Skip to main content

Home  »  Bizarre LawsuitsMicrosoft NewsUS business news   »   Microsoft Lawyers Got Heavy On Teenager Over Website

Microsoft Lawyers Got Heavy On Teenager Over Website

AI image of a lawyer writing a cease and desist letter

Microsoft is a global colossus, raking in billions of dollars a year and continuing to innovate in all areas of technology.

Bill Gates' company commands a formidable legal team as it is regularly involved in lawsuits.

For example, its lawyers will be busy with a potential EU probe into its acquisition of OpenAI.

The Microsoft legal team spends a lot of time fighting the authorities or other companies.

They probably don't spend a lot of time leaning on teenagers over "funny" domain names

But that's exactly what happened in 2004, when a Canadian boy called Mike Rowe felt the full force of Microsoft's lawyers.

Rowe had set up a part-time web design business with the domain name "", because he thought it was "funny."

Microsoft clearly didn't share the joke, arguing its trademark had been infringed due to the phonetic similarities of the website's name.

Whether people were getting confused between a $3 trillion tech company and a teenager trying to earn a bit of extra money building websites remains unclear.

However, probably wisely, Rowe chose not to take on Microsoft in court, and accepted an XBox and some additional compensation.

This compensation was initially the offer of a miserly $10 to pay Rowe's expenses.

Rowe did push back against the derisory offer, asking for $10,000 in compensation.

This led to a 25-page cease and desist letter from the tech giant.

It accused Rowe of "cybersquatting" which is the practice of setting up websites with similar names to big companies as an attempt to get big payouts.

Need Career Advice? Get employment skills advice at all levels of your career

Rowe went public on the case and managed to raise $6,000, as well getting free legal advice.

The interest led to his website getting 250,000 page views, crashing it.

Microsoft settled out of court

Microsoft took control of the domain name, including building a new site for Rowe, which is now defunct.

It also gave him a subscription to the Microsoft Developer Network and an all-expenses-paid trip for him and his family to the Microsoft Research Tech Fest at its headquarters in Redmond, Washington.

He was also given training for Microsoft certification and an Xbox with a selection of games.

Rowe donated most of the money raised to a children's hospital, saving some to help pay for his university education.

After the case, Microsoft took the rare step of acknowledging it might have been a little heavy-handed with the teenager.

A spokesman is quoted as saying: "We take our trademark seriously, but in this case maybe a little too seriously."

Follow us on X, LinkedIn, and Facebook