automattic for their sellf-centered self-righteous approach when their idea is not gpl/code-is-poetry but boils down to bread and butter. Back in 2008 they were rejecting themes because my WP theme had a credit link in footer to my site wherein there was a Thesis ad in the sidebar… This was way before that podcast I think.

I’m not affiliated to thesis or to any theme for that matter… but seriously what is it their business to see what licensed themes do I advertise on my site? Reminds me of Charlie Hebdo episode.


Chris July 16, 2015

Sorry to hear about this and how petty the WP team is on this issue. They don’t seem to recognize how much having quality ad-ons like Thesis helps their software platform. Maybe they’re just jealous that they can’t make a theme as good as Thesis. ;) It’s also pathetic how the UDRP acted. They should be trying to get at the truth, not play gotcha.


Richard July 16, 2015

Thesis is a great framework and demonstrates pure brilliance. I bought the software because it makes more sense than hard coding PHP files and it makes building easier with better results.

Basically grabbing makes Matt look like one of those domain squatters we all love to hate. It’s a scummy way to make money. It’s even scummier when it’s to keep someone else from making money.

Have you considered re-branding? That would give you a chance to correct all of the trademark ownership issues.


Chris Pearson July 16, 2015

Rebranding is certainly an option, but most people in business circles would view that as a significant loss. Brand equity is a big deal, and Thesis has been a known commodity in the WordPress Theme space for 7.5 years.

Because they committed the trademark violation, Automattic needs to do the correcting here.


Mike Schinkel July 16, 2015

If you did decide to pursue a legal battle, you might get traction with a GoFundMe account. I’d pitch in because I don’t like unethical and underhanded and I think what Matt actions were both in this case.


Chris Pearson July 17, 2015

Mike, I appreciate that. However, I know how these things go, having seen them firsthand about 8 years ago.

My daughter was born this year, and life is too short to spend the first few years of her life wrapped up in legal garbage.

I want to enjoy my time with her and focus on creating products that help people run better websites.


Matt July 17, 2015

We did not start and would not start a legal battle with you over this, have just been responding to the fight you started.

Chris Pearson July 17, 2015

So which is it, Matt?

Was your trademark infringement with a (very delayed) response to something from the past, or was it the action that started the situation we’re talking about today?

As I spelled out in the article, I would have done nothing if it were not for your wanton infringement of my trademark.

Tevya July 17, 2015

The question isn’t who started it, the question is who will end it? It’ll always be a sore spot for both of you, no matter who “technically” wins, as long as no reconciliation healing takes place.

You’re both awesome people, whom myself and thousands (millions?) of others respect. I know you can both get this concept. Who’s willing to be the first to stop the escalation, finger pointing, and “but he did ____” accusations, and start making amends?

Dmitry July 16, 2015

Seems like they did this just to ruffle your feathers Chris. I remember watching you and Matt duke it out on mixergy I thought it was a good educational debate about the GPL.

But man never thought something like this would happen. I think Matt Auttomatic should give you the domain as an olive branch and just drop this whole thing it makes them look bad.


Damien July 16, 2015

Wow, this is a very interesting story. Sounds like you have been treated quite unfairly, Chris. Keen to see how it unfolds…


Adam July 16, 2015

I guess one could argue that since you never owned you should never have been granted the TM in the first place. That aside, going straight for the UDRP vs the C&D could have been taken as an aggressive move causing the WP team to go in loaded for bear. It’s possible the C&D would have had a more favorable outcome. It could be Matt is just waiting for an apology as mentioned above. But then again, he’s Matt :)


Chris Pearson July 17, 2015

Adam, trademarks existed long before the Internet. If the USPTO required everyone seeking a trademark to own the corresponding .com (as opposed to other TLDs), total chaos would result.

C&Ds work if you’re the big guy talking to a little guy, because you can always coerce the little guy into action with the specter of further legal activity hanging over his head.

However, they don’t work nearly as effectively from little guy to big guy, because the big guy knows he can drag you through the legal mud until you decide to wave the white flag and go home.

Plus, compliance with a C&D assumes good faith on the part of the person receiving it. I already believed bad faith was involved here and had no reason to think a C&D was going to be effective.


Craig July 16, 2015

Wow. Sorry to hear you’ve had such trouble. I hope justice prevails here.


Dave M July 16, 2015

Thanks for writing this up. I remember there being dispute between Thesis and Automattic in the past, but wasn’t a Thesis user and didn’t really follow the details, and don’t really have time to go over the whole thing in detail now. That said, based on this post, and in trying to be a neutral observer, this part sticks out at me above where Matt Mullenweg says, obviously in reference to Thesis:

“We have had some problems with Themes that violated the WordPress license”

This seems to be the crux of the whole thing. Is there any truth to it? I figure you feel there’s not. If not, is it at the very least what Mullenweg and Automattic truly believe, even if you feel they’re wrong? If so, their desire to stop or otherwise impede Thesis seem understandable to me, even if the specific actions they employed to carry out that desire may be unsavory. That may be cold, but that’s business, and unfortunately for you, they have the weight to throw around even if they are in the wrong.

If they don’t truly believe it, then its not business but personal, and it seems you’d be justified in feeling they’re out to get you or make an example of you.

I imagine we’ll never know. Would be interesting to see Matt write a reasoned rebuttal to this, but wouldn’t expect one.


Puneet Sahalot July 17, 2015

Trust me Chris, Thesis is how started making money and I know Thesis 2.1 is fantastic. I have been noticing all the marketing strategies that the competitors are following against Thesis.

It’s really really sad.

Take example of CopyBlogger Media’s synthesis web hosting, they don’t allow hosting Thesis powered websites. As if it were a sort of virus that would hack into their systems.

That was fine enough to handle because of the fact that they are a competitor but still doesn’t show up good business “ethics”

Now, Matt comes in with such a disappointing act. They are forcing all sort of rules and regulations for WP and the community, not allowing non-GPL theme developers to speak at WordCamps, suing domain owners with wordpress in the domain name and what not. But, they are being hypocrite with this particular case.

Let’s not forget that Karma bites back.

Chris, I hope you make a strong come back with re-branding for Thesis and I would love to use it for more and more client sites.


Anonymous July 17, 2015

Chris, I’m on your side.

But I could never say that.

I run a million dollar WordPress plugin business.

I couldn’t say it in person. Not online using my real name. Not at a WordCamp.

Matt can lock anyone he wants out of the community very easily.

I walk the party line because I like being part of the party.

Many others are similar to me. We’ll say this shit behind closed doors but that’s it.

Thanks for having balls and being vocal about this. But we all saw where it got you last time you stood up for yourself. Matt decimated you and hurt your business.

So we aren’t going to stand up for ourselves. We’ll just go along with whatever Matt says, because he’s the dictator.


Lou April 16, 2016

Sounds like this little prat Matt needs a serious beating to snap back to reality. As far as I’m concerned, I’m finished with anything wordpress related.


Kirsten July 17, 2015

I would definetely go with rebranding. Take action, don’t wait for somebody else doing oder saying something you want him to. It is not worth the time. Nor the money.

Make a fresh start. With a new name you can reach out to the community, to your customers and to new customers in an active and positive way. Its not easy to let go the old brand, but in this case I think the profit would be huge. People will focus on a good product. Nobody feels comfortable with conflicts, people don’t care about a fight over a domain name.

Which wouldn’t be of much value all of a sudden by the way.

You win.


Marjorie Ray July 17, 2015

Sorry this is happening. It has escalated out of control, yet you are admitting your mistakes, which is huge, especially at such a public level. My sense is that you also have your priorities straight, with regard to focusing on your daughter at this time. I hope that somehow you and Matt are able to resolve this. It is possible and I think many of us are hoping for that.


Aaron D. Campbell July 17, 2015

I won’t weigh in on the legal battle, I’m not a lawyer and know very little in that arena. What I will says is that I think it was very big of you to own being a jerk a back in 2010, and you did it in an apologetic way. I just wanted to say that I appreciate that. It shows a great amount of maturing.

Also, congrats on becoming a dad (I didn’t know until I read this, so I guess I’m a little behind)!


Matt July 17, 2015

It doesn’t matter if you admit what you did was wrong in the past if you go and do the exact same thing again: violate the GPL, and make it worse by patenting common theme practices. And then start litigation with someone. It makes no sense.


Chris Pearson July 17, 2015

Matt, if you expect people to follow your line of reasoning, then you must answer the following question:

Do you feel these things you mentioned justify using Automattic funds to purchase a $100,000 domain and then engage in trademark infringement?

Your licensing argument is not currently supported in the legal system (it’s an opinion), but as you know, trademark law is well established.


Aaron D. Campbell July 17, 2015

I both agree and disagree.

I agree that admitting you were wrong, then doing the same thing now, would obviously be pointless.

I disagree because I don’t think violating the GPL necessarily makes someone a jerk. It was what happened above and beyond that, that made him a jerk. I’m not saying that he’s not doing both (I, like many others, am obviously not privy to all the details here), I’m just saying that I don’t think they’re the same.

Having said that, the GPL is important to me. Not because it holds sway over my standing in the community, but because of the freedoms it brings to the users (as opposed to the developers or owners). Violating it is bad for users, and while it doesn’t necessarily make you a jerk in my opinion, it does call into question your motives. is why I would never use DIYThemes, I never recommend it to anyone, and actually actively advise against it when asked.

I’m still happy to see him admit that he was a jerk, and will try to reserve judgment on the current situation until I know more.


Mike Schinkel July 17, 2015


Something to consider about GPL.

JigoShop invested blood, sweat and tears to build their software. Then WooThemes,took that effort and turned it into WooCommerce without paying one red cent for the efforts of JigoShop. Now the WooThemes guys are rich and the JigoShop guys, well who knows what their fortunes are.

I think what Woo did was unjust. But it did not violate GPL. OTOH, GPL enabled them to act unjustly. As such I have very mixed feelings about the GPL.

Just sayin…


Kevin Muldoon July 17, 2015

You left out the part where WooThemes hired the two lead developers of JigoShop :)

Piet July 17, 2015

And you also left out the part that WooThemes (that is including WooCommerce and most likely because of WooCommerce) was just purchased by Automattic for multiple millions of dollars

Sarag July 17, 2015

You’re acting like a spoiled foolish child.


Joni Mueller July 17, 2015

I keep hearing that, but how does the purchase of connect to that, other than some kind of spite or revenge? Because, honestly, that’s exactly what it looks like. (Coming from the Queen of Revenge herself.)


Rob Pickering July 17, 2015

Hey Matt,

Who appointed you to use your company’s funding to defend and prosecute the GPL?

Go troll somewhere else…

-Thesis customer who agreed to the licensing


Sophie July 18, 2015

Inaccurate at best, and you’re walking down Twisting Words Avenue now, Matt.

What Chris admitted, was that he was acting like a jerk in that interview. He did *not* admit that using a certain licensing model (and violating another one) was wrong.


Adam December 27, 2015


You knowingly and intentionally purchased a domain of business interest to Thesis.

What other reason could you have to do this than to be spiteful?

And you used money generated by the GPL you so egotistically spout your defense of.

The GPL is not about limiting choice or being a jerk.

On the one hand, you want to say that people shouldn’t freely distribute any paid product descended from WordPress (making them GPL and able to legally be copied).

Yet on the other you expect absolutely no one to patent specific schemes they have which do NOT work the same way WordPress or other CMS themes work.

Then someone attempts to protect some of the schemes they have created to make WordPress themes better, and you whack away at them using scare tactics and attempt to cancel their trademark.

Hypocritical and low.


Clark Wimberly July 17, 2015

You can remove every single personal/legal/technical detail from this story and it’s still HUGELY disappointing. There’s simply no way for him to wiggle out of this without looking like a two-face weirdo.

Cheers to you for handling it so well.


Anon July 17, 2015

So – anon as well here – I run a >$1m business in the WP space. I’ve had head to head fights with Matt and the problem is that he has the power and the money – and he’ll use it. But what this shows is that he is petty and vindictive.

It’s why I can’t have our firm be a WordPress VIP Partner. It’s why we’re no longer actively involved in the community because that’s a big investment in time and money and if it can all be taken away by the ideals of a petty man… well, screw that!

I really appreciate WordPress and what it’s brought to us, but I’m also pragmatic and well aware that we’d have simply picked up another CMS and worked with that instead. WordPress is as important to our success as is my car which helped get me to client meetings. If Ford had turned out rubbish at getting me to those meetings I’d simply have bought a different car.

And it’s like that with free software, but because it’s given away freely it seems to come with this sort of weird moral certainty that the people in charge must be “Doing Good Things.” And that’s not how it works at all. And so with that mentality comes, inevitably, hubris. Like buying up domains for no other reason than to annoy people you don’t approve of.

So this, my friends, is the start of the end of WordPress. It’s a limited platform with many flaws anyway. So it’s only a matter of time.

Good luck Chris. I’ve never used Thesis, although used a couple of your freely given themes back in the day. You were an important part of popularising the platform. Just like Matt was. And now it looks like you’ve got the moral high ground. Kind of funny.


Brett Lee July 17, 2015

You’ve handled it very well Chris.

Despite being technically ok (if we say so momentarily for argument’s sake), ethically and morally their action is not at all justifiable.


Anon Guy July 17, 2015

Wow Matt is here. Hey Matt… what the F is wrong with you and licenses? You got nothing better to do? You even call it WordPress license. It’s GNU’s license. Someone better fork WordPress and get rid of this license obsessed rich guy.

And how and why does Chris’s license-infringement affect you? You making boatloads of money selling services at Automattic when it’s intricately tied to your so called WordPress.

Let innovation happen… This is to the crazy ones… He created something original… and you forked b2/cafelog/MovableType. And you trying this license stuff to kill other businesses?

You have a problem and it’s not about licenses and trademarks. It’s in your head. You need counseling.

I’d take down my photo with you… what an embarrassment. And while I stopped using Thesis 2 and understand that Chris is vocal about criticizing things… he is still a creative genius, nothing that you can ever be because your substitute for innovation is license.


Brian July 17, 2015

Chris – that was a rough read my friend and I am sorry for all your trouble. However, look up Lenny Bruce, and then commit to not being the Lenny Bruce of your industry. It’d be a similarly wasted talent.


Sarah Arrow July 17, 2015

Hey Chris, I’ve followed you for a long time and I don’t understand half of what’s gone on. At no point when you’ve acted an ass, or MM (who I don’t know or have ever spoken to) has acted an ass, have I thought less of either of you.

I’ve enjoyed your writing, loved Thesis, and I hope you will get to do what you love, if not now, in the future.


Matt Dick July 17, 2015

Well Karma is a bitch and Matt will get his.

Shame on him for doing this and using funded money and abusing his power to stoop to such a level.

I hope the VCs are taking note and will not back him with any other funding.

What a jerk and what an ass…


Michael K July 17, 2015

Very enlightening post indeed. I’m looking forward to seeing how this plays out and just wanted to say kudos to Chris for being so transparent about the entire process.


Anonymous July 17, 2015

If we have enough community members to technically manage the code, let’s fork WordPress and release under Apache license. Let it be defacto compatible with the WP system so all existing plugin/theme authors can port to it.

Let better sense prevail.


Anonymous July 19, 2015

You can’t fork a GPL software & change license to non-GPL compatible license you moron. That’s something you & your kind don’t understand, you can’t just take someone else’s work & change license on your whim and add restrictions to it. If you want to do it then better go make your own instead of squatting on someone else’s back.


Vern July 17, 2015

One word: Joomla


Sarag July 17, 2015

Karma is a bitch. The end. Ruin your names in a public space acting like children.


Richard July 17, 2015

Personally I think both of you (Chris and Matt) would like a graceful way out of this quagmire (I’m always looking for the best in people), but you’re both struggling with available options.

Matt, at the end of the day if Chris does hold a trademark on Thesis and he pursues a legal remedy you’re both looking at putting your legal representation offspring through college. I’m not an attorney but have the advantage of knowing Hollywood intellectual rights attorneys. From what I gather at the end of the day you can pay a hefty price–especially if Chris goes after you for his legal fees.

Chris, one question. Looking back would you have forked over the $100K for the domain back when? Considering the cost of pursuing a legal battle, and the stress that travels with it, would you consider reimbursing Matt for the domain if he agrees?

Chris. Matt. Neither of you will come out of this unscathed if this matter is pursued. Do you think that between the two of you intelligent guys that you focus on a reasonable solution where you both come out winners?


carlo July 17, 2015

Well… they are just sad people. I always used Thesis since 1.8 … love it an hop i can keep using it for many more years… its just the best system available… so Cris, keep going on doing great things with DIYThesis!


