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David Vs. Goliath Small Software Developer Locks Horns With Microsoft Over Use Of ‘Bookshelf’

The creator of a computer program of Jewish religious and cultural texts said his business may fold because Microsoft Corp. told him to drop its trademarked word “bookshelf” from the product.

Irving Green estimated it would cost $100,000 to change his product, a CD-ROM called The First Electronic Jewish Bookshelf, and its packaging.

“Where am I supposed to get that?” asked Green, who operates Scanrom Publications from his home in Cedarhurst, N.Y. “This was something I did because I thought CD-ROM software could be used for a higher purpose.”

The warning letter to Green came against a backdrop of intense scrutiny Microsoft is facing over what other technology companies call its culture of intimidation.

A federal judge last month rejected an antitrust settlement the company had made with the Justice Department last July, saying it did little to stop Microsoft from abusing its dominant standing in the industry. Several other companies have since publicly accused Microsoft of bullying tactics.

Green’s program - which includes the Jewish Book of Knowledge, research on the Torah, books of folklore and a cookbook - has been sold for more than a year through Jewish catalogs and bookstores.

Microsoft for several years has sold a CD-ROM called Microsoft Bookshelf that contains reference books such as the American Heritage Dictionary, Hammond’s Atlas and the World Almanac.

It obtained a trademark on April 24, 1990, for the word “bookshelf” and one on June 16, 1992, for “bookshelf series.”

William Ferron Jr., a Seattle attorney representing Microsoft, on Tuesday sent Green a letter that said, “If your company is in fact using ‘Bookshelf’ in its product name or to advertise its product, we would like to work out an arrangement under which you agree to discontinue such use.”

Under intellectual property laws, Microsoft must enforce its trademark of “bookshelf” or lose it, company spokesman Greg Shaw said.

“When someone else tries to use that name, they are reaping the value the company has put behind that,” Shaw said.

Ferron’s letter said Microsoft was “not interested in creating a bad relationship” but could not permit its trademark to be infringed.

Green said he did not call Ferron to discuss the letter or find out if the company would pay his expenses for changing the product and its packaging.

Ironically, the example of infringement cited in the letter was Scanrom’s listing in a Microsoft marketing publication. Green said Microsoft invited him to be in the publication, which lists people who use Microsoft developers’ tools.

“I think this is a case where a trademark is being abused by the big guy against the little guy,” Green said.