Ruling Puts Microsoft's 'Windows' Trademark at RiskBy Steven Vaughan-Nichols | Posted 2004-02-11 Email Print
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Lindows.com on Tuesday won an important early tactical victory against Microsoft in their ongoing trademark dispute. The judge ruled that 'windows' must be considered in its historical user-interface context.
Microsoft recently landed several blows in Europe against Lindows.com Inc. in its ongoing "Windows" trademark battle. However, the Redmond firm on Tuesday suffered a potentially major setback stateside.
The U.S. District Court in Seattle ruled in favor of Lindows.com's assertion that the jury should consider the historical use of the term 'windows' in graphical user interfaces rather just its current usage as being synonymous with Microsoft Windows.
The court also ruled that after a word is declared generic it would continue to be generic, and thus could not be made a corporate trademark. Chief District Judge John Coughenour said in his Tuesday ruling: "If the term is found to be generic 'it cannot be the subject of trademark protection under any circumstances.'"
This is not the first time the court has cast doubt [PDF document] about Microsoft's use of 'windows' as a trademark in the case. In a March, 2002 ruling, Judge Coughenour noted, "that there are serious questions regarding whether Windows is a non-generic name and thus eligible for the protections of federal trademark law."