Robert July 17, 2015

I am not a Thesis user or customer – I looked at it a while back – but I am a regular WordPress user personally and in business, and this frankly stinks.

All well and good Matt saying he never spoke to you in three years but let’s not be naive, you could likewise have called before taking an aggressive act which goes against being a good web citizen.

Acting like some spammer or name sitting extortionist is not the behaviour most WP supporters and customers expect.

If this story was about some corporate raider or software house like Microsoft I wouldn’t bat and eyelid, I’d just shrug and say ‘what do you expect, they know no better’ and make sure they didn’t get my business. But it’s not!

I and not one if Chris’s customers or supporters, just an ordinary WP user, and Chris very modest of you to confess to being a jerk, think the Grouch mask sort of had me thinking that anyway! It’s probably the reason I never bought Thesis in the first place – that and the overly complex back end at the time.


Anon July 17, 2015

I’m scared to say anything bad about Wordpress now.

Seems to me that this whole debacle has been a waste on time and money. Like two children squabbling about nothing.

Personally, if it was me, I would have bought the domain name and given it to you.

It sounds like you’ve done a lot of growing up—Matt needs to do the same.

Life is too short.


Pierre July 17, 2015

Wow, what a dick move by Automattic.


Anonymouse July 17, 2015

Stumbled upon Chris’ post about this today. I don’t have a dog in this fight, but it appears Matt is simply a vindictive douche who likes to step on people’s throats and grind. BTW, Matt your responses on this thread are weak, at best.


Alexander July 17, 2015

Reminds me of the downfall of Couchsurfing… community feeling is starting to get ruined by investors and people who think they should earn money on lots of code and effort given by community members. Matt should’ve just called his website something else and left WP open source for everyone to mangle and have fun with rather then start to go after his own community.


Salah Shakir July 17, 2015

Read couple of pages and stopped.
Chris, I really do not care what domain you own or what, but I am a client of yours and your theme speaks for itself. save your money


Andre July 17, 2015

I don’t know how Matt can try and distance himself from this situation. If it is true that Automattic purchased domain for a $100 000, which it is as when you do a whois search it is owned by them and the domain is still being forwarded to, he obviously had other intentions and was probably waiting for the court papers to arrive. I never thought there was so much bad behind my favourite Blog and CMS system.


David Esrati July 17, 2015

I watched this unfold years ago.

I started with WordPress very early- and thought that Chris brought some very innovative options to the theme area with Thesis. This argument over the license was legit- and Chris was a jerk.

However, at this point- Matt, you are being vindictive- and obviously spent the money to show Chris your power.

You want to know what would be better- hire Chris. Buy him out- obviously- he has some skills- and he has some different ideas on how to improve things. His approach to handling text are more sophisticated than most theme designers.

Automattic is big enough now- that you can have one counter-culture revolutionary in your midst- and considering the threats from Wix/Square/Weebly sites- maybe Chris can help you devise something new.

I’m still morning the end of Spam Karma II which I liked way better than the hive mind of Akismet.

I still don’t understand why you don’t truncate the view of long spam comments in the dashboard with a simple read more-
And I love WordPress because it puts food on my plate- but, c’mon- $100,000 on a domain name? Are you both insane?


Onuora July 17, 2015


As someone who doesn’t work for an employer anymore because of Wordpress, this is painful to watch.

As someone whose life was changed the first time he created a Thesis site that ran fast as blazes, this is depressing.

There is a story someone told about doing business with P Diddy and allegedly, that person felt they were being screwed. Diddy’s response ” you don’t have to like me, just do business with me”.

I use that example to say Matt and Chris, you dont have to be friends but understand that this is hurting both of you.

Have a face to face meeting over a beer (with lawyers) and figure out how to make all this right. The objective should not be to WIN but to make all this go away with each side

1) Preserving dignity.
2) Spending as little as possible.

We all get the larger points here – Matt has acted like a bully and Chris has at times acted like a Brat.

We get it.

It’s time to make this all go away so that WE (it’s about the customers remember – do you guys remember?) can continue to benefit from innovation from both of you.

This is just bad energy but even worse, bad business for you both.

My 10 cents.


Efosa Oyegun July 19, 2015



Kevin Muldoon July 17, 2015

I wrote about this issue the other day on my blog; before I knew a lot of what has come to light through this blog post.

I always thought Matt came across as a nice guy, though I must admit that this whole thing has put him in a terrible light in the eyes of many WordPress users. The actions of Automattic seem childish at worst and vindictive at best.

Did Automattic really wait years to start another tit for tat war for Chris? Did they really think spending $100,000 to get back at Chris is good value?

Going back to the GPL issue, I always agreed with Matt’s view on the issue, but Automattic are 100% wrong on this one. There is no doubt in my mind about that.

Look at the comments on this blog post. There are people from large WordPress companies responding to this thread. Unfortunately, rather than giving an honest opinion on issues, they are scared to say anything privately or publicly because Automattic will use their power to hurt their business.

These childish kind of antics need to stop or people are going to be driven away from the WordPress community.

Do the right thing Matt. Work with Chris on the GPL issue and try and work out some sort of deal. Perhaps Chris will be more flexible on the GPL issue if you would do the right thing and pass the domain on to him. Everyone in the WordPress community wants Thesis to embrace GPL and everyone wants Automattic to stop abusing their power and start supporting WordPress developers, not alienating them.



Puneet Sahalot July 17, 2015

“Everyone in the WordPress community wants Thesis to embrace GPL and everyone wants Automattic to stop abusing their power and start supporting WordPress developers, not alienating them.” – That’s sums it up Kevin.
After all how many WP frameworks are we left with in the WP community?
Only one that seeks all the attention from users and Automattic as well?
When there’s no competition, there’s no innovation.
Thesis 2 is simply brilliant. Needs improvement but it’s still way ahead than other frameworks.


Kevin Muldoon July 17, 2015

I haven’t tested Thesis 2 as yet, but it looks good. Perhaps Chris will get a boost in sales because of this whole thing.


Joanne July 18, 2015

Let’s see if this GPL is really all it’s cracked up to be.

Definition: GNU General Public License is intended to guarantee your freedom to share and change all versions of a program–to make sure it remains free software for all its users.

Anon: It’s why I can’t have our firm be a WordPress VIP Partner. It’s why we’re no longer actively involved in the community because that’s a big investment in time and money and if it can all be taken away by the ideals of a petty man…

If WordPress is really free under the GPL, how can it be taken away by one vindictive manchild?


Joanne July 18, 2015

IOW, Chris, your product is so awesome, we want to have it for free. And we want to be able to modify it any way we like and make tons of money off your hard work. And we’re going to call you a jerk and try to hurt your business until you do. So hand it over!

I don’t want Thesis under GPL. I want Chris to maintain sole ownership and become rich beyond his imagination. Because he has birthed something amazing that no one else thought of. And he should be rewarded for his efforts.

Every innovator faces this shit, because there are so few of them. But there are plenty of freeloaders.


Keith Jones July 17, 2015

MM has shot himself in the foot this time.

We can all see what he is trying to do, this is just plain wrong.

He must be making a lot of money out of WP if he can afford to waste it like this.


Mart Shark July 17, 2015

Frankly, Matt Mullenweg and Automattic’s approach to this beggars belief. It’s an appalling way to operate and I hope they come to see the light. That the UDRP ruled against Chris is also shocking – though I do wonder why the UDRP claim wasn’t better prepared.


Aigul July 17, 2015

Hi Chris!

I would like to express my appreciation of your talent and contribution in the quality website building. I didn’t know about your past and present battles until now. I believe that as a talented person you have your inner guidance – to follow what feels good to you. When you prepared your Thesis theme, I believe, you felt good. The battles just suck your energy, and they feel bad. There is only one law that never fails. The Law Of Attraction works with or without your knowledge about it. It says, the more you focus on something the more you get it bigger. The more you get indignant, the more reasons for more indignation you will get. And it doesn’t matter how righteous or not your matter is.

So, as your inner guide’s telling you, you would thrive more when you focus on good part of your life, like your child and all the joys your life brings with her. Like joys that your ideas and tips about your theme improvement bring to you. If you just follow your inner guidance it will lead you to your bigger success! And quit beating yourself for anything, forgive yourself, and move on!

I love the messages from, and it doesn’t matter to me that they don’t come from “”. You are the Boss in your own world where we are all, your clients, admire your ideas and thank you for your code!

Whatever your decision is please trust your inner guidance and do actions only when they feel good to you.


Frédéric July 17, 2015

Well, That kind of dispute happens when a man mistakes money for rights. If Matt would not have money to spend, he surely would do something more valuable. Too much money makes man feel himself as a superman.
100 000 $ for a domain name, dear Matt, I may suggest you stop your lawyers and just help people. Maybe you know ?

Chris, I may suggest you just to buy another domain like thesis.something (there a numerous extensions to buy), or strongWord-thesis.extension to build a brand. You have a strong and powerful products : Matt won’t let them change their mind with that kind of behavior (i think it is the opposite in fact, and a bad signal for investors).

And you too, just stop this pointless kiddy war by donating this domain to a scientific domain such as NIH : scientist are doing thesis in real ;-)


Kevin Muldoon July 17, 2015

haha Or maybe everyone in the WordPress community should register a domain with WordPress in it to see how Automattic respond ;)


David Esrati July 17, 2015

OK- over lunch in, this feud was the discussion- and we just think if Matt had put the $100K toward CiviCRM- an open source project that helps non-profits and political campaigns make a difference- what a better world we would have.
They are in desperate need of a responsive back end, a mobile interface and a one-click update/upgrade engine for WordPress.


Jay Tanna July 17, 2015

Personally, I think it is time for you, Chris, to spend some time on Joomla Templates and see if you can transfer your skills to making thesis for Joomla. Wordpress is beginning to come to end of its “shelf life” and either Joomla or Drupal is the next big thing.

I would be the first to get Thesis for Joomla or Drupal if or when it comes out.

Keep it up Chris and don’t be bullied by that idiot. I have got a WP site ( but I intend to move it as soon soon as I can to Joomla or Drupal.

Perhaps, this is your chance to start a hosting service for Joomla for a fixed fee of £15 per year and make it identical to who are charging about the same amount for their premium service.

Best regards and please keep us informed of your next big plan.


Angelique July 17, 2015

Well, now I have a dilemma. The vindictive actions of Wordpress’ owner me want to leave Wordpress, but if I did, I couldn’t use Thesis, which is the only theme I like to use.

I guess the moral of the story is: sometimes overpaying for a squatted-on domain is worth it. If my blog ever gets very popular, I will be facing that situation, too, and I am going to remember your experience and take it into account.


Will Patton July 17, 2015

First and foremost congratulations on parenthood. Enjoy all the time with your child that you can spare, its the most rewarding time you will ever spend.

Secondly this whole ‘battle’ has me a little baffled. I recall the old Matt Vs. Chris days and the ensuing licencing issues that came shortly afterwards. I thought they were in the past long gone and we had moved on. Evidently they are still at the forefront of some people’s minds.

As I’m no expert on legal matters my comments are of personal option but I think that if feelings are put aside then this could be solved pretty quickly. You own the trademark for thesis as it relates to the web software space and Automattic can’t (and currently it is deemed that it does not) use it in bad faith.

If things remain as they are right now (with redirecting towards do you feel like it does harm to your business or branding? Since you never owned it is not part of your current brand and as such (again personally speaking) I do not feel like it will negatively effect your potential business.

I do, however, feel like Automattic owning and using in this way could portray them in a negative light – especially within the developer side of the community – considering the previous connections.

One thing that is curios about how the findings are worded: it’s hinted on that if a traceroute was provided then the ruling MIGHT have been different.

Does anyone feel things would have had a different outcome if that were provided?


Steve July 17, 2015

All of this could have been avoided if Matt had just said, “No, thanks” when the chance to purchase the domain presented itself. No reason in the world for Automattic to buy the domain and redirect it other than being snarky.


Adam Garratt July 17, 2015

I’m both a thesis and WordPress user and I find this whole situation disgusting quite frankly. Matt should be ashamed of himself for his bully boy, holier than thou antics. To think that the man at the top of the company’s software I use to propagate my thoughts has acted in this way, makes me feel queasy.

Chris, you are a better more tolerant person than me because, if this had happened to me I’d have bankrupted myself to make sure this odious, self important crank never did such a thing again. Fair play to you chap for standing up for yourself, and greetings from blighty.


American dream July 17, 2015

Sad to hear this. Unfortunately this is the product of western capitalism. Money talks and bs walks.

Chris well done for standing up to the corporates. Matt isn’t untouchable so he’ll get what’s coming to him.

At the end of the day, you’re better of looking after your kids, being happy and content.


George July 17, 2015

I hope these you two can work this out, no one here really wants to see WP fall apart.


Carol July 17, 2015

That does suck that Matt did that. Buying an expensive domain so you can get leverage in a dispute is pretty low.

I purchased Thesis some years back and couldn’t get it to load. Your customer service person gave me a prompt refund but didn’t even try to make it successfully work for me. It was weird.

Thing is, with search engines, it’s no longer critical to own your primary name domain. You’d be fine with or or somesuch.


Sean E July 17, 2015

1) I heard the original Matt / Chris “debate” on a podcast right after it happened, so aware and very turned off by Chris’s shortcomings in that case.

2) I have used thesis for many sites, but switched after the change to 2.0. I think it became a more capable and powerful product, but unfortunately the UI was completely trashed compared to 1.8. Which I still love(d).

3) Matt/Automattic. Shame on you. For Chris to have an inflated self-righteousness is one thing, but buying a competitor’s trademarked product domain name and using it in the same space TO SNIPE THEIR TRAFFIC is disgraceful…and you damn well know it…and should not be legally allowed to continue doing it.


Laserbeamlarry July 17, 2015

WP is big that and would be tough to come up with a viable “alternative/better framework” (enter Twitter or AWS—boom!) so this needs to get settled and might be a great basis for discourse on licensing in general. – I get having to include author credits and licensing for components of WP (I’m afraid to even spell the name for fear of litigation…lol) such as artwork and images or scripts that are designed or photographed by other people besides the author (me). But I still have mixed feelings about WHY a free software—if that is the right term—company is so up-in-the-arms about license, especially since the usage of themes is to integrate as a skin of the free (but licensed) interface we know as Wordpress. (Notice I capitalized the “P” so I can not get sued now.)

My point is that WP [no strike that] Matt! has full rights to HIS community based software but NOT [full] rights to (his) community’s themes or skins that are used around the WP engine. If I bought a car from Ford and put European tires and wheels on it, would that deface the copyright of Ford? NO. Big companies encourage peeps to modify and come up with innovative creative ways to use their products.

I think Matt (did I infringe any trademarks by spelling his name :-}) should spend his time dealing with the legal jargon for and not for the dot org. Dot org is a community of peeps and dot com is a for-profit organization—honestly I am not sure of dot coms business model but am going by what I see. So why waste everybodys time and space to buy up thesis when it is so much more productive to keep your nose clean: Matt! I love you man, but for Walt Whitman’s sake, keep you vision where it belongs.


Kirk July 17, 2015


I have used Thesis for several years on what is now my major site.

Thesis has served me well, and, for artistic/design reasons, I have been planning to move to another theme that is not one of yours.

Still, I side with you in this sordid story. Matt Mullenweg has shown to me just how VINDICTIVE he can be — not just in the heat of the moment, but for years to come. He clearly suffers from COGNITIVE DISSONANCE regarding trademark protection.

Keep up the fight!



Mark Cancellieri July 17, 2015

I am very disappointed in Matt. It is an extremely obnoxious move on his part.


David McCan July 17, 2015

I looked for the license on your website but could not find it, so thanks to the reader above who posted the link.

It is a very restrictive, proprietary license. I suggest you add a link to it on your pricing page so people know what they are getting into, as the norm in the WordPress community is for themes to be GPL.

I did not know about your patent application until I read this article. The abstract is very general and seems to describe the theme process for almost all content management systems.

For instance, substitute the word “theme” for “skin” and “template part” for “box” and it seems to describe how themes work for WordPress and Drupal. How is it different?

I think that Jeff and Sarah at are doing a good job reporting WordPress related news in a professional manner. There have been a number of articles that highlighted issues or problems and stimulated discussion. Ironically, the article published about points out that there were unanswered questions, such as why Automattic bid for the domain. Also, Jeff’s comments in the discussion are questioning and critical. Was he was pulling his punches?

