Microsoft: We took MikeRoweSoft too seriously

Microsoft: We took MikeRoweSoft too seriously

Summary: Microsoft has admitted it took things 'too seriously' when its lawyers threatened a 17-year-old student called Mike Rowe over his domain name

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TOPICS: Government UK
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Microsoft has admitted it may have made a mistake in threatening Mike Rowe for using his Web site, mikerowesoft.com

Rowe, a student from Vancouver, registered mikerowesoft.com to front his part-time Web site design business in August 2003. Three months later, he received an email from Microsoft's lawyers asking him to transfer the domain name to Microsoft. They offered to pay him a "settlement" of $10 (£5.55), which is the cost of his original registration fee.

However, after the case received widespread coverage on the Internet, Microsoft has admitted it may have taken things too far and has promised to treat Rowe fairly. A Microsoft spokesperson told ZDNet UK: "We appreciate that Mike Rowe is a young entrepreneur who came up with a creative domain name. We take our trademark seriously, but maybe a little too seriously in this case."

Under the law, Microsoft is required to take action to protect its trademark against widespread infringement. Struan Robertson, editor of legal IT Web site Out-Law.com, explained that if a trademark holder does not take action to protect its trademark whenever it is aware of a potential infringement, it risks losing that protection.

Robertson gives Hoover as an example of a trademark that has become a generic word: "If you or I talk about hoovering our house, that is not an issue, but if Electrolux talks about hoovering, that is an issue," he said.

According to Robertson, Rowe may have a good argument for keeping the domain name because it is his real name and he isn't pretending to be affiliated with Microsoft. But he said that Microsoft probably regrets getting involved with the case because of all the bad publicity it has generated.

"It is probably a very trivial issue for Microsoft and I wouldn't be surprised if they regret getting involved with it. Microsoft may be prepared to pay him some money to make this go away because this is not the kind of publicity that Microsoft wants to attract," added Robertson.

Microsoft hopes to resolve the problem in a way that both parties are happy: "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," the spokesperson said.

Topic: Government UK

Munir Kotadia

About Munir Kotadia

Munir first became involved with online publishing in 1998 when he joined ZDNet UK and later moved into print publishing as Chief Reporter for IT Week, part of ZDNet UK, a weekly trade newspaper targeted at Enterprise IT managers. He later moved back into online publishing as Senior News Reporter for ZDNet UK.

Munir was recognised as Australia's Best Technology Columnist at the 5th Annual Sun Microsystems IT Journalism Awards 2007. In the previous year he was named Best News Journalist at the Consensus IT Writers Awards.

He no longer uses his Commodore 64.

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41 comments
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  • Mike Rowe should be the one p****d off here, for being accused of association to a low standards company like Microsoft.
    anonymous
  • This guy is 100% wrong, he knew exactly what he was registering, companies have to protect their trademark, or they could lose it. It is business, and this guy chose his name specifically because it sounded like Microsoft. It wasn't a coincidence, it was bad faith. If his name was Mike Rowesoft he might have a chance. But he added the Soft? How convenient.....Whether he is 17 or 80 years old he was breaking the law.
    anonymous
  • MS is certainly obliged to vigorously defend its trademarks if it wants to keep them, so objecting to mikerowesoft.com is perfectly reasonable, even to the point of litigation if necessary. But well short of such bullying, MS could just as effectively (and much more quietly) defend themselves by simply buying the domain name at an equitable price. What knucklehead thug decided that $10 was anything but a legal mugging of this poor young entrepreneur? (Oh, when you find out, I'd strongly suggest firing him). Building contacts, printing business cards, etc. all has real value, and Rowe should be reasonably compensated for the inconvenience of surrendering what is, after all, his own name. Maybe $10K is a llittle high (the $1000 mentioned in this story is off by a zero from other accounts I've read), but it's a lot closer to the mark than $10, and Rowe admits that he just picked a number as a counteroffer after MS's ridiculous lowballing. C'mon Redmond - show a little largesse, give the kid enough to make it worth his while, and kill this ugly little story before it gets bigger and uglier.
    anonymous
  • Let the guy keep his domain and get a sense of humor, Microsoft!
    anonymous
  • I have nothing personal against Mike Rowe or Microsoft, but I will tell u something, Mike Rowe is just a trouble maker making lifes difficult for consumers with money, who are the kings in the world of buisness.

