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Microsoft to sue Mike Rowe for Copyrights 1009

An anonymous reader was among a host of submittors noting that a 17 year old named Mike Rowe has been sued by Microsoft for copyright infringment of their name.
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Microsoft to sue Mike Rowe for Copyrights

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  • by mgebbers ( 252737 ) on Monday January 19, 2004 @09:55AM (#8020117)
    Ms Sasha Dot doesn't get ideas!
  • Who's Next? (Score:3, Funny)

    by glomph ( 2644 ) on Monday January 19, 2004 @09:55AM (#8020126) Homepage Journal
    Michael Hunt? Richard Hertz?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 19, 2004 @09:56AM (#8020127)
    Get his site listed on /.

  • MS the scammer (Score:5, Informative)

    by baseinfinity ( 18023 ) * on Monday January 19, 2004 @09:57AM (#8020140)
    Apparently they pulled this rather common scam of offering him a rediculously low amount ($10) for the domain. Then when the target flips out and says it's worth at least $xxx, they sue their asses for trying to profit off of a domain name.
    • Re:MS the scammer (Score:5, Insightful)

      by tb3 ( 313150 ) on Monday January 19, 2004 @10:03AM (#8020214) Homepage
      Except this time the 'target' is a minor. I bet they didn't check that part. Now they're going to get raked over the coals for picking on a kid.
      Ah well. Any bad press for Microsoft has to be a good thing. :P
      • Re:MS the scammer (Score:5, Insightful)

        by EvilTwinSkippy ( 112490 ) <yoda@ e t o y oc.com> on Monday January 19, 2004 @10:12AM (#8020292) Homepage Journal
        I was going to say "Damn man, that sucks to be Mike." but the thought that they were trying to negotiate with a Minor hadn't even occurred to me.

        It was still dumb to send a counter-offer if one had no intention of selling it. (Though if I thought for a minute that one of my domains was worth that much to someone...)

        • Re:MS the scammer (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Hammer ( 14284 ) on Monday January 19, 2004 @10:18AM (#8020355) Journal
          As far as I understand he was not willing to sell, but if he had to he estimated that his cost for business cards, marketing, creating web presense etc was "at least worth $10000".
          So he would consider selling the domain if M$ helped him regain that cost. IANAL but this sounds like a slam dunk for Mr Rowe.
    • Re:MS the scammer (Score:5, Interesting)

      by kormoc ( 122955 ) on Monday January 19, 2004 @10:07AM (#8020252)
      Err, but what if you document the work done on the site, say:
      200 hours web design work @ $15/hr = $3000
      100 hours seting up and securing web hosting machine @ $45/hr = $4500
      250 hours blah blah @ $10 = $2500
      etc and then hit them with a $10,000 buyout deal, and then it's not tring to profit of the domain name as it is fair compisation for the work (of course numbers were made up on the fly and rates should be close to what real professionals make a hr).

      Based on what I have read before this would be the way to make a counter offer or am I missing something?
      • Re:MS the scammer (Score:5, Interesting)

        by lynx_user_abroad ( 323975 ) on Monday January 19, 2004 @10:24AM (#8020419) Homepage Journal
        ...would be the way to make a counter offer...

        I think you're close, but giving Microsoft too much credit. Under the system of Capitalism where Microsoft has thrived, the concept of a property right is sacrosanct. Anyone really interested in promoting Capitalism would acknowledge that Mike Rowe owns the domain name, and is not under any obligation to sell it, or name a price, or even justify why such a named price is warranted. A simple "That property is not for sale." should suffice, and there should be no questions asked about motivation should Mike choose to change his mind suddenly when the price reachess a given level.

        What we see here, again, is Microsoft hiding behind a policy of "We're just good little Capitalists trying to make a buck like everyone else..." while their real policy of "control everything at any price" shows through in their actions.

        While I don't always agree with prople who promote Capitalism as the one true way, I do wish even they would recognise when they are being used by corporations bent more on promoting their own power than on promoting Capitalism.

        • Re:MS the scammer (Score:5, Insightful)

          by j-turkey ( 187775 ) on Monday January 19, 2004 @11:32AM (#8021013) Homepage
          Anyone really interested in promoting Capitalism would acknowledge that Mike Rowe owns the domain name, and is not under any obligation to sell it, or name a price, or even justify why such a named price is warranted.

          You also have to recgonize that Microsoft owns the trademark rights to the name "Microsoft" (or things that sound like it or are spelled like it).

          Right or wrong, like it or not -- Microsoft has an obligation to their shareholders (you know -- the quarter million or so people who actually own the company) to protect its trademark from dilution. If MSFT loses, legal/management can say "fuck it, at least we can tell our shareholders that we did our best to protect their best interests".

          Their offer to buy mikerowesoft.com out (for peanuts) was just a way to sidestep the trememdous costs associated with a lawsuit. Say after a lenghty lawsuit MS buys this kid's domain for $10,000. Is Mike Rowe really going to walk away happy after a half million in legal fees? That leaves him with a loss of $490,000.

          BTW -- how is this about Microsoft promoting their power? By power, do you mean their bottom line? And since when have capitalists ever been driven by promoting capitalism itself? I'm a bit boggled by your logic. Capitalists are greedy and self serving...that's the point of capitalism. The system is designed so that society is able to benefit from the profits generated by the businesses (thus harnessing the power of individual/collective greed). Maybe I'm misunderstanding you...perhaps you should elaborate.

      • by A nonymous Coward ( 7548 ) * on Monday January 19, 2004 @10:44AM (#8020582)
        Their point is that he could just register a new domain name, change the URLs, and keep all the work he put into the content.

        They don't want the content, he can take that with him.

        It's like parking next to a fire hydrant, they are saying move along, take your car.

