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MandrakeSoft ordered to drop trademark

A judgment against the Linux distributor could force the company to stop using its trademark and surrender its domain names.

A French court has ruled against Linux distributor MandrakeSoft in an intellectual-property dispute with United States-based Hearst Holdings and King Features Syndicate.

The decision could force the Paris-based software company to surrender its trademark and domain names and to pay nearly $90,000 (70,000 euros) in damages to the U.S. companies, holders of the rights to the comic strip character Mandrake the Magician. The comic strip marks its 70th anniversary this year.

MandrakeSoft will be allowed to keep using its name and Web site addresses for the time being, while it appeals the Feb. 13 Paris court decision. 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," MandrakeSoft CEO Francois Bancilhon said. The trademark infringement action by Hearst and its King Features subsidiary has lasted 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.

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

Matthew Broersma of ZDNet UK reported from London. Christophe Guillemin of ZDNet France contributed to this report.