Cisco accused of violating GPL as it sues Apple over iPhone copyright

The GPL Violations Project says that Cisco has not published some of the source code for its WIP300 iPhone as required under its open-source licensing agreement

Even while Cisco Systems is suing Apple for violating its iPhone trademark, an open-source enthusiast is accusing Cisco itself of infringing copyright in regard to the same product.

Cisco has not published the source code for some components of its WIP300 iPhone as required under its open-source licensing agreement, says Armijn Hemel, a consultant with Loohuis Consulting and half of the team running the GPL Violations Project, which identifies and publicises misuse of the open-source general public licence.

The WIP300 iPhone is based on Linux and Cisco has agreed to comply with the terms of the open-source GPL licence in order to use the software. The GPL licence requires the company to publish the code that it develops for the phone.

Industry experts say that open-source software users, including companies and individuals, commonly fail to share their developments. Sometimes that’s because they misunderstand how open-source software works but it may also be because publishing the code can be a cumbersome, expensive process.

Hemel downloaded the firmware for the WIP300 phone and reverse-engineered it, first checking with a lawyer that such a process is legal. He discovered that Cisco had neglected to share the code for a couple of programs contained in the phone, including the Memory Technology Device, which is used to program the Flash memory.

Hemel also found similar omissions in other Cisco products and contacted the company to arrange a meeting. The Cisco representatives he finally talked to, in a conference call in October, were very reasonable, he said. The company subsequently fixed the omissions in a respect of a few products Hemel identified, he said. However, Cisco has yet to publish the relevant code for the WIP300 iPhone, he said.

Hemel said he had decided to talk about his findings now because "the timing is just perfect".

"For someone talking about Apple using Cisco's property, actually they're infringing on copyright themselves. So it's just a double standard."

Earlier this month, Cisco filed a lawsuit charging Apple with trademark infringement since Apple introduced a mobile phone called the iPhone.

The GPL Violations Project has successfully enforced 100 violations.

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