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Microsoft Trademark Tussle Squeezes Lindows Out Of Benelux

Lindows.com shut down its operations in the three countries after receiving legal papers from a Dutch court that threatened a fine of 100,000 euros per day.
Lindows.com, the San Diego-based distributor of the Linux operating system, announced Friday that it had withdrawn completely from markets in Belgium, the Netherlands, and Luxembourg (Benelux), the most recent move in the back-and-forth between it and Microsoft over trademark rights.

After receiving legal papers from a Dutch court that threatened a fine of 100,000 euros per day, Lindows.com shuttered its operations in the three countries.

Microsoft and Lindows.com have been embroiled in a legal tussle in numerous countries -- including the U.S. and Canada -- over the Windows trademark. Microsoft alleges that Lindows.com plays off the Windows brand name with its LindowsOS, a version of the Linux operating system.

Although Microsoft has been unable to get courts in the U.S., Sweden, and Finland to agree to force Lindows.com to shut down its Web site, a Dutch court granted a preliminary injunction on January 30, 2004. In response, Lindows.com created an alternate site, dubbed Lin---s.com, for its Benelux customers. By Friday, however, that site had also been closed down, and now only posts a message that, pending appeal, "visitors from the Netherlands, Belgium, and Luxembourg are not permitted to access our website or purchase our products."

The company has also placed the same message at the top of its primary Web site.

"We have completely withdrawn our products from these markets and put notices on every page of our Web site, yet Microsoft is still asking that the judge fine us 100,000 euros per day because non-U.S. visitors can view our U.S.-based Web site," said Michael Robertson, CEO of Lindows in a statement. "Microsoft's actions demonstrate this has nothing to do with protecting their Dutch trademark or confusion in the marketplace, but is simply an attempt to put us out of business."

Lindows.com and Microsoft were scheduled to go to trial March 1, but that was put off after a judge in the U.S. District Court in Seattle ruled that any jury in an upcoming trial would have to consider the word "Windows" a generic term. Microsoft is currently appealing that ruling.

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