        And all you flamers who don't read very carefully, note that I make no mention of whether M$ is doing the smart thing, the right thing, the correct thing, or anything.
    • by llamafirst ( 666868 ) * on Monday January 19, 2004 @10:16AM (#8020330)

      The article points out that this could easily be confused with an article from The Onion. I'd add "or an urban legend".

      Did you notice the law firm that he claimed M$ uses to scare him? In order for the law firm to seem smarter and bigger than the peon they are suing, they are allegedly called "Smart & Biggar"! Obviously fake, right?

      And then I looked it up, and it's a real law firm!!!!!! http://www.smart-biggar.ca/About/ [smart-biggar.ca] (Presumably Smart & Biggar/Fetherstonhaugh is based on people's names... :-)

    • From the article:

      They responded to this email by offering to give me all of my out-of-pocket expenses in return for the domain name. This came out to be $10; the amount I paid for the domain. (...) I responded by asking for $10,000, which I regret doing now, for my work and domain name.

      Technically, one could argue that he asked for $10.- for the domain name, and $9990.- for "his work". Just an honest 17-year-old, trying to make a living...
    • Lessons learned (Score:5, Informative)

      by Safety Cap ( 253500 ) on Monday January 19, 2004 @11:38AM (#8021061) Homepage Journal
      "They [Microsoft Laywers] responded to this email by offering to give me all of my out-of-pocket expenses in return for the domain name. ~. I responded by asking for $10,000, which I regret doing now ~."
      Here is a tip: if you receive a letter from a Lawyer, and want to respond, always have your own laywer vet your response.
  • by jrumney ( 197329 ) on Monday January 19, 2004 @09:57AM (#8020142)
    The Register should know better.
    • by AndroidCat ( 229562 ) on Monday January 19, 2004 @10:14AM (#8020313) Homepage
      Not just the Register. The Canadian Press [canoe.ca] version also used copyright rather than trademark. Probably the source story that went out over "the wire" misused it and it spread from there. If the email actually said copyright, then it can be filed in /dev/null.

      That Microsoft's lawyers sent this notice by email is also odd. That's not any kind of proper legal notification. (But then some people trust faxed signatures, so who knows?)

      • by jrumney ( 197329 ) on Monday January 19, 2004 @10:24AM (#8020416)
        If you read the google cache of the website, you'll see that the word "copyright" comes from Mike Rowe's statement on the story. I seriously doubt Microsoft's lawyers made the mistake, if they did they need to be sacked and sent back to law school immediately. I'd still expect the Register and Slashdot editors to pick up the mistake.

        As far as sending the notice by email, initially he did get informal requests to hand it over by email, but the official notice came in the form of a book and accompanying 25 page letter. I suspect the volume of information is intended to intimidate him and any small-time lawyer thinking of taking his case. The legal system really needs an overhaul to make it easier to throw this sort of garbage back at lawyers, as IBM did with SCO's initial discovery consisting of ALL of the Linux source code without being specific.

      • by Java Pimp ( 98454 ) <java_pimp@yah o o .com> on Monday January 19, 2004 @10:56AM (#8020698) Homepage
        That Microsoft's lawyers sent this notice by email is also odd.

        This is Microsoft's new, more efficient, form of communication and distribution. Just the other day I got a critical Service Pack update from them. I find this so much better than trying to remember to check Windows Update periodically...
    • by ScottSpeaks! ( 707844 ) on Monday January 19, 2004 @10:29AM (#8020467) Homepage Journal
      The difference between trademark and copyright (and let's not forget patents) is a topic covered in the first week of Intellectual Property 101, and anyone with a stake in IP (like users or developers of open-source software) needs to understand which is which. Saying "copyright" when you're talking about a "trademark" is like typing "rm" when you mean "ls": it's your own fault if the shell misunderstands you.

      Copyright - literally "the right to copy" - Covers a particular creative expression of an idea, such as a song, a movie, a poem, or a C++ program. Currently lasts longer than any of us will live.

      Trademark - literally "a mark used in trade" - Covers names, slogans, logos, and such when used in the packaging and marketing of a product or service. Lasts as long and only as long as it's in active use.

      Patent - literally "openly disclosed" - Gives temporary exclusive rights to a invention [insert debate over definition of "invention" here] in exchange for publishing the details of how it works. Currently lasts longer than the technology is likely to be useful.

      (The so-called fourth kind of IP is a trade secret, which is the opposite of a patent: instead of publishing a how-to, the inventor keeps it private, so they can try to keep exclusivity indefinitely.)

  • by Zigg ( 64962 ) on Monday January 19, 2004 @09:57AM (#8020145)

    Don't make them an offer. It seems that the big catch here is that Mike made a $10,000 offer to Microsoft ('s lawyers?), and that single act essentially made their case that it was a bad-faith registration.

    • by Oddly_Drac ( 625066 ) on Monday January 19, 2004 @10:11AM (#8020285)
      "It seems that the big catch here is that Mike made a $10,000 offer to Microsoft ('s lawyers?), and that single act essentially made their case that it was a bad-faith registration."

      The point is that it's not really down to the lawyers to decide, and it's going to have a hell of an uphill struggle trying to explain that 'Mike Rowe' was trying to use his chance grouping of syllables in his own name in 'bad faith', although he might've shot himself in the foot by admitting that he'd already thought about it.

      However, now I'm thinking about names to register because a $10 cheque from Microsoft would be worth framing.

    • by AllUsernamesAreGone ( 688381 ) on Monday January 19, 2004 @10:13AM (#8020309)
      Not only that, but then you shouldn't actually say, in an interview, that you registered the domain because it sounds like "Microsoft". I wish the guy luck, but he really should learn to keep his mouth shut if he can't stop himself saying things that are going to blow holes in his own defense..
    • by theLOUDroom ( 556455 ) on Monday January 19, 2004 @10:52AM (#8020654)
      Don't make them an offer. It seems that the big catch here is that Mike made a $10,000 offer to Microsoft ('s lawyers?), and that single act essentially made their case that it was a bad-faith registration.

