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Apple v MS lawsuit to walk again in Lindows.com trial

Applause as Robertson levers open the coffin...

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Home of the chutzpah Lindows.com has been handed a spectacular victory by Seattle District Court in its trademark battle with Microsoft. No, it hasn't won, it hasn't achieved an honourable settlement whereby it can keep the name, or just continue business under another name - it's been allowed to introduce Microsoft documents covering the famous Apple-Microsoft copyright case, and the trial has been delayed from April to December because of that.

The delay is possibly neither here nor there. On the one hand it means what ought to be a very small matter festers for longer, with all that means in terms of publicity for Lindows.com. On the other, though, a hiatus in the case could well take the matter out of the public eye - but we're sure CEO Michael Robertson will think of something.

The really clear victory is the Apple matter. Apple's 1988 landmark losing suit against Microsoft helped shape the industry we know, but being pre-Internet the case didn't really get the level of exposure it would today. Whatever you think of the Microsoft versus Lindows.com case, the 300-odd boxes Microsoft has been ordered to turn over will surely command attention. Provided the judge lets us see them, that is.

For our younger readers, Apple contended that Microsoft had swiped the Mac in order to design Windows, and there were various reverberations elsewhere - Digital Research climbed down and changed Gem (a Windows competitor, not a lot of people remember it), whereas we think IBM got away with it on the basis of its alliance with Apple. But we can't entirely remember that. Apple lost in the end, not having been helped by having stolen the Mac from Xerox earlier anyway. And having given Microsoft a licence for Windows 1.0 (a far bigger dog than Bob) in 1985.

But you can see how Lindows.com might benefit from association with this titanic struggle. The company says it wishes to establish that the term "'windows' is generic and not the exclusive property of any one company," and intriguingly, to "shed light on how Microsoft was able to obtain a trademark for 'windows' after the United States Patent and Trademark Office repeatedly refused registration because the mark was deemed to be generic."

That of course is not quite what the Apple-Microsoft case was about - arguments there included the extent to which you could or could not copyright screen displays or GUIs. Which does suggest another area where Lindows.com's lawyers could find gainful employ. In the matter of US versus MS, several Microsoft execs argued strenuously that Microsoft's intellectual property extended to whatever it chose to say should be on the desktop, and much else. A compare and contrast with the Apple case might therefore prove edifying. See here and here for a primer on the Windows Experience gambit. ®

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