It seemed reasonable to me to close comments when it became clear that some of them were based on the lack of information or incorrect assumptions. In any event, assuming the worse of someone and attributing to them nefarious motives, when you don’t know for sure why they did something, is not good behavior.


Chris Pearson July 17, 2015

David, since the new version of Thesis was introduced in October 2012, we have had a grand total of 3 people ask about licensing before purchasing.

In other words, licensing is not important to most users, and that’s why we don’t say anything about it on the pricing page.

As you mentioned, we do have a public-facing page that people can read if they’re interested in learning about the license before purchasing.

But as you can see from this comment, people buy Thesis for the benefits the product provides, not for the license.

Regarding the patent application, please see my reply to Alex below.

Finally, no one assumed the worst of Jeff—he’s done a great job covering these events and asking incisive questions. The pattern of comment closure on the WP Tavern website is clear: The two most recent posts on which comments were closed involved legal disputes with WordPress, and in both cases, commenters were highly critical of Matt (whose private business, Audrey Capital, owns WP Tavern and employs Jeff).

The conflict of interest for Jeff is clear. He’s in a tough position. Nobody wants to upset their employer because they did their job correctly and thoroughly.


Anonymous July 17, 2015

One year down the line people would know.. WordPress wasn’t/couldn’t be killed by a better product… It was killed by it’s own owner who could have done with some adult supervision.

Bye bye Word*F*Press.


Alex Dankoff July 17, 2015

Hi Chris, Can you please tell us your intentions with this patent you filed? I think it is of considerable concern for users of WordPress. You seem to be requesting a patent on the basic system of using themes to customize websites. Do you plan on going after WordPress with this patent if you are awarded it?


Chris Pearson July 17, 2015

Hi Alex, that patent application covers a template and design management system and has nothing to do with WordPress or Themes.

DIYthemes filed that application to protect its business. In the years leading up to the filing, some people had threatened to steal Thesis technology in an attempt to get around licensing concerns or simply to stick it to me personally.

To prevent that “nuclear option” from ever being a possible route for others to consider, DIYthemes filed for the patent.

Pettiness and vindictiveness can lead others to do questionable things, and I think recent events show how true this can be.


Hans Braumüller July 17, 2015


greetings from Hamburg, Germany. Very interesting your conflict. I am Thesis user since a lot of years, but also Genesis, or pure Wordpress without frameworks with free or premium themes, always looking to create fast and efficient websites. Thank you both Chris and Matt.

@Matt, can you here explain, why you purchase the domain for $100.000 and what you want to do with it?

@Chris, Why you do not call Matt directly?

It seems your are old friends getting divorced. In Germany, we say, having right and getting right are 2 different things.

Take care,


Anonymous July 17, 2015

There are a lot of frameworks and some were too good to be true and there still are. Chris is innovative. But he is not alone :)


faisal July 17, 2015

So the biggest winner of all this is Larry?


Chris Pearson July 17, 2015

Funny, and certainly true!


Nathan Mckay July 17, 2015

I have never used Thesis before and I was completely unaware of all these events and happenings prior to hearing about the ruling against Chris Pearson. Following the subsequent fallout, I have since been watching with some concern the situation and learning more about the history of its origin since becoming aware of all this mess.

I have been using WordPress for many years (7+). Personally, I think this situation with Chris, and with other recent instances which he alluded to here, has casts a very negative light on Automattic (and WordPress) in the eyes of the designers and developers that use the software the most. Not to mention how this looks to others on the outside looking in. The spiteful and vindictive behavior of Matt through the actions that Automattic has taken figures to be somewhat unsettling to the entire community, as it should be. I think this is why the backlash against Automattic from the community has been so unanimous. What has occurred in this instance is simply wrong. It’s unethical and to certain extent it’s profoundly immoral.

Chris is right. Automattic’s actions in this instance seems to be quite hypocritical, but even more so the direction that Automattic is heading in light of these recent events is quite troubling. There was no legitimate basis for Automattic to take ownership of, other than to deliver payback for perceived slights made by Chris from years ago. At the core of all this is the fact that Automattic really went out of their way to damage the business of a member of the WordPress community over some petty quarrel.

Overall this weakens the community and WordPress as a whole, and at a very inopportune time I might add. Increased pressure from proprietary CMS’s (Squarespace , etc) and even other open source CMS’s, like Drupal, is beginning to make some progress at chipping away at WordPress’ hold on the CMS market share. The WordPress system will be due for a major overhaul in the near future to keep up with the changing trends in technology. The last thing Automattic should be doing at a time like this is alienating the community that got them to where they are now and wasting resources on this nonsense. We all lose in this instance. The #wpdrama needs to stop.


Brad Hull July 17, 2015

First of all, congrats Chris on becoming a Dad. I can say from experience (I have a three-year old and 5 month old, both girls). You’re a lucky man. Enjoy every minute of it! :)

Just two days ago, July 15th, was #primeday (which I’m sure everyone in tech followed).

Two days later, July 17th has become #wpdrama day.

I’ve always had a lot of respect for Matt, and Chris. I started off using Thesis themes, then migrated towards Genesis because I found it easier to use. But, my roots started with Thesis.

Honestly, all of the comments on this page are a little hard to read. So much back and forth. I was honestly surprised (but not surprised) to see Chris and Matt battling one another on many occasion.

I hate to say it, but, Matt, you lost. We all love you, and love WordPress, but you need to fix this.

Here’s how to fix it

Matt, you need to buy Thesis. Hell, you already bought for $100,000. You (surely) have budget set aside for more acquisitions this year. Just buy Chris out. Buy Thesis, and then fire Chris (if you have to), and hire him as a consultant for a generous six (or seven) figure salary (that will make Chris, and the entire WP community happy).

Chris, become a millionaire, and do good for your family. Accept Matt’s [future] buyout. You can still create stuff and be the amazing mind we all know you are.

Put your daughter first.

Please, for the good of WordPress, settle your differences. The WordPress community needs you to settle your differences.


Lucas Rabello Simões July 17, 2015

I am all new to this case, and i really appreciate your apologies for ‘being a jerk in the past’. I know how it feels when you realize you were not being a good person, and how it changes ourselves.

About the ‘case’: Can’t you just put it on a higher instance? Not sure on how it works over there but in Brazil if something goes whrong you can always try it again on higher instance and ask for a revision of the case and change the final decision.

I can’t really understand your reasons, could you please make it clear? Because if you don’t, my message to you will always be: Seriously? WTF!


Dmitry July 17, 2015

Only person who has won here is Larry the cable guy AKA Larry the broker.

100k for a domain name man that’s a lot to burn on a domain. I still love and enjoy the WP community always will maybe you guys can work this out over a beer summit like Obama.


Matt July 18, 2015

The domain is worth a lot more than 100k, not because it has anything to do with a theme but because it’s a common dictionary word .com which is commonly used and searched for in an educational context. 458 dot com just got sold for 140k. hotdog dot com for 150k.

Not having the domain never harmed Chris’s business before, and it’s not harming it now — he built up his brand on “diythemes.” If you believe Chris’s numbers he’s made many millions of dollars from Thesis and in that context 100k is not a large sum if it was actually important to his business. To be honest no one had ever heard of the domain and it had de minimis type-in traffic before he started all the drama around it.

If he wanted a domain with “thesis” in it, there are 5,500 other domains with “thesis” in them he could have UDRP’d, 99 other thesis.* TLDs registered, and 100s of thesis.* TLDs available and unregistered he could pick up with no legal costs, and not inviting any attention to his trademarks, license, or patents.


anonymous July 18, 2015


I see that you’ve finally responded to a question regarding Now that you’ve gone through the trouble of explaining why a single word domain would be worth $X, why don’t you go on to explain WHY you felt that your company needed to infringe upon trademark? I’ve been using WordPress for 7 years now and I’m balking at being associated with you and your company’s vindictive, petty b.s.

I’ve helped hundreds of people to use WordPress over the years. Now with this terrible move, I’m going to find another CMS to teach people. I’m ashamed of your behavior as a WordPress user.


Joanne July 18, 2015

Okay, Matt, that makes sense. You’re now in the business of acquiring common dictionary word .coms.

So how many others have you bought this year?

And do I assume correctly that they all redirect to your theme site?


Dale Hubbard July 22, 2015

MM, you obviously know very little about the market for domains. Citing “458” is daft. These numerical .com domains are the predilection of the Chinese who proffer swathes of CNY for them. Then to compare “hotdog” to “thesis” is plain daft. One is a brandable domain and consumer product, and the other a meagre academic phrase. I’ll let you figure out which is which.

I hope that $100k was yours and not from a pot of money in which others had an interest. If I was an investor in your business it would have been six of the best; trousers down from me.

What a crazy UDRP decision to boot. In my opinion, you’re a very blatant squatter.


Anonymous July 23, 2015

And if you believe that story I’ve got a common dictionary word .com I’d like to sell you.


Burt Gordon July 17, 2015

Hi Chris –

I woke up this morning and I was surprised and saddened to see this ‘old’ drama still unfolding.

Back in the day, I was a big fan of Thesis, and like you said Chris I knew little and had even less interest about the central issues in the ongoing drama.

Apologizing for your actions back then is commendable, and yes, I too had a negative view of you and perhaps that was a small reason I left the Thesis community – the main one being the length of time it took from 1.8x to 2.x update.

Looking through this thread and the back and forth between yourself and Matt it is obvious that you both see different sides of the same coin. And all this public discourse does nothing in solving the problem except whipping up supports of each combatant as if your were both Gladiators fighting to the death in the Roman Forum.

My family is big and like the WordPress family we can be supportive, but we are also combative, smart, opinionated and stubborn.

Fifteen years ago, 2 members of my family got into a fight much the same as you and Matt – we all had to listen to the charges and counter charges, the morality or lack of it regarding each family position.

It got ugly and affected everything. Our children were all young and because no one was going away they all had to live with this constant level of tension and anger.

When my son was 3-years old the two family members started discussing their positions in my kitchen and soon it became a yelling match.

My son went to the freezer to get a Popsicle and got caught between his 2 big uncles were fight and as one stomped out of the room my son said ” Jack is never coming back. He is mad. Its all about the dollars”.

Fast forward fifteen years and it is not settled and all of the younger generations are gone in University and it affected them.

I don’t think you nor Matt are leaving the WordPress community and like our family drama it will go on and on and on and your kids will grow up and sponge all this up like they do. Its not healthy for anyone especially them.

The real question comes down to this “Do you want to be happy or right?”

I will be called Pollyannish and missing the bigger point. But really Chris, it is that simple.

You both have your principals and justifications and both good people, but in the end this will come to no good end.

Someone suggested a private meeting to get this settled – such a good idea.

You have very nobly have fallen on your sword here and your email today. I’ve found that it becomes easier and easier to fall on ones sword when you decide to be happy instead of right.


Efosa Oyegun July 19, 2015

+1 Burt Gordon


Esquire July 17, 2015

Based on the complaint alone, Automattic’s cancellation proceeding appears so thin as to border on vexatious. How rich is it that Automattic is throwing out the software patent red herring, when *they* are the party taking full advantage of the nuisance created by cancellation proceedings before the USPTO?


Robert Paulson July 17, 2015

The way this played out should be very concerning to anyone who is doing business in the WordPress industry.

The GPL is a great framework to guide the WordPress project, but adhering to these guidelines to the point of disrupting someone’s business and likelihood is borderline predatory and misses the point of the spirit of GPL, in my opinion. I think we all know this wasn’t just about guidelines and adhering to the GPL.

The witch hunt to make sure everyone is using the GPL exactly how Matt wants it makes the license look rather volatile, constraining and unwelcoming. So volatile, that the guy in charge is willing to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to make sure you’re adhering to it. Is that what it’s really about? As stated in the WordPress philosophy “The most responsible use of WordPress community resources would therefore be put to best use by emphasizing high quality contributions that embrace the freedoms provided by the GPL.” By that measure, the best thing Matt could have done is let the community decide what to do with Chris and his business, and instead focus on promoting companies who are doing right by the GPL. Seems the philosophy page needs to be updated.

Although we haven’t heard Matt’s side of the story yet, I don’t know what could be said that will change the hundreds of comments, tweets and blog posts that clearly do not support his decisions as of late. Even the usual crowd of supports have remained silent on this issue, and how can you blame them? For the very same reason, I’m writing anonymously because I can’t afford to gamble on whether speaking out will ultimately damage my WordPress business. The way this played out sets a new precedent of censorship, and the implications are far reaching.


John Sundberg July 18, 2015

“The way this played out should be very concerning to anyone who is doing business in the WordPress industry.”



Eric Bakker July 17, 2015

Chris, Matt should step aside and let YOU take over Wordpress. You took hold of an open sourced product and made something these guys should have years ago but didn’t have either the brains or foresight to do. He feels threatened like a boy who’s toy got taken from him. It’s called “sharing issues”.

It’s crystal clear this guy is nothing more than a big bully with an even bigger attitude problem coupled with serious insecurity issues. (I know a good therapist BTW).

If Matt had any kind of brain in that head of his he would forge a powerful alliance with DIY Themes and you would both profit, and the internet community even more so. Thesis is how Wordpress should be evolving, it allows neophytes like me to build fantastic websites and is a natural progression of open source as far as I’m concerned.

You had every right to be a jerk a few years ago when confronted by a bully boy who felt threatened. Us guys are all jerks at times when we are pushed into a corners by self-important losers. Matt’s true colors have been displayed and it will end up costing him dearly in the future. With a stink self-centered attitude like this you only end up pointing a gun to your own head and allow the public pull the trigger for you. Folks aren’t dumb out there, they will see through Matt’s poor attitude about Thesis.

My advice (for what it’s worth) – Ignore this spoiled brat and just focus purely on your core business, its what you do best. Thesis may well be the BEST WordPress theme on the planet, it is only but a name. Start a NEW dot com (and buy up ALL the best domain extensions) alongside (re-invent yourself man) and nail it down legally so it sticks like a two-pack epoxy glue. Don’t waste your energy on negative head space. This in fact may very well work into your favor. It is worth remembering that any publicity is – good publicity.

Matt’s attitude will end up costing him dearly in the future. Be a bigger man and walk away, your many fans will always stay loyal to you. I wish you all the very best and thank you guys again for creating amazing Wordpress themes.


TJ July 17, 2015

If Matt Mullenweg has $100,000 to piss away on and bundles more on legal bickering, why should I bother volunteering at WordCamp? Why should I assist in WordPress forums? Why should I care about others’ use of “wordpress” in domain names? Why should I bother with anything Mullenweg’s opinion on anything? His credibility has plummeted directly proportional to his hypocrisy. Massive disappointment in ICANN/UDRP, but nothing near the cynicism needlessly introduced by Mullenweg’s pettiness that will significantly damage wordpress as a brand and product for quite some time to follow.

Stay strong Chris.


Chris July 17, 2015

I would not be surprised to read in another update: acquired by Automattic

Who knew that someone in charge of running a billion dollar+ company could go to such obvious extremes just to fuck with you.

Watching that video of Matt made me cringe. What an asshole.


Tim July 17, 2015

I listened to Matt and Tim Ferriss’ 2009 (?) podcast the other day and Matt sounded a nice, gentle guy.

But bottom line: dick move by Matt Mullenweg.

Problem here is Matt is not able to divorce his licensing issues from approaching business in an even handed and considered manner, and this just comes off as vindictive: you only need to look at his comments in this thread to see that. It’s tit for tat school yard stuff.

This is easily solved.

Matt sells (there is no other way you can interpret this purchase and forward as anything but a dick move, sorry), to Chris for the difference between 37,500 and 100,000.

Matt C&Ds all moves on

Matt and Chris agree to disagree on licensing and Matt can fight his fight on licensing in a civilised manner through reasoned debate.

FWIW I am not wedded to Thesis, but use it, and Genesis. I have no issue with Thesis licensing and don’t have an opinion on Matt’s license issues etc etc.

Really, this is ridiculous childish schoolyard stuff.

We’ve got serious issues in the world (Greece, Syria, etc etc) and discussing this is a total waste of energy and disrespectful of real problems.


Jeremy Esland July 17, 2015

Wow! I’m a relatively new user of Thesis – researched the market and decided the Thesis approach would help me get things done faster (and so it does). The original feud, of which I knew nothing, explains why I found some unsubstantiated “Thesis bashing” on the interwebs. Never looked at the licence, couldn’t give a damn what it says – I was buying the functionality, not the licence.