      Wow, there are already 3 or more +5 comments regurgitating this crap from the article. I don't buy this for a minute. Everyone has their price, and it shouldn't be an act of "bad faith" to name it.

      Take slashdot for example. I doubt I could buy the domain for $10, but I bet valinux would be perfectly happy to sell it to me for 1 billion dollars. That's the reality of the situation. I fail to see how stating that reality is an act of "bad faith".

      The only reason arguments like this work is because the other side doesn't have the resouces to fight them. It has basically nothing to do with the validity of the actual claim.
  • by Mozai ( 3547 ) on Monday January 19, 2004 @09:58AM (#8020149) Homepage
    Shouldn't that be "trademark" infringement? I didn't know Microsoft had exclusive distribution rights to the series of sounds in their name.

    I'd bet a nickel the reporter who wrote the first story and editor never looked up the difference between "copyright infringement" and "trademark infringement," and then the story was duplicated to other news services without anyone bothering to double-check it.
  • by PaulGrimshaw ( 605950 ) <mail @ p a u l g r i m s haw.com> on Monday January 19, 2004 @09:58AM (#8020158) Homepage
    hotmale.com next? ;)

    • by Halo- ( 175936 ) on Monday January 19, 2004 @10:32AM (#8020486)
      True Story:

      My mom is the directory of a public library. She was working at the front desk one day a while back, and this paniciky old woman comes up to the desk practically in tears.

      The woman is whispering: "I swear, I didn't do anything... I just happened... and it won't stop.... and I would never do anything like... and.... oh... my... I just went to check my email.... and...."

      Yup.... you guessed it. She was emailing her grandkids, and typed "hotmale" instead of "hotmail". (Evidentally unleashing a storm of pop-ups) So, this sort of thing does happen.

      Story aside, I don't see a problem with whoever registered "hotmale" which is a lot easier to confuse than MikeRoveSoft. To get MikeRoveSoft confused with Microsoft, the user would have to not only have serious issues spelling, but likely would have to have never seen the word in print. I can't beleive a user meeting those qualifications is going to be making any major software purchases soon...

  • At first (Score:5, Interesting)

    by ziggy_zero ( 462010 ) on Monday January 19, 2004 @09:58AM (#8020161)
    I thought that he had legally changed his last name to "Rowesoft" (hey, it's 6 in the morning, gimme a break), in which case I think it would be totally within his right to have his own name as his domain name. ...but I don't think he has a chance in this - I'm pretty sure this will just set a precedent that phonetics imitating corporations aren't allowed either.
  • Slashdotting that poor poor mikerowesoft.com website. That $10,000 settlement just got sucked up in bandwidth useage!

    (yeah yeah, I clicked it too...the Devil made me do it.)
  • by quakeslut ( 107512 ) on Monday January 19, 2004 @10:00AM (#8020178)
    After trying the legal route, Microsoft today took a teenagers website offline by taking their case to Slashdot.

    The resulting traffic accomplished what their legal papers were previously unable to do...
  • by bc90021 ( 43730 ) * <bc90021NO@SPAMbc90021.net> on Monday January 19, 2004 @10:01AM (#8020191) Homepage
    ...and offered to sell them the name. To lawyers, that means that he had no real intention of ever using the name, merely profiting from it. (He was just trying to be fairly compensated for his work.)

    So, from a "legal" standpoint, he is going to have a tough time of things. He plans to fight though, and I sure wish him luck!

  • mycrowsoft (Score:5, Interesting)

    by dontod ( 571749 ) on Monday January 19, 2004 @10:01AM (#8020192) Homepage
    I wonder if they will go after www.smartredirect.com who seem to own mycrowsoft.com [mycrowsoft.com]
  • by WegianWarrior ( 649800 ) on Monday January 19, 2004 @10:02AM (#8020199) Journal

    ...not because they are who they are (MicroSoft, who has de facto dominace over the desktop, and thus are evil according to the tinfoil-crowd), but because no one should be allowed to get away with something as silly as this.

    Its not even like the name MikeRoweSoft.com sounds that much like MicroSoft.com anyway, at least not to my ears. Possible the pronocication is different in MS HQ, but... this is plain silly. It would have been a different matter if Mike Rowe had called his website MikroSoft.com, but as he didn't I can't see that even MS's battalions of lawyers can believe they have a case.

    • They sound identical:

      Mike == Mic, Rowe == ro, Soft == Soft.

      The big thing here is that it's his name, he should have the right to his own name and to make a company with his name in the title.
    • Microsoft, who has de facto dominance over the desktop, and thus are evil according to the tinfoil-crowd

      No, they're not evil because they dominate the desktop.

      They are evil because they use that monopoly unfairly, to illegally (attempt to) dominate other areas. They are evil because of their unethical and illegal business practices: buying out or crushing all competition, secret agreements with vendors, spreading lies, putting profits over user experience and security, doing their utmost to prevent interoperability with other software and systems, continually breaking the spirit and the letter of anti-trust agreements, and much more.

      Microsoft are evil, not because they dominate the desktop, but because, thanks to them, most people (think they) have no alternative.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 19, 2004 @10:02AM (#8020205)
    Obviously the site died right away. I was able to copy Mike's message when the topic was still in red.
    I don't think he saw the /. rampage coming :)

    Wow, all of this exposure is starting to overwhelm me. I appreciate all of the emails I have been getting recently. If I don't respond to you that doesn't mean I don't appreciate it, I have been getting flooded and I am only responding to the ones I see fit. I am starting to get coverage all over the world. I have heard I have been on the news in the UK. That really surprised me. Anyways, thanks for visiting my site. I will keep you updated on everything that is happening.

