Protecting Germans IV: An Example

This is the fourth in a series of blog posts (previous: 1, 2, 3) on how Mozilla is using its trademarks to try and make sure everyone gets a genuine copy of our software, for free.

Today we filed what lawyers call “main action proceedings” against the most long-standing and active of the operators of charging sites (what we would call “subscription traps”), Alexander Varin. Through his companies Content Services Ltd. and Antassia GmbH, he operates several sites of similar design (unlinked examples: opendownload.de, softwaresammler.de, top-of-software.de). We have been monitoring his activities since November 2008. An early C&D request was rejected. The aim of this case is to address all his infringing activities in one action.

There have already been successful court actions against Mr. Varin, brought by individual consumers (regarding their payment obligations after signing up) and by a German consumer organization (regarding infringements of consumer protection laws, amounting to unfair competition). But the core infringement of Mozilla’s trademark rights, the offer of Mozilla’s software against hidden fees, continues. Our aim in these proceedings is to put a permanent stop to it.

What will happen next is that the court will serve the statement of claims to the three defendants. They have two weeks to notify the court that they are defending the action. Should one (or all) of them not do so, we can apply for a default judgment. If they do notify the court, they will have a further deadline of a few weeks within which to respond to the statement of claims. The court will then set a date for an oral hearing.

Please note that German defamation law is quite strict where reporting of court proceedings is concerned. Only truthful facts may be reported and no suggestions or inferences be made that leave room for (negative) interpretation. So please be understanding if we can’t discuss our opinions on this case in the normally straightforward and forthright ways which generally characterize Mozilla’s communications :-)

The umbrella organization of the German consumer protection agencies (Verbraucherzentrale Bundesverband e.V.) is also very active in informing and educating consumers about subscription trap websites. They have themselves brought several main action proceedings against the operators of various such fraudulent sites, including the website “opendownload.de”. For further information, you can visit their website (also available, naturally, in German). If you are German and would rather speak to someone directly, you can find the contact details of your local consumer protection agency on their website, too.

Journalists who want more information can contact Martin Madej at Verbraucherzentrale Bundesverband e.V. Tel. (030) 258 00-123, or email recht@vzbv.de.

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