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RealTime IT News

Microsoft Sued Again; This Time Over Office Live

If there is anything resembling guaranteed employment any more, it's reserved for Microsoft lawyers. Unless, of course, they keep losing as badly as they did last week.

The company now finds itself in a legal imbroglio over its Office Live offering with Office Live LLC, a Los Angeles-based provider of online professional services. The suit was actually filed in December of 2006 but was held off while the two sides attempted to mediate, according to John C. Gorman, an intellectual property attorney with Gorman & Miller, PC in San Jose, California who is representing Office Live LLC.

"Our positions were quite far apart. There was some talk but we didn't resolve anything," Gorman told internetnews.com.

The suit seeks both monetary relief and an injunction preventing Microsoft  from using the "Office Live" name. Gorman said nothing is on the calendar yet regarding the request for an injunction.

Sometimes, holding off the lawyers can work, as in the recent Cisco  versus Apple  iPhone trademark case that was settled before going to trial. But efforts to resolve the Office Live case have so far failed.

Microsoft's defense is that it doesn't believe Office Live LLC has a trademark, or that it is infringing any rights asserted by Office Live LLC. "Now that the complaint has been served, we will vigorously defend our legal position. We also will seek to invalidate Office Live LLC’s claim to trademark the phrase “Office Live” in its common connotation," said Jack Evans, a legal spokesman for Microsoft, in a statement emailed to internetnews.com.

Gorman said, and Evans acknowledged, that Office Live LLC first applied for and received a mark for "Office Live" in 2002. Microsoft's argument is that the uses of the term "live" is a descriptor, which is ineligible for a trade or service mark.

"Clearly, if anyone is seeking to gain from the name of another company’s products, it’s the plaintiffs in this case. Microsoft Office has been in the marketplace substantially longer than any of plaintiffs’ product offerings," wrote Evans.

Not so, said Gorman. "The US Patent and Trademark examiner considered the issue of whether the mark was merely descriptive or protective and made what we considered a clear ruling that the mark is not merely descriptive. Microsoft had an opportunity in 2002 to file any objections it had to the issuance of the mark and decided not to do so," he said.