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Microsoft Challenges Company Over Trademark

Staff Writer
Published: 2004-11-18

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Savvysoft, a New York City-based financial software company is facing a trademark infringement challenge by Microsoft over the use of the term "Excel."

The company's new product, TurboExcel, speeds up Excel spreadsheets as much as 300 times, secures and protects proprietary spreadsheet methodologies, and makes Excel spreadsheets instantly portable to other systems, including those running on Linux.

"Microsoft has never been granted a registered trademark on Excel," said Rich Tanenbaum, founder of Savvysoft. "In fact, they waited 19 years just to apply. Plus, there are over a hundred third-party products with Excel in their name," continued Tanenbaum. "In fact, Microsoft's own website actually offers downloads of over a dozen products with Excel in their name that are offered by third-parties. As any trademark lawyer will tell you, when you've got a trademark, and you let other companies use it, you lose it."

Tanenbaum noted Microsoft's own trademark web site lists dozens of trademarks, but doesn't mention Excel.

"Microsoft's actions over the years have been consistent with that of a company that doesn't own the Excel mark," said Tanenbaum. "Before naming our product, we checked pretty carefully on the use of the word Excel. To be honest, we don't know why Microsoft is singling us out."

Tanenbaum suspects Microsoft sees TurboExcel as a threat because it allows Excel models to be instantly converted into C++, which can then be run on not only Windows, but also Linux. "If all the business logic written in Excel moves to C++, it's the death knell for Microsoft's spreadsheet monopoly," said Tanenbaum.

Ironically, TurboExcel could help Microsoft sell more copies of Excel because it allows people to use Excel in a novel way. People can, for the first time, use Excel to write computer programs in C++. Excel becomes a programming tool.

Tanenbaum notes that TurboExcel has already received positive reviews in InfoWorld, ComputerWorld Canada, and Institutional Investor. It's also been the subject of news articles on AP, Bloomberg, CNET, and a number of blogs and Internet newsgroups.

"We're faced with a choice," says Tanenbaum. "We can fight Microsoft and spend half a million dollars or more. Or we can pay $100,000 to replace all our sales and marketing material and redo every bit of publicity. Even then, you can't put a dollar value on intangibles like goodwill and brand recognition.

"Microsoft is telling its developers: 'Please develop for our platform. But if you're successful, we'll sue you.'"

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