Microsoft, Lindows trial delayed; more evidence sought

A federal court has ordered Microsoft to produce more than 300 boxes of evidence to support its claims in a trademark suit against software startup Lindows.com, pushing back the jury trial in the case from April until December.

The delay, announced by Lindows Monday, comes as a welcome relief for the company, which said in a statement that it is grateful for the extra time to prepare for the case.

Lindows, which offers a low-cost Linux-based operating system (OS) that is compatible with popular Microsoft file formats, has been battling against the software giant for more than a year over the similarity between the Windows and Lindows names. While Microsoft claims that "windows" is clearly a trademark, Lindows is arguing that windows is a generic term for a certain type of software interface that predates the Redmond, Washington, company's claim.

The U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington in Seattle has ordered Microsoft to produce evidence supporting its claims, including documents from Apple Computer's 1992 case against the software mammoth, Lindows said. In that case, Apple sued Microsoft for copyright infringement claiming that the Windows graphical user interface mirrored the look and feel of its Macintosh desktop. Apple lost the suit.

Lindows claims, however, that the documents from the case contain evidence that the terms "windows," "icons" and "menus" are widely used in the computer business and are not property of any one company.

The boxes the court has ordered Microsoft to produce are expected to contain testimony from dozens of witnesses, court transcripts and evidence that "windowing systems" were developed in the 1970s and 1980s before both Microsoft and Apple developed their own, Lindows lead counsel Daniel Harris said in a statement.

Microsoft originally filed suit against Lindows for trademark infringement in December of 2001. Despite efforts to obtain a preliminary injunction against the niche software maker, Microsoft's requests have been denied. Now the jury trial, originally scheduled for April 7, 2003, has been pushed back to Dec. 1.

While the companies have been locked in a legal duel, Lindows has been busily signing distribution deals. Walmart.com is selling low-cost PCs with the LindowsOS preloaded, as well as stand-alone versions of the software. Fry's Electronics's retail stores are also selling the LindowsOS.

While a court defeat could come as a marring blow to Lindows and company founder and Chief Executive Officer Michael Robertson, for now the company is banking on its low-cost business model. And Robertson, who also headed up MP3.com, said in a statement that he is confident that the new evidence will support Lindow's case.

No one from Microsoft was immediately available Monday to comment on the court order.

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