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Bill Gates has got the full weight of the law onto a Caribbean businessman who registered the software chief's name as a trademark.

Eric Vigneron, a hotel promoter on the French island of Martinique, trademarked "Bill Gates" with France's Intellectual Property Institute back in January 1998. His reasoning was that the trademark was made up of two generic words: "Bill" - received for monies owing, and "Gates" - entrances or doors.

Unfortunately for Vigneron, the software billionaire didn't agree, and today a court on the island started investigating his complaint that the hotel promoter "fraudulously registered his [Gates']patronymic name as a trademark", AFP reported.

Gates wants the trademark made illegal (on the grounds that it undermines his own right to use it), while his lawyer reckons Vigneron is trading off the confusion between a name and a trademark to take advantage of the Microsoft fame.

Vigneron's lawyer pointed out that the trademark was not linked to the IT sector.

The squabble continues, with the court due to deliver its pre-Valentine's Day verdict on February 13. Alternatively, judging by William Henry Gates III's penchant for exotic homes, he could always try and solve the problem by just buying the island. ®

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