By Dan Goodin
September 12, 1997, 3:55 p.m. PT
update Now that Windows NT has become the fastest-growing
operating system for corporate networks, Microsoft
tightening the screws on companies using the initials
Over the past month, attorneys for the software giant have
contacted at least three different companies that use
the initials in
their Internet address or to designate their company
"'NT' and terms including 'NT' should not be part of your
company name or product names," states one letter
19. It goes on to request that the company, Columbus,
Ohio-based Midwestern Commerce, stop using its
"NTsecurity.com" domain and "ScanNT" as the name of one of
Some of the companies offering consulting or other
focusing on Windows NT have been using the initials in
names for years. One Windows NT consultant estimated there
may be 100 or more companies with the initials in
The fact that Microsoft is now taking action angered two
"I don't think Microsoft was right to promote a very
attitude toward the use of NT," said Ratmir Timashev,
of Midwestern Commerce. "They have the right to
request us not
to use NT in our name, but I don't see why they want
to do that."
Microsoft "didn't mind us helping promote NT when it was
getting started," added an executive of another
the letter, who asked to remain anonymous. "Now that
off, they're shutting the door."
A spokesman for Microsoft confirmed that it had sent
handful" of such letters over the years, adding that
necessary to protect the company's valuable trademark on
"When you use the word NT in the industry as slang for
Windows NT, you're diluting the trademark value of Windows
NT," said Vivek Varma, communications manager at
"We are very aware of our intellectual property
rights, and we are
following through on very reasonable steps to protect our
While Microsoft owns the trademark to Windows NT, a
of U.S. trademarks shows the company does not have a
registration for the initials NT alone, a trademark
That didn't stop Microsoft from claiming NT as a
trademark in the
two letters obtained by NEWS.COM. What's more, a
other companies, including Northern Telecom, have
to the initials.
Given Microsoft's lack of a registration--and all the
companies with rights to NT--Microsoft's case is not a
dunk, according to Rochelle Alpert, a trademark
Morrison & Foerster.
"It's not a clean slate from which they're coming,"
adding that Microsoft could be further hurt by waiting
Still, she said, the Redmond, Washington, company
common-law rights to NT, as well as argue that the smaller
companies are engaging in unfair business practices.
"It will really depend on what the public perceives is
with these names," Alpert noted. "Is there affiliation
likelihood of confusion?"
Guidelines provided by Microsoft on the proper use of its
trademarks instruct companies not to use NT in product
without a license but make no such admonishment for domain
Two letters provided to CNET's NEWS.COM specifically refer
to NT as a Microsoft trademark, a move that one
could land the company in hot water.
"One thing I would be very concerned about if I were
given its dramatic market power, is that it not
intellectual property rights in its Windows NT
Rich Gray, an antitrust attorney at Bergeson,
& Gray. "There are cases that clearly establish that an
overaggressive assertion of intellectual property
rights can be
anticompetitive, especially for a company like Microsoft."
Care about people's approval and you will be their prisoner.
-Toa Te Ching