RealTime IT News

Microsoft's Appeal in 'Lindows' Case Rejected

Microsoft Corp. lost another battle in its trademark feud with Lindows.com, maker of a Linux operating system compatible with Windows programs, as a Seattle judge rejected the software giant's latest attempt to keep it from using the Lindows name.

U.S. District Court Judge John Coughenour upheld his ruling from March, when he refused Microsoft a preliminary injunction preventing San Diego-based Lindows.com from using its name or releasing its LindowsOS product. Calling Microsoft's argument that Windows is not a generic name "flawed," Coughenour wrote, "Through its own use of the evidence, Microsoft essentially admits that these terms [Windows and variations] refer to the genus of products that have windowing capability."

The judge pointed out references to "windows" in press and advertisements before Microsoft Windows was introduced in November 1983, and generic definitions of "windowing environment" and "windowing software" in the Microsoft Computer Dictionary.

Michael Robertson, Lindows.com's CEO and the founder of MP3.com, triumphantly painted the company as standing up for the little guy. "Our goal is to bring choice back to computers in spite of Microsoft's bullying tactics," he said in a statement. "If we have to go to trial where the word "windows" will be declared generic, we're prepared to do so."

Robertson just might need to do that. A jury trial on the issue is slated to begin next April.

Microsoft officials were unavailable for comment.

Microsoft filed a trademark-infringement case against Lindows.com in December 2001, saying Robertson's company has deliberately tried to confuse customers into believing Lindows with Windows.

Lindows.com argues that Microsoft is following form by attacking a potential competitor. In Microsoft's bigger legal headache, its antitrust case with the states, lawyers for the nine states suing Microsoft moved this week to introduce a memo from a Microsoft executive saying the company should punish companies supporting Linux.

Robertson has become a vocal Microsoft critic, regularly posting updates of the case under a "Michael's Minutes" section of the Lindows.com site. In his latest installment, Robertson compares Microsoft products to old sneakers that you don't get rid of out of laziness.

Legal experts have said Microsoft in on shaky ground with its trademark suit, since the company willingly lets many companies use the Windows name for their products. Lindows.com has submitted to the court a list of 351 non-Microsoft products using "windows," or a version of it, in their names.

Lindows.com plans to ship its LindowsOS later this year, aiming to capture customers who like the flexibility along with the capabilities of Windows programs. The company hopes to steal market share with a $99 price tag. The company is currently offering a preview version.