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Lindows-Microsoft suit hits another delay

Yet again, a federal court pushes back the date of a jury trial that will decide whether Microsoft's trademark claim to "windows" will end up shuttering Lindows.com.

The U.S. District Court of Seattle has again pushed back its starting date for jury trial proceedings in the ongoing trademark suit between software makers Microsoft and Lindows.com.

The two companies confirmed Tuesday that they will be forced to wait until March 1, 2004, to get their day in court. The jury trial was slated to begin next month, but has been postponed due to a scheduling conflict.

Proceedings were originally planned for April 2003, but the judge overseeing the case pushed the trial back to give Lindows time to review documents from a 1992 trademark case that pitted Apple Computer against Microsoft. In that case, Microsoft argued--successfully--that it had not infringed on Apple's copyright because the windowed graphical interface of the Mac operating system had been used by other companies.


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The legal dispute between Microsoft and Lindows reaches back to December 2001, when the Windows maker first sued Lindows and asked the court to shut down the company's Web site for using a name that it claimed infringed the trademark on its flagship operating system. Microsoft maintains that Lindows has purposefully misled consumers by using a name similar to Windows.

However, in May last year, U.S. District Judge John Coughenour denied the request to shutter the Lindows site, questioning whether Microsoft had the right to the word "windows." In October, Lindows asked the judge to toss out the case altogether, arguing that Microsoft's trademark is invalid because "windows" is a generic term, but Coughenour said that a jury should decide the matter.

San Diego-based Lindows, whose products include a version of the open-source Linux operating system, has made no secret of its aim to offer a direct alternative to Microsoft's dominant Windows software.

The two companies are currently involved in another legal spat that centers on Lindows' efforts to cash in on a California $1.1 billion class-action settlement agreed to by Microsoft. Lindows set up a Web site that offers those who qualify for the settlement the ability to swap settlement vouchers from Microsoft for Lindows software.

Lindows CEO Michael Robertson, who sponsored a $100,000 hacking contest to crack the security code in Microsoft's Xbox gaming console, has previously said he expects the jury trial to result in one of the two companies losing a valuable trademark. Robertson believes that the term "windows" was used by other computer industry companies before Microsoft attached it to its products, and he envisions a world where it could become an industrywide term.

"If we prevail, what you could see is AOL Windows, Gateway Windows, Dell Windows," Robertson said in a recent interview with CNET News.com. "How about Dell having their own version of an operating system they put on their computers? That would be a great thing, and the kind of world that could potentially happen if Microsoft loses their trademark protection for Windows."

Munir Kotadia of ZDNet UK reported from London.