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Wednesday, April 07, 2004 - Page updated at 12:00 A.M.
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Two names for one company fighting Microsoft

By Kim Peterson
Seattle Times technology reporter

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Saying it would not continue a worldwide legal battle with Microsoft, San Diego-based Lindows.com announced yesterday it will begin using a new name outside the United States. But it won't say what the name is until next week.

Microsoft sued Lindows.com in December 2001, alleging the name infringed upon the trademark for its ubiquitous Windows operating system. Lindows.com makes a version of the Linux operating system for desktop computers.

The software giant has since taken the case to other countries, filing lawsuits in Europe last year to stop the smaller company from doing business under the Lindows name.

Microsoft won injunctions in Finland and Sweden and an order from Dutch courts that bans Lindows from selling products under the Lindows name to customers in the Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg.

Microsoft has filed similar lawsuits in France, Mexico and Spain.

In an online message yesterday, Lindows Chief Executive Michael Robertson said the company will go by a different name outside the U.S. until it can win the right to use the Lindows name internationally.

"I believe it's the only way to respond to an onslaught from such a rich company, since we need to be able to continue to grow our business," he said. He plans to unveil the new name next Wednesday. Robertson was traveling outside the country yesterday and could not be reached for comment.

The company said it will keep using the Lindows.com name in the U.S., where a trial has been postponed while Microsoft appeals a ruling in the case.

U.S. District Judge John Coughenour ruled in February in Seattle that a jury in the trial could determine whether the word Windows qualified for trademark protection in 1985, when Microsoft introduced its operating system.

Microsoft argued that a jury should only analyze the meaning of Windows as it is understood by present-day consumers. It is seeking an appeal.

Meanwhile, Lindows had asked Coughenour to stop Microsoft from pursuing foreign lawsuits against it until the U.S. case goes to trial. Coughenour refused, saying last week there was no reason to interfere with proceedings in other countries.
 
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That led to the decision to change the name, said Daniel Harris, Lindows' lawyer. He called the move an interim solution that will allow the company to continue to compete until the U.S. case is resolved.

"We really don't have any options if Microsoft can sue us in every country in the world," he said. "They clearly are not going to stop until we change the name or give up."

Microsoft spokeswoman Stacy Drake said the company is looking forward to learning about the new name and how Lindows plans to implement the change. Microsoft will continue to seek a name change in the United States, she added.

Robertson's message said it will take time to shift to a new name, because Lindows has thousands of Web pages and 100-plus computer servers.

Lindows.com has been asking customers for name suggestions. Robertson said his favorite was that the new name be "Lindos" along with the slogan, "Because it's the W that is causing all the problems."

Kim Peterson: 206-464-2360

Copyright © 2004 The Seattle Times Company

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