Tech Industry

German court to SuSE: No Linux shipments

A Munich court orders the German open-source software company to temporarily stop distributing copies of its Linux software in Germany because of a copyright case.

German open-source software company SuSE has been ordered by a Munich court to stop distributing copies of its Linux software in Germany.

Lawyer G?nter Freiherr von Gravenreuth was awarded a temporary injunction by a court in Munich (Landgericht I) against the company on Tuesday in a case that alleges an application included on SuSE's Linux CD infringes on intellectual property owned by an as-yet-unidentified plaintiff.

Christian Egle, a spokesman for Nuremberg-based SuSE, said in an interview that the injunction specifically prevents the company from distributing new copies of its SuSE Linux software. CDs already in the shops of dealers may be sold to customers, however.

The injunction only applies to sales in Germany, said a SuSE representative in the United Kingdom. Plaintiffs, however, often follow with parallel suits in different jurisdictions.

Gravenreuth said the court case focused on one program contained on the SuSE Linux CD. Neither Gravenreuth nor Egle would disclose what this program is, or who the plaintiff is. Negotiations are currently underway, and both parties hope to come to an agreement within the next few days.

An SuSE representative in the United Kingdom explained that the case, brought by a plaintiff who is believed to hold the copyright on a program called Crayon, concerns potential copyright infringement by a program bundled on the CD called Krayon.

The representative added that the injunction will only stop distribution in Germany. "It's business as usual in the U.K.," the representative said.

Linux, seen as a growing threat to Microsoft's Windows operating system in the server market, is distributed under the GNU Public License (GPL), which obliges developers to make the source code for their software freely available. However, SuSE Linux and other distributions are generally packaged with hundreds of other applications and utilities, some of which are proprietary.

SuSE's U.S. representatives said they were aware of the case but could not yet provide details on how it could affect U.S. consumers.

The 380-person company is the leading provider of Linux in Europe, and like its U.S. counterparts, has been struggling to develop a profitable business model. The company laid off 80 people last year and named a new CEO in November.

Staff writer Dietmar Mueller reported from Munich and staff writer Graeme Wearden reported from London. News.com's Robert Lemos contributed to this report from San Francisco.