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Microsoft has come in at no.5 in a bullet in the 2003 Harris poll of best brands in the US. In 2002, the company didn't even make the top 10.

Which goes to show that the legal ordure of recent years, the cacophony of complaints from competitors and (with Licensing 6) customers has not percolated very far, or at all, beyond the tech geek community.

Dell does even better, coming in at No.3. Mind you, this is a slip on last year, with Kraft Foods, maker of the world's worst processed cheese, ousting it for second place.

Since the Harris 2003 poll was conducted, Kraft has introduced the "Obesity Initative". No, it is not trying to make Americans even fatter, but trying to stave off lawsuits from fat people.

On the menu is smaller portions, better labels and no more in-school marketing. This may be enough to keep the lawyers at bay, but Kraft's brand popularity will plummet in the next Harris round-up, surely.

It is the constitutional right of all Americans to eat enormous portions if they so wish, and they usually do. As it is the right of all school boards to pay for books, Microsoft software, Dell PCs, and the like through vending machines containing branded foodstuffs and sodas handily placed for maximum snackability in the classrooms.

And America's best brand? Sony, for the fourth year in a row. It's the only non American-owned brand in the Harris Top 10. ®

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