Any potential entrepreneur knows that when it comes to marketing and making money, a good company name is essential. However, the wrong business name can mean company failure, or in the case of seventeen-year-old Mike Rowe, legal problems. In his case, Microsoft is trying to get Rowe’s Web site design company, MikeRoweSoft Design, to surrender its domain name to them or suffer consequences. This action serves as another example of a large corporation trying to strong-arm the “little guy.”
Rowe launched his Web site in April of 2003. According to his site, MikeRoweSoft.com, he received an e-mail in November from Microsoft’s Canadian counsel, Smart & Biggar, stating he was committing copyright infringement. The e-mail also stated that Rowe must transfer the domain name to Microsoft. Phonetically, it is easy to see why Microsoft would initially be alarmed. However, considering it is the birth name of the high school senior, and he is not claiming to be affiliated with Microsoft, it is understandable that Rowe is adamant about the possession of his domain name.
The software giant offered Rowe just 10 dollars, the initial cost of the domain’s registration, as compensation for the loss of business from the name change. After rejecting the offer as derisory, Rowe stated on his Web site that he received a lengthy letter from the company on January 14 accusing him of intending to sell his domain name for a “large cash settlement.” He responds to the accusations by posting: “I never thought my name would cause Microsoft to take this course of action against me. I just thought it was a good name for my small part-time business.”
In a story Tuesday from ZDNet, Microsoft admits that it may have overreacted. This confession comes only after the company received criticism from the media in the days following its initial confrontation with Rowe. “It is probably a very trivial issue for Microsoft, and I wouldn’t be surprised if they regret getting involved with it,” Struan Robertson, editor of Out-Law.com, a Web site covering legal issues concerning information technology, told ZDNet.
It would seem that Microsoft has forgotten that their very own founder, Bill Gates, was 20 years old when he started his company. It is unfortunate that it chose to approach Rowe in such a threatening manner, rather than praise his entrepreneurial ability. However, from the 250,000 hits that Rowe’s Web site received on Monday alone, it would seem that all of this publicity has done the exact opposite of what Microsoft had hoped and has instead increased awareness of the teenager’s business.