The Linux based drawing program KIllustrator is now known as "Kontour".
We wrote yesterday that the program's author Dr Kai-Uwe Sattler, and the University of Magdeburg which employs him, were on the end of a stiff letter from a legal firm demanding they stop using the KIllustrator name as it damaged the reputation of Adobe's similarly named product, Illustrator. Worse still the lawyers demanded that the University pay $2000 to cover their costs
As its name suggests, KIllustrator is similar to Adobe's famous program, but it has been developed as part of K Office, an Office-like suite of programs for KDE user interface running over Linux. Sattler told the lawyers that he would change the product's name to avoid any confusion with Adobe's Illustrator, but did not want to pay someone else's legal bills.
The legal letter came from Reinhard Skuhra Weise and Partner, a German patent law firm. Adobe seemed to be as unhappy as Dr Sattler about the tone of the letter and it is possible that this is because Adobe had not hired the law firm to do this job.
It seems that in Germany law firms can write cease and desist letters to businesses they think are infringing another company's trademarks, without being employed by the latter, and demand payment from the company on the receiving end of the letter. Apparently some law firms make a good living at this. ®
Reader Florian Gleisner has written in with an explanation of the set up in Germany.
I just thought I'd comment on the "cease and desist" letter thing. In German it's called "Abmahnung" and is basically (when not abused) a means by which companies can protect their trademarks.
Several law firms in Germany have taken up the business of writing "Abmahnungen" to anyone who earns money with a product that can somehow be construed to infringe on somebody else's copyright. The cost for these notices, usually linked with a desist order which costs a fixed amount of money each time a (further) breach can be proven, is payable by the offending party. So far so good.
Like any good professional, some lawyers are doing two things a) work smarter not harder and b) charge on an individual basis, i.e. they pick on many small businesses with no legal department and they keep their victims separate and charge each one for receiving such a letter. In German law you are not supposed to do this, you are supposed to charge the first one, then if further breaches occur (by other people) you send them a letter and you can charge them for p&p. This, as you'd imagine doesn't stop them from doing a) and b).
Recently a society for the protection of consumers (GDSI) has "abgemahnt" several companies for wanting too much personal information for sending out newsletters and, while quite true, charged everyone about 400 quid for the privilege. In a rather ironic development, they were then struck from the register of societies who can "abmahn" because they have commercial interests and shouldn't have been on the register (no pun intended) in the first place. Oh, also your not supposed to use lawyers and charge costs, ie. "abmahn" people who are clearly private people and earn no money from whatever infringement may be there (especially when they woulda taken it (the offending bit) off the net or whatever, anyway).
A lot more info can be had from www.advograf.de - (the linked to page is in German).