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Lindows Seeks To Leverage 1992 Apple Court Loss In Windows Trademark Battle

Lindows Seeks To Leverage 1992 Apple Court Loss In Windows Trademark Battle

by , 10:00 AM EST, March 3rd, 2003

What comes around, goes around, or so Lindows.com. The feisty Linux company has issued a press release announcing developments in its ongoing court battle with Microsoft over the Windows trademark owned by Microsoft. Lindows recently gained the attention of the Mac community when the company released a US$799 LindowsOS laptop, and compared it to Apple's 12" PowerBook. Extra attention came from the fact that the company mislabeled the PowerBook as the "iNote," and got several other details wrong, though the company quickly corrected the mistake. (See also our System Shootout between Apple's iBook and the Lindows MobilePC).

Today's announcement from the company involves a trademark battle with Microsoft. What began as an attempt by Microsoft to keep Lindows from using its name on the basis of its resemblance to Windows has turned into a situation where the Windows trademark could well be taken away from Big Redmond.

Lindows is seeking to use court statements from Apple's failed 1992 attempt to keep Microsoft from using elements of the Mac OS in the then-fledgling Windows OS. Apple lost that case, in part because of licensing agreements between the two companies that effectively gave Microsoft permission to use those elements, and in part because Microsoft successfully argued that things like windows, icons, and the like existed before the original Mac OS. According to today's announcement, Lindows apparently hopes to use Microsoft's own words from that court case against the company. From that press release:

The United States District Court in Seattle has ordered Microsoft to produce more than 300 boxes of evidence in the "windows" trademark dispute, resulting in a trial delay. The jury trial was scheduled to begin on April 7, 2003, and has now been rescheduled to begin on December 1, 2003.

The newly produced documents include documentation from the 1992 Apple vs. Microsoft case. The documents reveal that elements such as windows, icons and menus were not the property of any one company because they were widely used in the computer business. This is contrary to Microsoft's current argument that they should maintain exclusive use of the word "windows". In last year's March 15, 2002, Order denying Microsoft request for a preliminary injunction against Lindows.com, the Court noted that, "In its defense of a copyright suit brought by Apple Computer, Microsoft successfully argued that several companies had introduced user interfaces featuring overlapping windows prior to Microsoft's announcement of its Windows product."

"We're grateful for the additional time to examine the hundreds of thousands of pages that Microsoft has previously refused to produce, but now is required to produce by the Judge," said Michael Robertson, chief executive officer of Lindows.com, Inc. "We're hopeful the documents will add to the mountain of evidence that demonstrates the term 'windows' is generic and not the exclusive property of any one company."

"We expect those boxes to include testimony from dozens of witnesses, court transcripts, and demonstrative evidence Microsoft introduced to demonstrate the development of windowing systems in the 1970s and early 1980s, before both Apple and Microsoft developed their own," stated Daniel Harris, lead counsel for Lindows.com. "We also expect to receive more documents which will shed light on how Microsoft was able to obtain a trademark for 'windows' after the United States Patent and Trademark Office repeatedly refused registration because the mark was deemed to be generic."

You can get more information about Lindows.com at the company's Web site.

The Mac Observer Spin:

We wish the company well in this endeavor. We aren't taking an opportunity to pile on Microsoft; it is instead a matter of principal. Microsoft being able to trademark "Windows" would be similar to Logitech or Kensington getting a trade mark on "Mouse." Lindows rightfully argues this mark should never have been issued in the first place. Attempting to keep Lindows from using that name is clearly abuse of the trademark, and is exactly why Microsoft shouldn't be allowed to keep it.

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