Microsoft wants domain from hobbyist

A Dutch computer enthusiast who runs a popular Windows XP gossip Web site has been summoned by Microsoft to hand over the domain name.

Steven Bink registered two years ago. The site has become an important spot for Microsoft beta testers and hobbyists looking for news and gossip about Microsoft products, logging up to 20,000 page views a day, said Bink.

On Monday, Bink received a letter from Microsoft's Dutch counsel accusing him of trademark infringement and giving him until Dec. 19 to sign over the domain, or face possible legal action. Microsoft has registered Windows as a trademark in the Netherlands and other countries.

"He (Bink) may of course write about Windows XP, but not on a Web site with a domain name that is identical to Microsoft's brand," said Alfred Meijboom, a partner at Kennedy Van der Laan, the law firm hired by Microsoft.

Bink, a 32-year-old owner of an IT services company, is baffled that Microsoft has come knocking two years after he started the site, but said he won't fight the Redmond, Washington, software maker.

"It's strange that Microsoft comes calling now with the fact that Windows is their brand. I want to see if there is room to negotiate, but I don't have any illusions about going to court," he said.

Microsoft seems to be cracking down on trademark infringement. The company has also asked several small European software makers to rename products that had Windows in the name. The makers of "Windows Spy" and "Windows Backup Wizard," for example, received letters from Microsoft lawyers.

In the U.S., Microsoft filed suit against Inc. of San Diego in December last year. Two rulings denied Microsoft's requests to bar Lindows from using its company name and the name LindowsOS. The case is currently awaiting a judge's ruling in a U.S. District Court in Seattle, according to the Lindows Web site.

Meijboom denied Microsoft has launched a campaign against trademark infringers, saying that the law firm is not sending around letters or subpoenas for Microsoft. "There is no offensive from the side of Microsoft," he said.

(Maarten Reijnders of WebWereld Netherlands contributed to this report.)

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Joris Evers

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