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Microsoft Dealt Legal Blow Against Windows Trademark

Microsoft Dealt Legal Blow Against Windows Trademark

by , 4:00 PM EDT, May 17th, 2002

Microsoft has been pursing a suit against Lindows, seeking to stop that company from using the name Lindows, as well as seeking to stop the company from releasing its signature product. Lindows is designed to allow Linux users to run Windows software on Linux. Microsoft had been seeking a preliminary injunction against Lindows that would immediately stop them from doing these things, which a judge denied in March of this year. In the ruling handed down in that decision, the judge said that questions of whether or not Windows could be a trademark term at all had been raised.

Microsoft appealed that decision, telling the judge he had erred. The judge has handed down a new ruling in that appeal, again denying Microsoft's requests. From a press release (not a news story) issued by Lindows.com:

Judge Coughenour wrote in a seven page ruling that after "examining the evidence with a sharper focus" news articles, advertisements, competitors and dictionary definitions demonstrated that the "consuming public used the terms 'windows,' 'window' and 'windowing' to refer to a type of graphical user interface." The Western Washington District Judge also wrote that through "its own use of the evidence" Microsoft essentially admits that "windows" is a generic term. The Court bolstered that finding by citing Microsoft's own computer dictionary definition, as well as quotes from then Vice President of Marketing, Steve Ballmer, in discussing the introduction of Windows 1.0. To read the document in its entirety, visit www.lindows.com/opposition.

Microsoft had contended that the Court had a "fundamental misapprehension" and had "reached an incorrect result" in an earlier ruling in which the Court stated that Microsoft had raised "serious questions" about the validity of its windows trademark and refused to halt Lindows.com from using both Lindows.com and LindowsOS for its operating system name.

In the latest ruling, the Court found that it "did not err in either its legal or factual analysis when it denied Microsoft's motion for a preliminary injunction" against Lindows.com.

"Microsoft pulled the pin on this grenade and the Judge made them swallow it," said Lindows.com, Inc., Chief Executive Officer Michael Robertson. "Our goal is to bring choice back to computers in spite of Microsoft's bullying tactics. If we have to go to trial where the word "windows" will be declared generic, we're prepared to do so."

You can read the full press release at the Lindows.com site. C|Net is reporting that Microsoft intends to take the case to trial.

The Mac Observer Spin:

Microsoft can't catch a break, of late, at least in the legal world. The last legal victory it got was when the current DoJ forfeited the sweeping legal victories earned by the previous DoJ in the company's antitrust trial. Had it not been for the help of the Bush administration's DoJ, the company would be fighting a battle against the combined might of the DoJ and most of the 18 states and the District of Columbia that were originally in the antitrust fight. As it is, the 9 remaining dissenting states seem be doing just fine in their own batter against the company.

Before we get too far off topic beating that particular dead horse, this fight with Lindows was a foolish one for the Microsoft to enter. Lindows itself was hardly a threat to the Windows trademark, and it seems clear to us that Microsoft was more concerned about stopping a software product that would let Windows software be run on free Linux operating systems. It has backfired so far, and it seems the biggest thing that will come out of this suit, if Microsoft pursues the case any further, will be that the company loses its trademark on its biggest product, Windows. Ouch. Some days, you just can't win, even when you are Microsoft.

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