Wednesday, January 21, 2004


Microsoft's effort to make a Canadian teenager named Mike Rowe stop using the domain name "" for his small business has garnered widespread coverage, even earning a mention on NBC's "Today Show" yesterday morning. A sampling of the reaction:

  • Times Colonist: Langford student battles tech giant:
    "Victoria intellectual property lawyer Dawn Wattie said Rowe's chances against the Microsoft legal machine probably 'aren't very good.' Mostly, the little guys lose, she said."
  • ZDNet Commentary: Microsoft stuck with MikeRoweSoft mess:
    "Let's be clear: Microsoft is not only within its rights but is pretty well compelled to defend its name. Under U.S. law, if you let one potential infringement slide you lose the ability to defend against any. Where the company went wrong was in treating a teenager like a con artist: it may be backing down now, but the damage has been done."
  • The Mac Observer: "In today's corporate-dominated environment, companies have far too much power when it comes to such things as domains. From J.K. Rowlings management coming down on kids with Harry Potter-related domains, to Miller Brewing going after the Miller family, if you have a domain that is covered by a corporate trademark, beware."
  • A range of reaction from readers on Brian Chin's Buzzworthy weblog: Writes one, "How silly from Microsoft to generate so much negative publicity over a trivial domain name dispute. They must protect their trademark, but could have done so in a more discreet manner." Counters another, "This is not big corp vs little kid. This is a matter of a little kid, with the help of the press costing a big corporation a lot of money on legal fees for no good reason. You are on the wrong side of this one kid."

Update, 11 a.m.: There are now indications that Microsoft may be loosening its position. Company spokesman Jim Desler just gave us this statement, echoing what the company told ZDNet earlier today: "We take our trademarks seriously, but in this case maybe a little too seriously. It’s important to recognize that under the law companies are required to take this type of action to protect their trademark against widespread infringement. But that said, we appreciate that Mike Rowe is a young entrepreneur who came up with a creative domain name. We’re currently in the process of resolving this matter in a way that will be fair to him and satisfy our obligations under trademark law."

[ Microsoft Blog]

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