    And on 15 jan 2004:

    I received an email from Smart & Biggar, Microsoft's Canadian lawyers, informing me that I have been committing copyright infringement against Microsoft. They told me that I must transfer my domain name over to Microsoft as soon as possible. I was baffled by this email, yet thought it was funny at the same time. Microsoft was going after a 17 year olds part time business that he put a lot of time into just because it has the same phonetic sound as their company.

    I responded to this email saying that I was not ready to give up my domain name since I had put so much time and effort into establishing my name, getting my business cards out and posting my services on the Internet. If I were to give up my domain, I would lose all the time and effort I had put into it. I requested that they offer me a settlement of some sort to help with me losing my business. A few days later I received an email back from them telling me that they would give me all of my out-of-pocket expenses for the domain name, which came to be $10USD. I was surprised that they would offer such a little amount of money to persuade me to hand my domain over to Microsoft. In response to this recent email, I sent one back to them describing how much work I have put into my business and that the domain was worth at least $10000. They refused to give me anything more than $10USD so I proceeded to ignore their most recent email. I didn't hear anything from them after their last email.

    Yesterday, January 14, I received a package from the lawyers' office FedEx Priority Overnight. Inside I found a book over an inch thick with a 25 page letter explaining to me that I had all along had the intention to sell my domain name to Microsoft for a large cash settlement. This is not the case, I never thought my name would cause Microsoft to take this course of action against me. I just thought it was a good name for my small part-time business. In this letter it explains that Microsoft's customers could get confused between my page and theirs, which doesn't make any sense since Microsoft doesn't design websites. They do, however, sell a program called Microsoft FrontPage, which they say can cause some confusion between me making websites for my customers and them selling a program to make websites to their customers. I think it is just another example of a huge corporation just trying to intimidate a small business person (and only a 17 year old student at that) to get anything they want by using lawyers and threats. It reminds me of the Starbucks thing against the little coffee shop in the Queen Charlotte Islands.
  • by sokk ( 691010 ) on Monday January 19, 2004 @10:03AM (#8020221)
    How did Microsoft find out that the domain name sounded like Microsoft? Do they have some software that monitors the domain registry, or was the site getting popular? I guess they figured he was a easy target, but it seems like David wins against Goliath? :)

    In my eyes it seems like the overpaid lawyers that Microsoft keeps in it's stable wanted to give the impression of actually doing something :P
  • by ziggy_zero ( 462010 ) on Monday January 19, 2004 @10:04AM (#8020225)
    Does this mean I can sue Dr. Nick Evans [drnickevans.com] for stealing my domain name?

    And, more importantly, my likeness without my consent?

    (This would have been a lot funnier if he still owned the just nickevans.com domain that had a flash page with a big picture of him on it, but he doesn't anymore...)
  • by bc90021 ( 43730 ) * <bc90021NO@SPAMbc90021.net> on Monday January 19, 2004 @10:04AM (#8020229) Homepage
    HERE [google.com]
  • M$ Legal (Score:4, Funny)

    by madmagic ( 318186 ) on Monday January 19, 2004 @10:05AM (#8020237) Homepage
    The article at the Register says:

    "Mike told us that when an email from Microsoft's Canadian lawyers Smart & Biggar arrived on 19 November..."

    IHNJH, IJFLS "Microsoft's Canadian lawyers Smart & Biggar"
    charles dickens couldn't have written it better
  • by pdjohe ( 575876 ) on Monday January 19, 2004 @10:07AM (#8020254)
    I had trouble going to the website. So here is the Google cache of mikerowesoft.com [].
  • by kir ( 583 ) on Monday January 19, 2004 @10:09AM (#8020271) Homepage
    Check out my website: blowmesmartandbiggar.com.

    No... my name is not Blowme Smartandbiggar. Nor is it Blowme S. Andbiggar.

    Blow M. Smartandbiggar
  • by pesc ( 147035 ) on Monday January 19, 2004 @10:11AM (#8020288)
    From the article:
    He registered the domain in August because he thought it would be cool to have a site that sounded like the famous company to show his Web designing skills.

    Well, that's exactly what a trademark is supposed to protect against; someone else using your brand-name for their own purposes. And because the way the trademark law works, Microsoft has to defend their trademarks; writing letters, suing; or else they risk the trademark being generic; free for anyone to use.

    Microsoft may be an evil corporation, but I can't blame them for protecting their main trademark.

    That the defendants name is Mike Rowe is interesting, but I personally think it is clear that mikerowesoft is intended to look alike and benefit from the name recognition of "microsoft". Mike Rowe can easily invent another domain name that includes his name and build his own brand name without leeching on Microsoft.
    • by evilquaker ( 35963 ) on Monday January 19, 2004 @10:17AM (#8020347)
      Well, that's exactly what a trademark is supposed to protect against; someone else using your brand-name for their own purposes. And because the way the trademark law works, Microsoft has to defend their trademarks; writing letters, suing; or else they risk the trademark being generic; free for anyone to use.

      So why hasn't Microsoft gone after support.mycrowsoft.com [mycrowsoft.com]?

    • by ReadParse ( 38517 ) <`john' `at' `funnycow.com'> on Monday January 19, 2004 @10:31AM (#8020477) Homepage
      He thought it would be cool to have a domain name kind of like that of Microsoft, but not to the point that he used one that was "confusingly similar", as they say in the cease-and-desist letters. Not a single person would ever accidentally go to MikeRoweSoft.com in an effort to get to Microsoft. People would only go to this site trying to get to Mike Rowe's site, and Mike would probably even have to spell it for them (no, not the company... it's like, my name, then "soft"). It's moderately cute and nothing else. Not at all like whitehouse.com or nasa.com trying to get unsuspecting whitehouse.gov and nasa.gov surfers.

