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Community: Obelix/MobiliX: Highest German Civil Court Dismisses Case

Sep 06, 2003, 02:30 (6 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by Werner Heuser)

[ Thanks to Werner Heuser for this article. ]

The trademark case Obelix versus MobiliX--Linux On Mobile Computers, was finally dismissed by the Bundesgerichtshof (BGH), the highest German civil court.

Werner Heuser, owner of the trademark MobiliX and the domain On Mobile Computers, has lost the case because the BGH rejected his request for an appeal. The BGH did not care to provide a detailed argument for their decision, the chamber merely quoted the appropriate part of the law.

In his long and detailed argument to get a permission for an appeal, Prof. Dr. Achim Kraemer, Heuser's lawyer, wrote [translated]: "The commercial usage of domain names leads already at the time of their registration to preventive reactions by holders of older trademarks, which claim their trademarks as violated. Particular risks exist for so-called word-trademarks, which contain parts of the common language, when they are combined with suffixes or prefixes used in certain groups. If trademarks are protected much too excessively, as the appeal court has done in our opinion, some very famous but fancy names may occupy a wide range of the language and it becomes impossible for anyone to create new word-trademarks."

In the Fall of 2001 Les Edition Albert Rene, the owner of the trademark Obelix had sued Heuser, owner of the well-known open source project MobiliX (now TuxMobil).

The TuxMobil project provides plenty of information about Unix operating systems like Linux, BSD and Solaris on laptops, notebooks, PDAs and other mobile computers. Therefore Heuser chose a name that expressed this by a combination of the word "Mobile" and the common suffix "iX" taken from Unix.

The French publisher asserted that Heuser had chosen this name to take advantage of their well-known comic book character "Obelix," for which they own a trademark.

This outcome of the charge is a great pity, not only for the Free Software movement, because it is one more example of the big-players becoming more and more capable to monopolize large parts of the language. In this case, almost all trademarks and domains ending with the suffix "ix" are under threat.

A detailed documentation of the case, containing information about other projects under siege and the written statements of the lawyers Jaschinski, Biere and Brexl - JBB, is available online at TuxMobil.

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