Microsoft, Lindows.com head to court Wednesday

Lindows.com Inc. and Microsoft Corp. are set to argue their sides in the latest twist of a prolonged, international trademark battle before a Seattle judge Wednesday.

Lindows said Monday that U.S. District Court Judge John C. Coughenour had granted it an expedited hearing for a motion seeking to stop Microsoft from suing the company abroad until the case had been decided in the U.S. and to declare an Amsterdam judge's preliminary injunction against it as unenforceable and non-recognizable.

In its motion, Lindows claimed that "U.S. courts have the power to enjoin persons subject to their jurisdiction from prosecuting a foreign lawsuit." Lindows said that the U.S.court has jurisdiction over Microsoft and may stop the company from "filing and maintaining parallel foreign lawsuits."

The scheduled hearing represents just the latest legal showdown between the two software vendors since Microsoft initially sued Lindows for trademark infringement over the similarity between the Lindows and Windows names in December 2001. The original suit was filed in the U.S. but Microsoft has twice been denied an injunction on its home turf and the trial has been delayed.

The Redmond, Washington, software giant has since taken legal action against Lindows in several European countries, and has won victories in Finland, Sweden and the Netherlands.

In January, an Amsterdam judge barred the company from using the Lindows name in Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg (the Benelux countries). However, earlier this month the San Diego, California, Linux-based software vendor said that Microsoft has since requested that it be fined Euro 100,000 (AUD$163,550) a day for allowing its Web site to be accessed by visitors in the Benelux countries. A hearing to consider the fines has been set for March 30.

Lindows said that it has already recalled its products from these countries and posted a notice on its Web site that it is unable to sell to customers in Benelux, but that it is impossible to keep visitors from the countries from accessing its site.

In its motion for an expedited hearing on the matter, Lindows alleged that Microsoft was using the Netherlands injunction to shut its Web site down. The company called for an "anti-suit injunction" and said that without it, "Microsoft can effectively conduct an end-run around the Court's jurisdiction and substitute the judgement of a foreign court for a U.S. jury."

With the expedited hearing granted, the companies will be given 20 minutes each to argue their sides in the matter. European representatives for Microsoft were not immediately available to comment on the hearing Monday.

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