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Lindows.com CEO Opens 'Windows' to Trademark Case

In keeping with its promise to keep the public updated on its trademark infringement defense against Microsoft Corp. , San Diego startup Lindows.com released copies of its main opposition papers before it takes on the software giant in court Feb 27.

Lindows.com Founder and CEO Michael Robertson published a letter Thursday on the company's Web site stating its defense against Microsoft's claims that his firm is treading on hallowed ground by using the terms "LindowsOS" and "Lindows.com" to describe a Linux-based operating system that runs Microsoft Windows applications. The papers were officially filed Jan. 28 in a Seattle U.S. District Court.

In a nutshell, Lindows.com's alleged that Microsoft is unreasonably trying to prevent a competing product that rhymes with the word "windows" from reaching the market under the guise that the aforementioned Lindows terms unfairly infringe on its flagship OS brand. Robertson and Co. claimed "windows" is so generic a term that no company should have the absolute right to it. As such, Lindows.com is playing the attempted monopoly card.

"No matter how much money a company spends, they should not be allowed to prevent others from using a descriptive term widely used in the industry; especially if that company has been found guilty of illegal tactics to build and maintain its monopoly." said Robertson. "This would be like a furniture company selling a 'Super Chair', driving other furniture companies out of business illegally, and then trying to gain exclusive rights to the word "chair" and block all competitors from using it."

The nuts and bolts of Lindows.com's argument may be viewed in their entirety here, but what may be more compelling are the witnesses to discredit Microsoft's position. For example, Lindows.com enlisted one John Dvorak, a 20-year veteran of the computing sector, to testify that Microsoft has a history of pairing their name with a generic word, such as "Microsoft Word."

Lindows.com also attempted to show that Microsoft is trying to staunch competition by noting that there are hundreds of computing products with the word" windows" attached to them. Robertson argued that the software behemoth has never attempted to sue the companies behind them.

"Why would Microsoft allow these thousands of products to use what they claim to be their trademark with no protest whatsoever, but decide to sue Lindows.com?" Robertson said. "The fact that Microsoft is targeting only Lindows.com demonstrates their real motivation is to stop a potential competitor and NOT that they believe there's confusion concerning the product name."

Moreover, Lindows.com tabbed an independent marketing company to conduct a survey asking over 14,000 likely buyers to participate. The upstart claimed that not one respondent was confused that Lindows could be a Microsoft-issued product.

Robertson continued with his analogies: "We want to focus on building our product and not fighting in court, but we also think it's important to stand up to the bully on the first playground encounter otherwise he'll chase you home every day. We have offered a compromise to Microsoft whereby we would continue to use our company name Lindows.com since that bears no resemblance whatsoever to Microsoft, but we would not use LindowsOS as our product name. This offer was not accepted."

Microsoft spokesman John Murchison said the opposition papers were "old news" and said he would check with Microsoft's legal counsel in the matter for a response.

Meanwhile, Lindows.com has released a sneak preview of its flagship LindowsOS to developers. This will be followed by version 1.0, which will go on sale later this year for $99.