April 7, 2004 10:34 AM PDT

Lindows plans name change overseas

Embattled Linux seller Lindows will adopt a separate name for operations outside the United States, the company's CEO said Tuesday.

In a statement posted Tuesday on the Lindows Web site, company founder Michael Robertson said ongoing overseas lawsuits by Microsoft that challenge the company's name would force Lindows to adopt a new moniker for Europe and other foreign markets. He said the company will reveal the new title next week.

"To assure that we can do business globally, we are in the process of selecting a different name for our Web presence and product name," Robertson wrote. "Our U.S. corporate name will remain Lindows Inc., since we have meaningful name recognition and product distribution."

Robertson, founder of digital-music pioneer MP3.com, launched Lindows in 2001 to sell a simplified desktop version of the Linux operating system with an interface similar to Microsoft's Windows. Microsoft responded by promptly suing the company, claiming that the name infringes on the Windows trademark. Lindows argues that the trademark is invalid, because "windows" has a long history as a generic computing term.

The U.S. trademark case is likely to go trial late this year. Meanwhile, the U.S. District Court judge overseeing the case has denied Microsoft requests for an injunction, barring Lindows from using the name.

Microsoft has been more successful, expanding the trademark case overseas. Judges representing Finland, Sweden and the Benelux countries of Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg all have granted injunctions, barring the company from doing business there under the Lindows name. Similar cases are pending in Canada and France.

The U.S. judge recently denied Lindows' request for an order to bar Microsoft from any further overseas trademark actions, saying the court had no jurisdiction over European courts. The ruling means that Lindows has no choice but to temporarily adopt a new name for disputed regions, Robertson said.

He said that when and if Lindows wins the U.S. case, "we plan to approach the State Department and ask them to petition foreign governments to invalidate the windows trademark, as they have done for other generic computing terms."

Meanwhile, Robertson encouraged customers to submit suggestions for a new name via e-mail to temporaryName@lindows.com or through a discussion forum on the Lindows Web site. Current suggestions include "GatesOS" and "I can't believe its not Windows!"

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Simply a bad name
As much as I'd like to feel sorry for the little guy here, Lindows is either a poorly chosen name, or one that is getting a lot of publicity for a company that otherwise would never have been heard of. Anyone familiar with trademark laws would realize that Microsoft has to fight a name like that to protect their trademark - it's pretty much a requirement. But legalese aside, the name is confusing to naive users who probably think it is a cheaper version of Windows with that new Linux built in, so they buy it and are probably disappointed. Lindows is simply riding the wave of publicity, a smart marketing tool, but they are not a victim of the "evil empire" like they are trying to make out.

Posted by winfidel (6 comments )
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