Tech Industry

Digital Divas wins battle with Microsoft

The software giant agrees to stop using the Web address DigitalDiva.com and all phrases in connection with the grassroots women's technology group.

Six months ago, the grassroots women's technology group Digital Divas didn't think they had a chance in cyberspace to win a domain name dispute against Microsoft.

But Friday, Microsoft agreed to stop using the Web address DigitalDiva.com and the phrase Digital Diva in connection with the tech tips Web site it launched in April on its Microsoft Network Internet portal.

"We all hit the floor. It's beyond any expectation we ever had when we started this," said Faith Kaminsky, a founding member of Digital Divas, an online community that offers computer-related advice to Internet newbies.

The group, which was founded in 1997, sent a letter in April to Microsoft, asking them to stop using the name "DigitalDiva" in conjunction with tech know-how for the computer illiterate. Founders of Digital Divas said that they had been using the name for three years in association with computer-related assistance; and because content on both sites was similar, the group charged that Microsoft had violated its operational trademark.

"It's really nice that Microsoft was willing to sit down and talk with us and work this out in an amicable way," Kaminsky said.

A note on Microsoft's site for the former Digital Diva page reads: "Thank you for your interest in this site. We are in the process of changing names, and the site has been closed temporarily while we improve the features and design. Please check back to see the new, improved site."

Stacy Elliott, Microsoft's former Digital Diva, who gave out tech tips to those new to the Net, is now called the Microsoft Digital Lifestyle Adviser. The settlement requires the note to stay up at the Web address DigitalDiva.com for two months.

The Digital Divas had a strong case, their attorney said, since they used the name for more than two years before Microsoft and because the software giant was offering virtually the same services.

"When anybody faces a corporate behemoth like Microsoft, you think, 'I'm going to get trounced,'" said attorney Mark Marderosian.

"But the bottom line is we had a good case, and Microsoft had other legal irons in the fire--the last thing they wanted is more potential negative publicity concerning its tactics. So they decided to cut their losses and walk in the most dignified and cost-effective way," he said.

The battle, dubbed "Diva & Goliath" by the women's group, sparked tremendous support from the Internet community, Kaminsky said. The women's network started selling coffee mugs and T-shirts to those who wanted to show their support.

But many others doubted their ability to win.

"That's the greatest part about this, many people were saying at the beginning 'Who do you people think you are? You're like a fly to Microsoft. You're never going to get anything,'" Kaminsky said.

"It's really fun to go back and hear people discuss the results, and they're very, very quiet."