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Microsoft

Lindows Legal Challenge 351

Posted by Hemos
from the nothing-doin' dept.
pphrdza was one of several readers who sent in the latest on the Lindows front - it's a Ny Times (Free reg. blah blah) article entitled Glass Panes and Software. Not a whole lot of new information - more around the legal challenge blah blah.
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Lindows Legal Challenge

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  • Question (Score:2, Interesting)

    Not a troll...

    Is anyone out there even using Lindows?

    • It looks like the answer is no. That's not too surprising, however. The most likely action for a slashdot reader on getting a Lindows machine is to convert it to a Debian. Next most likely is to immediately install Red Hat, SuSE, or Mandrake. (Debian comes first because it already has apt-get installed.)
      (N.B.: These are my wild guesses, and haven't been checked against reality.)

      These results don't say much about the average person who buys one of these beasts... unless /. people are the only buyers. Possible, I suppose.
  • The CEO of Lindows should legally change his name to "Bill Gates."
  • No-reg-required link (Score:5, Informative)

    by Uninvited Guest (237316) on Monday December 30, 2002 @12:01PM (#4982019)
    Google news [nytimes.com]
  • by KaiKaitheKai (531398) on Monday December 30, 2002 @12:06PM (#4982045) Homepage
    Okay, you take your proudct, that directly competes with Microsoft's. You change one letter of it, and market it. What do you think is going to happen?

    The $200 and $300 computers are perfect for those people who just want to visit this new-fangled internet thing, or type something up. It provides a low-cost, low-risk entry into the digital world. This is why Microsoft feels threatened.

    Now, Lindows is not Windows, that is true. It may not be able to run as many programs, etc, fill in whatever you want, but the average super-low cost user doesn't need this. All they want is word processing, and internet access. If you don't want to spend $400 For Office XP, and $200 for Windows XP, because all you want to do is type and surf, you will opt for the PC that costs less than your OS.
    • by blakestah (91866) <blakestah@gmail.com> on Monday December 30, 2002 @12:21PM (#4982145) Homepage
      What are you talking about? The article is about trademark law. Back in the day, Microsoft was granted a trademark on the name Windows. Now, you can't trademark a word commonly associated with the product you are making. For example, I couldn't trademark the name "ice cream" for my ice cream product. The word is commonly used for that already, and this has two negative effects. One, I gain value by associating my trademark with the words defining the product. Two, I shut out all my competitors from being able to market "ice cream".

      In Microsoft's case, the answer will be pretty clear. The trademark on "Windows" should never have been granted in the first place. It was already a common name in computer software. The fact that Lindows changes one letter is irrelevant if the Windows trademark is invalid.

      And the preliminary injunction said it was invalid, and allowed Lindows to use its name pending trial. Expect Microsoft to get slammed. But don't worry - this will not affect trademarks on WindowsXP, Windows2000, Windows3.1, or Windows NT, each of which can stand alone as its own trademark.

      But the generic term Windows will be gone. And plenty of other computer manufacturers will be quick to use Windows in the names of their products.
      • Microsoft did never ever get a trademark for "windows". They got a trademark for "Microsoft Windows". Even back in 1983 any apply for a trademark on a single world like "windows" would have been laughed at.

        It is a very big difference between having a trademark on a word like "windows" and a product "Microsoft Windows". Their trademark of "Microsoft Windows" leaves it open for anyone to call anything "blabla windows", "BLurwindows" or anything with the word windows or derived from the word windows.

      • What are you talking about? The article is about trademark law. Back in the day, Microsoft was granted a trademark on the name Windows.

        Uhhh, back in the day? According to the article Microsoft first applied for a trademark in 1993 and was rejected. Borland had some pending trademarks on names which included Windows. Microsoft bought those pending trademarks, and in 1995 was issued a trademark on "Windows." Hardly back in the day. ;-)

      • Lindows.com is defending a broad principle, its lawyer says. "No company, no matter how powerful, no matter how much money it has spent, should be able to gain a commercial monopoly on words in the English language," said the lawyer, Daniel Harris, a partner at Clifford Chance.

        Microsoft, which also has trademarks on "Word", "Company", "Powerful", "Money", "Monopoly", "English" and "The" has declined to comment. However, it has now also trademarked the words "Harris" and "Chance", since these refer to their new knee-capping and concrete-boot products.

        Share and Enjoy!