I’ve been involved in two open source projects myself in the past – both dissolved into childish school-yard nonsense. It seems the very characteristics that make some people great contributors also result in a tendency towards childish behaviour and obstinacy. Chris learned from his mistakes and has grown up – Matt obviously hasn’t but, worse, now has money and sycophants fuelling his obviously immature character.

I’m here only to agree with all the posters that have suggested moving on from this as quickly as possible – do not let it escalate any further. Matt has the resources and will to hurt you more – its quite obvious his ego needs to “win”, at any cost, however long it takes. Sad for the WordPress community, very dangerous and depleting for you – the Law of Attraction does work both ways.

Dammit! Ignore all that… I have to be honest – I just want you to be 100% fit and available to work on 2.2+ to sort out a few niggles (and do some more in-depth documentation) ;-)


Doug Belchamber July 17, 2015

Tough situation… Automattic could have used more appropriate channels to get your attention/try to get you to conform to the GPL rather than dropping 100k on the domain out of spite… and taking on the risk of trademark infringement while they do it. Particularly as it does seem very calculated.

Flip side (and playing Devil’s advocate)… Whether Thesis is classified as a theme, plugin or framework, it simply wouldn’t function without the WordPress code sitting underneath it, right? If the license requirements for building on top of WordPress don’t suit your business, why did you not build Thesis as an independent software package? More work, but complete freedom to license as you please.

Is this not a case of taking the bits you need (wp code, reputation and community) to leverage your position, but then ignoring obligations (licensing).

Fwiw – I am a Thesis user.


Chris Pearson July 17, 2015

Doug, this was never about a software license, and the debacle was never meant to be a tactic to get me to conform to the GPL. Matt only learned that Thesis 2 carried a proprietary license within the last few days. As far as he knew, Thesis still carried a split-GPL license (which is true of the Thesis 1 software).

Because of this, I think his motivation for buying, infringing on my trademark, and keeping the trademark cancellation request open stems from something deeper.


Matt July 18, 2015

That’s not true — Mark Jaquith told me you had switched to a completely proprietary license in December 2012.


Genesis Dev July 18, 2015

So now you’ll drag Mark into this… who is next?


Chris Pearson July 18, 2015

Fair enough. From what I can tell, you are attempting to reframe this issue into a licensing dispute (with a side of patents).

The obstacle you will not be able to overcome is this:

If you try to say this was all about licensing (or patents), how will you justify your actions with What does trademark infringement involving a domain have to do with licensing?

Normal people who encounter this scenario will want to know why you didn’t just address the licensing directly.

It looks like you’re committed to digging a deeper hole for yourself here. Why not just admit you were a little too freewheeling with your money and intentions in this instance? People will forgive you because they want to believe you stand for more than this petty crap.


Doug Belchamber July 18, 2015

Well, Chris, I think you’ll do very well out of this ‘tussle’. I would even go as far to suggest you should fuel the fire for as long as you can; Automattic are making it very easy for you to get a lot of free exposure by going about this whole thing in totally the wrong way. Unless of course they do have something in the works that justifies the use of in a non web-related field – which judging by the petulant comments from Matt, seems unlikely.

Just steer clear of the legal stuff for the sake of your family (and sanity!), and ride this one for as long as you can! I would love to get some insight on the net effect on your bottom line over the course of this fiasco.

Automattic are 100k out of pocket (and the rest) too, so if this was a battle, you’re a clear winner so far.

Sorry Matt, I am a big fan of yours, and in fact DO share your views on licensing, but this looks so bad. You seem to be taking a backhanded approach at showing your displeasure for Chris not complying with the GPL. Are you going to go toe to toe with Envato next? Or are their pockets a little too deep?


Shawn July 17, 2015

I would also like to know from Matt why he bought the domain


TourDeFrance July 17, 2015

As a customer, I don’t know your personal issues, and I don’t care to know them. I just want the best WordPress theme, and your theme delivers so far. That’s the only thing important, so please stay focused on it! now redirects to another site — so what? I’ve only been to anyway. So, keep your head cool, and cheers!


Kim July 17, 2015

Wow, it really seems like everything you read these days about Wordpress and the ‘future’ of the platform, how it’s being handled, is designed to LOSE MARKET SHARE… not to get to the Holy Grail of 50% of the web using it.

Wake up Matt, surely your ego isn’t bigger than your brain, is it?


Matt July 17, 2015



Kim July 20, 2015



Sybille July 17, 2015

I have been using the thesis/wordpress combination for a number of websites and love it.

Shame that there isn’t a viable alternative to wordpress – or is there?

Myself (and probably the rest of the world) should be grateful that Matt is not president of the USA


Anonymous July 17, 2015

I’ve contributed to WordPress and it don’t think it’s an affront and insult to the thousands of people who have contributed. GPL is about giving away not about giving away and pestering and forcing everyone to give away too. Matt should either remove GPL from WordPress if that is the case else use the Apache license if he really understands the definition of being open.

These notions of open and close arise out of cluelessness and half-baked notions of openness written in the lawbooks. Be open… not as in wine but as in the spirit.


Michael Lebowitz July 17, 2015

What a l long unpleasant story mostly of the total misunderstanding of the “it’s not personal, it’s just business mentality. iI’s always personal when people are involved. Chris you helped me with my early web work and i truly admire your efforts around thesis. Came to like Studio press for much the same reasons-personal, funny and responsive in interactions after the sale. You have my support. I am still looking for the true kickass photographers’ website that does not tell me how much I liked Hello Dolly” on account of I find it’s presence on my web site to be pretentious, improperly inclusive and inane.


Kevin Woolf July 17, 2015

I really liked Thesis years ago, but since I’ve moved away from WordPress and onto Magento. I sincerely wish there was a better platform for blogging, but WordPress seems to be the software package with the most options, but on the other hand, it’s a really sloppy platform. Chris, I too had legal issues enforcing a contract when that client moved a domain that I owned to his own account. I, too, learned a lesson that the domain registrant is the owner, regardless of where or in what account it sits. That was an expensive lesson, and I had to deal with it the day before my third child was born. I feel your pain, I really do. With your skills, I would encourage you to create a performance-enhanced, SEO-friendly blogging platform for non-savvy website builders and offer it here on DIY Themes. I would volunteer to help where I could.


Mike Kelly July 17, 2015

I’ve spent my FREE time reading ALL this and come to the conclusion…. NOTHING in this world is “Free” – someone, somehow, someway has paid for it – for a reason……. It could be generousity, genuine philanthropy [the rich person made his/her money and simply wants to give some back] or it could be simple kindness in the knowledge ‘there is more to life than money’ but I’ll still reiterate – Nothing is actually Really Free. Be honest, be fair, be true, if you’ve got it it – share it, life is far too short and you cannot take it with you when your time is up. Been there, done that, got the T shirt, the only winners here are the lawyers – who sometimes pay for the ‘Free Lunch’ that the losers actually paid handsomely for.


Alok Sharma July 17, 2015

This drama is nothing new for me as I know WP is best know to grab other people’s property by any means.

About 4 years back, WP suspended one of my friends premium WP account and above all, refused to provide him with the ownership of his domain. My friend opened a case with BBB but WP never responded to that complaint. BBB whisht closing the complaint ruled out that this will have a negative impact on WP’s code of conduct, reputation and ratings. Interestingly, WP was least bothered.

It is believed that the domain was later sold to some one else. Who, where, what, when, why; this is still a mystery.

One thing is for sure; corporates have money power, and they can buy or do whatever they want, by hook or by crook.

As for $100,000 + all the legal fees & expenses, I think all this money could had been used for a good cause. There are so many orphanages around the world. This money could had helped so many orphans.


Piet July 17, 2015

> “Be open… not as in wine but as in the spirit.”

Amen to that!


Anonymous July 18, 2015


I’ve been a huge supporter of WordPress since I first stumbled upon it in around 2008. Since that time it has propelled my career, first into a prestigious job working with WP and then my freelance career. I recommend it to everyone who needs a website. I push Automattic’s as a great alternative to self-hosted sites. My personal blog is even hosted on

Chris, back during the GPL battle, I thought you were a jerk, and I was happy that Matt won that round. I refused to use Thesis, and like

Now, after reading this post and the comments, as well as the one on WP Tavern, I’m singing a different tune. I’m appalled by Matt’s decision to purchase, which is beyond petty. I’m outraged that a man who I thought was on the side of fairness and free speech and goodness for so long has abandoned his ideals (if in fact they were ever genuine) over a domain.

Matt’s actions are those of a bully, plain and simple.

I suspect he purchased just because he could, because he thought it would be funny, and because he knows he now has enough money and influence to be essentially untouchable.

But it’s not the trademark or the domain battle that has me so riled up and disgusted. It’s Matt showing up on this blog to troll your comments and those of others, while the other post on WP Tavern has had comments closed, likely because most who replied condemned his actions.

The bullying here is unspeakable, and in one fell swoop has me questioning everything I thought I knew about WP and Automattic. In fact, I think I may remove all of my websites, including my blog, from because frankly, I don’t think I can stomach paying for Matt’s next exotic vacation.

I feel really badly for all of the good people who work at Automattic, particularly the WooThemes staff who likely had no desire to work for the big A. They now have to do their work knowing their boss is a big A too.

Good luck to you with this battle, and I hope you receive justice in the end.


Jonias July 18, 2015

I seriously think you should by

Of course, Matt could sue you for copyright infringement since he apparently owns the rights of be a complete and total…


Stephen July 18, 2015

There is a good amount of PR on this seemingly pretty controversial topic (I’m not well versed in this at all) … I wonder if this had a play in Matt’s decision to purchase the domain as well (he had to have realized it wouldn’t stay in the dark forever).

I’ll agree 100% to what Chris mentioned above: initially, I purchased Thesis because I wanted a theme I could easily use and understand. Personally, I really don’t care about the licensing issue (at this moment) so long as it gets the job I purchased it for done.


Ross July 18, 2015

Very interesting read, and well done at that. I hope Matt does the right thing. Based on his comments, doesn’t look like hopeful though…


Anonymous July 18, 2015

This just shows that Matt doesn’t have what it takes to be a CEO. Shame on Matt or Automattic for spending $100,000 for Such petty, mean-spirited, vindictive actions of bullies.

If you’re really so gung-ho about the GPL license, how come you don’t go after the theme authors of Themeforest or the the Envato marketplace for selling non-GPL compatible WordPress Themes and Plugins? Because they have the collective assets to fight back? Such cowardly action for Matt/Automattic to go after a lone person.

From now on:
No more volunteering at WordCamps.
No more volunteering at WP Forums.
No more volunteering at WP Trac.
No more volunteering at anything when Automattic reaps the rewards and its paid employees lead almost everything in the WP ecosystem steering it to where Automattic wants it to go.

Customizer, anyone?


Rasputin July 18, 2015

Really guys?
You’re both idiots, for different reasons.

Chris, your arrogance on what a short one word generic domain is worth got you into this mess in the first place. Considering just the search volume alone for “thesis” (which is not looking for your product but for college papers), $37.5k is wishful thinking on your part. So you pass, ok. Larry knows full well what that domain is worth and he was actually doing you a favor when he came back to you. He showed you proof of Matt’s intent and told you straight up the offer on the table was $100k, but he would close with you for $115k – which was a very fair deal. Instead, you decide you’re the smartest guy in the room and assume Larry’s bluffing and add the further foolishness of sticking to your $35k offer. Really stupid move, Larry doesn’t do business that way. However incredulous the idea Matt could be after the domain, it was clearly obvious. You did not step up. You had a major hand in creating this mess yourself. That was stupid.

So then you decide no C/D, just straight to UDRP and forego Federal court. Ok, you might have your reasons for that, but a C/D at least would have initiated a dialog to fix this in a less adversarial fashion. But no, straight to UDRP. No idea what attorney you used, but not including any/all evidence to make a prima facie case is ridiculous. Did you forego demanding a trio of panelists vs just one? UDRP is a crap shoot, no matter which side you’re on. Always demand 3 panelists. Seems as though you went “on the cheap” here too, like you tried with both shots at buying the domain in the first place. Again, not very bright.

Then, after the UDRP decision is already in, you signed the agreement and effectively screwed yourself out of “protecting your TM” and getting the domain. WTF? What possible claim against the validity of your TM for “Thesis” as a software platform are you so insecure about? Seriously?

Matt… you’re behaving like a petulant child. You may have some disagreement with Chris from years back but your current actions are inconceivably stupid. There is absolutely no question you are engaging in a direct violation of Chris’ TM. That’s a no brainer. To arrogantly brag about it so openly just adds to the egregiousness of the violation, and supplies verifiable proof of the wrongdoing as well. You may have money, but this was not very bright.

What will your board of Directors say about such an act? Your VC’s, how will they view it? Your attack on Chris’ TM for the term “Thesis” as a software platform has no merit, and you know that. You cite “The mark is merely descriptive”. Last I checked, Thesis has a whole different definition. Its not like he tried to TM “Plugin Platform”, c’mon. Admit it, you just used that to attempt to bully Chris again. More smoke and mirrors, more bad acts. You must have a very forgiving board and backers, or you maybe just think they won’t notice when this turd really starts to stink?

What possible legal use could you have for this domain? None. You bought it just because you could and then used it to bully a developer. Bravo, nice ethics (/sarcasm). You’re fortunate that Chris wasn’t smart enough, well funded enough, or shrewd enough to realize that if he took you to Federal Court, you’d get your ass handed to you in a heartbeat. Sure, you may have the funding to fight such a battle, but its a dead dog loser for you. Oh, and the fine for such a violation under the Lanham Act? $100k. Congrats, you’ll lose the domain and $100k more. Brilliant move.

And that ridiculous settlement agreement? You’re both, again, acting like fools. Chris for signing it, and Matt for not immediately indemnifying himself from the wrath of a Federal judge by signing it himself. Matt could actually file another UDRP and include the substantive evidence he foolishly omitted and win that way too. A smart man would file this whole ball of slime in Federal court though, and collect damages.

Guys, you’re not in grade school anymore. Stop behaving like hormonal children. At this point, the right thing to do – for both of you – is for Chris to pay Matt the price paid for the domain ($100k), Matt to transfer the domain to Chris and both put this whole sorry mess behind you. That is a win for each of you. Just do it.

Whatever your licensing quibble is from before, deal with that separately or just let it go. I know nothing about the validity of that dispute and I’m not weighing in on either side. It is clear that you’re both making foolish decisions now though, those you can fix with the scenario above and also save face in the eyes of the community.

You guys may be smart at coding, but your people skills and decision making definitely could use some work.


Chris Pearson July 18, 2015

Fair points, Rasputin.

But you failed to acknowledge the obvious wild card regarding sending this issue to a federal court: Automattic had lots of options for dragging this thing out over time and spending me under the table.

As I mentioned in the post, I have a young daughter who is just over 5 months old at the time I write this. In addition, I participated in a deposition for a federal lawsuit in the past that dragged out over a few years. I saw what that lawsuit did to the parties involved, and it wasn’t pretty.

So even if I had a clear cut winner in this case, I would lose life points—time and energy that could be better spent anywhere else—all in pursuit of some twisted form of justice in this case. (I don’t see what’s “just” about throwing one’s life away.)

Ultimately, I went the “cheap” route, because I knew it would be over soon and we could move on with our lives. Plus, I also knew this would pull the curtain back on Matt, and now people can see him for who he really is. Perhaps that’s worth more than an unused domain!


Jitendra July 18, 2015

Hi Chris,

I remember the tussle between you two in 2010 and at that time, I was against you thinking that you are going against the very principles on which WordPress was founded. However now I can see who the real culprit is. In this episode, Matt is totally on the wrong side and I would say he has lost the respect he had in my eyes and the respect for you has gone up.

Hope that better sense prevail and that you get back what is legitimately yours. Best wishes from India.


Robert July 18, 2015

This is awful.

2 things.

Matt – you’ve plummeted in my estimation.

You’ve behaved like a petulant child and come across very bad indeed.

FWIW I’ll never spend a penny with you guys again as a direct result of how you have chosen to behave.

In my life. I try and make a personal choice about who I enrich in my purchasing decisions. You’re now off of that list.

Chris, I don’t use Thesis, so am not a customer. You’re a great writer and paint a picture of great injustice laced with humility. David and Goliath and Matt’s playing the part to great aplomb!

