A Tale Of Two Michaels

A Tale Of Two Michaels

Summary: Microsoft's biggest liability may be its willingness to use disproportionate strength

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TOPICS: Tech Industry
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If you were 17 and were called Michael Rowe, would you be able to resist calling your Web site Mike Rowe Soft? Of course not, as Mike Rowe, 17, demonstrated. And if you were a zillion-dollar company run by the son of a lawyer, would you be able to resist calling down the wrath of hell's own litigants on the poor chap?

Let's be clear: Microsoft is not only within its rights but is pretty well compelled to defend its name. Under US law, if you let one potential infringement slide you lose the ability to defend against any. Where the company went wrong was in treating a teenager like a con artist: it may be backing down now, but the damage has been done.

Take IBM, a company currently in receipt of oceans of goodwill due to its active espousal of open software. It's currently being a friendly bear, but a bear nonetheless with a long a history of defending its intellectual property with ursine determination -- and, in the days when it owned the world, no shortage of unreasonableness. It still has one of the world's largest legal departments, and expertise in defending intellectual property second to none. Yet it knows better than to marmalise all pretenders: these days, it does reasonable too.

While IBM's internal policies regarding litigation are not something the company ever discusses, rumour has it that the company's response to a threat is regulated by the amount of money involved. Turf up to Big Blue with a claim of, say, $25,000, and the chances are good that you'll get a cheque by return -- oh, and an agreement that you will never again even think of typing the letters I,B and M in that order. Try it for $1,000,000 and you'll be looking at the lapels of some very expensive tailoring as it explains to you why you don't want to do that. (Just to add spice to the game, apparently, one in every so many of the $25,000 and under claims is picked at random and thrown to the lawyers, just to keep them in fighting trim. Bear that in mind.)

Topic: Tech Industry

Rupert Goodwins

About Rupert Goodwins

Rupert started off as a nerdy lad expecting to be an electronics engineer, but having tried it for a while discovered that journalism was more fun. He ended up on PC Magazine in the early '90s, before that evolved into ZDNet UK - and Rupert evolved with them into an online journalist.

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2 comments
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  • Why should Microsoft be the big bully of the software markets, and indeed the web? If they were going to be reasonable, or not overreact when something vaguely related to them happens, then it would have a nice soft, dare I say 'cuddely' corporate image that may make it more appealing to the public, rather than being seen as the Big Bad Wolf of the Internet. That would then enable them to sell more products in a market which they already dominate.
    However I also read a talkback by some cretin that decided that 'Lindows' could be a Typo of 'Windows', and since the keys are on a different side of the keyboard (in the uk at least) how??
    I also believe that he should be allowed to use the domain name MikeRoweSoft.com, since he first registered it, and had Microsoft been so worried, then it should have bought the domain name when it set up its website to stop any possible confusion. Why would Microsoft want to teat the paying consumers as complete dumb-asses, thats really going to help their corporate image isn't it?
    The next thing they will be buying is coldmail.com, because obviously us dumbass consumers can make that mistake can't we?
    anonymous
  • interesting story...

    ...however, i think that adding 'soft' when he's allegedly a web guy (although most of his 'work' is either sub domains, /'s or dead links) was premeditated - badly

    in ten years i've never come across a web company with 'soft' in their name

    having typed my tuppence worth i'd like to add GOOD LUCK!

    best regards

    b
    anonymous