    • by theLOUDroom (556455) on Monday December 30, 2002 @12:25PM (#4982182)
      Okay, you take your proudct, that directly competes with Microsoft's. You change one letter of it, and market it. What do you think is going to happen?

      You are not accutately describing the situation. Windows is a generic term. Trademarking windows is like me going and trademarking "wiper blades." It's a generic term already in common use, just like windows was. It shouldn't matter if my wiperblades company gets 90% market share, I picked a generic term.

      BTW Xwindows only differs from windows by only letter too, so even with your logic MS should loose their trademark.
      • BTW Xwindows only differs from windows by only letter too

        No, the trademarked name of the window system is "X". The trademarked name of Microsoft's operating system is "Windows". I fail to see how "X" and "Windows" differ by only one letter.
      • BTW Xwindows only differs from windows by only letter too

        As has been stated several times, the name is X Window System, and as you can easily read doing a man X:

        The X Consortium requests that the following names be used when referring to this software:
        • X
        • X Window System
        • X Version 11
        • X Window System, Version 11
        • X11

        If the people call it X-Windows or XWindows anyways, that's not a problem of the X Consortium.

        BTW, the (unofficial) term X Windows appears everywhere in the GNU documentation (problems using trademarks in GNU documents?)

      • Windows is a generic term. Trademarking windows is like me going and trademarking "wiper blades." It's a generic term already in common use, just like windows was. It shouldn't matter if my wiperblades company gets 90% market share, I picked a generic term.

        That's a can of worms, tho'. Advanced Micro Devices? Hmm, a generic name for a company making... advanced micro devices. IBM? A generic name for an international company making... business machines. Cisco? Hmm, they happen to be based in San Francisco, so can that be trademarked? See where I'm going with this?

        The only safe option is to use a made-up word, like Compaq or Nvidea.
    • by NineNine (235196)
      Okay, you take your proudct, that directly competes with Microsoft's. You change one letter of it, and market it. What do you think is going to happen?

      Pretty much any company would do this. And, Lindows is going to lose. Try to open a restaurant named "Mc Ronald's" and see what happens. Or a store named "Bal-Mart". Or a drink named "Coca-Mola". The guys at Lindows obviously have never used a lawyer.
      • And, Lindows is going to lose.

        You should read the article before making such pronouncements. First, Lindows won the first round when the Judge refused to impose the restraining order requested by MS. Second, how close the word "lindows" is to "windows" is irrelevent if, as linodws claims, the word "windows" should not have been given trademark status in the first place.

      • No, the argument would be more like this...

        The McDonald's Co. opens stores called "McDonald's Restaurant", and gets a trademark on "McDonald's Restaurant". Later, they get a trademark on "Restaurant", and begin calling all their, ahem, restaurants, "Restaurant". Still later, some company calls their restaurant "Lestaurant" and gets sued by McDonald's because it's only one letter different than "Restaurant". Lestaurant turns around and sues McDonald's saying that "Restaurant" is a generic term to start with and that their trademark is invalid.

        Now, if you don't like my point, allow me to cut and paste, and replace McDonalds with Microsoft, Restaurant with Windows, etc...

        The Microsoft Co. creates a windows product called called "Microsoft Windows", and gets a trademark on "Microsoft Windows". Later, they get a trademark on "Windows", and begin calling all their, ahem, windows products, "Windows". Still later, some company calls their windows product "Lindows" and gets sued by Microsoft because it's only one letter different than "Windows". Lindows turns around and sues Microsoft saying that "Windows" is a generic term to start with and that their trademark is invalid.

        Or something like that...
        • Funny though... (Score:3, Insightful)

          by MacAndrew (463832)
          Lindows IS getting a leg up because of MS "Windows"; they sought the association by choosing the name. Now, because Microsoft went with a term that is both generic and heavily promoted by them, Lindows gets a substantial and probably legal boost.

          OK by me, but how tragic for Microsoft. If only they had called it Wacintosh in the first place. :)

          BTW, one bright spot: McDonald's Restaurant didn't have a claim against a long-standing McDonald's eatery in an Illinois town, operated by a guy named McDonald. Big McDonald threatened and cajoled little McDonald, and lost. Eventually the McDonald's franchise in town closed, too. So there.
        • Still later, some company calls their restaurant "Lestaurant"

          But there would be a difference, because a Lestaurant would serve chinese food.

          I'll get my coat.
    • All they want is word processing, and internet access.

