Microsoft Clamps Down on Mobile 2005 Stories

Apple and Microsoft have something in common after all — both are attempting to stop bloggers from publishing information about upcoming technology.

Peter Rojas, editor and co-founder of the popular technology blog, said there is an “ongoing situation” over a post that went on his site Jan. 5. The article detailed some upcoming features rumored to be in Windows Mobile 2005 for Microsoft’s Pocket PCs and Smartphones.

The post prompted a cease-and-desist letter, dated Tuesday, from intellectual property lawyer Cameron Alston of the law firm Covington & Burling. The letter to Engadget publisher Jason Calacanis stated the material found in the post infringed on Microsoft’s proprietary trade secrets.

“If you do not act expeditiously to remove access to the infringing material, you may otherwise be liable for trademark infringement, trade secret misappropriation, and/or other remedies at law, including civil and criminal penalties,” the letter states.

Alston was not available for comment at press time.

Calacanis and Engadget aren’t the only target. Friday afternoon, the blog posted an entry stating its owners had also received a legal threat to remove the story.

The Windows Mobile technology story first broke at the site earlier this month. Unlike Engadget, however, Neowin owners took the story down after legal threats from Microsoft lawyers.

Microsoft officials said the infringing material wasn’t the information in the posts, but a screenshot image of the Windows Mobile 2005 they say was stolen from its servers. They said they were required to take additional steps, given the viral nature of the blogs.

“It is routine in business, particularly in the high-tech IP industry, for companies to take steps to protect intellectual property,” a Microsoft statement reads. “Legal notifications requesting that businesses or individuals not post proprietary material are common in the industry.

“We understand that in this instance, some individuals may have had concerns regarding the tone of the request,” it continues. “It is our preference to address these issues through personal contact and when we cannot, to do so in a respectful manner.”

A Microsoft spokesperson could not comment on which sites the company has already personally contacted.

Steven Bink of the blog said it went further than a request to take down the screen shot, however.

“I received an e-mail from a Microsoft ‘Internet Investigator’ after I syndicated an article from Neowin regarding Windows Mobile 2005,” he said in an e-mail. “The e-mail requested to take the article of my site and so I did.”

The situation is almost a mirror image of events happening in the Mac world. Apple created something of a furor in the blogging world for suing Web sites, arguing they were publishing trade secrets.

In the case against Nick dePlume, otherwise known as Harvard student Nicholas Ciarelli of the rumor and Apple Web site, Apple lawyers allege he incited people with access to pre-release information to make them public. The student has retained the services of Terry Gross, former counsel at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, and is arguing the information is protected by First Amendment rights.

So far, the suit is having little affect among bloggers outside generating criticism from First Amendment proponents.

Updates prior version to include ThinkSecret and Nicholas Ciarelli’s real name; corrects address.

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