Microsoft v. MikeRoweSoft was a 2004 legal dispute between Microsoft and a Canadian Belmont High School student named Mike Rowe over the domain name "".[1] Microsoft argued that their trademark had been infringed because of the phonetic resemblance between "Microsoft" and "MikeRoweSoft".[2]

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.[3] A settlement was eventually reached, with Rowe granting ownership of the domain to Microsoft in exchange for an Xbox and additional compensation.[4]


Since my name is Mike Rowe, I thought it would be funny to add "soft" to the end of it.

– Mike Rowe[5]

The domain name was initially registered by Canadian student Mike Rowe in August 2003.[1] Rowe set up the site as a part-time web design business, choosing the domain because of the phonetic pun by adding the word "soft" to the end of his name.[6][7] Microsoft saw the name as trademark infringement because of its phonetic resemblance to their trademarked corporate name and demanded that he give up the domain.[2][8] After receiving a letter from Microsoft's Canadian legal representatives Smart & Biggar on January 14, 2004, Rowe replied asking to be compensated for giving up the domain.[5][9]

Microsoft offered to pay Rowe's out-of-pocket expenses of $10, the original cost of registering the domain name.[10] Rowe countered asking instead for $10,000, later claiming that he did this because he was "mad at" Microsoft for their initial $10 offer.[5] Microsoft declined the offer and sent a cease and desist letter spanning 25 pages. Microsoft accused Rowe of setting up the site in order to try to force them into a large financial settlement, a practice known as cybersquatting.[1]

Press coverage and settlement

Rowe went to the press, creating publicity for the case and garnering support for his cause, including donations of over $6,000 and an offer of free advice from a lawyer.[5][11] At one point Rowe was forced to take down his site after it was overwhelmed by around 250,000 page views over a period of twelve hours, only managing to get the site back up after changing to a service provider with a higher capacity.[12] The case, portrayed as a David versus Goliath struggle by the media, characterized Microsoft in a negative light. The resulting bad publicity was later described as a "public-relations mess".[11][13] The public showing of support that Rowe received was credited with "softening Microsoft's stance", leading to an eventual settlement.[2]

In late January 2004, it was revealed that the two parties had come to an out-of-court settlement, with Microsoft taking control of the domain.[14] In return Microsoft agreed to pay all of the expenses that Rowe had incurred, including setting up a new site at and redirecting traffic to, a website now defunct.[15] Additionally, Microsoft provided Rowe with a subscription to the Microsoft Developer Network, an all-expenses-paid trip for him and his family to the Microsoft Research Tech Fest at their headquarters in Redmond, Washington, training for Microsoft certification and an Xbox with a selection of games.[10] Following an online poll, Rowe donated most of his legal defense fund to a children's hospital and used the remaining money for his future university education.[16][17]

Further developments

We take our trademark seriously, but in this case maybe a little too seriously.

– Microsoft spokesman Jim Desler[12]

After settling the dispute 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".[9] 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.[9] The auction received more than half a million page views and bidding rose to more than $200,000.[9] The high bids turned out to be fraudulent, and the auction was restricted to pre-approved bidders.[9] After restarting from the reserve price of $500, the documents eventually sold for $1,037.[18]

Microsoft later admitted that they may have been too aggressive in their defense of the "Microsoft" trademark.[15][19] Following the case, it was suggested by Struan Robertson – editor of – that Microsoft had little choice but to pursue the issue once it had come to light, or they would have risked weakening their trademark.[19] 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.[20] Robertson opined that – had legal proceedings ensued – 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.[19]

See also


  1. ^ a b c Kotadia, Munir (January 19, 2004). "Software giant threatens mikerowesoft". ZDNet. Archived from the original on April 12, 2009. Retrieved October 1, 2008.
  2. ^ a b c Sieberg, Daniel (January 20, 2004). "Teen fights to keep". CNN. Retrieved October 1, 2008.
  3. ^ Barker, Gary (January 21, 2004). "Teenager takes on a corporate monster". The Age. Melbourne. Retrieved October 2, 2008.
  4. ^ "Boy swaps MikeRoweSoft for Xbox". BBC News. January 26, 2004. Retrieved October 1, 2008.
  5. ^ a b c d KOMO Staff & News Services (January 18, 2004). "Microsoft vs. Mikerowesoft". KOMO News. Retrieved July 19, 2016.
  6. ^ "Microsoft Not Soft On Mike Rowe". CBS News. January 20, 2004. Retrieved October 1, 2008.
  7. ^ "Microsoft takes on teen over domain name". USA Today. January 19, 2004. Retrieved October 8, 2008.
  8. ^ "Microsoft takes on teen's site". CNN. January 20, 2004. Archived from the original on May 27, 2008. Retrieved October 1, 2008.
  9. ^ a b c d e Festa, Paul (February 2, 2004). "MikeRoweSoft sell-off bids going, going...down". CNET. Retrieved October 1, 2008.
  10. ^ a b Kotadia, Munir (January 26, 2004). "MikeRoweSoft settles for an Xbox". CNET. Retrieved October 1, 2008.
  11. ^ a b Carmichael, Amy (February 5, 2004). "Microsoft vs. mikeRowesoft ends amicably". The Globe and Mail. Retrieved October 1, 2008.
  12. ^ a b "Microsoft lightens up on teen's mikerowesoft site". USA Today. January 20, 2004. Retrieved October 1, 2008.
  13. ^ Bishop, Todd (January 21, 2004). "Mikerowesoft vs. Microsoft: The saga continues". Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Retrieved October 1, 2008.
  14. ^ "Microsoft to take over". CNN. January 26, 2004. Archived from the original on February 24, 2008. Retrieved October 1, 2008.
  15. ^ a b "MikeRoweSoft Names His Price". Wired. Wired News. January 26, 2004. Retrieved October 1, 2008.
  16. ^ Sjöberg, Lore (March 24, 2004). "Anti-MS Fund Goes to Charity". Wired. Wired News. Retrieved October 1, 2008.
  17. ^ "Teen who battled Microsoft donates defense fund to charity". USA Today. March 25, 2004. Retrieved October 3, 2008.
  18. ^ "Sued teen sells letter from Microsoft". Taipei Times. February 9, 2004. Archived from the original on April 12, 2009. Retrieved October 1, 2008.
  19. ^ a b c Kotadia, Munir (January 20, 2004). "Microsoft: We took MikeRoweSoft too seriously". ZDNet. Archived from the original on April 10, 2009. Retrieved October 1, 2008.
  20. ^ Kotadia, Munir (January 20, 2004). "MikeRoweSoft garners funds to fight back". ZDNet. Archived from the original on October 2, 2008. Retrieved October 9, 2008.