SuSE settlement lets Linux ship

German Linux distributor settles a trademark lawsuit less than 24 hours after a court injunction stops products from shipping
Written by Robert Lemos, Contributor

German Linux company SuSE settled a trademark suit on Wednesday over the name "Krayon", allowing it to resume shipments of its boxed products in Germany, the company said in a statement.

On Tuesday, a regional court in Munich issued a preliminary injunction halting shipments of SuSE Linux 7.3 in Germany on behalf of Crayon Vertriebs. Attorney Günter Freiherr von Gravenreuth had contended that the name of an open-source program called "Krayon", which appeared in SuSE Linux, infringed on Crayon Vertriebs' own trademark, "Crayon".

Less than 24 hours later, the companies settled out of court. "The plaintiff relinquished their right as formulated in the temporary injunction, and SuSE was not required to submit payment for any license fees," SuSE said in a statement.

Krayon was originally part of the open-source desktop project KDE, but according to SuSE, it's no longer included. In fact, the only mention of the Krayon program in the SuSE version of Linux is in the KDE "start" menu, SuSE said. KDE and Gnome are the two major graphical desktops used on Linux systems. SuSE includes both in its version of Linux.

The suit had been brought by attorney von Gravenreuth on behalf of Crayon Vertriebs, which produces a series of graphics CDs under the name "Crayon". However, when SuSE contacted the company, Crayon apparently was not interested in pursuing the case, said SuSE's US spokeswoman Xenia von Wedel.

In Germany, trademark suits can be filed by any attorney, even if that attorney doesn't represent the trademark holder, she added. "It is much easier to get a preliminary injunction in Germany than in the US," von Wedel said.

Attempts to contact von Gravenreuth have not been successful.

Tuesday's injunction prevented SuSE from shipping new copies of the software only within Germany. The company could still ship packages outside the country, and CDs already in German shops could still be sold to customers.

Typically, Linux is distributed under the GNU Public License (GPL), which forces developers who build on top of GPL'ed code to also make the source code for their software freely available. SuSE Linux and other distributions generally package hundreds of applications, such as the KDE desktop, together with others that are proprietary.

SuSE, a 380-person company, is the leading provider of Linux in Europe, and like its US counterparts, has been struggling to develop a profitable business model. The company laid off 80 people last year and named Gerhard Burtscher, a longtime computer executive, as its new chief executive.

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