Microsoft taken to court over Explorer name

Amidst the brouhaha of its much-publicised lawsuit with the US Department of Justice, Microsoft has been quietly downplaying another case brought against it by a defunct Internet service provider in Chicago. The claim? That Microsoft has no copyright on the Internet Explorer name, says Dhiren Rana, founder of SyNet, a now-bankrupt ISP that opened shop in 1994 with a browser called Internet Explorer. Rana initially accused Microsoft of unfairly using the name back in 1995, when the software giant first launched its Web browser. He gets his day in court today.

Amidst the brouhaha of its much-publicised lawsuit with the US Department of Justice, Microsoft has been quietly downplaying another case brought against it by a defunct Internet service provider in Chicago, according to published reports.

The claim? That Microsoft has no copyright on the Internet Explorer name, says Dhiren Rana, founder of SyNet, a now-bankrupt ISP that opened shop in 1994 with a browser called Internet Explorer, according to a report in the Wall Street Journal. Rana initially accused Microsoft of unfairly using the name back in 1995, when the software giant first launched its Web browser, the report says.

After refusing a $US75,000 settlement, Rana pressed civil charges against Microsoft; now Microsoft and SyNet are set to face off in court next Tuesday in a federal jury trial in Chicago, the Journal report said. Meanwhile, the US Patent and Trademark Office decided last month, over protests from Microsoft, to begin registering the trademark for the Internet Explorer name for SyNet, the report said.

While Microsoft and SyNet have been in talks over a possible settlement in the last few weeks, the two companies have now hit a wall in their negotiations and look set to meet in court today, according to the Journal story.

Microsoft denies the SyNet allegations that it stole the Internet Explorer name, claiming the title is a generic one -- more like a cola than Coke, the US software giant reportedly told the Journal. Internet Explorer, Microsoft reportedly says, cannot be trademarked since it is a descriptive name, not a proper one.

"The term Internet Explorer as claimed by SyNet is generic and unprotectable, is commonly used by others, in the public domain, and must be kept available for use by the industry and the public," Microsoft reportedly said in court filings.

Microsoft, in Redmond, Washington, can be reached at http://www.microsoft.com/.

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