    Just imagine the difficulty Mike Rowe is causing to millions of potential consumers, if his company made mouse for PCs, u phone a shop and say I want a "Microsoft mouse" and they send you a "MikeRoweSoft Mouse" or Vice versa. Just imagine the diffculty blind people will have when using a text to spech converter or in a store, they ask the assistant for a "Microsoft mouse" and they give you a "MikeRoweSoft Mouse" , which when u come home is the CR*P u will expect from a ID*T who set it up.

    IMHO, Come on this site should not be shut down by micrsoft but by sane consumers, because MikeRowe is trying to con us, plain simple!

    The same applies to Lindows, I nearly bought a PC on the Internet because it was
    anonymous
  • Mike just sits back silently and laughs. This kind of publicity campaign would have cost big bucks.
    anonymous
  • In response to the coward hiding being a no name, likes to pick on children I see. I quote this person

    " Mike Rowe is just a trouble maker making lifes difficult for consumers with money, who are the kings in the world of buisness."

    Now come on, how is he conning people, he has to the right to his personal name for his bussiness which by the way isnt selling computer parts. Your a joke by writing your comments and cowarding behind a no name user id! He is a kid that creates web site designs, not in the market of computer parts. As u see this cowards remakrs i quote saying..

    "Just imagine the difficulty Mike Rowe is causing to millions of potential consumers, if his company made mouse for PCs, u phone a shop and say I want a "Microsoft mouse" and they send you a "MikeRoweSoft Mouse" or Vice versa. Just imagine the diffculty blind people will have when using a text to spech converter or in a store, they ask the assistant for a "Microsoft mouse" and they give you a "MikeRoweSoft Mouse" , which when u come home is the CR*P u will expect from a ID*T who set it up."

    You see he is making stupid comments like that when he should know Mike Rowe isnt selling parts like that but his talents in web design. Get your facts straight before picking on a kid! and I quote the coward again..saying

    " because MikeRowe is trying to con us, plain simple!"

    I see this coward thinks Mike Rowe is trying to con us, well i dont see how Mike Rowe is doing that since he doesnt sell any parts like you mention in your talkback comments" Just is artistic talents in web design.
    And add to the fact that it is in a completely different business makes this even more absurd!

    In in short to the guy that thinks he is trying to con everyone must be really low to pick on a kid , when he himself can not even order a computer properly. Saying he didnt know he ordered a computer with Lindows on it and he wanted Windows. Its called learn how to read!! That was your error for getting the wrong system and not reading what you had ordered..you make me laugh haha!


    And i quote the coward again.. saying

    " So get a life.."

    So in closing this coward likes to insult a kid trying to make something of himself and has nothing better to do other than poke fun at someone tha tis working hard. Give him credit most kids wouldnt be doing this but getting themselves into trouble with other things.

    I say right on Mike Rowe, keep up the good hard work and be strong. Remember , Dont let people llike this coward I quoted slow you down.

    PS. I am man enough to use my real name.

    From a fellow small business person to another,

    Matthew Parry
    anonymous
  • I believe that Microsoft is being punished because they have all the money. The bottom line is that the kids name is Mike Rowe and not MikeRowesoft. To add that little section infringes on their trademark, PERIOD.

    Great he is a kid who is a entrepenuer(sp?) but he needs to change part of his company title, this is part of doing business in world filled with patents and trademarks. If the shoe was on the other foot you would want Microsoft skinned alive. What a bunch of hypocrits and haters.
    anonymous
  • MikeRoweSoft is not a trademark....MICROSOFT is. And for the poor fool mistaking Lindows for Windows, you sir, do not deserve to own a computer. At least Lindows doesn't refer to "sheets of glass designed to allow light pass through such as in a house" as is the case of Windows, a purely generic term.

    Whe doesn't Microsoft go after something a little better like ie.com or access.com? They both could represent Microsoft softwares.

    If a person had a name of Mi Crosoft. Would he have any right to the name as some of you are suggesting Mike Rowe would have for MikeRowe.com? What if Mike Rowe did own a software company, and was incorporated and Mike Rowe as trademarked also, could he have MikeRoweSoftCorp.com?

    Makes you think, doesn't it?
    anonymous
  • I find the idea this person registered the domain to infringe apon Microsofts copyrights laughable.

    Point 1: If this was the case why would he not draw attention to domain so that perhaps Microsoft sees it maybe? The fact it went 3 months without a problem suggests this is not the case.
    Point 2: MikeRowesoft seems to be a company that deals in designs not computer software.

