It is a dispute in the small world of French open source which dates back almost a decade and which has occupied the courts on numerous occasions: the conflict between two companies, Linagora and Blue Mind, has just been marked by a judgment in appeal, in favor of the former. It overturns a 2018 first instance judgment won by Blue Mind.
A dispute started in 2013, six years after a business takeover
In its judgment of June 1, 2021, the Paris Court of Appeal reversed a decision of November 23, 2018 at the Paris Commercial Court. The appellants (litigants who appealed) were Alexandre Zapolsky and the company he chairs, Linagora, created in 2000, as well as two other related entities (Linagora Grand Sud Ouest, ex-Aliasource) and Linagora Investissements), the respondents (defendants on appeal) were Pierre Baudracco and Pierre Carlier, co-founders in 1997 of the company Aliasource.
In May 2007, Aliasource was fully acquired by Linagora. Pierre Baudracco and Pierre Carlier became shareholders of the latter, and in June 2007 concluded an employment contract with Aliasource, which they left in the spring of 2010. In October 2010, Pierre Baudracco created Blue Mind, which Pierre Carlier joined in October 2011. Linagora attacked them in December 2013, arguing that they had not fulfilled their obligations – they had signed a non-competition clause in 2007.
Several lawsuits and skirmishes followed. We remember, for example, a Linux Solutions exhibition in 2014 where the two companies were exhibitors, and where Linagora displayed the URL of a site called Laveritesurbluemind.net (convicted on appeal for defamation in January 2020).
Will the judgment handed down by the Paris Court of Appeal on June 1 mark the beginning of this long dispute (cassation actions, not suspensive, are still to be examined)?
406,000 euros “in compensation for the damage”
In its 10-page judgment, the court emphasizes that “the reopening of its debates concerns the sole determination of the turnover generated by the diverted customers” (by Blue Mind to the detriment of Linagora). The opposing parties disagreed on this determination, the assessed amount obviously not being the same on both sides. The court fully ruled Linagora’s claim for compensation:
“This loss of opportunity is justified taking into account part of the clientele considered, since these are entities in the public sphere. [un premier arrêt de la cour d’appel, le 1er décembre 2020 mentionnait comme clientèle détournée: AG2R, le groupe HLM Les Chalets, EDF, l’INSA, l’Inserm, le conseil départemental du Tarn-et-Garonne et le ministère de l’Intérieur] and likely to be sensitive to the French and free solution offered by the company Linagora Grand Sud Ouest, and on the other hand the low chance that customers will not renew contracts with their supplier once the solution is installed, so in addition that it has not been demonstrated that other French players than the companies linagora Grand Sud Ouest and, Linagora and Blue Mind offer a similar free messaging solution. It follows that the request of the company Linagora Grand Sud Ouest will be granted in its entirety. “
The court condemns to pay to Linagora, under the eviction guarantee (legal guarantee after a purchase in the event of disturbance in the possession), Pierre Baudracco, 34,024 euros and Pierre Carlier, 17,068 euros. “In compensation for the damage suffered by reason of the eviction”, the two are also jointly ordered to pay 405,740 euros to Linagora Grand Sud Ouest. They are also jointly ordered to pay 30,000 euros under Article 700 of the Code of Civil Procedure (for the costs of the winning party not covered by the costs).
Linagora buys Twake and releases its platform under a free license – July 30, 2020
Free and open source express: FSF on the rise, VLC in the spotlight, BlueMind-Linagora trial, Nuxeo is moving – January 30, 2019
Linux solutions: CNLL, black is black, Linagora against Blue Mind – May 25, 2014