Microsoft has agreed to pay defunct software supplier Synet $5 million to continue using the tradename 'Internet Explorer' for its browser.
The pay-out comes after two days of courtroom testimony following a legal battle, and despite the software giant?s protestations that Internet Explorer (IE) could not be a trademark because it simply described a generic product. This, it argued, was the same as saying that cola is a drink, while Coca Cola is a brand name (see Newswire 26 June).
That very argument, however, could give the company problems when it tries to register the trademark itself, because the law requires organisations to be consistent in their stance.
However, in a statement, Microsoft said: "We are confident we would have won this case on the merits, but we are pleased to put this issue behind us. We have said all along that we were open to resolving the issue without the need for expensive and time consuming litigation. It appears the events in the courtroom helped us achieve a settlement, which is in the best interest of all parties."
Dhiren Ranan, founder of Synet and currently a consultant for Netscape, was disappointed that he did not have the benefit of a jury?s decision, although pleased that Microsoft might have trouble protecting the IE name.
"It?s a non-protectable mark because of their generic and descriptive defence. It tells you the defence was so hollow. The fact remains that they cannot enforce the trademark. Microsoft cannot make everything its own, so I fought it on principle. I have the satisfaction of knowing that the little guy took on and stood firm against Microsoft," he said.
Synet had filed a civil suit against Microsoft alleging that Big Green stole the IE moniker from it as long ago as October 1995, but previous attempts to settle out of court were unsuccessful.
While Synet had registered the trademark only in the state of Illinois, not at a federal level, the Patent and Trademark Office said last month that it would allow the company to begin the process of registering the IE name. Although Microsoft petitioned the Patent Office to block the application, the move did not work and its requests for the judge to dismiss the case were similarly unsuccessful.
The deal is still subject to the approval of a federal bankruptcy court judge, but if accepted, Microsoft will obtain Synet?s trademark rights to the name.
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