      Everybody keeps saying this, but it's just not the case. Maybe 3 years ago, but now people want a bit more. Digital photography is getting really big. Just about every average-joe I know either already prints out their own photos, or wants to print photos like the guy across the street. Oh yeah, and does it burn cds? People are asking more from their computers these days. Email, web, and word processing isn't going to cut it anymore.
  • Lerox (Score:3, Insightful)

    by nucal (561664) on Monday December 30, 2002 @12:17PM (#4982110)
    "Although Lindows.com certainly made a conscious decision to play with fire by choosing a product and company name that differs by only one letter from the world's leading computer software program," the judge wrote, "one could just as easily conclude that in 1983 Microsoft made an equally risky decision to name its product after a term commonly used in the trade to indicate the windowing capability of a G.U.I."

    The irony here, of course, is that it was Xerox [boka-software.com] that pioneered the GUI ...

  • by sheriff_p (138609) on Monday December 30, 2002 @12:18PM (#4982123)
    Before anyone mods up a stupid comment - would you be up-in-arms is Microsoft's next server platform was called Minux? Thanks. Next.
    • by Anonymous Coward
      Before anyone mods up a stupid comment - would you be up-in-arms is Microsoft's next server platform was called Minux? Thanks. Next.

      You are missing the point.
      Windows is a GENERIC term. Linux is not.
      As simple as that.
      • by angle_slam (623817)
        You are missing the point. Windows is a GENERIC term. Linux is not.

        Windows is not a generic term now. If someone says Linux, you know what they are talking about (the specific OS). By the same terms, if someone says that a program they wrote "runs on Windows" you know, with 100% certainty, that they are referring to the specificMS OS called Windows. That is the perfect illustration of secondary meaning, when you say a name do people think you generally mean a type of product or do you think of a specific product. For example, when you say "hand me a Kleenex" you probably don't give a hoot if I give you Kleenex brand tissues, Puffs brand, or Wal-Mart brand. But if I say I want a Windows program, you know that I don't want some program written for Linux.

        The issue in the case is not whether or not the term Windows is generic now (it obviously isn't), but wheter or not the term Windows was generic when it was initially adopted, because there are a few cases that say that if a term is generic, it can never become trademarked, even if the name is associated with the one particular product. The most famous case for this prinicple is the Shredded Wheat case.

        It must be a slow newsday, though. This case is old news, until the judge makes a decision (Lindows filed its summary judgment motion in October). Yet it makes both NYT and /.

        • Windows is not a generic term now. If someone says Linux, you know what they are talking about (the specific OS). By the same terms, if someone says that a program they wrote "runs on Windows" you know, with 100% certainty, that they are referring to the specificMS OS called Windows.

          But if someone says their program "runs on X windows" we will also know what it means, that their program folllows the X11 Windowing System Protocol and probably runs on UNIX. This suggests to me that while the word Windows alone, used as if it were a software platform, is very not generic, "it sounds like Windows" is certainly a generic at this point. "Lindows" seems about as close to "Windows" as "X Windows", and it has X11 *in* it, so..

          I'm not sure they could win this case even were the trademark a valid one when it was filed. According to this [uni-essen.de] X-windows was developed and in use in MIT student labs in 1984 (although W, the precursor to X, existed before that) and was being commercially deployed by 1988. According to this [computerhope.com] MSWindows was announced in 1983 and was being commercially deployed by 1985. As far as i'm concerned, if Microsoft has problems with things that sound like 'cheap knock-offs' of their Windows trademark.. well, if Windows is a microsoft trademark, then 'X Windows' certainly sounds like a cheap knock-off to me (X-Windows isn't the product's name, but a lot of people call it that.). Microsoft didn't do anything about this in 1988, their trademark is now diluted, and they can't complain about this now.

          Beyond this, it seems to me any arguments you could use to claim Windows is a non-generic could be equally applied to Office: If you say "this is an Office document" people know exactly what you mean. Microsoft has spent ungodly amounts of money on marketing the name Office. But yesterday in CompUSA, i quite definitely saw a box for sale clearly marked "Hancom Office".. with "Hancom" in little tiny letters, and the visual design of the box very similar to that of the MSOffice v.X packaging. That seems more to me to be profiteering off of a trademark MS has built up than "Lindows".

          Here's the thing.. everything i've said above makes perfect sense to me. However, I'm not sure it means a damn thing from a legal standpoint. Is the whole "X Windowing System therefore MSWindows can't trademark-collide with similar-sounding products" a valid legal argument? Is there some SPECIFIC legal reason that it's okay for people to stomp all over the Office trademark but not the Windows one?

