Mikerosoft.ca magnifies Microsoft's PR nightmare

A new Mike joins Mike Rowe in Microsoft's legal crosshairs

Microsoft showed its human side on Tuesday when the company admitted to overreacting by allowing its lawyers to threaten Mike Rowe over his MikeRoweSoft.com Web site. However, the company is unlikely to be so kind to another Mike, also from Canada, who is embroiled in a similar trademark battle with the software giant over his domain.

Mike Morris, who has been using the mikerosoft.ca domain for two years to front his non-commercial Web site, received a letter from Microsoft's Canadian lawyers, Smart & Biggar, in early January. He too was asked to transfer his domain to Microsoft, who offered to reimburse his registration fee and domain-transfer costs (after originally demanding that Morris bear these costs himself).

Microsoft now faces a quandary: if it decides to take the hard line with Morris, it is likely to generate even more negative publicity of the sort which, observers say, is the reason it changed its mind over Mike Rowe in the first place.

However, Microsoft's nightmare could be cut short because, unlike Rowe, Morris has already changed his domain name and moved his site in anticipation of being evicted.

"I run a not-for-profit Web site based on my own name that does not reference Microsoft Corporation in any way," says Morris on his site, which contains updates of graphics-card drivers, a blog with information about his legal problems, and a disclaimer stating that the site is not owned by, endorsed by, or affiliated in any way with Microsoft.

Morris said he does not want to sell the domain and does not want to profit from the site. Instead, he is hoping Microsoft will let him keep the site if he displays a disclaimer written by the company's lawyers. "I can let Microsoft write a disclaimer, or even sign an agreement saying I will not profit from the name and I won't turn it into a porn site," he said.

Morris admitted that the legal threat has resulted in far more visitors to his site than the domain name or the content he posted ever did: "The sad truth is that while my site got a fair bit of traffic when I had new drivers hosted, it was nothing compared to what it is getting now," he said.

Microsoft was not available for comment.