Microsoft may not own windows?

Gordon Mohr
Thu, 21 Mar 2002 13:22:14 -0800

Bill Kearney asks:
> How about "apple" then?  Or "dell"? Aren't those generic words too?  Would one
> of those companies have any right to seek relief in the courts should someone
> attempt to invade their market and try to dilute their trademark's value?

Neither "apple" nor "dell" had any meaning inside the computer industry before 
adoption as trademarks. "Windows" did, as the description of a feature/approach/
appearance, and as part of the name of many other products and projects.

Perhaps a better analogy for your case would be "Macintosh". Apple Computer
took a generic label from another realm and made it into a trademark for
a computer system.

If in fact "windows" was just a generic term from another realm, and
Microsoft pioneered its use as a computer-descriptive-term, you (and
they) would have a case. 

But widespread use of "windows" and "windowing" in computer markets
occured before Microsoft asserted any claim to "windows" as a trademark.

The USPTO was correct in 1993 -- before Microsoft was anything near the
power it is today -- when it said, in rinitially ejecting Microsoft's 
registration, "Since the term is a generic designation for the applicant's 
goods, then, no amount of evidence of de facto secondary meaning can render 
the term registrable."

- Gordon