          For example, when you say "hand me a Kleenex" you probably don't give a hoot if I give you Kleenex brand tissues, Puffs brand, or Wal-Mart brand. But if I say I want a Windows program, you know that I don't want some program written for Linux.

          So what would you assume if i told you "Hand me some Leenex"? ^_^
      • by Squidgee (565373)
        While Windows may be a "generic" term, Linux is fast becoming one as well. See other posts referring to words like escalator going from TM to generic.

        The main point is, wether one likes it or not, Lindows is purposefully meant to mislead the average non-geek. People will see a cheap, Lindows based machine versus an expensive Windows based machine. They'll see a similar GUI, similar ease-of-use, and which do you think they will buy: The $800-$2500 machine, or the $400 machine?

    • by vrmlguy (120854)
      Good point, but there already is an OS called Minux [google.com] (google report 3,300 hits [google.com] on the word). And Winux is also fairly common when refering to software, although not for an OS (google reports 5,650 hits [google.com]).
    • Of course, as this is said time and time again. Windows is and has always been a generic term describing a window renderer or window manager. (i.e. Xwindows, Window Maker, IceWM, and Microsoft Windows)

      Neither Linux nor Minix is by any means a generic term. Maybe ATT could have gotten upset by the use of this term when they owned UNIX but that's stretching it too. (Don't know the exact history here.)

      This case, IMHO is the equivilant to me naming my motherboards that I produce. "Motherboard". I then take a dominance to the market. Some upstart comes along and names their motherboards "Otherboard" and I get all pissed off. Would I have the right to get pissed off? The term motherboard existed long before I came around.

      I also have no sympathy for the "Soap" detergent company.

      • I also have no sympathy for the "Soap" detergent company.

        What were they supposed to call it? Linux [linuxvm.org]?

        • That's pretty odd. But I guess this would be another good example of what's not trademark infringement. Being that Linux, the kernel for an operating system, and Linux the (German?) i guess soap, are two completely different types of products.

          Let's just hope for sanity's sake that this soap company doesn't make any software, or my head will soon explode.
    • How's that pronounced, anyway? Mee-nooks? Mai-naks? Wouldn't MUNIX sound a little better?
    • Minux? Everyone knows it would be called Xenix XP.

      Fool!

    • "Microsoft's next server platform was called Minux?"

      Hmmm, Microsoft Linux... nah, too much of an oxymoron for my liking.
    • No, it's called Minx [reference.com]. Hehehe... Sorry, couldn't resist...

  • by FuzzyDaddy (584528) on Monday December 30, 2002 @12:20PM (#4982135) Journal
    While I have no love in particular for either Microsoft or Lindows, I do hope on some level that Microsoft ends up losing something significant in this case. It would be nice, for once, to see a big company initiate legal proceedings against a much smaller entity, then come out the worse for it in the end. Too many times you see big companies coming down with lawsuits with an apparent attitude of "even if we lose the case we don't come out behind, and perhaps we can crush them solely with the expenses of litigation."

    • It doesn't matter who the companies are. You can't pick and choose who you want to enforce laws for. I suppose that somebody coming out with a "Red Mat" distro would be OK, then? Or a "Webian"? Or possibly a web server called, "Mapache"?
      • I suppose that somebody coming out with a "Red Mat" distro would be OK, then? Or a "Webian"? Or possibly a web server called, "Mapache"?
        I do believe they could do that. In fact, I think I could modify one line of the source code for Apache, maybe do a s/apache/mapache/g and then label it as Mapache! As long as they also GPL it...

        But you're missing the point - Microsoft is taking a regular English word and trying to claim it as their own. If company A creates a windowed interface named Windows and company B created a windowed interface too, company A should expect some consumer confusion because its product's name is so generic. Somebody could say "My windows is frozen" and mean either company A's or company B's version.

        Besides, Microsoft is a monopoly. Monopolies have to play by a different set of rules, and the courts look at them differently. That's the price they pay for such high market share. The courts may (perhaps should) come down a little harder on a monopoly if it tries to sue its competitors out of existence.
        • Apache is covered by the Apache Software License [apache.org] not the GPL. It seems to be a X/MITish sort of license. Item 5 relates to your post:

          * 5. Products derived from this software may not be called "Apache", nor may "Apache" appear in their name, without prior written permission of the Apache Software Foundation.