Ego can be a terrible thing. The evidence of what it can do is right here for all to see.

Anyhow. Good luck to you all, hope you can both see the inherent destructiveness of what’s gone down and realise that smashing things up like this seldom ends well.


WordPress User July 18, 2015

This is awful. I hope it can be sorted out. I love WordPress and a good deal of that is the sheer freedom it gives for people to just come up with an idea and run with it. Like Anon (the WordPress contributor) the GPL (which is not the sole prerogative of Automattic anyway) doesn’t mean you give something away and then hound people about it. It’s not a gift if you expect something specific and concrete back–it’s a favor and compulsory return of favors is not freedom.

As someone who works with WordPress software, I think ultimately we are all in the same boat as Chris. It makes me very uncomfortable. Many PHP developers in Pakistan (my country) have made a good, respectable living using WordPress and while we’re grateful for the opportunity, the vast majority would not be able to put together even a token of the amount it probably cost Chris to get to this point. The outcome of these legal battles affect all of us, since I know my friends and colleagues would think twice before working on an idea simply because it MIGHT offend someone we don’t have the economic or political clout to take on. Fear, caution, ideas trimmed to fit legalistic technicalities…is that what open source is or was supposed to be about? Even though I don’t agree with some of Chris’ actions regarding the patent application, Automattic’s actions seem vindictive and with no good reason. “” makes NO sense or connection with Themeshapers and Matt’s comments here just seem to prove that Chris was right–the literal answer to why this was done is a combination of deflecting the question with “You learned better, but did I get an apology?” and “If you learned better, how come you still aren’t doing things the way I proved is a better way of doing things?” Then we have distraction with the patent issue–come on, guys, nobody forfeits their trademark just because they made a (supposedly) dick move with patents. In fact, doesn’t Apple have an actual patent on rounded corners? But nobody questions their right to and no other company (say, Google) takes it upon themselves to prevent other people from finding Apple at…no, it’s not anyone’s job to “protect” people from choosing the “wrong” product. That sort of nannying isn’t what freedom looks like either.

And honestly, not to speak ill of the dead, but this incident somehow also reminded me of Steve Jobs. Everybody’s favorite nice/cool/visionary guy in tech du jour, except a bit…vicious with those licensing laws.


Rasputin July 18, 2015

I stand corrected on the number of panelists. Not only did you have 3 of them, you actually had some good ones in there. Bad move to not include a simple screenshot of the page though, they really wanted to give it to you.


Anonymous July 18, 2015

None of your business Matt. Even if he did, you are no one to police around. Speak for yourself. You own your software, not us… not the developers or the users. Mind your own business.


Genesis Developer July 18, 2015

It never harmed your business before either. And you’ve made a gazillion times more money than Chris. There are a lot of dictionary words out there Matt so go ahead and buy some. From license to trademark the latest excuse is a dictionary word. *w*t*f?

You want the community to come together and sue you?


David Esrati July 18, 2015

In all respect your answer about the name being worth more is just digging you deeper in the hole.
“If he wanted a domain with “thesis” in it, there are 5,500 other domains with “thesis” in them he could have UDRP’d, 99 other thesis.* TLDs registered, and 100s of thesis.* TLDs available and unregistered he could pick up with no legal costs, and not inviting any attention to his trademarks, license, or patents.”
How many other domains has Automattic bought for more than a few hundred dollars?
How many are redirected?
You aren’t helping yourself.
For the sake of everyone- sell Chris his stupid domain for $37,500.
Donate the money to a project like CiviCRM that makes a difference-
And be the bigger man.
The negative publicity over this- isn’t helping anyone- except the person you are out to get.
Pearson loves the free publicity.
I’m a former Thesis user- fwiw.
And frankly- copyrights have proven to mean almost nothing anymore- thanks to trolls, and domain review boards.
I’m glad you and Automattic are doing so well- but stop being stupid.


Joanne July 18, 2015

I recently listened to the interview between Chris and Matt, and I don’t see where Chris was being a jerk. He stuck to facts and his convictions.

If you want to be upset with him for being defensive, then you should blame Matt for continually twisting his words. Several times you’ll hear Chris say, “I didn’t say that” in response to Matt’s interpretation. Matt had no interest in understanding Chris, just in making him look bad.

The only criticism Chris had of Matt was that Matt should be more responsible with the public statements he makes since he is trusted in the community.

Chris’s sin is intelligence, passion, and transparency. But now he has to grovel and call himself a jerk to mollify all those who can’t follow a debate or can’t see how he was maneuvered.

And now, five years later, you see who the real dick is.


Scott Winterroth July 18, 2015

First of all Chris, I’m personally really sorry to hear about this situation. I see both sides but mostly feel the Goliath won on this case and it makes my stomach wrench. It’s situations like this that make people like me lose faith in the “community” and while Matt won the case he lost in the court of public opinion.

Also, most domain brokers are scum of the earth…


Dattaraj Vidyasagar July 18, 2015

I am always on your side, Chris. When I watched that video, it showed the farthest possible reaction a wounded man can give.

I think its only because of your great intelligence, Chris, about designing the Thesis.

I am certain that such intelligent design of Thesis, could not be possible for your opponents, not once even in a blue moon…!

I am always on your side, Chris. You made the use of WP so easy and that made me love WP. You are the only cause of my love to WP. Else using WP without Thesis is just a nonsense.

I will prey to God for you, Chris. Keep it up with more such beautiful creations….!


Lew Lepley July 18, 2015

I LOVE THESIS. It was a no brainer to buy the lifetime license and I never regret the decision. I’ve built dozens of websites with it. Why do we subject beautiful concepts like Wordpress AND Thesis to lawyering and sully the worlds best tools? Mr. Pearson has admitted to being a jerk, and just wants to make a living making a wonderful tool for us web folks. I really respect that. To me, Matt is the one being a jerk, exerting his massive ego, instead of furthering the cause of making better websites. The GPL issue is a smokescreen. People deserve to know about Thesis, regardless of whether it’s free or not.


Paulus July 18, 2015

This is so transparent it’s embarrassing.

Matt you haven’t once responded to questions of why you bought the domain name. Why not?

Every time someone asks you either ignore them or start waffling on about licensing. You should’ve been a politician mate.

If you didn’t buy the domain for the reasons everyone here thinks then why did you brag about it on the video and smirk?

I’ve never used Thesis but my next port of call is diythemes, to check it out.


Kevin Woolf July 18, 2015

Chris, why not start a crowd-funding campaign to raise money for legal fees and stick it to Matt in court. With the fine for this violation under the Lanham Act being upwards of the price Matt paid for the domain, this might just offset the cost of the domain and he’ll give it to you for pennies on the dollar. That’s if he’s smart and wants to continue to work for Automattic. He’s probably already taken shit from investors and his board, so as soon as he’s served he’ll probably settle.


Stephan Kinsella July 18, 2015

I’m a Thesis fan and user, and an IP attorney. Also a libertarian who recognizes how immoral patent, copyright, and trademark law are–they should all be abolished ( I’m not sure what you mean that you “must” enforce your trademark. I assume you mean that if you don’t, you might lose it. So what? That just means that anyone can use it–even you. But you can’t stop others from using it. So what? That’s competition and the free market. If you wanted to maintain and enforce your trademark why not simply offer the other side a license for $1. They would have no reason not to agree, and you would have maintained your trademark. I don’t think the other side were bullies at all–you were, for trying to use state IP law to prevent them for doing what they wanted. I see nothing wrong with someone who homesteaded a domain from selling it to whoever they want for whatever price they want, nor with the buyer using it to redirect to their own service or site. That’s free speech and the free market and free competition. No one is being defrauded. There should be no trademark law or UDRP preventing this–and people should not use such immoral laws aggressively.


Carla July 23, 2015

There have been a lot of “what the . . . ” comments made on this post, but this is the cherry on top.

You are an intellectual property attorney that thinks that laws protecting intellectual property are immoral?


And you don’t see a problem with that?

I’m not even sure what to say to that. I would have to assume that you are someone who has never personally created something of value

So let me explain it in a way that might makes sense to you. Let’s say you spend hours working for a client on a case, and then someone walks in and picks up your paycheck.

Would you, being the libertarian that you are, be okay with that? Would you say, “I’ll let them make money off my work, time, and expertise.” This expertise which I’m assuming you came by through years of expensive college education.

Let’s say you are okay with doing that once. What about the next time? How about if every time you went to pick up your check for work performed, someone waltzed in and did the same thing?

How long would you be willing to continue doing that? I think you, and anyone, at some point would say, “Screw this, if someone else is going to be getting the benefit, why should I keep doing the work.”

You miss the fundamental drive of the free market system. It’s not about everyone benefiting equally and getting the same. It’s based on the understanding that people at the core are self centered.

It is a rewards system where productive output is rewarded, and the cool thing is that consumers get to decide what has the most value to them and what should get the best reward. That is the freedom of it.

The free market system is not about a bunch of unimaginative slackers reaping the rewards of the productive minority.


Anonymous July 24, 2015


Stephan, you seem to have a pretty misguided conception of what exactly a free market economy does and does not entail…


Stephan Kinsella July 24, 2015

“You are an intellectual property attorney that thinks that laws protecting intellectual property are immoral?


And you don’t see a problem with that?”

People often ask such weird questions. Is this supposed to be an argument for IP law? I suppose you are accusing me of hypocrisy. Let’s say you’re right–Kinsella is a hypocrite. Does it follow from this that IP law is justified?

and in fact, no, there is no “problem.” Is there “a problem” when an oncologist makes a nice career out of fighting cancer–if he succeeded, there would be no cancer and he would be out of a job. Is there “a problem” when someone who is against the drug war is a defense attorney who is paid to help people when they are accused by the state of a drug offense? I only help people defend themselves against the immoral patent and copyright system. But even if I didn’t, this has no bearing on whether iP law is legitimate.

Let me ask you this. Suppose there is something wrong with IP law. Does that mean no one who really understands the system–that is, IP lawyers–is entitled to recognize this and point it out? If the system is really corrupt and unjust, who would you *expect* to recognize this, if not for people who really understand it?

I am an experienced IP lawyer–I’ve been a partner at a top 100 US law firm and general counsel of a high tech company–and probably the world’s leading expert on IP policy from a free market perspective–believe me, I have researched this issue and given it more thought than probably anyone on the planet. See this.

“I’m not even sure what to say to that. I would have to assume that you are someone who has never personally created something of value”

This is a stupid ad hominem argument, you do realize. You do realize it is possible that IP law is illegitimate and that people are enttitled to discover this and point it out. And as it happens, I am a named inventor on various patents and I have made close to a million dollars on various “copyrighted” books I’ve published (e.g. with Oxford U. Press), so please, spare me the amateur comments.

“So let me explain it in a way that might makes sense to you. Let’s say you spend hours working for a client on a case, and then someone walks in and picks up your paycheck.

Would you, being the libertarian that you are, be okay with that?”

Whether “I” would “be okay” is irrelevant to whether IP law is legitimate. But in any case, in this situation you are describing, *there is an agreement*, a contract, between me and the client. That is why he owes me “the paycheck”. In the case of IP, *there is no agreement* between the patentee and the “infringer”.

“You miss the fundamental drive of the free market system.”

I am a well known libertarian (free market) legal theorist. See my site. Please don’t embarrass yourself.

“The free market system is not about a bunch of unimaginative slackers reaping the rewards of the productive minority.”

So you have no coherent argument for IP other than “hey I think people ‘should be rewarded'”? Wow, I’ve never heard that argument before.


Vicki July 18, 2015

Thesis is the only reason I still use Wordpress. Had it not been for you and your team, Chris, and the amazing support from the members of the DIYThemes community, I would have moved my sites to Drupal years ago.

Thanks for making WP tolerable.


Jeremy Esland July 18, 2015

AutoMATTic haiku (from their home page):

Inspired by you
Striving to create good
Nothing is perfect.

Mmmmm… I wonder: did the lawyers write that third line as a general insurance against their egotistical founder completely contradicting the first two lines?


Scott Fennell July 18, 2015

I’m surprised how ignorant people are about the importance of licensing. Go learn the history of your craft before trashing Matt.


Piet July 18, 2015

Hmmm, the article is not about licensing.

It’s about Matt Mullenweg abusing power and money buying a dictionary word domain that he says is not WordPress related, redirecting it to (which is WordPress related) and now suing Chris Pearson’s earlier established trademark of Thesis.

Matt still has to answer to what the reason is for this bullying and childish behaviour and everyone suspects it’s the licensing disagreement Matt and Chris had 5 years ago. But again, licensing is not what this article and the ensuing discussion/comments are about.


vicka July 18, 2015

good write up. Have learnt today about thesis… recently i listened to the interview between Chris and Matt, and I don’t see where Chris was being a jerk at all.


vicka July 18, 2015

Even if he did, you are no one to police around. Speak for yourself. For me, I am always on your side real guy Chris. You made the use of WP so easy and that made me love WP and that makes it lovely


Nate Porter July 18, 2015

Matt’s responses make perfect sense to me. In short, he’s built the world of opensource GPL and Chris has acted in opposition to that. The rest of the details are fairly meaningless. It sounds to me that if Chris actually was fully GPL compliant in all areas of his business Matt would back down.


John Overall July 18, 2015

First congrates Chris to you and your wife on your first child and with the sleepless nights you have been having as a new parent this mess must be adding to the dark circles under the eyes. Relax it will pass..

Wow this has been interesting I arrived to the party too late to leave a comment at WPTavern but since it’s still ongoing here thought I would chime in. As the creator and co-host of the WPpluginsAtoZ podcast as well as a site developer I had of course followed the actions back in 2010 and gave allot of thought to the issues there but soon realized they are moot.

Since the licensing is all about simply being able to build a great website and either sell it or do it for a client. It’s just a matter of knowing if the software you buy will allow for that and pretty much there are crazy licenses on all sorts of plugins and themes (look at envato for great examples of non GPL limits) and for the most part they mean very little as long as I get a great product for me and my clients.

But of course all the talk about licenses and patents is simply a red herring to distract people from the real event here and that was that Matt (Automatic) purchased a domain in bad faith knowing full well that Thesis is a major player in the WordPress community. Pretty much anyone who has been in the community longer that 3 months knows what is being referenced when someone says Thesis (and it is not about a simple dictionary term).

That Matt would do something that is in direct contradiction to the things he proclaims (openness, fairplay, fairness, ect.) surprised me a bit. Then he acted like such a spoiled child and snarky by showing here I can buy and redirect to my theme blog that will show him, then to make mention of it at a WordCamp even more snark it was just low. It does indicate the reason he bought the domain which looks to be simply to piss off Chris.

That Matt violated a trademark here is not in doubt since the name is trademarked in the software space and he chose to direct the domain to a software site. This whole event is really sad but my opinion and respect for Matt has fallen dramatically due to this event. And it seems from what I am seeing all over the web it is similar… Time to redeem yourself Matt…

Chris my opinion of you has risen dramatically especially in how you handled this situation and tried to get it closed with very little fan fair.

Enjoy your daughter you have probably heard it but they grow so fast my youngest in now 6 and it seems yesterday he was just a baby.


Matthew Horne July 19, 2015

I will leave this here for historical reference:

GPL is important to Matt because it allows him to take peoples code and put his name on it.

Matt is a Political Scientist which means he is very good at avoiding questions and deflecting attention from his questionable behavior.

People think WordPress would be nothing without Matt, but in reality, Matt has only reaped the rewards of everyone elses work.

His goal of 51% of all websites running on WordPress is frankly frightening and nobody should ever attain such power, least not people like Matt.

WordPress is first and foremost Matts business and people should not forget that. It is Matts employees who direct the entire WordPress project under the banner of openness and are hostile to those that don’t agree.

Matt will become a billionaire of the backs of everyone else. Sure a few theme and plugin companies will make a few million, but ultimately the goal for Matt is to reach the billionaires club.

WordPress may appear to be “open source” and open in nature, but it is far from the reality. What happens behind closed doors is unknown. What is known is that Matt gets considerably more wealthy and is buying up theme companies and plugin companies which serves to strengthen his monopoly over WordPress.

It is concerning that nobody in WordPress seems to mind the monopoly.

Think about the recent WordPress features, nothing was voted on, its not democratic, they have been forced upon people whether they like it or not and as Matt gains even more power and influence, he will become more emboldened to take on bigger players in order to secure his own dominance.

Chris is the only one who has had the courage to test GPL and question Matts motives.

