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Microsoft ordered to pay Lindows' court fees

The Linux software company wins a battle, and a minor payout, in its trademark war with the software giant.

An Amsterdam court has ruled against Microsoft in its attempt to obtain an injunction against Lindows, a maker of Linux software, as the two companies' trademark dispute continues.

Microsoft has alleged that Lindows' name infringes on its Windows trademark, while Lindows says that "windows" is a generic computing term. Lindows is also the name of the company's operating system software, though the company is now selling the product under the name Linspire in some markets, including Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg, which are all under the Amsterdam court's jurisdiction.

Even so, Microsoft had sought an injunction to keep the company from selling its products. The software giant had objected to the appearance of the word "Lindows" on the company's Web site, technical manuals and other places. Microsoft had also asked the court to levy fines of more than $100,000 per day against Lindows.

But Thursday, a judge in the Amsterdam District Court denied Microsoft's request for an injunction and ordered the software giant to pay roughly $1,160 in legal fees related to the litigation.

A Microsoft representative would not comment directly on the ruling but said that it "broadly reinforces" the court's decision to prevent Lindows from using its name in any manner that infringes on Microsoft's trademarks.

Microsoft spokesman Jim Desler would not say whether the software maker was disappointed with the ruling but noted that the "legal process is characterized by different steps." The company has no plans to file for additional injunctions in the region, he said.

As a result of the court's denial of the injunction, Lindows is permitted to resume sales in Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg, which are known collectively as Benelux. The company had been ordered to stop doing business while the case was being reviewed. Lindows said Benelux consumers would be able to purchase its software by mail order beginning Wednesday, with sales through channel partners to resume later this month.

Thursday's ruling follows several earlier legal milestones in Benelux. In January, a Dutch judge barred the Linux software maker from doing business under the Lindows name. However, the court also ruled that not every use of the name Lindows infringes on Microsoft's trademark, such as when the name is used in a manner unrelated to products or marketing.

After the January decision was announced, Lindows adopted the Linspire name for operations outside the United States. Even so, Microsoft contended that the company was inappropriately using the Lindows name in Benelux.

In the ruling Thursday, Senior Judge A. Rullmann reinforced the court's opinion that some uses of the name Lindows would be permitted. Rullmann said that uses of the name that do not directly threaten or take advantage of the Microsoft Windows software franchise would not be considered unlawful.

According to the ruling, Lindows has complied with the terms of the original decision and can continue to use the name on a limited basis, as long as it clearly denotes that it is not affiliated with Microsoft's Windows. The judge said that since the name Lindows is still being used legally outside the Benelux countries, and the use of the name does not provide Lindows with a competitive advantage, there is no infringement.

The two companies are expected to square off in their U.S. court battle over the trademark sometime later this year. Meanwhile, the U.S. District Court judge overseeing the case has denied injunction requests from Microsoft similar to those sought in Europe.