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London Free Press Business Section:


Microsoft won't go soft on Mike Rowe

CP   2004-01-19 06:29:15  

VANCOUVER -- Like any good fledgling businessperson, Mike Rowe knew he needed a catchy name for his website design company. Being possessed of a sense of humour and the cheekiness of a typical 17 year old and given his name, what better than to register his Internet domain name as

As in, but not quite, Microsoft Corp.

"Since my name is Mike Rowe, I thought it would be funny to add 'soft' to the end of it," the Victoria Grade 12 student said.

But the folks at the world's biggest software company aren't smiling. They've demanded he give up his domain name.

Mike, a self-described computer geek, registered the name in August. In November, he received a letter from Microsoft's Canadian lawyers, Smart & Biggar, informing him he was committing copyright infringement.

He was advised to transfer the name to the corporation.

"I didn't think they would get all their high-priced lawyers to come after me," Rowe said.

He wrote back, saying he'd put a lot of time and effort into his business and asked to be compensated if he was to give up his name.

Microsoft's lawyers wrote back offering him $10 US.

Rowe asked for $1,000.

Then, last Wednesday, he received an ominous, 2.5-centimetre-thick package with a 25-page letter accusing him of trying to force Microsoft into giving him a large settlement for his name.

"I never even thought of getting anything out of them," he said, adding he only asked for the $1,000 because he was "sort of mad at them for only offering 10 bucks."

Now he's going to sit back and see if the organization that registers domain names will take his name away from him.

No one from the law firm or Microsoft would comment.

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