If people think Matt is doing things for the greater good, they are sorely lacking in foresight.

WordPress does not need Matt and he will tarnish the open source nature of the software. Think of what Murdoch did to news outlets. One man with too much power and influence is never a good thing, yet we keep making the same mistakes by voting for them with our dollars.


Tim July 19, 2015

Thanks Matt Horne, well put.

The fact Matt Mullenweg can spend 100k being vindictive is astonishing.

How many clean water kits for Africa would this buy.

Answer: sh$tloads.

Absolutely astonishing, childish, vindictive and frightening.


ChrisH July 19, 2015 is still available – any takers ?


Patrick Schriel July 19, 2015

My sites runs WordPress and Thesis, and I’m very happy with the combination. I also use VaultPress, which makes me a payed client of both Chris and Matt.

What bothers me in this discussion is that this thing is being fought out above my head which can potentially harm my business.

What I need you (the both of you) to do is act like gentlemen and solve this asap. It doesn’t matter who calls the other first as long as you do it.


Steve July 19, 2015

Matt – why not just drop the re-direct? Chris – would this suffice?

Or redirect it to a new site where Matt and Chris could debate their issue whether or not Thesis 2 violates GPL – I’d be interested in seeing both sides of that argument.

No expert here, but if there are so many problems with WordPress, why hasn’t the open community, or some genius(es) come up with a better solution? Perhaps it is in the works, and that will disrupt the whole ball of wax.

Just a frustrated Thesis user that switched most sites over to Site Origin, who made things work so much easier – even suggested to Chris that he should have bought him out or hired him to make Thesis easier to use (or make it simplier to take advantage of for old non-techie farts like me). Just my 0 cents worth.

Interesting drama here though …


Chilly Wind Blows July 19, 2015

I’m a WP and DIY Thesis user.

This Matt M. guy is giving me an extreme ‘chill’…

Abuse of power is nothing new.

Using a public forum to admit to trademark infringement and then continuing with attempts to justify the illegal…

Well, all WP users should be very afraid, very afraid indeed!

But will the Board of Directors and investors take action and clip Matt M.s wings?

If not, whose next on Matt M.s list? It could be anyone of us.

Maybe will see a slacking of business activity… That would ruffle some feathers.

Chris, hang in there. You are a genius and deserve accolades, not abuse from this chilly Matt M. guy.


Holly July 19, 2015

This guy seems to have luck on his side; exactly why you are doing the right thing to discontinue your pursuit legally (never let yourself forget this).


Anonymous July 19, 2015

I dont understand how Matt could make such a bad move. I am with you Chris, no one needs to be a lawyer to understand Matt´s intentions.

This bad PR is gonna cost a fortune to Matt.


Dev July 19, 2015

I am not sure if people read between the lines here but I am web developer since 15 years and see completely different story here.

Chris, you are hiding between your customers but you are not telling the complete truth here. You pushed Matt by your “interpretation ” of GPL and yes he went to far by messing with your “TM” but he has ALL rights to protect GPL here.

WP is GPL , ANYTHING based on it should be GPL. Period. Dual licensing can be applied to your own code AS long as it does not interact with WP, the second it does, it should be GPL. You agreed on it the first time you started using WP.

Chris, not only that you are hiding the truth, but bud, do you really think that this patent you are trying to push is anything new?

You are trying to patent the way servers, PHP , CSS HTML communicate with each other, than you are trying to patent a color picker, theme styling , styling, theme options, menu structures, and you are doing all of this by hiding behind fancy wording ( boxes or whatever) and fake wire frames.

Than what? You are going to stick it to Matt with lawsuit because WP is based on all of those languages.

Have you forgotten that you have built thesis on top of PHP, CSS ,HTML , JS and WP? Now you want a patent. Than you going to sue me because I used similar approach to theme development.

I never used thesis, never seen it code or anything but I am 150000% sure that it is nothing new in web development. It is just a convenience for your customers. And that convenience has been made many times before your “patent”. That is all. And I also see your customers replying here. No “other side”. You can maybe sell this to your customers or anyone who is not looking under the hood, but as far I see this , Matt is developer and he saw what you are doing so he kept on pushing back.

Chris, step back since I am sure that I am not the only dev who is smelling crap here.

Matt draw a line, you went to far, the face of WP is on the line here and you should protect it. Not with your $$ but with your actions, and best one would be to let this one go but keep an eye on those “patents”.


Jeremy Esland July 20, 2015

The reason for taking the patent was explained here.

Seems like a sensible commercial move to me, under the circumstances.


Chris Pearson July 20, 2015

Dev, thanks for commenting. As I said earlier, I am not “hiding” behind anything—my customers must agree to the licensing before downloading the software. It doesn’t get any more transparent than that.

Your comment that Matt has “rights” to protect the GPL is unsupported by established law. In fact, courts have repeatedly refused to hear cases involving licensing disputes because the effects would be too far-reaching in the tech industry.

Matt’s opinion, which is shared by a vocal minority of open source advocates, is that licensing be applied downstream (aka to software extensions). There is no legal basis for this opinion; it’s simply how those in power in open source communities would prefer things to work.

Because this is an opinion that is not supported by established law, there are no “rights” to protect the application of an open-source license.

As far as your conspiracy theory involving patents is concerned, you say:

Than what? You are going to stick it to Matt with lawsuit because WP is based on all of those languages.

The assumptions here are laughable. The only person in this situation with enough money and enough of a disregard for living genuinely to pull off something like this is Matt himself.

A lawsuit to try and prove those things—which would not only be ludicrous, but I would also lose handily—would likely cost millions of dollars. Even if I had the money to blow, I could think of an infinite number of ways to put it to better use.

Next, you completely disqualify your credentials with the following statement:

I never used thesis, never seen it code or anything but I am 150000% sure that it is nothing new in web development.

As you openly admit, you have no idea what you’re talking about. Why would anyone buy into your arguments, especially when you’ve gone ahead and disqualified yourself?


Dev July 20, 2015

Chris, please do not try to pull me in to d… measuring contest since I am sure you will loose.
Discredited myself by not using thesis? Bud you are more than full of yourself.

All I have seen on thesis is this and it was more than enough to spit out that paragraph.

If and that is a huge IF, thesis is anything new in web development , be sure that I would be the first one to use it. I would avoid all theme frameworks and bow to it . But it is not and you should be aware of that.

Looking at that video again , Redux, Unyson or Genesis are light years ahead of thesis. And I dont see any of them trying to patent anything or cry about GPL.


Chris Pearson July 20, 2015

Classy comment, Dev.

I like to dig into things and make judgments for myself rather than relying on the opinions of others…especially others who have preconceived notions about the way things ought to work.

But hey, we obviously choose to operate differently. I enjoy building things and testing them in the free market; you enjoy being critical and using the opinions of others to justify your remarks.


Mathuseo July 20, 2015

I just can hope you both act this like gentleman. My business depends on WordPress and Thesis. @Matt: If you prefer a WP future without Thesis, you (that means Automattic) need to give us an other Theme like Thesis at the hand AND a Tool to transfers all data fine.

That’s not what I want (“act this like gentleman”) BUT if not, Matt, you need to give as an equipollent alternative and a easy way to change from Thesis to this alternative.

BUT, I want to repeat it, go in PEACE together, come to one table and act this like gentleman!

Regards from Germany,


Jason July 20, 2015

Chris, seriously add a floating top of page button to this site! LOL

And please contact me for a friendly chat. I want to talk to you about next steps.


Bercana July 20, 2015

I’ve been a web designer / developer for 20+ years and a WordPress developer for at least 7 or 8 of those. But I’ve been feeling for awhile that WordPress is been becoming a bloated mess. I spent so much time just hiding unnecessary crap from users so their heads don’t explode. And although there are two sides to every story… and I’m not a fan of Thesis at all (sorry)… Matt going after the Thesis Trademark is sociopathic and revolting. I may start to transition away from WordPress and towards Craft CMS. It was a nice ride but I have this gut feeling that WordPress may have peaked. I feel like it will need a massive overhaul to maintain it’s position. And I don’t give a flip about GPL. What I care about is quality software. And WordPress… I’m not so sure anymore.


Adam Teece July 20, 2015

Separating everything, and since I can’t find the answer anywhere.

I just want to know the reason why Automattic bought and pointed it to

What is the business goal here? Forgetting TM infringement and all, just why were they so interested in that domain name and what benefit would it bring to the Wordpress Community?


Scott Fennell July 20, 2015

Everyone on this thread who feeds their family with WordPress has the GPL to thank for that. We’re living on the backs of Matt, the WP core devs, and the rest of the community that supports the GPL. When you decide to bail on that, you’re biting the hand that feeds you.

It seems that the majority of the chorus on this thread are satisfied customers of a terrific theme framework who don’t know any better and don’t need to.


Anon July 20, 2015

What kind of nonsense is this? Everyone on this thread that feeds their family with WP has their own efforts to thank for it. Otherwise I guess you better start your list with Linus Torvalds


Scott Fennell July 20, 2015

Absolutely, I’m tremendously thankful to Linus and the rest of the GPL community. This is an amazing time we live in, where anyone can pull themselves up the bootstraps of open source technology.


Tim July 20, 2015


Why not everyone live in a socialist dystopia and make everything for nothing all because the Internets was made free by its inventor.



Chris Pearson July 20, 2015

Scott, your comments are fraught with correlation/causation fallacies.

Am I a good developer because of the GPL, or am I a good developer because I sweat the details, harness the power of patterns, and attempt to master the fundamentals?

If you think your success is due to the GPL, I pity you, friend.


Scott Fennell July 20, 2015

You’re a good developer because you’re brilliant and hard-working, no doubt.

But you’re a successful developer, in part, due to WordPress. And you’re a WordPress developer, in part, due to the GPL.

The majority on this thread seem to think that Matt has transformed into some kind of tyrant, hell-bent on destroying Thesis for no reason. Remember what happened when Theme Forest wasn’t GPL? TF authors were banned from speaking at WordCamps:

The GPL is an important part of open source development and it has been for a long time. Embrace it!


Tim July 20, 2015

Sorry Scott, there are two issues here.

1. Licensing, which is a philosophical discussion that proponents can discuss till the cows come home.

2. Matt’s actions in buying a domain that is clearly linked to Thesis theme, then redirecting to his site, admitting to doing so, and also basically admitting malevolent/bad faith/vindictive reasons for doing so.

To have a rational discussion without divesting the issues is not possible, because you will involve the subjective aspect of licensing with the absolutely objective example of bad faith actions in buying Thesis.

If Chris took this back with his tracert he’d win the case and prove without question that Matt’s intent was nothing but to be vindictive (he has admitted as such).



Kevin Muldoon July 20, 2015

We are living off the backs of Matt? Mmmm. No. Though if you do feel that way, you should be aware that WordPress itself was forked from other software and most people commenting on this page have contributed to WordPress in some way or another; be it the core, uploading a free theme or plugin, etc.

And in that regard, I would argue that plugin and theme developers are arguably the main reason that WordPress is the platform it is today (I’m certainly not discounting what core contributors do, but the main selling point of WordPress has always been the volume of themes and plugins when compared to other platforms).

I am a big supporter of GPL and do not agree with Chris’s stance on GPL; however, that in no means justifies what Automattic did.

They have an obligation to represent the WordPress community. Instead, they are hijacking domains in a petty attempt to get back at someone who has not embraced GPL. This whole thing has alienated many in the WordPress community, including myself.


Chris Pearson July 21, 2015

I started using WordPress because MovableType templates were based on perl, and PHP was much easier to work with. The GPL was not a factor in my decision, as I had no idea what license either MT or WP carried at the time.

Like many others, I cared that I could make dynamic title tags and enhance my SEO, and this was simpler with PHP.

And yes, Matt wants my business to die. Nobody here thinks that’s ok—even ardent GPL supporters as well as people who were fed up with my behavior in 2010.

Remember—my business brings people to WordPress and increases the overall growth of the platform. Instead of causing harm, I have done the exact opposite by spurring innovation and also forging a significant piece of the premium Theme and Plugin markets we all know today.

Despite this, Matt seems more than happy to try and cause damage to my business. In this regard, this issue is extremely one-sided.


Another Anon July 22, 2015

But Scott, Themeforest is not really GPL. Why do you claim they are? When roughly 97% of the authors aren’t using that license scheme, you can’t really claim that they are somehow magically compliant… though you recommend buying there on your own site?


Matthew Horne July 20, 2015

Matt forked another piece of software and changed its names. Together with another developer they made a few changes and released to public. From then on its been a community driven project.

Matts success is entirely driven by the community and I would argue that GPL is of such importance to Matt because it enables him to reap the rewards of everyone else’s work.

People should remember that WordPress is Matts business, nobody else’s. The open source aspect of it is essentially free labor for Matt.

It is Matts employees that govern and guide the direction of WordPress with Matt having the final say. Matt can overturn the entire communities will on a particular feature. That is not democratic.

WordPress is run a under the illusion of democracy, in reality Matt pulls all the strings.

Sure some people make a good amount of money from it, but that isn’t because WordPress is GPL. GPL is Matts license to reap the rewards of a free labor force.

If you think Matt has the communities best interest at heart you are sorely lacking in foresight. Buying is not in the communities interest and the fact that he won this battle will only embolden him next time.

Developers are scared to oppose Matt because they fear he will destroy their businesses and hang them out to dry. Ask yourself, what king of community is that, where those that make WordPress successful are terrified to even question the dear leader. Sound familiar?

Matt is a politician, he knows how to twist and bend the will of the general public “community” and use it to his advantage. All i can say is, don’t say we didn’t warn you and god help you if you get on the wrong side of Matt.


Todd Smith July 20, 2015

Thanks for sharing in such depth, Chris. It sounds like a very stressful situation. I suggest getting a book called, “Loving What Is” by Byron Katie and finding a facilitator to work with.


Anonymous July 21, 2015

I saw a gentleman here commented about Matt providing bread and butter to countless theme and plugin developers. (Arrogance at its best :))

Ok, let’s accept it momentarily for argument’s sake.

BUT, my dear gentleman, here the issue is not – GPL, Matt – the bread provider, godly CMS WordPress and bla bla.

The REAL ISSUE we’re discussing here is the unethical act of MM and Automattic (grabbing the domain and redirection). That’s clear misuse of muscle and money. Not good!

So stop diverting from the real issue and provide an answer if you have any sane and logical explanation for that act.

Here I must also say that I’m not blindly saying that Chris is always right. He was definitely not in good light back in 2010, BUT this time MM has axed his own feet.

Ask MM to have a big heart and mend things to minimize the damage. We’re humans and commit mistakes in life. Chris did in 2010 and MM did in 2015. It’s as simple as this.

Chris, we love Thesis coz it’s better than other solutions. I’d like to see this ported to some other budding platform like Ghost. I’ll request you to once consider it.

And I had to leave this comment anonymously for the simple reason others have explained in their comments several times on this post.

If we can’t criticize MM using our real identities, this itself tells how sad is the situation of WP community which is afraid of the dictator who may ruin their business.


David Alexander July 21, 2015

What a s##t bag! Really sorry to hear that Chris. You build a revolutionary product and with this kind of BS it has taken your time away from continuing that path. Hopefully this will only serve as motivation to continue kicking ass and taking your products in pioneering directions. I guess everyone is guilty of thinking you acting like a bit of a jack ass but hey when you are under attack you have to stand your ground.

Hopefully the tide will change and the public opinion will be enough to make Wordpress get a conscience. is there a vote or something that could be setup to get numbers of people who think that Wordpress has treated DIYThemes unfairly in the matter?

Sucks but what doesn’t kill you….


ChrisH July 21, 2015

dumb question but why not have Thesis3 as a standalone site builder ? (apart from the cost and time and risk)


Chris Pearson July 21, 2015

I developed the current Thesis platform for nearly 3 years. I’ve spent another year exploring how to build Thesis extensions—Skins and Boxes, but especially Skins—in the best possible manner.

Though I am keen on building a stand-alone site manager, I also acknowledge that this will take a very significant amount of time.

The risk doesn’t bother me; I know whatever I build will be solid and attract a strong base of users.


ChrisH July 21, 2015

I guess this would only be worthwhile if it were possible to build a something with demonstrably better SEO than wordpress. Saas platform for marketeers.


Chris Pearson July 21, 2015

Chris, this is an interesting topic that is widely misunderstood.

By itself, WordPress is essentially worthless for SEO. Themes and Plugins—the only components responsible for HTML output—are the only elements that have an effect on SEO.

