MikeRoweSoft garners funds to fight back

MikeRoweSoft garners funds to fight back

Summary: Mike Rowe has decided to fight back after Microsoft threatened him with legal action for registering mikerowesoft.com. Meanwhile, domain-name speculators are lining up

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TOPICS: Government UK
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Teenage Web developer Mike Rowe, who was threatened with legal action by Microsoft, has been overwhelmed with support from Internet users and has set up a defence fund to allow him to fight back.

Rowe, a student from Vancouver, registered the domain 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. Microsoft's lawyers told Rowe that his site infringes on its trademark rights.

When Rowe's plight was reported on the Internet on Monday, his Web site became a victim of its own popularity and had to be taken offline for several hours. According to Rowe's site -- which is now being hosted by a different company -- on Tuesday, about 250,000 people visited his site, many offering financial help: "I have put up a defence fund so that I can hire a lawyer to guide me through the process of talking to Microsoft. I have already received a lot of pledges and I thank each and every one of you for that," he said.

Microsoft's legal department may be busier than they anticipated during the next few months, because in the past four days all the top level domain extensions for mikerowesoft (.co.uk, .net, .org and .tv) have been snapped up. Mikerowesoft.tv has been put up for sale on eBay.

ZDNet UK readers are overwhelmingly in support of Rowe. His story generated hundreds of TalkBacks, with many readers feeling insulted by Microsoft's argument that its customers will get confused between mikerowesoft.com and Microsoft.com. D Colonna, a software engineer from Wisconsin said: "If Microsoft believes their customers will be confused by the existence of mikerowesoft.com, then they hold an extremely dim view of their customers' intelligence."

However, as one reader correctly points out that, under US law, Microsoft has no choice but to pursue a trademark case against Rowe because if it ignores his site, the company will lose its right to fight against trademark infringements that may occur in the future.

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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  • Dear Mike,

    Just to let u know u have more than enough support from internet users. I can predict that Microsoft will eventually settle out of court and u'll be a very rich guy...THEN do not forget your humble beginnings.

    Don't give up the fight, remember, it's not the size of the dog in the fight, it's the size of the fight in the dog.

    Best of luck
    Bola
    London
    anonymous
  • Micro's Soft Thinking!
    Think of the legal fees racked up by Microsoft's attorneys.....Best guess, $1,000 per page of their brief.....No doubt, it is the attorney who intend to take the giant to the cleaners, not Mike Rowe.
    anonymous
  • I just read that one reader 'correctly' feels Microsoft will lose its future right to contest trademark infringements if it fails to contest MikeRowesoft. What nonsense. This assumes that MikeRoweSoft is in fact an infringement of Microsofts copyright, which has neither been proven nor, on face value, looks even remotely fair, either legally or morally. Mike Rowe has a far GREATER right to use the term MikeRoweSoft that Bill Gates has to use Microsoft, with the exception of course being that Microsoft is already trademarked. However, this trademark is for, and let me be clear, MICROSOFT, not MIKEROWESOFT. Microsoft has a trademark on its name, but it does not own the word MICRO nor does it own the word SOFT. This means neither does it own its phonetics. To allude that it does, or that it owns any word or term that has the same phonetics as its trademark is ludicrous. If this is true, then remove MICRO and SOFT from the dictionary because the dictionary meanings of these terms are now obsolete. Mike Rowe has a right to name a business after his own name if no other business or trademark already exists with THAT EXACT NAME. This is a classic case of David vs Goliath where Goliath is clearly the MONSTER and David is clearly the HERO. I'll log on and put some money into Mike's defence fund. If everyone in the world contributes just one dollar, MICROSOFT can say goodbye to their case and, by default, will have provided the very fuel that makes MIKEROWESOFT a potential large competitor. I hope that Microsofts pettiness bites them hard on the arse. One last point: as a web designer, anyone with any brains knows that no web designer is ever going to be able to earn the sort of money that Microsfot earns - not even close. It simply is impossible, even if you have a major web design company with hundreds of employees. MikeRoweSoft could never harm Microsoft financially, and to accuse Mike Rowe of attempting to extort money from Microsoft is the same as saying if you take one straw from a haystack you've damaged the haystack immeasurably. Bill Gates, if you are reading this, take notice that all of a sudden your company is now in the eyes of millions, all thinking you are a bastard, all thinking you are about one thing: monopolising the IT industry at the expense of the very same people who purchase your products. With millions of people praying that Mike Rowe wins any legal proceeding against you, I fail to see how even with your expensive lawyers you have a chance. Overwhelming opinion is against you, and even if you did somehow manage to win a case against Mike Rowe, you'll lose by the alienation you will have caused many. I will think twice now anytime I look at a Microsoft product, because I know that you and your company are not about your customers, not about the people, but about one thing: keeping the little guy poor and lining your coffa's with more money than you need or are entitled to - or can realistically use. Go Mr. Rowe, there are many of us who will support you, and many more who will blackban Microsoft as their true motives are now exposed to the masses. Funny how a little fun business name might very well change the world. Hahahah.
    anonymous
  • I hope Billy Boy Gates is happy now that the blundering fat man Ballmer running MS now has given them yet another bad name. He should go work for the RIAA and together they can sue some more kids. I have no respect at all for them any more. Good luck to Mike Rowe and all the rest who resist the world internet takeover attempt by MS.
    anonymous
  • Microsoft are forever throwing their weight around and intimidating smaller companies who don't have the money to fight back. It's ridiculous that they are now turning on a 17-year old kid whose name is genuinely Mike Rowe.
    Somebody should really take Microsoft down a peg or two. It's just become a bully.
    anonymous
  • Microsoft ought to just buy Mike's site for the $10,000 he asked for. That is a drop in the bucket for them and surely much less than it will cost them to fight him. Mike could get himself a lawyer and negotiate the price even higher. I think $10,000 is pretty cheap to lose that headache.
    anonymous
  • I don't care about Microsoft or Mikerowesoft, I am not a computer geek, but an average user.
    I don't have a vandeta against either of the 2 parties, but I will express the voice of your average user who uses a PC for work.

