Microsoft finds itself the target of a lawsuit from a small St. Louis tech company that says it was using "Bing" as a trademark as far back as 2000, nine years before Microsoft named its 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. Attorneys for Bing Information Design claim the company has been using the Bing moniker for nearly a decade, and that Microsoft knew of the company's name before deciding to title its search engine.
Bing Information Design "alleges that the name 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 dilutes the value of the plaintiff's trademark," said a Dec. 17 news release by The Simon Law Firm, which is representing the smaller company. "The suit seeks actual and punitive damages including having Microsoft pay for corrective advertising to remedy the confusion it caused."
Microsoft responded in an e-mail to eWEEK that it had only heard of the lawsuit through the media.
"We have not been served with a complaint, but are aware of the suit based on media reports," wrote Kevin Kutz, a Microsoft spokesperson. "We believe this suit to be without merit and 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."
As is not unusual for a large corporation, Microsoft has found itself in a number of legal battles over the course of 2009. Over the summer, i4i, a small Toronto-based company, sued Microsoft alleging a patent violation in Microsoft Word. The original verdict of that case, passed down by a U.S. District Court judge in Texas, would have forced Microsoft to pull copies of Microsoft Word 2003 and Microsoft Word 2007 from store shelves within 60 days.
Microsoft was later allowed to keep selling Word during the legal proceedings.
Another small software company, Uniloc, based in Irvine, Calif., sued Microsoft in 2006 for allegedly violating its product-activation patent, winning damages of $388 million. In October, however, a court overturned that case on appeal.
In addition to being the target of lawsuits, Microsoft has also filed a few of its own. On Sept. 18, the company announced that it was filing suits against five entities that it accused of spreading "malvertising," or online advertising used to distribute malware. That followed an earlier civil lawsuit filed by Microsoft's Internet Safety Enforcement Team aiming to end what was described as a massive click-fraud scheme.
Editor's Note: This story has been updated with a comment from Microsoft.