Because of this, replicating the SEO success of WordPress sites on a different platform is quite simple.


WordPress God July 21, 2015

Hi mate

Seriously thoughts are with you at this point in time. Publicly you are taking it well and I am sure your new family life helps you keep things in perspective. However I’m sure it is not easy, so well done you!

I have a vested interest in Thesis for sure. I only build on it (it’s the best chance I have of fulfilling clients goals). Due to this I have read everything I could find on what has just happened and watched the WP TV interview of 2010 and also read every tweet and comment over the last few days.

WTF is with this blown out of proportion 2010 thing anyway. You said a few cringe-worthy things and Matt called you out on them which was almost humorous. With Matt you could almost hear him talking to himself saying “keep calm, be composed, you can destroy this man….you will destroy this man” but despite this couldn’t quite help himself sounding like a righteous twat. That too was almost humorous.

And it would have remained humorous, if not for the delayed fall out. Taking was a bloody low and personal move which with the fact it was backed up with corporal money just sours it even more. I hate (modern) corporations, just bully boys out of, and out to, control! But they usually care a bit about their front end PR and wouldn’t stoop this low so publicly against a small to medium business.

So why do it?

Genuine thoughts of using wisely without thinking of you or the impact this would have? Not likely.

Was it really just a license issue? Then sue.

Well they could have done it if they thought they would win and let’s face it they had at least 100k available to waste at that time on legal fees.

As you admitted you were a bit of a jerk but who isn’t? My best mates will tell you I can be an asshole. Actually they won’t say I can be, the asshole part would stand though. I still have very good mates.

Alright you pissed him off, he couldn’t control you, and you were a little confrontational albeit through what you believed in.

I think you were wrong to almost provoke him to shut up or sue, and obviously he hasn’t forgotten this. He hasn’t sued, but he managed to get company money to hit you where it hurts. For sure it looks like he wants to destroy you and Thesis. Or for you, to go head bowed, and beg for forgiveness.

That said I really do hope there is a middle ground.

WordPress is awesome, thank you Matt and tens of thousands of developers that helped. Genuinely I mean that. Thanks Chris and Thesis (not .com though) your product is awesome and I know through further development it will change how people look at developing sites on WP forever, it already has for me.

Millions need WordPress. WordPress might not need Thesis but if there is a way to be harmonious in the future, then Chris you were correct in 2010. WordPress is a better off for having Thesis as an option.

One last point. I do believe Matt started from a place of decency and may have a bit of decency left if he looks deep, really deep. This is not high school anymore, you are playing with people livelihoods. People like Chris, a small to medium sized business owner and more importantly tens of thousands of Thesis users and developers livelihoods. We find it very difficult to love the so called head of the community when he looks set to try and destroy one mans business and not care about the tens of thousands who love Thesis and RELY on it especially due to having a 5 year grudge.

It’s not one man’s business Matt, it’s tens of thousands of us. Both men and women. Leave the TM alone and move on with life and let us do too.


The Artful Dodger July 21, 2015

Here’s some food for thought since Matt just published a new blog post on so-called GPL split licenses.

In this post, he writes:

“WordPress is under a license called the GPL, which basically says you can do whatever you like with the software, but if you distribute changes or create derivative works they also need to be under the GPL.”

With that logic, it seems to me all of the code that makes websites function on, as well as all of the Jetpack and Akismet code which depends on WordPress to work, should be readily available online via the GPL. But as anyone who’s been around the community for a while knows, we’re never going to see a lot of that code, for logistical and proprietary reasons.

Why is and the products produced by Automattic not being held to the same standards vis a vis the GPL? Matt and Chris base their company’s primary product and services on WordPress. Or is operating code different from themes? If that’s the case, should the special system Chris has created to manage a WP site not be exempt from the GPL just as certain aspects of are?


kranky.kitteh July 22, 2015

Creation and distribution are two entirely different things. The GPL applies if the derivative work IS distributed; it does not require that the derivative work BE distributed.


Will Patton July 22, 2015

Both Jetpack and Akismet are GPL licensed, distributed with full source code and allow you to to modify it at will and distribute those changes so long as they are also GPL licenced.

Jetpack is available in Automattic’s GitHub, Akismet I could not find there however there was a mirror of the WordPress repo for it provided by someone else (but both plugins sources are full available by downloading the plugins).


Seth Carstens July 22, 2015


I truly feel for you man. I went through a lawsuit for 2 freaking years, and had to put up with the same BS tactics that really have nothing to do with justice or protection of the law itself. It was shortly after my first child was born too. The stress and anxiety of receiving mail of any kind during these lawsuits sucks too. I commend you for even writing about the issue, and certainly for taking ownership of your mistakes.

With all that said, if Thesis operates as a “WordPress theme” that’s dependant on a GPL licensed product, I can certainly understand how Matt see’s this as disrespectful that you changed and licensed it as proprietary. I’m certainly not here to debate anything about proper licensing. I’m just saying, I know how Matt feels about GPL, and you had to know that wasn’t going to sit well with anyone that believes in that license model. So I’m not shocked that Matt shows up here and comments about it. In fact, I had an theme with “no license” on the market ( I didn’t specify GPL or otherwise ) and the WordPress Foundation literally removed me as a sponsor from the event. Even after I immediately responded and added the GPL license to my theme, the didn’t even bother to respond or acknowledge me, just left me high and dry.

It appears though, Chris, that you have the support of your customers. As you say, they read and agree to the license when they pay for the product. They like the product, and continue to renew over and over. And certainly, it brings people to WordPress. I consider myself a WordPress evangelist, so that certainly wins votes in my corner. I see both sides of the argument, it’s a grey area, and why I chose to get out of the themes market years ago.

I’m a bit shocked that Matt and Auttomatic would spend so much time and money on this particular domain and case. Certainly redirecting the domain and the comments by Matt to specifically “check it out” was in bad faith. When reading #wpdrama, I always try to remember that every story has two sides, I’m just curious why Matt chooses not to respond to any of your questions in this thread. Specifically, Matt, why you won’t respond to the allegations of this bad-faith, and disrespectful response? I keep waiting to hear the other side of the story.


Rick James July 22, 2015

Chris, just curious….

If, hypothetically, the UDRP had ruled in your favor, would you have still signed the settlement agreement?


Chris Pearson July 22, 2015

Rick, it wouldn’t have mattered. Automattic’s attorneys told me that if the UDRP ruled in my favor, they would simply file a federal lawsuit to put a hold on the judgment.

I’m actually thankful the UDRP ruling favored Automattic, as this route is much cheaper and less stressful for me.


Chilly Wind Blows July 22, 2015

Rick James,

Your question is not relevant, but it is sarcastic and shows your intent as a seemingly Melonwag troll…

Many 10’s of thousands of coders built WP and they have been exploited, in my opinion. Melonwag gets rich, you don’t! This whole internet thingy that says a site owner can change terms with impunity and when they wish, is bullshit…

GPL for WP insures Melonwag gets rich. Keep writing WP code for free and he gets richer. Good luck with your future free-bees!

Chris is protecting his intellectual property, as should you…

Rick James, does Melonwag pay you a royalty or a fee??? Think not! Do you troll for Melonwag? If you do, beware, many are watching…

And by the way Chris James or whoever you really are, good luck, you appear to need it!

Pearsonified, hang in there, this is the most diabolical web action I have ever witnessed… You must prevail or we all fail. We have to stop salting the pockets of the shifty dealers with more donaros!


observer July 23, 2015

While I’m interested to read Matt’s numerous comments in this thread, I’m baffled that his board is apparently OK with their CEO getting involved in (and stoking) public flame wars. Surely if I was in business with him I’d want him to keep his mouth shut in forums like this and leave it to lawyers or reps. Sometimes I think what the WordPress community really needs is professional PR people.


ChrisH July 24, 2015

where’s the fun in that ? I do IT so I don’t have to wear a tie to work.


ChrisF July 27, 2015

Exactly, well said. If WordPress is going to continue to mature in the marketplace, it will need a presentable corporate leader. Matt needs a PR agency filter going forward.


Neil July 23, 2015

I think you and Matt should do this for, change this PR disaster into some good PR.


Chris Pearson July 23, 2015

Matt would never agree to this—he doesn’t want to lose the domain :D


Chilly Wind Blows July 24, 2015

Melonwags could never stoop so high!


Anonymous July 24, 2015

Started in WordPress thinking Thesis was the best thing ever. (It still is quite good to be honest.) Was one of the first people to actually develop skins for Thesis and even recommended that Chris create a skin marketplace. This was waaaaay before skins became available in Thesis. Felt that some things I implemented (early on and nothing major per se) were used in future versions of Thesis without any credit and was a little upset. Maybe coincidence but Chris came across as a jerk at the time – lol! No offense Chris and no hard feelings :D

Ended up abandoning Thesis and creating my own framework. Partially because things changed that I had no control over and would have to rework my themes. One downside of building on someone else’s platform.

One of the first things I did was create a menu system. No such menu system existed in WordPress core at all. Showed it to some employees of Automattic at a WordCamp and explained how it all worked. Several weeks later saw that WordPress was working with WooThemes to create a very similar menu system that is now in the core today.

Ended up having to rework a huge portion of my framework to allow people to use the new menu system. Talk about frustration and anger! Again, the downside of building on someone else’s platform.

Started noticing that WooThemes would copy a lot of my ideas and implement them without credit at all. They even attempted to poach the designer I worked with at the time. Talked with one of the lead developers at WooThemes who admitted to taking our ideas and implementing them in their own products.

We were such a small shop that even if we complained felt that it would land on deaf ears. I’m sure there are others that have had similar experiences.

With that being said Chris is really not a bad guy and the GPL is not all it is cracked up to be. Sometimes his opinions can be brash but if you are passionate about something usually they will be. After seeing how the GPL did not work for me multiple times I understand him wanting to protect his work. Never had any interactions with Matt so can’t speak about him personally. My two cents.


Lee July 26, 2015

Hi Chris

My name is Lee you have recognized some of my companies work on Twitter with a couple of designs we have done using Thesis.

No need to publish this comment. I simply wished to run a few things by you as my business relies on Thesis (It is all I use and recommend).

Bloody love it man and love everything you stand for and have stood up against. If this fucker gets his way (sorry to be unprofessional – no I’m not. He is a fucker) I will happily go down with you as my principals are the exact same as yours.

Just have a couple of questions around the future and what I should guarantee my clients.

If you would be happy just to answer a couple of questions for me I would be extremely grateful. If you are please email me back at the address I have added to this comment.

Big up to you Chris. You are not a jerk by the way and I did not think that on watching the podcast either. I did think Matt was a smarmy git though. Yes to some you seemed angry and he seemed relaxed. I however thought you were passionate and he was a cocky manipulative corporate whore (despite what he says with GPL).

Be good to hear from you at some point, I know it must be a stressful time with lots going on.

Either way head up buddy. Have a great weekend and enjoy it with your family (if it all goes tits up you still have them….and Matt does not!)



xl July 26, 2015

I haven’t seen a comment here from someone who actually LEFT Thesis as a result of the original drama. Well, I’m one – I stopped building for customers around v1.7 and in the years since have rebuilt many a client site to use a non-thesis theme. Chris, you truly were a jerk about the situation, and I appreciate the maturity it takes to own up to that.

Hopefully Matt will not take as long to admit how much of a jerk he is being right now.

After the stagnation I have seen in WP in the last few years, the idea of Thesis becoming an Automattic entity thrills me. I realize the near-impossibility of 2 giants in the WP playground and I also realize how monopolistic Auttomatic has become.

On the other hand, look at how brilliant Mythbusters is, headed by two people who do not like each other but fully respect each others abilities.


Ben Welch-Bolen July 26, 2015

Chris, props for admitting your bad behaviour. That takes a lot of guts and I am happy to see that.

Thanks, Ben


Micky H Corbett July 27, 2015

I used to use Thesis but developed my own theme in recent years. Nothing wrong with Thesis though. It provides a certain number of functions that you pay to not do yourself.

I read the WP GPL and as far as I can read it applies to Wordpress source code. Thesis doesn’t modify the source code in a way that is irreversible since you can just uninstall it.

So why does Thesis have to be subject to GPL? It’s an additional software element like using bespoke Linux solutions rather than do the setup yourself.

It seems like Matt is saying all works that use Wordpress also have to be GPL? But that’s beyond the GPL remit as far as I can see.

If I modify Wordpress itself and sell this then I can see the point.

So is this what Thesis does?


Will Patton July 27, 2015

Maybe I misinterpreted what you are saying but it sounds like you are implying that it’s fine to modify the source code of any GPL software you want and redistribute it under any licence you want so long as you include an uninstaller that reverts the changes you made to the source… this is exactly what the GPL is there to protect against.

When I release GPL code I expect EVERYONE to be granted the same freedoms. People can modify it how they want, redistribute it and even earn a profit on it if they choose. The only thing they cannot do is change the licence. This is to prevent those same freedoms I granted originally not being granted to whomever they redistribute to.

I actually know of your Brightlight theme (from prior to seeing you comment here). You released it to help others build a functional website when starting out and you mention that you allow (and encourage) others to ‘hack’ it and modify it for their needs. So people can download it from you and modify it. I assume that if they redistribute it to anyone else you would also want them to inherit the same freedoms you gave to the original downloader who got it directly from you, wouldn’t you? Or would you not mind if they decided that they didn’t want to grant any freedoms to the next person down the chain?

P.S. Brightlight contains no licence as it’s distributed. You should most definitely pick one and apply it (fingers crossed you choose GPL or similar open source licence :) ) as not including a licence generally means that you retain all rights to the source code and that people are not technically allowed to reproduce it, redistribute it or create derivatives of it. You can read more about that here on Github’s licence information page.


Micky H Corbett July 28, 2015

Hi Will

I read your comment a few times to be clear I understood. I think we agree on most things except if someone decides not to GPL their derivative of my original work and restrict rights for derivatives of that.
That’s between the user and the creator and is a relationship of choice.

If you don’t like the terms of Thesis don’t buy it. It’s not up to me to dictate what other parties do.

As for Brighlight I think I’ll GPL like you say but I don’t care if someone sells it or restricts rights on their derivative version. The IP is mine and already logged in my own systems and online. It’s also not my business model to sell themes. I run a space technology company amongst other things so I see themes as software development and helpful tools to help people in a broader sense.

Thanks for the interest and advice though.


ChrisH July 29, 2015

Hi – I have really no part in this so happy to be ignored but equally interested if anyone can explain – Will REST API help with creating a clear divide between GPL and Private ownership ? I read a post here about it here.


Jef July 29, 2015

Because of what you did before, I left.

Because of who you are now, I am back.

Looking forward to use Thesis for my other websites.


Patrick Kihara July 30, 2015

Hi Chris,

Thanks for telling your side of the story and for owning up to your mistakes of 2010. I first read about in PostStatus and was interested to know what your view about the issue was.

One thing I can say, Matt had every right to acquire, but the motivation for the same was not honorable.


jh July 31, 2015

This makes me so sad. I started blogging in 2009 with a Thesis theme hosted by Wordpress. I’ve always loved both and was evangelistic about Thesis 1. Now I feel like a child watching parents go through an ugly divorce. There are no winners here.

Chris, your daughter will love your principles – no-one likes a bully, especially a rich and powerful one – but to be honest, she’d maybe be just as happy to discover that her birth made you learn that it’s often better to be kind than right. The time and energy you spend maintaining this mutual vendetta is time you’re not spending with her or her mum.

Matt – how many mosquito nets, AIDS tablets and water filters would $100,000 have bought? Seriously!? Millions of folk who blog simply do it to celebrate their humanity, to share and connect, to attempt to make sense of this mad, unbalanced world.

Both of you – how important is this in the big scheme of things? I read as many of the comments above as I could and despaired. So many articulate pleas for common sense, reason and resolution were ignored by you both. You’re digging yourselves into a hole so deep that neither of you can see beyond it any more. Millions of folk have no water, shelter, food or hope and you’re squabbling about licences and trademarks?! If you both lost your businesses today, you’d be relatively fine. You’d build and create something else. You’re healthy, smart, savvy and educated, thanks to how and where you were brought up. Others aren’t so fortunate. Please, both of you, focus your immense talents on making the world a better place for all our children.

PS Chris, by the way, until you change your profile photo, you’re deliberately sending the conflicting message that you’re still actually quite happy to be seen as a jerk. Just saying.


