Tuesday, February 01, 2005

Microsoft clashes with gadget blog site

Exhibit 1 from Justin Levine's

The coming legal superstorm against bloggers

A blog has attracted the attention of Microsoft's lawyers after posting a story about Windows Mobile 2005

Gadget blog site Engadget.com said on Wednesday it had resolved a clash with Microsoft over a story it published about an upcoming Microsoft operating system release.

A law firm representing the software giant sent a letter to Engadget last week asking the site to remove screen shots of Microsoft Windows Mobile 2005, which is expected to launch later this year.

The letter, which has been posted on the Web site of Engadget's parent company Weblogs, said the site could face a lawsuit if the screenshots were not removed.

"It has come to Microsoft's attention that your website includes material which is in violation of Microsoft's intellectual property rights," said the letter. "We request that you immediately take steps to remove this material from your website. If you do not act expeditiously to remove access to the infringing material, you may otherwise be liable for trademark infringement, trade secret misappropriation, and/or other remedies at law, including civil and criminal penalties."

Peter Rojas, the editor of Engadget.com, said on Wednesday that it has settled the matter with Microsoft and the story will remain on the site.

"After we received the letter we contacted people at Microsoft to ask what exactly they found objectionable about the article," said Rojas. "The situation is now resolved, everyone is happy and the story is staying up."

A Microsoft spokesman was unwilling to comment on Engadget, but said Microsoft had sent letters to various sites to protect its intellectual property.

"A cease/desist letter has been sent to sites that have featured information, although I cannot comment on whether this has happened in this particular case," said the spokesman. "It is routine in business, particularly in the high-tech IP industry, for companies to take steps to protect intellectual property. Legal notifications requesting that businesses or individuals not post proprietary material are common in the industry"

When asked about Windows Mobile 2005, the spokesman said Microsoft has no new software announcements to make at this time.

Microsoft is not the only company trying to stop news sites from posting information about upcoming products. Apple has filed court documents against Mac enthusiast site ThinkSecret.com, alleging that recent postings on the site contained Apple trade secrets. The lawsuit aims to identify who is leaking the information and to get an injunction preventing further release of trade secrets.

Some in the industry are concerned about the recent spate of lawsuits that have been filed against news sites and how this may impact the right to freedom of speech. An online petition is asking Apple to withdraw its suit against ThinkSecret. "We urge all sides in the dispute to seek an alternative way to resolve their problem, and beg Apple not to value its corporate interest above the first amendment rights of journalists to report information, "says the petition.

The petition has gathered over 4,900 signatures.

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