      I agree that it's regretable that he turned their insulting offer into a respectable one, thereby appearing to be a squatter. I've always been a firm believer in the ability for individuals to register domains based on their name, and this is a good example of that. Hopefully the judge will realize why he made the offer and won't just make him out ot be a squatter based on that alone.

      • by ScottSpeaks! ( 707844 ) * on Monday January 19, 2004 @12:10PM (#8021388) Homepage Journal
        I've always been a firm believer in the ability for individuals to register domains based on their name, and this is a good example of that.

        There's a pretty substantial body of case law covering people whose names happen to conflict with trademarks that have been established by major corporations. Any individual case still comes down to the particulars of the situation, the quality of the legal representation, the biases of the judge/jury, and the phase of the moon, but there are still some patterns.

        A guy named McDonald who wants to use his name on a restaurant would probably be out of luck, but if he were opening an electronics store, he'd be OK (and could probably even defend his ownership of mcdonalds.com... if he'd registered it before Kroc's outfit did).

        Mike Rowe is probably going to lose this. Not because his registration was "in bad faith" (he pretty clearly intended to use the domain for himself, and only asked for $10K after Microsoft made him a lesser offer), but because of the underlying trademark conflict; the domain registration is only the tip of the iceberg. He's trying to use the name MikeRoweSoft in one of the same categories of business that Microsoft is using their name. His best defence is that no one would seriously confuse the two companies. The fact that it's his name might score him a point with a sympathetic judge. But unlike copyright law, trademark law doesn't recognise parody or irony, and I think the phonetic similarity of the two will prevail. And if he loses once, there's no way he'll be able to afford an appeal.

    • by roman_mir ( 125474 ) on Monday January 19, 2004 @11:18AM (#8020899) Homepage Journal
      I, on the other hand, expect MS to lose this fight. I do not see how it is clear that Mike has no right to create a top level domain name with his own freaking name as the first part of it and Soft as the second part. Sure, the kid recognized that his name + Soft is close in pronunciation to the infamous software producer but how is this different from something like: Tom's Diner or John Doe Bakery?

      Besides, the kid is a minor. As far as I see MS had created an entrapment situation for him by offering to sell the domain name.

      He already had some content on his website prior to the incident, so the domain was not standing there under construction, doing absolutely nothing.

    • by Schnapple ( 262314 ) <tomkidd@[ ]texas.com ['via' in gap]> on Monday January 19, 2004 @12:05PM (#8021354) Homepage
      From MikeRowSoft.com:
      Microsoft was going after a 17 year olds part time business
      I responded to this email saying that I was not ready to give up my domain name since I had put so much time and effort into establishing my name, getting my business cards out and posting my services on the Internet. If I were to give up my domain, I would lose all the time and effort I had put into it. I requested that they offer me a settlement of some sort to help with me losing my business.
      This is going to be the real downfall of this kid. It would be one thing if it was just a vanity blog page (which it might mostly be - I got this quip from someone who posted the text of the page above), but it sounds like this kid was trying to run a business that had a name that sounded the same as Microsoft. If my name was Mick Don tried to come out with a restaraunt that went by the name "MickDonAlds", McDonald's would sue me into oblivion. If this kid had a website, "MikeRoweStinks.com", then he'd probably be fine. But come on now, he's trying to start a business by mimmicking the sound of another company. Maybe he can use the excuse of being young/ignorant, but he's in the wrong here.
  • Fact Checking? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by dr_dank ( 472072 ) on Monday January 19, 2004 @10:15AM (#8020325) Homepage Journal
    Well, Mike is reassuringly candid and although we have not seen Microsoft's letter and the company has yet to confirm or deny its threats are real, it seems to hang together.

    So The Register readily admits that they haven't seen a shred of evidence other than this kid's word that this has taken place?
  • by tbase ( 666607 ) on Monday January 19, 2004 @10:15AM (#8020329)
    Mike, a self-described computer gook, registered the name in August.

    Is this a typo or have I been left behind in the newest slang update? I feel so old.
  • by wowbagger ( 69688 ) on Monday January 19, 2004 @10:32AM (#8020489) Homepage Journal
    The first and most important rule in ANY case where somebody is threatening legal action:


    The second most important rule:


    Suppose somebody contacts you and says:

    "You are in violation of our copyright [sic] on our site - give us the domain or we'll sue!"

    The proper response is something like:

    "Very interesting - OK, please give me the contact information for your law firm, and I'll have my attourney contact your attourney. I prefer to have all furthur contact through my attourney, so please route everything through your legal group."

    If they persist in contacting you directly, inform them firmly that all furthur contact should go through their attourney to yours, and any direct contact is harrassment.

    In a case like this one, where you ARE being contacted by the other side's legal department, then you should GET AN ATTOURNEY LICENSED TO PRACTICE IN YOUR AREA. First thing. Then route all contact through him.

    Otherwise, shut up - say nothing to the other side. While it may be a civil matter rather than a criminal matter, remind yourself that "Everything I say will be used against me in court."
  • Yep (Score:5, Funny)

    by spectasaurus ( 415658 ) on Monday January 19, 2004 @10:37AM (#8020543)
    "... his domain would confuse Microsoft customers."

    Sounds about right. Microsoft customers (by definition) are not the brightest cookies out there. Case in point, Clippy.
  • Brilliant! (Score:5, Interesting)

    by TygerFish ( 176957 ) on Monday January 19, 2004 @10:38AM (#8020546)
    Actually, no. It's by no means brilliant, but it's certainly explainable.

    You're a big company. YOu're huge. You are very, very controversial. When intelligent, well-informed people think about you and your business tactics, they combine images of alien zombies with all-encroaching slime-mold and a coven of satanists whose approach to product design and quality control issues is limited to ferrying suitcases of cash to Washington.

    It has been proven in courts of law that you steal code and suppress competition. It is well-known that you are cavalier towards other people's patents and copyrights and fiercely protective of your own. In short, you are scum.

