Microsoft prepares Mike Rowe legal exit

But are we taking them too seriously?

Microsoft has started making the first sounds about extricating itself from the brouhaha surrounding its legal threats against 17-year-old student Mike Rowe and his MikeRoweSoft.com domain.

The Beast of Redmond crossed the line when it sent in its lawyers over the site Mike uses to display his Web design talents, claiming that it infringed the company's trademark. It even went to the trouble of playing out the classic sting where it offered a low amount of money in order to get the owner to ask a higher amount and so "prove" his bad faith with regard to the domain.

However, following a huge amount of negative press coverage across the world, Microsoft is now telling reporters that it may have taken the case "too seriously" after all. Microsoft takes its trademarks very seriously, we are told, and the official line is: "We are currently in the process of resolving this matter in a way that will be fair to him [Mike Rowe] and satisfy our obligations under trademark law."

The question of obligation is a misleading reference to the stipulation under US law that a trademark holder defend itself against misuses or risk losing that trademark altogether. Why that does not exist here is that MikeRoweSoft is not a misuse of the trademark Microsoft, it is merely a man's name - Mike Rowe - with Soft put on the end, amounting to a phonetic approximation of a different word. Funny how Microsoft's lawyers missed that.

However, while Microsoft admits it may have taken it all too seriously, are we in danger of taking Microsoft's apparent promises too seriously? The Beast has not apologised and, note, it has not accepted that Mike Rowe has the rights to the domain or that it has no legitimate claim on it.

It won't be the first time that Microsoft, or any other big company, has backed down in the face of press hostility only to relaunch its efforts once the fuss has died down.

Due to the nature of the media, this second strike is very rarely reported because it is viewed as "old news".

We only hope that Mike Rowe gets an apology and such a promise from Microsoft before he gives the all-clear signal - something that Microsoft's lawyers will be pushing for right this very second. ®

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