Blue Mountain Arts has become the latest small company to file a lawsuit against Microsoft for allegedly trying to sabotage its business.
The greeting cards supplier filed the suit on Tuesday at a Santa Clara, California court, accusing Big Green of ?systematic and combined efforts to disrupt and ultimately to destroy Blue Mountain's valuable Internet greeting card business? so as to benefit its own newly-launched greeting card service on the MSN portal site.
Gary Reback, a longtime Microsoft detractor and former attorney for Netscape, is acting for the company, which is demanding a preliminary injunction against the software giant and is claiming unspecified damages.
Blue Mountain Arts? Web site at www.bluemountain.com enables users to e-mail greeting cards for free to friends and relatives. The service is funded by advertising.
But the firm claims it was hit by two technical problems in November, which coincided with Microsoft?s launch of its competing greeting card service.
It discovered that a new version of Microsoft?s Outlook Express e-mail client, which comes with the beta version of Internet Explorer (IE) 5, has a habit of placing Blue Mountain greeting cards in its ?junk mail? folder.
And it found that, for a short period of time, users of Microsoft?s WebTV service were barred from receiving its greeting cards.
Although Jared Schultz, Blue Mountain?s vice president of business development, said he alerted Microsoft to the problem in early November, ?We never got any meaningful response from it,? he attested.
A Microsoft spokesman admitted that the current beta version of Outlook Express includes a junk mail filter that in some cases could bin Blue Mountain greeting cards, but added that the filter was turned off when the product shipped and could only be activated if a customer chose to do so.
He could not explain, however, why the filter should erroneously identify Blue Mountain electronic postcards as unwanted commercial e-mail except to say: ?Bear in mind that this is beta software.?
But he claimed that the bug also hit postcards sent from Microsoft?s own MSN site and that it was not Big Green, but Blue Mountain itself that had refused to cooperate with requests for help.
Microsoft had attempted to solve the problem, he attested, but got no reply to its requests for additional information until it was served with the lawsuit.
Blue Mountain, meanwhile, conceded that the second problem, involving WebTV, was resolved as soon as Microsoft was alerted to it and lasted only for a few days. But Schultz denied being part of a wider larger anti-Microsoft initiative.
?All we want is for the recipients of our greeting cards to receive their cards this season,? he said.
The greeting card controversy echoes the spat between Microsoft and RealNetworks earlier this year. While RealNetworks accused Microsoft of ?breaking? its RealPlayer multimedia player software, Microsoft claimed the problem was caused by a bug in RealPlayer.
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