An interview with Dhiren Rana

Still reeling from the physical and mental drain of trial, Dhiren Rana, in an exclusive interview, sat at a Chicago hotel cafe Wednesday night relieved, but troubled.The founder of the bankrupt SyNet Inc.

Still reeling from the physical and mental drain of trial, Dhiren Rana, in an exclusive interview, sat at a Chicago hotel cafe Wednesday night relieved, but troubled.

The founder of the bankrupt SyNet Inc. reflected on the uncertainty and personal struggle that have been his constant companion since he filed the lawsuit against Microsoft 2 1/2 years ago for trademark infringement over the use of the name Internet Explorer.

'It's never been about money. It's about SyNet was right ...'
-- Dhiren Rana

In 1994, Rana developed a Web browser called Internet Explorer, and sued Microsoft after it launched its Internet Explorer browser in 1995. Rana secured a trademark for Internet Explorer in Illinois, and had gotten preliminary approval by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office recently.

Job search
SyNet was a fast-growing company and always profitable, Rana said. And just before its demise, it had grown to 21 employees. When it finally went under last year, Rana was thrust into unemployment and searching for a job. The best offer came from Netscape Communications Inc. -- one of Microsoft's biggest competitors -- which he accepted and is now working as a consultant. Rana says it's merely coincidence, not spite, that he chose Netscape over a field of other offers.

Rana blames Microsoft for losing his once-thriving business last year under the crush of $2 million in legal fees. And though the $5 million settlement seems like a lot of money, the majority will go to lawyers and creditors, he said.

"It's never been about money," Rana said. "It was about SyNet was right, and the trademark office agreed with us and published the mark."

"If it were up to me, Microsoft would be in big trouble," Rana said. "I would let the trial go all the way. The jury could have given me $100,000. It doesn't matter. The most important thing is the principle."

Not about Rana
But it was not up to Rana, because the bankruptcy court appointed a trustee to handle the settlement and represent SyNet's interests, including paying legal fees and creditors.

Today, he said he may exercise his right to object to the settlement, when bankruptcy court convenes at Chicago's federal court building. If the judge agrees with his objections, the case could be thrown back into Judge Charles Norgle Sr.'s courtroom again. Rana acknowledges, though, that Norgle might not take too kindly to the change of heart.

"I am known to fight for what is right," Rana said. "This lawsuit is proof that I lost everything, but I am still here."

Problems abound
Rana, 40, has seen his share of personal struggle, as well. His 5-year-old daughter, Suhani, was diagnosed with leukemia last year, days after his business went under. The cancer is in remission, but Suhani faces a year of chemotherapy treatments to ensure she is cancer-free.

Since a recent published report about his lawsuit and his daughter's health, he has been stunned by the outpouring of sympathetic e-mail. "I'm so grateful for the support," Rana said.

Martha L. Stone teaches New Media & Technology at Roosevelt University in Chicago, and is a frequent contributor to ZDNN.


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