As we reported earlier, German Linux distributor SuSE was barred from distributing its product in Germany after a trademark infringement action was brought by a company which admitted it was only looking to make a fast buck.
After surrendering a quick out-of-court settlement to the extortionist, which did not include license fees, SuSE is now permitted to distribute its software unimpeded.
The plaintiff, Crayon Vertriebs, claimed that a defunct KDE app called Krayon, listed in the start menu but no longer supplied, was diluting its brand.
Because crayon is a generic term it seems implausible that SuSE would have lost the suit had it gone to court. But of course the inability to distribute its product while the case was pending would have been a preposterous price to pay for vindication.
This is obviously what Crayon Vertriebs had reckoned when it decided to hold SuSE hostage under threat of trademark action, with the help of lawyer Günther von Gravenreuth.
Apparently, Gravenreuth has a history of using dubious trademark claims to wring money out of tech companies that would rather cut a settlement cheque than go to court.
One of his victims in a similar action, whose name we think better kept under our hats, recalls him thus:
"Gravenreuth is an embarrassment to the whole of German justice. His activities would seem illegal to any normal human, but the jungle of laws and the lack of computer and Internet knowledge among the judges allow him to act in twilight.
Considered from a psychological point of view, he must be appreciated as a pathological personality. For many years, he has been well known for his attacks against non-commercial persons and organizations associated with computing and the Internet.
He presents himself as a normal lawyer, but in fact he is a dangerous criminal. He is dangerous because he infiltrates the judicial system by means of legal practices. His intentions are destructive. He tries to hurt legally inexperienced developers, designers, service providers and other members of the information technology generation.
In particular, he uses the regulations of trademark and patent law, because in this area the judical uncertainty is very high.
Gravenreuth also usually acts in public. He likes to be verbally attacked in wild online discussions, and in person. The more he is attacked with threats, the more he is in his element. He knows that nothing can happen to him. None of the judges in his court hearings point to his on-line statements.
It's all very sad, but there seems to be no legal means to get him out of his niche.
It seems that chickenshit copyright suits are all the rage these days. Thus mobile Unix developer MobiliX (get it?) is under legal duress from "Astérix et Obélix" publisher Editions Albert René.
"To avoid any legal trouble with this name I registered the name at the German trademark register last year," MobiliX owner Werner Heuser explains.
"It is a common practice to build new names for Unix related topics from a word naming the topic and adding the letters "iX" at the end.
The German computer magazine iX is even named by these letters. The name Unix itself is a registered trademark of The Open Group. Also the name Mobilix is already registered for a German manufacturer of children's furniture (but in another trademark class).
And then he produces a catalogue of over a hundred commercial names ending in -ix, which for the time being have escaped the trademark jealousy of Editions Albert René.
Of course a hefty chunk of the French language also ends in -ix. Perhaps those words will have to go as well, so no dominatrix, possibly named Beatrix, will ever mistake Astérix for her cervix.
You see how quickly this all becomes utterly ridiculous.... ®