Microsoft vs. MikeRoweSoft was a legal dispute between Microsoft and a Canadian Belmont high school student named Mike Rowe over the domain name “MikeRoweSoft.com”. The case received international press attention following Microsoft’s perceived heavy-handed approach to a 12th grade student’s part-time web design business and the subsequent support that Rowe received from the online community. A settlement was eventually reached, with Rowe granting ownership of the domain to Microsoft in exchange for Microsoft products and training.
After settling with Microsoft, Rowe attempted to auction off the documentation he had received on the on-line auction site eBay, describing it as “a piece of Internet history.” The materials included one copy of the original 25 page cease and desist letter as well as an inch-thick WIPO book containing copies of trademarks, web pages and e-mails between him and Microsoft. The auction received more than half a million page views and bidding rose to more than $200,000. The high bids turned out to be fraudulent and the auction was restricted to pre-approved bidders. After restarting from the reserve price of $500, the documents eventually sold for $1,037.
Microsoft later admitted that they may have been too aggressive in their defense of the “Microsoft” trademark. Following the case it was suggested by Struan Robertson – editor of Out-Law.com – that Microsoft had little choice but to pursue the issue once it had come to light or they would have risked weakening their trademark. This view was also espoused by ZDNet, who noted that had Microsoft knowingly ignored Rowe’s site, the company would have risked losing the right to fight future trademark infringements. Had legal proceedings ensued, Robertson thought that Rowe would have made a strong argument for keeping his domain, as he was using his real name and was not claiming to be affiliated with Microsoft.