Munich Court Grants Preliminary Injunction for GPL Infringement

Thursday, April 15 2004 @ 11:54 AM EDT

Contributed by: PJ

This looks like a first in Germany, a preliminary injunction granted because of infringing use of GPL software. It's important enough news to publish the entire press release, minus only the contact info, which you can obtain by clicking on the link. The Microsoft camp has been wont to quote various "experts" saying that the GPL may not be legal in Germany. It appears this judge disagrees. Ach, die lieber! Mehr FUD!



BERLIN, Germany - Apr. 14, 2004 -- The Munich district court granted a preliminary injuction against Sitecom Germany GmbH ( This injunctive relieve has been applied by the netfilter/iptables project (

Sitecom is offering a wireless access router product (WL-122) based on software licensed under the GNU General Public License (GPL), developed by the netfilter/iptables project.

The GNU GPL is a license commonly used for many free software projects, such as the Linux Operating System Kernel. The GPL licenses software free of cost, but requires any redistributor to provide the full source code.

According to the court order, Sitecom did not fulfill the obligations imposed by the GNU General Public License covering the netfilter/iptables software. In particular, Sitecom did not make any source code offering or include the GPL license terms with their products.

Following a warning notice, Sitecom refused to sign a declaration to cease and desist. Thus, the netfilter/iptables project was compelled to ask the court for a preliminnary injuction, banning Sitecom from distributing its product, unless Sitecom complies with all obligations imposed by the GNU GPL.

"To my knowledge, this is the first case in which a judicial decision has been decreed on the applicability and the validity of the GNU GPL", says Dr. Till Jaeger, partner of the Berlin and Munich based law firm JBB Rechtsanwaelte ( that represented the netfilter/iptables project in the litigation.

This preliminary injunction follows a series of out-of-court settlement agreements that the netfilter/iptables project has concluded within a short period of time. When asked about the reasons for the sudden rise in legal pressure for GPL compliance, Harald Welte, Chairman of the Netfilter Core Team states:

"We are not in any way opposing the commercial use of free and open source software. Specifically, there is no legal risk of using GPL licensed software in commercial products. But vendors have to comply with the license terms, just like they would have to with any other, even proprietary software license agreement."

About the netfilter/iptables project

The netfilter/iptables project provides state-of-the-art network security software for Linux firewalling, packet filter and network address translation (NAT), distributed as Free Software under the terms of the GNU General Public License. Being part of the linux operating system kernel, the software is running on virtually every Linux installation.

For more information on the project or the software, visit