MobiliX, the Unix on mobile devices company, has suffered a legal setback in its dispute against the French publisher which owns the trademarks to the cartoon series Astérix the Gaul.
Les Editions Albert René claims MobiliX is similar in name to Obelix, a character in Asterix the Gaul, and so infringes on its trademark.
In June 2001, the French company hired German lawyers to go after MobiliX, demanding that it stop using the MobiliX name.
Werner Heuser, owner of MobiliX, refused; and in November 2001 Les Edition Albert René filed suit in Germany seeking to force Heuser to pay compensation. It even asked the courts to consider throwing the unfortunate Heuser in jail for his "crimes", according to his detailed account on the dispute.
In the hearing last June, the Landgericht Muenchen court dismissed the case. Obelix, the cartoon character, and MobiliX are NOT similar, the court concluded.
That should have been the end of the matter but Les Edition Albert René pressed on to appeal. Surely the higher court would back the earlier court's decision? No. The appeal court ruled that Obelix and MobiliX are similar after all.
In a written judgement released at the end of last month, the Appelation Court ruled the "Obelix and MobiliX are very similar" and people might confuse the two.
"It doesn't matter that the suffix 'ix' is used very often to name computer related products, because the names have to be sufficient apart," the judges ruled.
Heuser is consulting with his lawyers, Jaschinski, Biere & Brexl, on a basis for an appeal to the highest German court (Bundesgerichtshof) seeking to reverse this decision.
An appeal to Germany's top court must be lodged by February 27, Heuser told us today.
"I don't know how long it will take for the court to decide whether they allow an appeal," he said. "The case itself will take approximately five years. Until then I have to withdraw my domain."
"But anyway since there are many other cases (three related to Asterix and Obelix) already, which threaten the Open Source community, it's very important to fight back."
There is some good news, however. Heuser has found a sponsor, whose name must remain confidential (for now), to help with mounting legal fees.
The case is indeed important, not least because two other companies, Masterix and Skrobelix, have already withdrawn their names to avoid legal costs.
A detailed explanation of the case and background on the many company which have either iX in their names can be found here. ®