project gains preliminary injunction against Fortinet UK Ltd.


Munich court grants preliminary injunction halting sales

BERLIN, Germany - Apr. 14, 2005 -- The project has uncovered violations by Fortinet UK Ltd., the UK subsidiary of Fortinet Inc., of the GNU General Public License (GPL). According to, Fortinet used GPL software in certain products and then used cryptographic techniques to conceal that usage.

As a result of this violation, the Munich district court has granted a preliminary injunction against Fortinet Ltd., banning them from further distribution of their products until they are in compliance with the GNU GPL conditions.

The GPL licenses software without collecting royalties, but requires any distributor to provide the full corresponding source code and a copy of the full license text.

"This violation by Fortinet is especially egregious since the vendor not only violated the GPL, but actively tried to hide that violation," said Harald Welte, Linux Kernel developer and founder of the project. "We are not in any way opposed to the commercial use of Free and Open Source Software and 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 software license agreement."

Fortinet offers a variety of Firewall and Antivirus Products (the FortiGate and FortiWiFi product series), on which Fortinet claims to run the "FortiOS" operating system. However, as the project uncovered, "FortiOS" is using the Linux operating system kernel and numerous other free software products that are licensed exclusively under the GNU GPL. This information was not disclosed by Fortinet.

Following a warning notice by the project on March 17, 2005, Fortinet did not sign a declaration to cease and desist. Out-of-court negotiations on a settlement failed to conclude in a timely manner.

Thus, the project was compelled to ask the court for a preliminary injunction, banning Fortinet from distributing its products, unless they are in full compliance with the GNU GPL license conditions.

About the project

In the past 15 months, has helped uncover and negotiate more than 30 out-of-court settlement agreements. The project is a not-for-profit effort to bring commercial users and vendors of Free Software into compliance with the license conditions as set forth by the original authors. The project was founded and is managed by Mr. Harald Welte, a Linux Kernel developer and Free Software enthusiast.