Microsoft Faces Criticism, Updates Bing

By Nicholas Kolakowski  |  Posted 2009-12-19 Print this article Print


When asked by eWEEK about its current policies for reviewing application code assembled by third parties, Microsoft declined to comment.

"Plurk was already Taiwan's biggest microblogging service, 10 [times]  bigger than Twitter in that market alone, and emerging as Asia's answer to Twitter in many of the biggest countries in East [Asia]," Plurk said in a Dec. 14 post on its company blog, "so naturally Microsoft probably saw some potential in piggybacking off the success of our unique service and launching something similar to a related market in China."

Plurk claimed that about 80 percent of its client and product code base had found its way into Juku, and said on its site that it was looking at "all possibilities on how to move forward in response." Whether or not this will translate into a lawsuit remains to be seen.

The Plurk-Juku incident came a month after Microsoft was forced to address another intellectual property concern, this one revolving around its WUDT (Windows 7 USB/DVD Download Tool). Microsoft originally pulled the tool, used to install Windows 7 on netbooks via USB devices, after allegations that it contained improperly copied open-source code without acknowledgment.

After those allegations proved well-founded, Microsoft readjusted the tool to conform to GNU GPLv2 (General Public License Version 2). The company claimed that a third-party developer had lifted the code from the GPLv2-licensed ImageMaster project hosted on CodePlex.

Peter Vescuso, senior vice president of marketing and business development at Black Duck Software, a producer of tools for open-source management, argued in a Dec. 18 interview with eWEEK that while many large software organizations rely on the judgment and due diligence of their developers to ensure that inappropriately attributed open-source code stays out of a program build, ultimately many projects are too complex to not be vetted by a technological solution.

"If you look at the components, there are hundreds of components" in a large project, Vescuso said. "No development group could possibly track that."

Vescuso could not offer any suggestions as to how Microsoft might be performing its own internal vetting. But in reference to Microsoft's WUDT incident, he said, "These sorts of very public incidences are raising dramatically the issues related to use of open-source code."

If that wasn't enough in the lawsuit department, a small St. Louis design company filed suit against Microsoft this week, saying it had been using the name Bing as a trademark for over nine years before Microsoft launched its own Bing search engine.

Bing Information Design filed the case against Microsoft in the Circuit Court of the City of St. Louis on Dec. 16, alleging unfair competition and copyright infringement. According to a statement from Bing Information Design's legal counsel, Microsoft's use of the name Bing "causes confusion with regard to the relationship between the plaintiff and the defendant, confuses the public with regard to the origin of the plaintiff's services and reduces the value of the plaintiff's trademark."

Microsoft retorted that the suit was without merit.

"We have not been served with a complaint, but are aware of the suit based on media reports," Kevin Kutz, a Microsoft spokesperson, said in a Dec. 17 e-mail to eWEEK. "We do not believe there is any confusion in the marketplace with regard to the complainant's offerings and Microsoft's Bing. We respect trademarks and other people's intellectual property, and look forward to the next steps in the judicial process."

Not all Bing news of the week was law-related. On Dec. 16, Microsoft launched a Bing application for the iPhone, through which users can carry out voice searches, find nearby points of interest and receive driving or walking directions. The application, which can be downloaded from Apple's App Store, is another piece of Microsoft's widespread updating of Bing over the previous two months. On Dec. 17, Microsoft announced in a post on the official Bing blog that it was fixing a few bugs in the iPhone application.

Nicholas Kolakowski is a staff editor at eWEEK, covering Microsoft and other companies in the enterprise space, as well as evolving technology such as tablet PCs. His work has appeared in The Washington Post, Playboy, WebMD, AARP the Magazine, AutoWeek, Washington City Paper, Trader Monthly, and Private Air. He lives in Brooklyn, New York.

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