One particularity of software business is that, at least from a certain level up, lawsuits seem to really come with the territory.
Patent lawsuits can go way beyond imaginable sometimes turning into decades-long wars, and disputes may sometimes concern as little as a single, common word or even word’s phonetics.
This week we are going to tell you a few funny stories, with no intention of affecting anyone’s reputation whatsoever but just as reminder that funny things can come out even on fierce battlefields and that, no matter how powerful a Company might be, after all, it is made out of humans…
And lawyers of course.
The first story is about WordPerfect.
For those of you who never heard about it, WordPerfect was a dominant word processing application by end-80’s due to many innovative features and for being widely ported.
So Novell purchased it in June 1994 for about 1,4 billion dollars (with a « b » not an « m ») and after just 2 years, in 1996, sold it to Corel for 145 million dollars (yes, with an « m », not a « b »).
Nothing funny about that kind of loss of course.
Funny, though, is whom Novell held responsible for that loss: Microsoft.
Novell claimed that Microsoft acted in an abusive and anti-competitive manner towards WordPerfect 7.0 in 1995, by withhelding interoperability information that would have allowed the unstable WordPerfect 7.0 for Windows 95 to run well.
Windows 95 was a big leap forward compared to its predecessor Windows 3.x (for example 16-bit architecture was moved to 32-bit, among other important enhancements) but fact is no other software vendor complained about not being able to achieve good implementations of their apps on Win 95.
Funny again, even if Novell claims started in 1995, they actually kicked off the lawsuit only in 2004. Microsoft responded the same day but the entire hassle lasted 8 more years, until 2012, when Novell’s case was finally dismissed in Court.
The whole Novell-Microsoft story is way more complicated than this, involving various other interests but the funny aspects on this one, however, remain.
The next story begins in 2001, when a tech businessman named Michael Robertson founded a Company named « Lindows » to develop an Operating System which would, well… mix Linux with Windows so on this Linux distribution users would be able to run any Windows-based applications.
Needless to say, Microsoft had an immediate and agressive reaction and sued Lindows in 7 countries.
Tough luck though: Michael Robertson was anything but an easy to scare kind of guy.
Before Lindows he had previously founded and ran MP3.com so just imagine the number and magnitude of copyrights infringement lawsuits he fad to face, from all records label companies.
In court Microsoft claimed that the name « Lindows » was violating their trademark « Windows » but the claims were rejected in 2002 as well as in 2004 when, besides claim dismissal, things took a very dangerous twist for Microsoft, the judge even questioning the legitimacy of using a common word like « windows » as a protected trademark.
So the guns instantly turned to roses and Microsoft settled the issue by paying 20 million dollars for the rights on « Lindows » name (including the internet domains) to Lindows Inc, who, in exchange, got re-baptised to Linspire Inc..
Not sure Microsoft had a party to celebrate the « victory » but then again, not sure Mister Robertson should be envied either.
The 3-rd story is about a 17 years old (as of 2003) student at Belmont Secondary School in Langford, a suburb of Canada’s British Columbia capital, Victoria.
His name was Mike Rowe (not to be confused with Mike Rowe, the Discovery Channel celeb) and his passion was web design.
So he made himself a website and chose an internet domain name to include his own name : « MikeRoweSoft.com ».
Now read it loudly to guess who had a problem with this domain name!
That’s right, it was not IBM nor Apple (who, by the way, had its own problems with names, as we’re going to tell you next week).
So Microsoft offered Mike 10 bucks for the domain name, that is, the amount Mike Rowe paid to get it.
But the offer seems to have offended the student who, in return, asked Microsoft for 10.000 USD.
Such reply must have infuriated Microsoft too, so they turned on their law-machinery, unaware of the fact that, shortly, the case was to receive wide public attention as the Goliath Microsoft came to fight against the brave-little-David Canadian student, Mike Rowe.
Publicity stormed, putting Microsoft in a very negative light while Rowe got donations, free legal counsel and a website traffic so big he had to move the site to a higher capacity host.
Things came to an end in 2004 by an outside-the-court settlement, Microsoft offering Rowe an XBox with a selection of games, MSDN subscription, tech training for Microsoft certification and supporting the costs for MikeRoweForums.com, the replacing website.
The cca. 6.000 USD raised from donations during the dispute, were made by Mike Rowe subject to a poll whether they should be refunded to donors or given further to charity.
The majority voted for charity, so almost 5.000 USD were donated to a hospital for children, the remaining small amount serving to help Rowe to apply to University.
For those of you who are wondering if we were ever involved in lawsuits, either as plaintiff or defendants, the answer is « nope, never » and we’re going to keep it that way.
So go ahead and use GdPicture.NET, PaperScan, ORPALIS PDF Reducer as well as our future products,in full confidence!
But don’t touch our trademarks, you don’t want to awaken the French fury.
See you next week, folks!