RealTime IT News

Appeals Court Denies Microsoft Petition

Microsoft lost a battle of semantics against commercial Linux vendor Lindows on Monday, when an appeals court refused to consider the software giant's interpretation of the term "windows."

The Ninth Circuit of the U.S. Court of Appeals denied Microsoft's petition that the jury in the trademark case against Lindows -- a name that bears striking resemblance to the Windows operating system (OS) used in more than 90 percent of the world's PCs -- should only consider the term as it is publicly recognized today.

Lindows, on the other hand, has been trying to convince judges that a jury should focus on whether the term was generic at the time of the release of Windows 1.0 in November 1985. If it was a generic term when Windows hit the market, Lindows lawyers argue, Microsoft should not be able to continue with trademark infringement claims.

In a 16-word ruling, judges denied Microsoft's request, filed at the appeals court shortly before the jury trial was to begin in Seattle on March 1. Judge John Coughenour, the district court judge presiding over the Seattle case, rejected Microsoft's interpretation of the term in February , prompting the Redmond, Wash., company to appeal.

A window is a common enough computer term for the rectangular display window used to contain applications, though it's commonly capitalized to refer to the Microsoft OS.

Lindows officials expect the trial to resume in the second half of this year. Microsoft's Bill Gates and Steve Ballmer are scheduled to testify, as is Michael Robertson, Lindows' CEO.

"This outright denial of Microsoft's appeal confirms that the trial will focus on how consumers and the software industry used the term 'windows' in the 1980s, before Microsoft dominated the landscape," Robertson said in a statement. "We're looking forward to getting this trial back on the fast track and presenting our piles of evidence . . . which clearly shows the generic use of 'windows' before Microsoft commandeered the world."

Microsoft officials were not immediately available for comment on the ruling at press time.

The ruling is good news for Lindows, a company looking to go public this year and has been faring poorly in similar litigation overseas.

A ruling in Amersterdam earlier this year prompted the company to change the name of its product line to Linspire and revamp their Web site so Dutch users could not access the Lindows name online. Microsoft recently took the Linux company back to the Amsterdam court for not fully complying with the ruling.