          I suppose the case could be made that "Mapache" contains "apache". "LindowsOS" on the other hand is plausibly derived from "Microsoft Windows" and is intended in it's short form (Lindows) to sound like MS Windows short form (Windows). The whole thing is going to hinge on whether MS can convince a judge of that.

    • I can't see MS loosing anything very significant. They haven't had the trademark very long, and not having it didn't slow them down much. All they would loose would be the right to harass competitors over their names.
  • by dubbreak (623656) on Monday December 30, 2002 @12:22PM (#4982152)
    from the article:
    "consumer survey that found that 83 percent of people who used PC's at work and 73 percent of PC users at home regarded Windows as a Microsoft trademark and not a generic name
    " ..and how many of those people used computers before 1991 (let alone the early 80's when computers were cost prohibitive) , and how many of those people have ever directly used an os other than a M$ product? what none? so a bunch of people that have only used "windows" thinks that "windows" is a term that M$ pioneered.. go figure. Maybe if they didn't capitolize it just windows, people would remeber they have em in their house ("but i think maybe M$ has the rights to them too"). I'm gonna start a new product called Doors, oh lemme guess that'll dilute windows won't it... geez

  • Microsoft may be in trouble on two fronts here. First of all, "windows" seems to be a word that was used for GUI's before MS marketed their product as Windows. Second, every GUI-paned desktop environment looks like windows in a building (or on a desk, I suppose), so "windows" has become a generic term, even if it wasn't one before. If everyone thinks of GUI desktops as "windows", then MS doesn't have a right to retain a trademark on it. Worse, it's a common word in the language, which makes use of it even more risky. Remember [4hb.com] "cellphane, "aspirin", and "escalator"? They all used to be trademarked terms for products. Microsoft's choice of terms isn't even as good as those.
  • by SailorBob (146385) on Monday December 30, 2002 @12:25PM (#4982184) Homepage Journal
    it's name after some 9 years. From: Windows Commander Name Change [ghisler.com]

    Windows Commander is now Total Commander!

    Why this name change? In Summer 2002, we received a letter from attorneys representing the owner of the trademark Windows. In this letter they expressed concerns that our usage of the name could lead to confusion with their own products. In particular, people could think that our program could be from their company. We were indirectly asked to change the name of our software.

    Because Windows is registered as a trademark, we didn't want to risk a lawsuit, and decided to change the name. It's important to mention that we have been treated in a very fair way: There have never been any legal threats, and we could negotiate a transitional period until the end of the year. We ask you to consider this, and not to make any negative comments - especially in the forum. Because we are legally responsible for its contents, it could bring us into deep legal troubles. Please also do not contact us because of the new name. As a small company, we couldn't handle the big amount of messages. We will not give more information about the name change anyway.

    The original name Windows Commander was chosen more by coincidence. There were already many Commander-style programs for DOS (e.g. DOS Command Center, DOS Controller, and the Norton Commander), but hardly any for Windows. The word Commander was standing already at this time - 9 years ago - for a whole class of file managers with 2 windows side by side. Windows Commander was one of the very first such programs for Windows, therefore the chosen name was quite logical.

    The new name Total Commander was chosen together with a trademark attorney. Total Commander was also registered as a trademark. Thanks to the new name, we now also have new possibilities to offer similar products for other platforms, e.g. for PocketPC or Linux. The name should stand for the fact that the program puts you in total command over your files. It allows you to see what is really saved on the harddisk, and helps you to manipulate all files directly.

    We can only speculate why the owner of the name 'Windows' has become active just now (after 9 years). On one side, they have been put under pressure by the usage of their (slightly changed) name by the Linux community. There have been reproaches that they wouldn't be actively defending their name, and losing their trademark this way. On the other side, someone else had just registered the domain www.windowscommander.com (which we own ourselves in the meantime). The company may have noticed us because of this registration.

    • Windows Commander is now Total Commander!

      Why this name change? In Summer 2002, we received a letter from attorneys representing the owner of the trademark Windows. In this letter they expressed concerns that our usage of the name could lead to confusion with their own products. In particular, people could think that our program could be from their company. We were indirectly asked to change the name of our software.

      We can only speculate why the owner of the name 'Windows' has become active just now (after 9 years).

