You can't use the word "Microsoft" on your website without the "express authorisation" of Microsoft itself, according to a Wellington law firm acting for the software giant.
Hamilton developer Reuben Jackson has received a letter from intellectual property specialists A.J. Park and Sons relating to his registration of the domain name microsoft.org.nz.
Jackson registered the name in March after reading an IDGNet story about how Swede Marcus Lindgren had registered microsoft.net.nz for use with his Linux shell account service. Microsoft had failed to register either domain name for its own use.
Having registered the name as a "one-off test for interest's sake", Jackson built a small site called Microsoft Users Anonymous, which he made home to some Microsoft jokes and considered potentially "a great place for New Zealanders to share their experienced of using MS products - good, bad or just plain funny."
But Microsoft has failed to see the funny side. The letter from A.J. Park warns Jackson that its client "is the registered proprietor of the trade mark Microsoft in New Zealand in a variety of classes".
"Use of the trade mark Microsoft in your domain name and throughout your website without the express authorisation of our client is an infringement of our client's registered trade marks," the letter says.
Jackson's site contained prominent disclaimers stating that it was "in no way associated" with Microsoft. He has now replaced every instance of the word Microsoft with the word [TRADEMARK].
The site was offline this morning - possibly never to return, as Jackson has agreed to hand the name over to Microsoft as part of a settlement that runs to roughly his original registration costs.
He still believes that "an independent organisation of users of Microsoft products has every right to use the microsoft.org.nz address, given that Microsoft had fair warning to secure the address after [IDGNet's] initial article.
"Surely a company such as Microsoft, leaders in IT around the globe, would be smart enough to secure in advance their primary trademark in all three versions of .nz domain names, and possibly even .school.nz in case they wish to start a microsoft training institution?"
Meanwhile, Lindgren says he has also been contacted over his registration of microsoft.net.nz. But the Stockholm law firm which wrote to him did not seek to claim that he could not use the word "Microsoft" on his site.
"In Sweden I can write whatever I want on my websites unless it is a name of a person or something illegal such as racism or child porn," he says.
The letter Lindgren did receive says that he was misusing Microsoft's name to sell products in similar areas to those in which Microsoft itself does business.
Lindgren says that "since Microsoft ain't selling Linux shell accounts," he is hardly in the same business area, but he acknowledges Microsoft's trademark.
He has emailed the Swedish law firm asking what would happen if he sold the domain to a friend.
Meanwhile, it appears Microsoft's .nz troubles may not be at an end. The domain name microsoft.gen.nz has been registered to Greg Sharko of Remuera, Auckland, since September last year.