Judge Won't Stop Microsoft vs. Lindows

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Microsoft can continue to pursue trademark infringement cases against Linux vendor Lindows.com in international courts, a federal judge has ruled.

Lindows.com had asked the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington, in Seattle, to stop Microsoft from suing it outside the U.S. The company also asked the court to strike a January ruling in the Netherlands ordering Lindows.com to make its Web site inaccessible to people in Belgium, the Netherlands, and Luxembourg--the Benelux countries.

Chief U.S. District Court Judge John Coughenour on Friday denied Lindows.com's request, saying there is no reason to interfere with the jurisdiction of foreign courts. However, he indicated that if a foreign court were to impede on the constitutional rights of Lindows.com he would act.

Blocking Access

Lindows.com claims it is technically impossible to comply with the Dutch court's order to block access to its Web site from the Benelux countries. The company had argued that it would be forced to shut down its Web site if the U.S. court did not intervene, and that closing its Web site would violate its First Amendment rights.

A hearing in Amsterdam District Court on the Dutch ruling was originally set for last week but has been postponed. However, according to the U.S. ruling, Microsoft will propose that Lindows.com use commercially available software to prevent visitors from the Benelux region from accessing the Lindows.com site, which would satisfy the U.S. court.

"We're pleased with the court's decision and believe this was a baseless effort by Lindows to avoid the jurisdiction of international courts where they are in violation of local trademark laws," says Stacy Drake, a Microsoft spokesperson.

A Lindows.com spokesperson reached on Monday declined comment on the ruling.

Ongoing Battle

Microsoft sued Lindows.com in the U.S. in December 2001, accusing the company of infringing its Windows trademark and asking the court to bar Lindows.com from using the Lindows name. Microsoft has lost two requests for an injunction in the U.S., and the trial has been delayed.

European courts, however, are siding with Microsoft. The software vendor has won injunctions in Finland, Sweden, and the Netherlands, and is pursuing the case in France and Spain. It also is pursuing the case in Canada and Mexico.

"The goal of these actions is very simple. We're only asking that Lindows change their name and compete with a name that is distinctly their own and not such an obvious infringement of our trademark," Microsoft's Drake says.

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