    So What is your optimal startegy? In order to keep the great ordinary from hearing that you are scum so often that it clicks one day (I'm paying WHAT?!! HOW?!!), you have to control as much opinion as you can and a websight on a domain that is easily associated with your name is very dangerous to you at; least psychologically and at worst, materially.

    It's got to work on your nerves. It has to make things run through your head.

    A site on a domain like that might be used to report every time your blithe unconcern for security costs your customers billions; it might be used to post wonderfully funny pieces about how your founder is a, vulgar, fast-food munching, nerd with documented B.O.--a loser who couldn't have gotten a pity-screw from a nymphomaniac saint until his net worth was in the *billions* and even then, as the world's richest man, his choices were limited to an employee who looks the worse for wear--who looks more and more like a frump with a case of nerves in each royal portrait.

    When you've little to offer but a lot to lose, you have to control what people say about you. You have to find the channels and close them: it's a trend that shows your internet savvy which is why 'Georgebushsucks.com' used to take you to a site and ask you for a contribution to his campaign.

    Sorry to hear they didn't just pay the damned kid. One thing about being scum is the psychological inability to realize that writing the kid a check--even one for ten times what he asked for--with a handshake and hinting at an internship one day would beat all hell out of reaching for your lawyers and generating news coverage that proves that even your worst critics are dead right about you.

    Of course, if their mindset embraced ideas like this, they would have leaned harder on their quality than on their lobbyists and the would have had nothing to worry about in the first place.

    You've got to love it....

  • by Jasonv ( 156958 ) * on Monday January 19, 2004 @10:42AM (#8020569)
    Back in the early 1990s I lived in Victoria, BC (where this kid lives now) and there was a little computer shop called 'Mike Rowe Computers'.

    Looks like it has gone out of business now, but I wonder if it's somehow related... ?
  • Good god.. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by superhoe ( 736800 ) on Monday January 19, 2004 @10:42AM (#8020571) Homepage
    Nothing changes the fact that using the word 'soft' in the end of name has been very common (though unoriginal at this point) practice in many scenes since the early 80's.

    If a guy takes his own name and adds 'soft' in the end, there's a fair chance that it is really just an innocent coincidence.

    Question: People tend to use their own name when marketing professional, creative services. Does Mike Rowe has more moral rights to use his own name than Microsoft has rights to dictate the use of common word 'soft'?

    Yeah, it's the law, I know, but the world where I thought I was living there were things like 'corporate image'. But it seems that we are reaching a phase where some players don't have to care anymore. Enormous amount of bad publicity over a small matter which does not mean ANYTHING and does not pose any harm to MS as a company. Scary.

    Can _anyone_ present even one remote possibility on how the domain mentioned could possibly cause any problems to Microsoft? I guess the pronounciation is more of a problem to Mike himself - if he tells eg. via phone some potential client to send mail to mike@mikerowesoft.com, it might end up into mike@microsoft.com.. and if you tell someone to go to microsoft.com, nobody figures that in their heads as 'mikerowesoft.com' - maybe more of the opposite. And that's still Mike's problem.

    But what MS should very well know is that a case like this, based on some damn pronounciation, would gather attention. Negative attention. This is *so* weird. I mean really, really, weird PR from Microsoft.. even a bit unprofessional.. starting all the way from that $10 trick :P

  • by leoaugust ( 665240 ) <.moc.liamg. .ta. .tsuguaoel.> on Monday January 19, 2004 @10:42AM (#8020578) Journal

    "I am motivated to stick with what I believe in."

    And so he should. It would seem Microsoft has no choice but to back down as, legally, it doesn't have a hope in hell of winning and there are plenty of lawyers out there who would love to get a win against Microsoft under their belt.

    I think if he does get enough support, he probably should fight back. But it brings another case of the Nissan.com domain to me in which the domain name can't be used commercially.

    What I thought was very interesting about the case was mentioned in the FAQ to the Nissan.com case. [ncchelp.org] It said

    1. As of June 12th 2000 there are (2223) domain names registered on the Internet containing the word nissan in them. To the best of our knowledge, most of those domains are not owned by Nissan Motor Co. Click here to view a partial list of them. [domainsurfer.com]
    2. Also here is another list with nissan as the first word of the domain name there are (860 ) of them Click here to view. [domainsurfer.com] If you wish to see which entity owns any particular listing, just click on the WHOIS link next to it.

    In the www.MikeRoweSoft.com case the interpretion is weaker as the similarity is "phonetic" which is really quite fuzzy, compared to the actual presence of the word "nissan" in the domain name. Despite this the original owner of the Nissan.com domain could not prevail.

    If you go to the website Nissan.com you see the following Notice: In compliance with a ruling issued by the United States District Court in Los Angeles on November 14, 2002, in the lawsuit of Nissan Motor Co., Ltd. v. Nissan Computer Corporation, this web site has been converted to non-commercial use.

    The story from the Domain Name Handbook was [domainhandbook.com]

    1. Japanese automaker Nissan Motors Co., Ltd. and Nissan North America, Inc. filed suit against Nissan Computer Corp., a North Carolina-based corporation since 1991 with a registered trademark for its name.
    2. Uzi Nissan, an Israeli-American born in Jerusalem, registered NISSAN.COM in 1994 to expand his computer business and NISSAN.NET two years later to expand his ISP business.
    3. In August 1999, he posted a logo similar to that of Nissan Motor Corp, and began promoting automobile-related products and services.
    4. The automaker filed suit for trademark dilution on December 10, 1999. The court granted a preliminary injunction and held that Mr. Nissan is trading on the automaker's goodwill and diverting potential Nissan car customers to other websites.
    5. He was ordered to post a prominent disclaimer of any connection to Nissan Motor Corp and refrain from displaying any auto-related information.

