Microsoft Charges Infringement by Manufacturer of Jewish Software

When Irving Green created a CD-ROM software package last summer, he had no intention of raising the ire of the largest software company in America.

But due to a slight oversight and a bizarre coincidence, that is precisely what happened.

The package, called “The First Electronic Jewish Bookshelf,” has caught the attention of Microsoft Corp. The huge software company claims that the title infringes on its trademark “Bookshelf” and “Bookshelf Series” software packages.

The company has issued a letter through its lawyers to Green expressing hope that an arrangement can be worked out under which Green would agree to discontinues use of the term.

“We own the ‘Bookshelf’ trademark and feel we have an obligation to protect it,” said Erin Carney, a spokeswoman for Washington-based Microsoft.

While she acknowledged that Green’s package, a potpourri of Judaic information ranging from Jewish law to chicken soup recipes, has not hurt sales of the Microsoft package of the same name, she did stress the importance of keeping a firm grip on intellectual property.

“It’s not a sales thing. We simply want to retain what is ours,” she said. The Microsoft “Bookshelf” and “Bookshelf Series” are compendiums of reference books such as the World Atlas and the American Heritage Dictionary.

Green’s “Jewish Bookshelf” includes “The Book of Jewish Knowledge,” a one volume encyclopedia of Jewish history; “A Treasury of Jewish Folklore;” “Green Jews in Sports;” and “This is the Torah,” an overview of the Bible and Jewish practices.

Green, founder and president of Scanrom Publications, insists that the mistake was harmless and would simply be too expensive to rectify.

“I have the product name on every screen of the program,” he said in an interview. “I estimate it would cost about $100,000 to change that as well as repackage the whole thing.”

Microsoft’s threat of a lawsuit comes at a time when the company is under fire for using aggressive tactics to maintain its dominance in the industry. A federal judge last month rejected an antitrust settlement the company had made with the Justice Department, saying it did little to stop Microsoft from abusing its powerful position.

Green said Microsoft’s complaint against him is a perfect illustration of the company’s tactics. “They have a statement to make, and I think they are looking foolish in the process,” he said.

In an odd twist, Microsoft had invited Green to market his package in one of its own catalogs. In fact, the letter Microsoft lawyers subsequently sent to Green cited the company’s catalog listing as the prime example of the trademark infringement.

The situation remains hazy. Green claims that because of the “Mom and Pop” nature of his operation, he cannot afford to change the name of the software. But at the same time, he added, he cannot afford a prolonged legal battle.

“We’re really in a quandary,” he said.

Microsoft’s Carney said that even though the issue is “very important right now,” she is not sure how the case will proceed.

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