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Microsoft plays hardball with Dutch Lindows resellers

Who you gonna call? Michael Robertson!

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Dutch Lindows resellers are accusing Microsoft of intimidation, after several received phone calls from the software giant seeking meetings to "avoid" legal action over the name of the operating system.

"This about the name, not about Linux," a spokeswoman for Microsoft in the Netherlands confirms. Lindows argues that "windows" is a generic term that predates Microsoft's use in late 1983 and that Microsoft was granted its trademark under 'questionable circumstances'.

"In their typical monopolist style, Microsoft threaten with lawsuits unless we stop selling Lindows," says CEO Menso de Jong from Mensys.nl, which sells alternatives for Microsoft such as Lindows, OS/2, eComStation, Linux and Zeta. "We asked them to confirm their statements in writing, which they haven’t done. We refuse to talk unless we have something on paper."

Most Dutch Lindows resellers are small businesses that don't have money to defend themselves. "If they take me to court I have to stop selling Lindows, because I don’t have the money to pay for the lawyers," CEO Hans de Vries of Dutch reseller DV Computer Systems mailed Robertson.

Robertson has told the Dutch resellers to stay put. "Originally, he was going to visit the Netherlands this Friday (November 28th) to talk to Microsoft himself," a spokesman for the Dutch reseller Jama Multimedia told The Reg.

"It is another example of Microsoft attempting to eradicate all competition through any means," Robertson told his resellers. "While they say they invite competition, behind the scenes they seem willing to take any actions - including blatant extortion - to squash competition.' Robertson CC'ed his reaction to a representative of EU commission investigating MS's anti-competitive behavior in Europe.

Ever since US entrepreneur Michael Robertson introduced its Linux version which can interact with files created by Windows programs (hence the name Lindows), Microsoft has tried to sue the company and its resellers and force them to drop the name.

But Microsoft’s action in the Netherlands seem somewhat eccentric, as the trademark dispute jury trial between Lindows and Microsoft won't be held until next year. The U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington in Seattle originally set a trial date back in April, but moved this to December to give Lindows.com more time. Yesterday, Lindows announced that the trial has been pushed back again until March 1 2004. ®

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