MandrakeSoft ordered to drop trademark

A judgement against the Linux distributor could force the company to stop using its trademark and surrender its domain names, pending an appeal

A French court has decided against Linux distributor MandrakeSoft in an intellectual property dispute with US-based Hearst Holdings and King Features Syndicate, holders of the rights to the comic-strip character Mandrake the Magician. This move could force the software company to surrender its trademark and domain names and to pay 70,000 euros (£47,000) in damages to the US companies.

However, MandrakeSoft will be allowed to continue using its name and Web site addresses for the time being, while it appeals the 13 February decision of the Paris tribunal de grande instance. The company said the appeals process could continue for another three years.

"By appealing the case, we suspend these prohibitions and can continue to use our trademark as well as our domain names," said MandrakeSoft chief executive François Bancilhon. The trademark infringement action by Hearst and its subsidiary King Features has continued for four years, and could last many more, MandrakeSoft said.

MandrakeSoft previously used a company logo featuring a Linux penguin wearing a magician's garb, but the company has removed the image from its packaging and advertising materials.

Hearst is a major media corporation in the US, with holdings in magazines, newspapers and television channels.

A December judgement in French courts also found against MandrakeSoft. A date for initial proceedings in MandrakeSoft's appeal have not yet been set.

ZDNet France's Christophe Guillemin contributed to this report.