Microsoft Seeks Hefty Fines Against Lindows
Microsoft has asked a Netherlands court to fine Lindows.com $123,410 a day for allowing its Web site to be accessed by visitors in the Benelux countries, where it won a trademark ruling against Lindows, the open source software vendor says.
Lindows complains that the move comes after it has already withdrawn all of its products from Belgium, the Netherlands, and Luxembourg (Benelux), and posted notices on its Web sites that it would not be selling products to customers in those countries pending an appeal of the court order against it.
Representatives for Microsoft in Europe were not immediately available to comment on the alleged request.
In January a Dutch judge barred the use of the Lindows name in Benelux after Microsoft filed suit, charging that the name infringed upon its Windows trademark. The Redmond, Washington, software maker had earlier won preliminary injunctions in Finland and Sweden.
Lindows says that the software giant is now raising the stakes in its legal battle--literally--by asking a judge to fine it for allowing visitors in the Benelux countries to access its U.S.-based Lindows.com Web site.
The San Diego, California, company says that it would be impossible to block Benelux visitors since its Web site is accessed via international Internet service providers, proxy servers, and other methods that cloak a visitor's actual location.
While Lindows is protesting the fines, the company seems to have backed down from its original stance following Microsoft's win in the Netherlands. Shortly after the ruling, the company legally changed its name in several European countries to Lin---s (pronounced Lindash) and set up a Lin---s.com Web site specifically for customers in the Benelux countries and Sweden. (The company said at the time that Finnish visitors were not legally barred from buying from Lindows.com.)
However, there are now notices at the top of both the Lin---s site and Lindows.com site saying that visitors from Belgium, the Netherlands, and Luxembourg are not allowed to access the sites or purchase its products pending an appeal. A hearing date for the company's appeal of the Dutch order has been set for March 30, Lindows says.
But on Friday Lindows said that it has received copies of papers filed in the Dutch court, requesting the fine.
Lindows Chief Executive Officer Michael Robertson railed against the request, saying in a statement that the move was not related to protecting Microsoft's trademark in the region, but an attempt to put Lindows out of business.
Microsoft originally sued Lindows in December 2001, claiming that the similarity between the Windows and Lindows names would confuse consumers. Lindows sells an open source operating system called the LindowsOS, both from its Web site and through retail channels, bundled with low-cost PCs.
Microsoft has filed complaints against the company in the U.S. and Canada, as well as Europe. A U.S. trial of the case was postponed last month, pending an appeal of a court decision that favored Lindows.