      Who want's to bet that the reason he got asked to change his product's name after 9 years is because of the Lindows case? What's ironic is that this guy started using the name Windows Commander in 1993 and the article states that Microsoft had a trademark application rejected in 1993. Microsoft was only issued a trademark 2 years after this guy started using the name.

    • You shouldnt have changed your trademark. I can understand you feeling threatened but they have nothing to base their demand on legally.

      They have a trademark composed of two words. That is Microsoft and Windows. They could get a trademark for a composed word of Micro and Soft, ie Microsoft. No way in jose would they have gotten approval for either soft or micro if they wore applied for by themselves. The same applies for "Microsoft Windows" wich they do have a trademark for. A trademark consisting of two worlds is only covering those two words in conjunction with eachothers. Just because they have a trademark on "Microsoft Windows" doesnt mean that they have any rights whatsoever to the world "Windows" or "Microsoft" for that matter. Microsoft is covered by its own trademark outside the "Microsoft Windows" trademark. Windows is not trademarked in its own trademark and thus Microsoft has no rights to the word Windows in any way. Thats why this trial is such a shame and shows what an extrem elitism that resides in the higher levels of Microsoft.

      You were fooled like nothing i have ever seen.
      • You can be totally right, and still not be able to afford the legal costs. You can be totally wrong, but with a big enough legal (and "lobbying") budget, you can win. (Possibly by stringing things out long enough that you opponent goes bankrupt, or otherwise gives up.)

        I see the statement "It is important to state that Microsoft has treated us fairly" as the statement of a kid on a playground, being quizzed about the activities of a bully, in the presence of the bully. It makes me feel MS to be more guilty rather than less.

  • ... if Lindows was anything but an OS. If it were a game, for example, then there'd be no lawsuit. But you've got two products that do, from the customer's end, the same thing. Changing one letter of it is not enough. You have to remember that this product is being catered to people who are not computer saavy. They're not going to know why it's called Lindows and why it's different.

    What should they have called it, though? Well, it's a Linux Alternative for the Consumer, how about LAC? LacOs. I like it.
    • But I'm LacOS intolerant!
    • While true that for people who are not computer saavy Lindows may be too close to Windows,
      for me Lindows is Lin(ux)dows, the LIN is different because to me it connotes a different meaning than WIN. I suspect the same to be true for most people who know what linux is, but it might just be me.. who knows. Point being in my mind, there is a 3 letter difference, not a 1 letter difference, and I think at that point its ridiculous to even say its close to the same name.

    • The problem is, "Microsoft Windows" is a clearly valid trademark, but "Windows" is not.

      Coca-Cola, Pepsi Cola, Royal Crown Cola, and Sam's Choice Cola are allowed to co-exist because "cola" is a generic word. Everybody has added words before the word "cola" to their name so that they are identified.

      What Lindows is claiming is that the word "windows" is a generic term that is used to describe a rectanglar program box in other operating systems, therefore making it a generic. In fact, Microsoft has a weak claim on even being able to show that they were the first to use "windows" in that context, since window-based operating systems existed before Microsoft Windows did.

      Mindshare in the public is a non-issue. It's Microsoft's fault for choosing a name that was to close to the generic. If they want to distance themselves from Lindows, they're the ones who have to pay the cost to change their own identity.

      Yeah, this company is being opportunists... but Microsoft made the mistake it too to leave that opportunity open.
  • From the article (including a quote from Michael Robertson of Lindows.com):
    People, he said, are always complaining about Microsoft. "But if you want to do something about Microsoft, go give them some competition," he said. "I'm young, I'm rich and I can do it."
    I think I like his attitude. He seems to be doing what many of us dream of doing in his position. Namely, using his money to challenge a purportedly evil [bbspot.com] empire.
  • Good job we're not blah paying the supposed editors blah to do anything like actual editing blah blah blah.
  • Even is MS do have a legitimate trademark, they could still lose it, simply because it has become a term that people associate with any windowing system. I've occasionally heard people call the Apple UI a Windows User interface, and far too many people refer to X as X-Windows. Windows was not a strong trademanrk in the first place, being a descriptive terms rather than an arbitrary or fancifal name (e.g. Apple or Kodak respectively)

    This sort of trademark dilution can cost a company a trademark. Generic terms cannot be trademarked, and likewise, once a term becomes generic, the owner can lose it. An example of this is Cellophane.

