Microsoft Sued by Bing! (And We Don't Mean Its Search Engine)


Last week Microsoft admitted that a Chinese contract developer, hired by MSN China to develop its Juku microblogging site, copied code from Plurk, a competing site. Although Microsoft has apologized for the fiasco, Plurk has hinted that it might take legal action.

Now comes word that a small design firm in St. Louis has filed a lawsuit against Microsoft, claiming it owns trademark rights to the "Bing!" name Microsoft chose earlier this year for its overhauled search engine.

Last week Bing! Information Designs LLC filed the lawsuit against Microsoft in the 22nd Judicial Circuit of the Missouri Circuit Court in St. Louis charging Microsoft with trademark infringement and unfair competition.

Bing! (the St. Louis one) maintains that it has been using the name since 2000. A story in The Seattle Times on Friday quoted the company's attorney, Tony Simon, as saying that since Microsoft rebranded its search engine with the Bing! name earlier this year, clients of the St. Louis Bing! are confused and think the design firm is somehow affiliated with Microsoft.

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The company is seeking "actual and punitive damages," including having Microsoft pay for advertising to reverse the confusion the software vendor has created, according to a Dow Jones Newswire story. The suit does not specify a dollar amount for the alleged damages.

Microsoft spokespersons have said they don't believe the suit has any merit.

One point in Microsoft's defense: While the St. Louis Bing! claims that it has been using the name for almost 10 years, the company just filed a trademark application for the name in May " after word began circulating that Microsoft might adopt the name, according to a story published online today by the Guardian newspaper in Britain. Microsoft filed a similar application in March for the Bing! trademark, the story said.

As for the Plurk case, the Canadian company has yet to take legal action, but a posting on the company's blog last week indicated that a lawsuit is likely.

"We are currently looking at all possibilities on how to move forward in response to Microsoft's recent apology statement," said Plurk co-founder Alvin Woon in the blog. "We are still thinking of pursuing the full extent of our legal options available, due [to] the seriousness of the situation. Basically, Microsoft accepts responsibility, but they do not offer accountability."