    I find the idea anyone could confuse Mikerowsoft and Microsoft laughable also, I mean, Come on, how stupid are people, the the above point, point 2 it is almost impossible

    Anyone with eyes can tell MikeRowe is not Micro, those blind who use Text-To-Speech engines, this problem can be solved to,

    If it sounds like microsoft and isn't spelt with those letters, it could say (Not Microsoft Corporation) after each utter couldn't it.

    I rest my case.
    anonymous
  • I would imagine Microsoft (legal) is now taking this seriously.

    Or at least one of their lawyers or head of their legal department, being in receipt of a phone call from Bill Gates..

    "What were you thinking?"

    Mike Rowe's birthmark was his name. can you imagine if Bill Gates himself had a domain,"billgatessoft.com"?

    Oh yeah, it has! ROFLMAO:

    "The associated domain name has probably been reserved by a client from GANDI then parked. "

    Well. The things that are possible. You hang in there Mike Rowe. Your birthright is yours, and you are intitled to use it in an appropriate manner. MS, no one can abrogate that.

    Besides, MS wants to pay you for the inconveniences they have thrust upon you.

    And the publicity doesn't hurt (you) either!

    Best of Wishes,
    Terry
    anonymous
  • Anyone would think that MikeRoweSoft is the only website addy sounding like microsoft or using the microsoft name, well those that do would be wrong because there are lots of names on the internet that phonetically sound like and some even use the microsoft name.

    So Mr Microsoft before you go picking on the small business man go looking on your internet and see the hundreds of others that are using names sounding like yours to, because i can guarantee you there are lots out there. And if u choose to take on MikeRowe then you better be prepared to take on all the others out there to otherwise its discrimination.

    So Microsoft stop being so greedy and let the subject lie, you dont own the domain world.
    anonymous
  • No offense buddy, you're taking this a little too far. Before you buy something, its customary to actually check what it is before you hand over the money.
    anonymous
  • If you don't think Microsoft doesn't think carefully before they take any action then you're living in a dream world. They knew exactly what they were doing. Shoot first and ask questions later. Microsoft management and lawyers are a bunch of draconian jerks.
    anonymous
  • If this goes forward, I hope he kicks Micro$oft in the proverbial wallet... big time!
    anonymous
  • I have to agree with about 95% of the people that know about this story (over 50% of the world population by now), and that is that Mike Rowe is in his right to keep it.

    Microsoft were just a bit late in getting to the domain name and are pi*sed about it, well bad luck. I have had a domain stolen from me in the past and I was not offered a payment for it, they just took it (not M$) so I have some idea on what Mike Rowe is going through.

    The only true way for Microsoft to protect their name is to purchase every domain in the entire world, thus making the Internet theirs. I say this because there are so many web sites run on a Microsoft product, have a reference to Microsoft or are bagging Microsoft.

    Does this very subject not infringe on Microsoft's copyright as we are using their name? Where should it end? I say Microsoft should bugger off and leave the poor kid alone and do some real work and fix your products.

    As for the joker who just bagged Mike Rowe but could not be bothered leaving his name, "get a life" and stop hiding behind ya momma's apron.

    My 2 cents worth, go and kick some but Mike Rowe, I know I support you.
    anonymous
  • The problem is Soft I would tell him drop the word Soft and settle the case.

    Microsoft can't make him give up MikeRowe because that's his name but, he knew what he was doing when he added the word Soft to his name.

    Microsoft on the other hand insulted the kid by just saying his site is worth $10. I don't think the kid wanted $10,000 but, the point he was making is $10 is nothing.

    Microsoft you think they would want to stay out of the spotlight. DOJ vs MS has done nothing to tame MS.
    anonymous
  • Once again I suggest that your article is dead wrong when it implies that Microsoft is "required" as if its actions are automatically mandated to file suit. It is not automatically "required" to take action.

    By that logic, Mike Rowe, may be automatically required to treat Microsoft fair and not sue them for defamation of character, liable, restraint of trade and a half dozen other egregious because of their Slap Suit tactics.
    anonymous
  • I would like to see Mike Rowe go ahead and take this to court. Let's see what a jury thinks. What about the other domain names that have been registered under Mike Rowe using other extensions. Who owns them? Are they going to be sued also?
    anonymous
  • John Michealson is the one taking this too seriously. Back when Micro Soft was forming there was a company MicroSwitch that made a line of switches noted for there "soft" operation. Micro Soft meant something different then. But MicroSwitch knew that few would confuse a software product with a switch.

    If you could establish that someone could spell microsoft incorrectly and end up at MikeRoweSoft I would guess MS would have a case. But that is really a stretch.

    We have lost our ability to poke fun at icons. Sad.
    anonymous