    Of course, the law is wildly variable in this matter. "Famous trademarks" get better protection, but whether Windows is a famous trademark is another matter.
  • In the early 1980's, "Windows represented a new kind of product for personal computers," Mr. Gates wrote. "It was not part of any existing product category."

    IIRC, both Xerox and Apple had windowing systems at that point. Bull Gates seems to have a long history of spewing bullshit.

  • by doogieh (37062)
    Unless MS comes up with some good arguments, I think there is a decent case that Windows is indeed generic.

    If Windows is ruled a "generic" mark for a windowed operating system, then it is irrelevant that there is secondary meaning in the term "Windows" to the general public -- the trademark is likely invalid. period.

    If Windows is ruled as merely "descriptive" of a windowed operating system, then secondary meaning could be shown pretty easily by MS (i.e. when I say "Windows" you think of MS Windows, unless you are in the construction industry) and the trademark is more likely to be ruled valid.

    So, this may turn out as a fight over whether windows is "generic" or just "merely descriptive." Given the preexistence of XWindows, Lindows has a decent case. But many windowed operating systems existed that didn't need to use the word "windows": GEOS, GEM, MacOS, Xerox Star, etc. Points for MS. However, and here's the kicker... go into any of these operating systems, and look at the programming guides, and what to they call a program "window?" A Window! (Yes there are widgets too but they are not a window).

    Anything construed in this comment as legal advice or a legal disclaimer is false.
  • Word of Caution (Score:2, Interesting)

    by SilentReproach (91511)
    Lindows needs to be careful. Confucius say: "Man who stick tongue between bars of wolf cage, will receive more than bargained for."

    In other words, even if Mike Robertson wins the trademark battle, Microsoft's lawyers can begin scrounging up ways to pile frivolous lawsuits on him. For example, browsing around the lindows.com [lindows.com] web site, I notice the use of the phrase "Microsoft Windows", without any mention of trademark of the word "Microsoft" (much less Windows).

  • by kevin lyda (4803) on Monday December 30, 2002 @02:13PM (#4982965) Homepage
    prior to windows 95, i always heard dos heads saying that windows was better because it had a cli.

    with linux, the complaint is that it is too hard to use for newbies because of the cli.

    now that linux is closer to windows (needs to catch up to the mac still - that's the real bar to shoot for) for end user friendliness, the windows sheep need something else to criticise linux on.

    first they fight on licenses, but now with lindows we see the height of hypocricy: these linux people are marketing in an unfair way.

    oh really? obviously lindows is not the entire linux community - not even close - but it's a joy to see ms being tripped up by their own tactics. someone is playing against them on the marketing front - good. it's the only area ms has outplayed the competition they've trampled/bought/stolen. and now someone is trying to fight back on that front so the dosheads start whining.

    oh boo hoo.

    now, stfu, i want to enjoy this ass-kicking in peace.
  • by ketan (3574) on Monday December 30, 2002 @02:35PM (#4983114) Homepage
    From the article:
    Microsoft, understandably, says a different principle is at stake. According to its court filings, the company has spent $1.2 billion on marketing and promoting Windows since the first version was announced in 1983 and shipped in 1985. "Our request in this case is simply that Lindows not free-ride on the investments we have made in building Windows into one of the most recognizable brands in the world over the last 20 years," said Jon Murchinson, a spokesman for Microsoft.

    Well, just because Microsoft pissed its money away associating themselves with a generic term doesn't mean they should get trademark protection. If I spend millions of dollars on something that isn't mine in the first place (especialy something that is a public trust), I can't make it mine. That principle would imply that anyone could throw enough promotional money around and eventually claim any word of the English language.* They screwed up. I'm not saying they should give up; "Windows" is too valuable to them and they owe it to their shareholders to try to keep it. But they should lose.

    * Otherwise I've got dibs on "the"

  • If there is not a lot of new information then why post it. I mean blah blah.
  • Did anyone notice... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Audacious (611811) on Monday December 30, 2002 @04:20PM (#4983870) Homepage
    ...that Bill Gates purjured himself? The quote on page 2:

    "In written testimony last month, Bill Gates, Microsoft's chairman asserted that...Windows is a layer of software between an operating system and an application...."

    In the antitrust testimony Bill Gates was very emphatic that Windows and the OS were the same thing and could not be separated. Maybe someone should pass this along to those states which are still in litigation. Be interesting to see the response Mr. Gates has on this. :-)

How many Unix hacks does it take to change a light bulb? Let's see, can you use a shell script for that or does it need a C program?

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