Lindows can keep company name, judge rules

In a case that could have forced Linux vendor Lindows Inc. to change its business name worldwide, a Netherlands court on Thursday ruled that Lindows’ current limited use of the Lindows name does not violate Microsoft Corp.’s Windows trademark.

After it lost an earlier case in the same Amsterdam court over the use of the Lindows name, Lindows changed the name of its operating system product and corresponding Web site to Linspire. However, it kept Lindows as its company name.

Microsoft sued Lindows again, charging that use of Lindows as its company name also constitutes an infringement on its Windows trademark. The Amsterdam District Court disagrees. “Not every use of the business name Lindows infringes on the Windows trademark,” Judge Sj. A. Rullmann said in her ruling Thursday.

Lindows currently uses the Lindows name only in the small print on its Web site and product documentation and clearly states that it is not affiliated with Microsoft. That use is not in violation of the court’s January ruling that barred Lindows from using the name to sell its version of the Linux operating system, according to the court.

Microsoft has aggressively been fighting Lindows over the similarity between the Windows and Lindows names. The Redmond, Washington, software vendor has had success in bringing actions against Lindows in the Netherlands, Finland and Sweden.

Microsoft has had less success in the U.S., where it lost two requests for an injunction. Furthermore, last week a federal appeals court declined Microsoft’s request to review a key pretrial ruling against the company. As a result, a jury reviewing the U.S. case would be instructed to consider whether “windows” was a generic term before Microsoft introduced software with that name in 1985.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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