Suspecting there may be more to the story, I worked with Peter Marwan of ZDNet.DE seeking the other side. Marwan contacted Netways founder and managing director Julian Hein.
"Hein stated to me, that they registered the trademark Nagios in Germany at a time, when (Nagios founder) Ethan Galstad seemed to have no interest in it over here, but never used it actively nor claimed some money for selling it," Marwan reports.
"Sometime even Nagios linked to the site nagios-exchange, which was basically the only use, Netways made out of the name."
In other words, a misunderstanding.
This much is true. Netways is not a domain name troll. The company is a member in good standing of Germany's open source community, Marwan notes, regularly organizing meetings and events that contribute to the community.
Hein also offers a full explanation on his blog (translated here via Google).
His story of grabbing the trademark to keep it out of others' hands becomes more plausible when you realize that the Netways name is owned by an Arab developer (with offices in Canada) and that even Netways Europe is owned by someone else. In order to distinguish his company the German usually goes by NETWAYS.
According to Hein, Galstad demanded his name and URLs back at a 2008 Netways conference, including a site called NagiosExchange which Netways was making good use of. Despite what he considered rudeness, Hein says he immediately began the process of renaming his conference and supporting products.
The same drama happened in France, Hein writes. After ignoring the issue for some time, Galstad swooped in, demanding action, and basically rubbed people who were trying to support his software the wrong way.
Even Galstad seems to have recognized that tempers were getting frayed. In launching a Sourceforge list dubbed Nagios drama in February, he wrote, "It wouldn't be a proper OSS project if there wasn't some over-hyped drama every once in a while."
All this climaxed a few weeks ago in a Twitter argument, in which Hein agreed not only to surrender his rights to the name but under liability clauses. "Why is it not enough declaring that I want to transfer the mark? Why do I have to surrender under liability clauses I do not understand?"
Then he answers his own question, "I guess it is also some kind of revenge that we support the Icinga fork."
That's the real bottom line here. While Nagios got all its rights back, on terms it could accept without a law suit, the price was to stimulate creation of a fork that is now a direct competitor in the marketplace.
It's true the two groups seem to have different aims (Nagios is focused on enterprises, Icinga now has mobile support) but I suspect the fork would not have happened had things not gotten lost in translation.