    So, I guess, I could see something like this happen. Mike Rowe may be ordered to post a prominent disclaimer of any connection to Microsoft Corp and refrain from displaying any computer-related information. IANAL.

  • by Mark_in_Brazil ( 537925 ) on Monday January 19, 2004 @10:54AM (#8020678)
    ...the holders of domains MyCrow.com, MyCrew.com, WhenDoes.com, WinDozens.com, MikeRose.com, and MikeRosoff.com have all hired lawyers.
    Mr. Mike Rosoff of Kennebunk, Maine is especially worried, because he has received a cease-and-desist letter from Microsoft lawyers claiming that his social security card, driver's license, passport, and all items using his birth name are infringing on copyrights.
    More on the story as it develops...

  • by WhytTiger ( 595699 ) on Monday January 19, 2004 @10:56AM (#8020703)
    I know of two people with the last name of Rowe. Both are pronounced with an OW (as in "OW, that hurt"). I was just thinking it would be hilarious if Microsoft took this kid to court, and as the police dude is reading "the case of Microsoft vs. Mike Rowe", Mike's lawyer could stand up, say "correction your honor, it's pronounced rOWe"... judge: "dismissed"
  • by ekasteng ( 683332 ) on Monday January 19, 2004 @10:57AM (#8020714)
    I may be a little offtopic here, but I see since Microsoft has yet to win against Lindows for trademark infringement they decided to set precedence by picking an easier target? Microsoft claims that their customers would get confused by the name. Well, at my work computer, right on the front bigger than life it says "Designed for Microsoft Windows XP". Do a google search for Microsoft, the only place where mikerowesoft.com shows up is in the news portion. I do not see how they can claim brand confusion there. I think the teen's only problem is going to be that since he is a minor, he cannot register a business yet.
  • by Atreide ( 16473 ) on Monday January 19, 2004 @10:58AM (#8020726)
    Poor dear Microsoft.

    Your friend Microsoft is lost in the maze of IP infringement.
    Please help him to find out all the names used by evil hackers who want to steel mighty things from your friend.

    Because there are so many bad boys in the world that speak strange languages,
    help your little friend Microsoft to get every occurence of name spelling that can sound like his very own name.

    Of course in english, our friend Law Yer has just come with the evil name : Mike Rowe Soft, so this one can not be proposed.

    When you have finished this game, hand out the answer to your dad or your mom and go on to the next game.

    For instance, in French :
    [mi | my] [c | k | que] [r] [o | au] [ss] [o | au] [ft | pht]
    microssoft , mikrossoft
    miquerossoft , micraussoft
    mikraussoft , miqueraussoft
    microssauft , mikrossauft
    miquerossauft , micraussauft
    mikraussauft , miqueraussauft
    microssopht , mikrossopht
    miquerossopht , micraussopht
    mikraussopht , miqueraussopht
    microssaupht , mikrossaupht
    miquerossaupht , micraussaupht
    mikraussaupht , miqueraussaupht

    mycrossoft , mykrossoft
    myquerossoft , mycraussoft
    mykraussoft , myqueraussoft
    mycrossauft , mykrossauft
    myquerossauft , mycraussauft
    mykraussauft , myqueraussauft
    mycrossopht , mykrossopht
    myquerossopht , mycraussopht
    mykraussopht , myqueraussopht
    mycrossaupht , mykrossaupht
    myquerossaupht , mycraussaupht
    mykraussaupht , myqueraussaupht

  • by CastrTroy ( 595695 ) on Monday January 19, 2004 @11:03AM (#8020767) Homepage
    So, this all sounded pretty stupid, until I realized that well, Microsoft is pretty much just covering their ass. IANAL, but, it seems that this would fall under Trademark infringement. And if i remember correctly, a company risks loosing their trademark if they don't stop people from using it incorrectly [mit.edu]. So, basically, I think Microsoft would just rather not have this happen, as loosing the rights to their name might have bad consequences. Hell, we could start making Microsoft Linux, and could you imagine, Microsoft OpenOffice. So yeah. The whole thing sounds a little weird at first, asking this guy to hand over the domain, but if you were Microsoft's Lawyers, what would you do?
  • trademark, dammit (Score:5, Informative)

    by ajagci ( 737734 ) on Monday January 19, 2004 @11:05AM (#8020782)
    That would be a trademark violation, not a copyright violation. The two are completely different legally. Among other things, microsoft is legally obligated to defend its trademark or face losing it.

    However, if Mike Rowe's use is non-commercial, Microsoft's action is unnecessary and the shouldn't prevail (but it's probably too costly to fight them).
  • by I-R-Baboon ( 140733 ) on Monday January 19, 2004 @11:07AM (#8020795)
    MikeHunt.com - Being sued by Moe Szyslak, owner of Moe's Tavern for prank call infringement.

    HenWeigh.com - Being sued by Jenny Craig, settlement offered of $15 in McDonalds Gift Certificates

    ShoBullshit.org - Next on the list for SCO for misleading location of mystery source code backed up on mothership hiding behind Venus.

    MyLittleBoy.net - Sued by Michael Jackson for misleading name. Settlement reached at 100 little Sailor outfits with various sizes.

    MajorWoody.us - Major Horace Woody has apparently given Woody Woodpecker a bad name. The Pecker and Woody are working out a deal out of court however.

    FamilyLove.net - Pending legislation by the State of Arkansas's Singles site, FamilyLovers.net.

    SlashingDot.org - In close contact with Cowboy Neal as geeks to not want to be confused with a "News for Serial Killers" site.

    gaggle.com - Upsetting google.com, but google is unwilling to start gang warfare as drive by DoSes sometimes comprimise innocent networks.

    DeathRow.us - Death row inmates suing for misrepresentation of convicted criminals actually on Death Row.

    Garbage.com - Also being sued by Microsoft for copyright infringement of copyright. Alleges that this name is a common slang for their products in knowledgable circles.