Anonymous Out Of Fear August 1, 2015

After seeing what Automattic’s tactics are against anyone who speaks out, I’m staying in the shadows. I’m a sort-of nobody but you never know what your future holds.

I feel that anything that hurts the WordPress brand hurts all users of WordPress – both those in a business that uses it as well as the guy just starting a hobby website.

WordPress dominates the CMS market. Eighty percent. But that can change with a couple of hard knocks in the media such a this albatross of a trademark case. Just as Thesis lost major market share, so can WordPress.

This has to stop. Automattic has legally, willfully, and with malice violated a trademark. Nobody has denied that on Automattic’s side as far as I can tell. So shut the hell up about Thesis doing ANYTHING.

Automattic has screwed a little guy. THAT’s the media message that is a a result of this fiasco.

It has to stop before WordPress sinks like a stone and Joomla or something else walks right in and forces a lot of people to lose a shit load of business and money.


Jamie August 2, 2015


Thesis 3.0

Now that would be a game changer.


Chris Larson August 4, 2015

I have to say I have this terrible sinking feeling that this is all just a ploy to set you up for a cheaper buyout, Chris.

Ratchet up your personal anxiety, make this a potentially expensive scenario, take advantage of your new role as a parent with all that entails, the step forward with some modest offer to end it all with money.

I hope that’s not the case, for many reasons.


Sam August 5, 2015

Now this is some heated arguments on the comment. We sometimes forget while having a hard conversation that we are grown ups.

Chris has been a jerk for a while and now he is being really very excellent. I don’t know from where he got that skills but you have a point now.

On the other hand. Matt has become a little overreactive and is predetermined to “not accdet” any of the argument by Chris.

I wish these two great guys shake their hands and let the business roll as it is.


John Doe August 5, 2015

So I just tested their GPL spirit on my own. I contacted the support of another competitor framework and asked if I could bundle their theme with my child-theme as per GPL.

The mail thread went several replies deep.

First they never even mentioned that I could do it as per GPL. They recommended that I become an affiliate and that way instead of doing it for free I could make money as well. Of course!

Then I mentioned my rights under GPL and they said “…we don’t actively discourage the bundling…” which essentially meant that they do discourage it.

And then they said “oh we work so hard it’s difficult to see our software being distributed for free”. And then they cited that breaching their TOS would end up in my account suspension etc. Of course their terms and condition also empower me as per GPL.

The point is that in the WordPress space, the biggest giant to the smallest guy are bullied to go GPL whether or not they really believe in that spirit or not. It’s high time that GNU takes a note of this and ban such software from maligning their license with such petty restrictive, unworthy intent that goes against the very spirit of GPL.

I’m in the same boat. I have to distribute my own themes under GPL. I’m concerned about piracy too. I don’t want to see my own work distributed for free. And truth be told, my respect for GPL has gone down after being bullied to use it even though I’ve created GPL non-wp software earlier. These WordPress folks are the hall-of-shame as far as GPL is concerned. And they are totally undeserving of licensing their software as GPL.


Adrian August 6, 2015

Great read. I’ve worked with a lot of companies in this space over the past 10+ years and have to say that it’s unfortunately common how often you see clashes like this. I recently had a client who was in a lengthy legal battle with Amazon over the Fire TV trademark, which they owned and conducted business through, yet still lost.


Anon September 1, 2015

So how many people are using the WP survey 2015 to tell Matt M what they think of his hijinks?


Oliver Nielsen September 20, 2015

Such a sad story, this.

Matt Mullenweg has obviously lost contact with planet earth. Too much power and success messing with his thinking it seems. Sad.

Chris: while I’m no fan of Thesis 2, I am a fan of your originality. You’re an inventor, innovative, one of “the crazy ones” in your own, unique way. I applaud that a whole lot. It’s a rare thing to see, so clearly expressed as it is in your case.

I’m sad to see Matt obviously holds grudges against you. Regarding the GPL-debacle: yes, you said some silly stuff. Yes, you should likely have realised it’d be best to back down, in that case. But you didn’t – you stood your ground, and again: I applaud that. It was a debate, not a war. You seem to have understood that. Matt (sadly) hasn’t.

Keep on truckin’ Chris :)


dainis w michel September 23, 2015

you know, chris, i’m coming to “this whole fiasco,” after the fact.

i think something many people may be missing — is that no one really cares that automattic is called “automattic” with two t’s. no one cares that the thesis theme is called “thesis,” you may as well call a theme X — oh there is one called X.

no one even cares that wordpress is called “wordpress.”

actually “wordpress” is not that representative of what the software does, so it’s actually not that good of a name, if you think about it.

i don’t know just how much of a “powerhouse” you are — your biz — or whatever — but obviously, you have a customer list.

why not rename your theme “pearsonified,” or “pearson theme,” or something real, something that people can have an actual “attachment” to?

that “” forwards to themeshaper is really obnoxious. it’s embarrassing to even be in the wordpress space with a “leader” having done something like that.

anyway — i wanted to kind of “deflate” the balloon of thought that “these names actually matter.” they don’t.

if you were to name your theme — your name. or something related to your name — i’m thinking that could have a lot of power. you’d do an appealing informational campaign for your customers — and launch the “new name.” still, you may not want to go through a process like that.

maybe a smooth move would be to create a wordpress alternative that can use much or most of the plugins created for wordpress. maybe something like statamic.

for me, the “experience” using wordpress has moved me backwards regarding web publishing in several ways — and there are definitely usability enhancements that “the community” would benefit from.

we aren’t really a “wordpress” community. we are a community of programmers, designers, publishers…people.

we should really care more about each other than about “words.”


Markus October 7, 2015

Change your products name, get the domain. And move on. Otherwise this will still haunt you in many years. Not worth it. Do you want to be at peace or just right? By the way, brands are pretty overrated. A real brand is just the overspill from doing good work. Shouldn’t take you too long. The real brand here is Chris, not thesis…

And the one of you who backs off first will be known for it. And will have a certain peace that not even a won legal battle will be able to give.

Regards Markus


Jimbob October 8, 2015

Time to fork wordpress. It’s become too bloated and difficult to use. You’ve got the funds. You’ll quickly gather support and momentum. It’s a billion $ opportunity. It’ll hurt your enemies. Do it.


Marcus October 10, 2015


Thanks so much for putting your heart and soul into this article, it couldn’t have been easy, I’ve learned a lot from it. I’m building my own blog / business and weighing the pluses and minuses of trademarks. I can’t believe they tried to have your trademarks cancelled, thats some scary evil sh!t. Usually the people that bring negativity are brought down by their negativity such will be the fate of Matt and Automattic.


David Paul Krug October 15, 2015

As the original user of Thesis my personal belief is we should just all buy 100,000 spam backlinks to ThemeShaper and call it a day!


Happy Hotelier November 30, 2015

After my post, I lost interest and stepped away from Thesis, but this gives me an idea it is now 1-1 for Chris, if not 2-1.


Adela December 7, 2015

Does anyone feels a conflict of interests here or is just me?

I have to say, the whole themeing industry is based on a flaw, the very way GPL got manipulated from the beginning. At first, there was only volunteering. Then it got where it is right now, somewhere below the ground, where some interests burried it.
If you are using a platform like WP and WP is OpenSource, doesn’t that mean you can only develop derrivates using the same license?
That is 1. And Thesis was the website that got me intrigued years ago, when I only knew a couple of things about WP.

But going back to my question. Matt owns a theme development business, right? Thesis is a competitor, yes?
What are we still talking about? Matt defends his business. Period. Uses politics and the flaws in the law to commit to this type of behaviour. In the end, it is still CONFLICT OF INTERESTS.

There are thousands theme providers out there, NONE like Thesis. So we have a direct competitor. And there goes Matt laughing and cracking bones in the process.


thesislover December 9, 2015

sorry to hear this..

matt, you sneaky…..stop being childish..


WooExpert January 4, 2016

I wonder who “WIN THE FIGHT”. This needs to stop for the sake of the community and WordPress.

I’m still scratching my head as to why Automatic got involved with


Anon January 6, 2016

I’m a Thesis professional license holder who’s in the process of launching a new blog. Was considering using a different platform initially, but decided to give WP/Thesis another go…before I read all this nonsense. Chris already has my $$ so feel badly about this, but I don’t think I trust WP anymore. That’s some seriously vindictive and underhanded stank that Matt pulled. Taking my content elsewhere, thanks.


Bro Who Comments for SEO January 22, 2016

Great content. They don’t seem to recognize how much having quality ad-ons like Thesis helps their software platform.


Wasim March 22, 2016

I haven’t used Thesis for quite some time, but I would just like to add that Thesis was the reason why I started enjoying blogging because of their support and care for the community.

As for you Chris, being a ‘jerk’, well we’ve all been one at some point in our lives and learned from it, just a shame Matt hasn’t.


Beckie April 24, 2016

You remind me of me! I’m so sorry this happened. I wish people just did the right thing.

Btw… Just because you got upset, that doesn’t make you a jerk. You just didn’t have control over your emotions.. Big whoop! At least, you aren’t being a bully. It sounds, to me, that you care about values and integrity and you were not treated nice by this person. They keep trying to take away your power because they make you feel like you deserved it because you reacted to their bad behavior.

I hope you win!


Beckie April 25, 2016

Keep focusing on what you have to offer because that IS so valuable/important. Your article about How To Kiss Corporate Life Goodbye surfaced on Google and it really hit home with me. I really like how you were able to explain things from your unique perspective and it was easy to relate to my own experience. It was very refreshing!


Khaled S. April 26, 2016


You really should not try to pound on Chris Pearson because here is a hard reality…

I love Wordpress in every way when it comes to “managing content,” however, as a web designer, I can’t base my entire work on a theme that limits me to pre-defined set of rules I can’t control (e.g. visually, on-page SEO, code practices, etc.)

The only way to deliver exceptional work, I need to have full control. That is where Thesis fills that gap. If DIYThemes did not exist, I would NOT be using WordPress.

So overall, I don’t care what the license say’s. The important thing is that it does what it says!


Tradesouthwest May 9, 2016

@Khaled I could not agree more. WP is NOT a full-control “system” for building websites. I wish my clients had never heard of WordStress. I could build a simple text editor base (I like JEdit) into every site I build and clients can edit content until cows come home. I even create a div just for their content and they are not LIMITED to the content AREAs of which WP keeps your content stuck to.

Then all these ‘developers’ put “special” nano-framework meta box generators in the (ugly, too small, very poor use of javascript) Customizer and expect peeps to actually get a good product this way by providing these ‘special spaces’ to put your company or personal info.

I do however respect the SEO abilities of some of the plugins… some are over-built and some are just right. For writing content, I like Yoast. So in some senses all plugins and just about all of the newer themes are a micro/nano-framework if you look at the fact that WP now requires the API to be used and devs have no control over the end product unless they spend weeks making all the adjustments.

The Materialize framework is a good example. myThem._es—broke up name to not post url—is the author and it is real nice for stability but it sucks for manipulating the DOM to get a working site. I could not get image divs to work so I retrofit Bootstrap div into Materialize divs. So you are correct, in my book, Khaled, wp sucks for customization and creating a flexibly UI/UX friendly site.


J K Hoffman May 18, 2016

Frankly, it seems to me that there’s plenty of shame and blame to go around. Was it “nice” of Automattic to buy and redirect it? No, not really. Was smart of you to let it lapse? No, not really. I know my important domains are set to auto-renew so I don’t end up in a similar situation.
Also, if there was really trademark infringement, did you start a legal case to address that? If no, why not?

And did you seriously think that making a general patent on something that is essentially the same as an existing piece of software, often called prior art in patent circles, would fly with anyone who knows anything about tech? Seriously? Did we not howl when Amazon tried to patent photography against a white background? Amazing.

Like it or not, you chose to make an add-on product, got burned when you tried to not follow the license of that product and now you’re trying to play the persecuted, down-trodden developer scrambling for a buck. Sorry, but I don’t have a lot of sympathy for your position. Not that it makes some of the things Matt and Automattic did in response all that great either, but, their poor behavior doesn’t excuse yours, in the past, present or future.


Chris Pearson June 29, 2016

I never owned, so I never had a chance to “let it lapse.” Also, patent discussions are 100% irrelevant here.

No one is playing the persecuted or downtrodden role—that type of victimization is for losers. I simply want the world to see Matt’s true colors, which are petty and vindictive as this issue shows.


J K Hoffman June 29, 2016

You may not think you’re playing the persecuted, downtrodden role, but that’s totally how everything you say about Matt, WordPress and your ongoing conflict comes across.

And, since you bring it up, one way or another, every chance you get, patent discussions are 100% relevant every time you bring up Matt or WordPress. It is, after all, the root cause for which you claim he’s being petty and vindictive.
At this point, I don’t think you’re really showing anyone anything except for your true colors.


Chris Pearson June 29, 2016

I never said the patent application had anything to do with his pettiness, as that would not be the truth.

The root cause of his pettiness is the fact that I refused to do what he wanted. He’s used to people doing whatever he says to do, and apparently, he can’t handle any dissension whatsoever.

To him, attempting to destroy one’s business and livelihood is a worthy penalty for refusing to kiss the ring. Most good people would disagree, as evidenced by the comments here.


Kim June 29, 2016

JK Hoffman – perhaps you should get your facts in order before you attempt to lecture someone. You seem to be either confused or having trouble with the written word.

Have a great 4th holiday!


NICK November 24, 2016

That sucks. From my point of view automattic wanteds that domain name for one reason only: to damage your business.

That sucks again because ICANN helped them get away with it.


Chris August 4, 2017

Wow… kudos on the humility. If I was in your position I’m sure I would have been pretty ticked as well, and maybe acted like a jerk as well too. Good to learn those lessons and change.

Looking ahead, I cannot fathom why you drag this out. Sure, Automattic should be above this, but really, who cares at this point. And, perhaps it’s not you dragging this out, maybe it’s them. Does it matter? (The correct answer is no.)

Congrats papa.

If I were in your shoes, I think it’s time to hang it up. Now, this is just me, I’d voluntarily release the Thesis stuff. Establish a new brand.

Make a new you and rebuild your reputation in the community. You do great work but it’s tarnished by all this. Use the publicity you’re getting and sling yourself back to the top.

Best of luck with your next move.


Delwar Jahan August 12, 2017

Does this problem still exist because both of you can’t let go? I always thought Automatic should be over with this kind of thing.


Chris Pearson August 16, 2017

Sadly, it appears Matt Mullenweg cannot let go.

In 2014, more than four years after our public disagreement over licensing, Mullenweg bought a domain I was trying to purchase ( for $100,000 just so I couldn’t have it.

Then, after winning the questionable ruling detailed in this article, he tried (but failed) to have my trademarks cancelled.

So yes, it appears Mullenweg has had a hard time letting go. Perhaps the end of the trademark cancellation case will be the end of this whole mess, and we can all look ahead to our own creative endeavors instead of wasting time on legal issues that do nothing to help our customers and fans.


David September 20, 2017

I don’t know how, but it should not be possible to charge these insane prices for a domain name in the first place.

I don’t like the smell of greed…


Trudy December 25, 2017

The truth is, some time after your 2010 public debate with Matt Mullenweg over Theme licensing, StudioPress founder Brian Gardner met up with Matt and designed a plan to get rid of you as his main competitor.

They teamed up and used GPL as their weapon to turn the WordPress community against you and damage your business which benefitted StudioPress and Brian Gardners pocket!


Chris Pearson January 15, 2018

I’m surprised anyone remembers this episode with such clarity, but yeah—this is more or less what happened.

People should be most upset over Mullenweg’s partiality toward StudioPress during this time period.

In a GPL “community,” how much sense does it make to back one provider over any other?

Fact is, StudioPress was a “weapon” that could be used to hurt me the most. My former partner had left DIYthemes for StudioPress, planted a bogus interview to assassinate my character, and then got Mullenweg to kickstart that business by bashing DIYthemes publicly.

Despite this, some people still want to pretend this is a moral licensing issue. Hoooooooo boy!


Michelle February 15, 2018

That Brian Gardner is a nasty piece of work and involved in smear campaigns against several people in the WordPress community since 2010 which continue to this day. He really needs to get a life!

Can’t believe Brian Clark is involved but i can understand why they get together and blacken your name so people stop using Thesis for some false reason. They make more money.

Shame, shame, shame.

It’s very bad karma.

To lie to the community and walk all over people like this so they make more money is totally against the spirit of the WordPress community.


Hoot and/or Holler

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