    I once wanted to buy this PC and spec for spec, it was
    anonymous
  • Think about visually impaired people. If some text-to-speech functionality of browser would be confused by this URL, Mr Mike Row should make a compromise with Microsoft.
    anonymous
  • I think its great that so many people are offering support for the little guy. Perhaps it shows (as many of these comments have indicated) that many people are tired of MS's bullying tactics.

    I also agree with other commentators that 10,000 is not going to financially damage MS at all.. but it seems they are more concerned with 'saving face', and protecting the precident that might be set.

    A phonetic connection is tenuous, but I do appreciate the comment made about speech browsers getting confused.
    anonymous
  • Good On U Mike!!! There should be no problem! After all, your name is Mike Rowe, if Madonna can ban a porn site that used her name (think it was madonna.com) her argument was that it was her name which belongs to her, the same defence should be applied!
    anonymous
  • Its all about principle. Mike Rowe cannot deny that he was well aware of what his catchy name would do for him. He is trying to use the "I'm only 17 and didn't have a clue" syndrome. Please!
    anonymous
  • Well you also cannot deny that his name is Mike Rowe and the fact that it sounds like Microsoft or that he caught onto that fact doesnt mean he is wrong. Give the guy a break, I'm sure Microsoft has more serious problems to deal with than this.
    anonymous
  • Make your new domain name public before Microsoft pays you out Mike.
    anonymous
  • Amazing - we should all start registering similar Microsoft web site names and let these idiot big guys try and sue 20 million web sites!!! Is there NO sense at the top?
    anonymous
  • Sorry but how is his site an infringement? u might as well get channel4.com and channel5.com to fight it out, after all it ammounts to the same thing! Good luck with the case Mike and here's hoping U win!
    anonymous
  • I don't care about Microsoft or Mikerowesoft, I am not a computer geek, but an average user.
    I don't have a vandeta against either of the 2 parties, but I will express the voice of your average user who uses a PC for work.

    I once wanted to buy this PC and spec for spec, it was
    anonymous
  • Just goes to show how sad and desperate Microsoft is now people are starting to realise how awful their software really is.
    anonymous
  • MS is on solid legal ground, but $10? That's the real problem here - a multibillion dollar corporation deciding that $10 is fair compensation for deeply wounding a kid's nifty business idea, then responding to a request for $10,000 (not unreasonable for renaming and remarketing even a small business) as if it were "extortion". I'm not arguing that MS is technically wrong, and I certainly don't thing they're obliged to pay a nickel to anyone registering "MikeRoweSoft.org" after Jan. 18, but it was unconscionably petty to treat young Mike Rowe this way. MS can rescue this easily and cheaply with a $10,000 check presentation photo-op featuring an avuncular Steve Ballmer extolling the virtues of bright young entrepreneurs and tut-tutting the lapses of judgment all too common in corporate bureaucracies; noting that the fellow(s) who came up with the $10 offer and/or the "extortion" accusation have been shown the door would be a nice touch, but that's optional. Get cracking, Redmond - sooner than you think, this story can spin bigger and badder, and Mr. Rowe may be unreasonably emboldened by youthful bravado and a defense fund full of MS-hate dollars.
    anonymous
  • Go for it Mike ...... you didn't start out with the intension of Cyber sitting but since you have been accused of it i'd take em for everything they have .. Come the revolution Gates will be the first at the wall !!!
    anonymous
  • Mike, you fight for your site. After all its your name, you have every right to use it. After all its not like you deliberatley changed your name to sound like Microsoft.
    This is a typical example of American big business bullying and throwing their financial weight around. Let's hear it for the little guy!
    anonymous