Courts Ruling

By Steven Vaughan-Nichols  |  Posted 2004-06-02 Print this article Print

While noting that Lindows has a legitimate interest in using its company name in manuals, licenses and other legal documents, the court also noted that use of "Lindows" was still legal outside the Benelux countries and that Lindows was cautious to ensure that use of the name inside the Benelux was limited and accompanied by a disclaimer. The court ruled that such use "neither contravenes the judgment nor the settlement agreement," since "use" in the context of the agreement "can only be interpreted as infringing use."
"Awarding Microsofts claim would have the factual consequence that Lindows would need to adapt its [company] name also outside the Benelux, which, under the present circumstances, it is not obliged to do," the court ruled.
The court also decided that the limited use of "Lindows" as a company name "does nothing to take unfair advantage of, or cause detriment to, the distinctive character or reputation Microsofts trademarks."

As part of Lindows and Microsofts settlement agreement after Microsofts first Amsterdam lawsuit, "Lindows and Microsoft agreed that Lindows would not use Lindows or anything too similar as a trademark or as part of its software marketing/packaging materials within the Benelux region," Peterson said. Lindows is preparing for an IPO. Click here to read more. "Lindows also agreed to block its Web site against visitors from the Benelux and to make its Lindows software products unavailable for purchase there. Lindows then changed the name of its Benelux products and Web site to Linspire," he said. "However, in the small print on its Web site pages and inside its product packaging, manuals and license agreements, Lindows uses the name of its company: Lindows Inc. "And even though a Web site visitor or product consumer would never see the company name until after the Web page or product package was opened, Lindows went even further to clarify that it has no affiliation with Microsoft," Peterson said. The Amsterdam court observed, "In every instance, the trade name [i.e., company name] is supplemented by the following phrase: Lindows Inc. is not endorsed by or affiliated with Microsoft Corp. in any way."

Despite this added text, Peterson said, "Microsoft filed a motion claiming that Lindows was violating the judgment and the settlement agreement by including its company name in the small print of its manuals and license agreements, albeit with a disclaimer of affiliation with Microsoft. "Microsoft further claimed that Lindows is benefiting unjustifiably from the reputation of the Windows brands and should be immediately enjoined from including its company name on any materials distributed in Benelux.

Microsoft did not return calls asking for comment.

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Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols is editor at large for Ziff Davis Enterprise. Prior to becoming a technology journalist, Vaughan-Nichols worked at NASA and the Department of Defense on numerous major technological projects. Since then, he's focused on covering the technology and business issues that make a real difference to the people in the industry.

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