  • by VinceWuzHere ( 733075 ) on Monday January 19, 2004 @11:59AM (#8021293)
    A story broke about two weeks ago about http://www.mikerosoft.ca. Mike's site (a different Mike, eh) had a web presence since 1997 and delivered small bits of code, drivers and other technical tidbits. A check of his site today shows that he's redirecting traffic to a new url pending the outcome of his discussions. He does NOT want to sell out to Micro$fot according to his site.
  • It's official. (Score:5, Informative)

    by Futurepower(R) ( 558542 ) <MJennings.USA@NOT_any_of_THISgmail.com> on Monday January 19, 2004 @12:29PM (#8021564) Homepage

    Software giant threatens mikerowesoft [zdnet.co.uk]ZDNet.co.uk,UK-8 minutes agoMicrosoft has set its lawyers onto a 17-year-old software writer from Vancouver, called Mike Rowe, because he has registered MikeRoweSoft.com, which the

    Microsoft not pleased about mikerowesoft website [ananova.com]Ananova,UK-3 hours agoA Canadian teenager called Mike Rowe who added the word soft to his name for his website title, has been ordered by Microsoft to hand over the domain.

    Microsoft won't go soft on Mike Rowe [canoe.ca]London Free Press,Canada-4 hours agoVANCOUVER -- Like any good fledgling businessperson, Mike Rowe knew

    Microsoft lawyers threaten Mike Rowe (17) [theregister.co.uk]The Register,UK-5 hours agoIn what could easily be mistaken for an Onion story, Microsoft has unleashed the full fury of its lawyers on 17-year-old Canadian high-school student, Mike Rowe

    Mike may be Rowe, but 'soft' is trouble [nwsource.com]Seattle Times,WA-7 hours agoBy The Associated Press. VANCOUVER, BC - Mike Rowe knew he needed a catchy name for his Web-site design company. But the folks

    Big bully Gates targets teen [indiatimes.com]Times of India,India-8 hours agoVANCOUVER: No matter what Shakespeare said on the theme of nomenclature, Microsoft has thought it fit to sue a teenager whose domain name is a lot like the

    Microsoft vs MikeRoweSoft [iol.co.za]Independent Online,South Africa-10 hours agoVancouver, British Columbia - Mike Rowe thinks it's funny that his catchy name for a website design company sounds a lot like Microsoft.

    Microsoft takes on teen [news.com.au]NEWS.com.au,Australia-10 hours agoMIKE Rowe thinks it is funny that his catchy name for a Web site design company sounds a lot like Microsoft. "Since my name is Mike

    Langford student battles tech giant over use of his domain name: [canada.com]Canada.com,Canada-Jan 17, 2004Mike Rowe, a Langford high school student who does Web site design part-time, is locked in a legal battle with one of the world's biggest companies.

    Microsoft vs. Mike Rowe Soft [wistv.com]WIS,SC-47 minutes ago(Vancouver, British Columbia-AP) Jan. 19, 2004 - It's Microsoft versus Mike Rowe-soft. Mike Rowe, 17, wanted a catchy name for his Web site design company.

    Support CD Baby [p2pnet.net]p2pnet.net,Canada-1 hour agoBecause Mike, who lives in Victoria on Vancouver Island in British Columbia, Canada (and a short drive from p2pnet.net's thriving central base : ) makes a

    Microsoft Talk Legal to 17 Year-Old Owner of MikeRoweSoft Domain [shortnews.com]ShortNews.com-2 hours agoMike Rowe, 17, from British Columbia, Canada decided to start up a small web business and called his domain MikeRoweSoft. Smart

    Microsoft Corporation vs MikeRoweSoft [officialspin.com]OfficialSpin-3 hours agoVictoria, British Columbia -- (OfficialSpin) -- 19/01/04 -- A 17 year-old high school student, Mike Rowe, who just so happens to earn a few extra bucks...

    Microsoft demands teen to give up domain name [statesmanjournal.com]Salem Statesman Journal,OR-7 hours agoVANCOUVER, British Columbia - Mike Rowe knew that he needed

  • by belmolis ( 702863 ) <billposer@a l u m . m it.edu> on Monday January 19, 2004 @01:10PM (#8021993) Homepage

    Companies have been known to sue even when even just one portion of the name is similar. There was another case recently that was similar in that it involved a big American company going after a tiny Canadian outfit. In this case, Starbucks (no doubt the provider of cafeine to many /.-ers) sued Haidabucks Cafe [haidabuckscafe.com], a small cafe owned by Haida Indians in Masset, British Columbia. The names are obviously quite different, both in writing and in speech. Fortunately, they stood their ground and obtained the services of a top notch law firm [arvayfinlay.com] and a web site designer [2baldwins.com], with the result that Starbucks backed down. That's a good thing, and not just for them: boycotting Starbucks is tough!

  • Damn ... (Score:4, Funny)

    by Durandal64 ( 658649 ) on Monday January 19, 2004 @03:08PM (#8023245)
    There goes my software company which specializes in crows .. My Crow Soft.
  • by GeneralEmergency ( 240687 ) on Monday January 19, 2004 @09:42PM (#8027518) Journal

    Re: MikeRoweSoft.com

    Background located at:
    http://www.theregister.com/content/6/34955.ht ml

    This is not acceptable, moral behaviour on your part.

    I will remember this when I need to make my next software selection/purchase.


    Hello Allan,

    Thank you for contacting Microsoft.

    We take our trademark seriously, but in this case maybe a little too seriously. Under the law companies are required to take this type of action to protect their trademark against widespread infringement. That said, we appreciate that Mike Rowe is a young entrepreneur who came up with a creative domain name. We are currently in the process of resolving this matter in a way that will be fair to him and satisfy our obligations under trademark law.

    Should you have further questions, feel free to write us back.


    Microsoft.com Customer Support

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