No matter how big or bad a company, they go after alleged trademark thieves with a vengeance. Microsofts trademark lawsuit against Lindows.com, filed Thursday, is a prime example.
Get it? Lindows? Windows? LindowsOS, Windows XP? If you cant tell them apart , you are dumb. Even the most naïve consumer should be able to. If a computer neophyte doesnt have the wherewithal to discover they are different products, they get what they deserve.
I wonder if Lindows.com and Microsoft are colluding. Lindows.com pays Microsoft to file the lawsuit so the former gets more free publicity than it could ever afford on its own. Thats probably not the case, but the Lindows folks have to be pleased about this little flap.
LindowsOS is a new Linux-based operating system that runs both Linux and Windows applications, hence the apt moniker. It cleverly incorporated both the Linux and Windows nature of the product.
Theres no confusion in Lindows.com CEO Michael Robertsons mind that Microsoft is trying to snuff them out. "Theres no one outside of the 600 attorneys at Microsoft that can say with a straight face that any consumer will confuse the Lindows OS with Windows XP Professional."
I have to agree.
Microsoft is soft-peddling the suit, saying it would like to settle the matter outside of court and that its not trying to put Lindows out of business. At this sensitive juncture in the antitrust negotiations, Microsoft risks looking like an anti-competitive bully.
"Were not asking them to cease production of this product. They just should not use the name. The courts gave been very clear on this," says Microsoft spokesman Jon Murchinson, citing similar cases such as Apple v. Pineapple; Prozac v. HerbProzac; and Century 21 v. Century 31.
The trademark infringements on Apple, Prozac and Century 21 seem pretty clear. But Lindows, Windows? Its a stretch.
"Preventing this confusion will help consumers to make fully informed choices about the software products and computers they purchase, and will therefore promote the consumer protection goals of the trademark and unfair competition laws," says the suit.
From the looks of it, the suit aims to protect the dumbest consumers who cant make what is already a clear distinction. Can you hear someone in the Gateway store saying "Does this PC come with loaded with Lindows?"
I doubt it.
"The LINDOWS mark and the WINDOWS mark are nearly identical in appearance, sound and overall impression…LINDOWS.com intentionally adopted the LINDOWS mark to trade on the fame and goodwill associated with the WINDOWS mark," the complaint continues.
I just dont see significant similarities, but Lindows.com could be trying to capitalize on Windows good name a little bit. But to put the dispute in perspective, consider this factoid straight from the Microsoft complaint: Windows has "approximately 384 million users worldwide." LindowsOS has zero, Robertson says.
Where does a big company draw line on trademark infringement? Everywhere, apparently.
"Big companies use the court systems, legislators and patents not as things to inequities, but as calculated business tactics to thwart competition," says Robertson, who is former CEO of MP3.com. "Were not going to change the name."
Eventually it will, most likely. Microsoft could out-litigate and outlast the tiny start-up into the next Stone Age, but as long as Robertson fights, Lindows.com gets the free publicity.
By the way, the beta version of LindowsOS ships within the next 10 days and will cost $99. It will available via download from Lindows.com.
Is Microsoft just being a bully or does it have legitimate beef? Write me at firstname.lastname@example.org.