In 2003, Mike Rowe was an ordinary 17-year-old Canadian student. Like his peers, because he wanted more income, Mike opened a graphic design service. Back then, the internet was booming and he realized that this was the best place to display his work. He set up a small website and posted all of his designs.
Originally a humorous person, Mike wanted the website’s name to be more creative to attract viewers. Once, he discovered that when “Mike Rowe” was read quickly, it sounded like the word “microphone”. So he bought the domain name “mikerowesoft.com” in August 2003.
Student Mike Rowe.
The name sounds like software giant Microsoft, only in characters. Mike played on words to give his brainchild a fun name. Everything went pretty well, but three months later, Mike received a letter from Smart & Biggar, Microsoft’s legal department, saying that he should shut down the site for trademark infringement. In return, the company will compensate him for an amount of 10 USD.
This is the cost that Mike spent to buy that domain name, nothing more, nothing less. In the response letter, the student protested and asked to add 3 zeros after the $ 10 number that Microsoft made if they wanted him to close “mikerowesoft.com”. Mike says he worked hard with the site but was able to give it up for $ 10,000.
Smart & Biggar responded with a 25-page letter asking Mike to confess “phishing and forcing Microsoft to pay more“For his part, Mike is quite confused because he only has 1,000 USD to hire a lawyer while Microsoft has billions of dollars.
The incident was quickly noticed by the media. Everyone supported the 17-year-old young man trying to make money with his part-time job. Mike became the focus of attention overnight. His website receives a lot of traffic from all over the world.
The major newspapers simultaneously “headlined” with the implication that Microsoft was “bullying” a 17-year-old student:
“The student fights to keep the domain name MikeRowesoft.com” – CNN.
“The threat software giant Mikerowesoft.com” – ZDNet.
“Microsoft is not ‘soft’ with Mike Rowe” - Cbsnews.
Microsoft has received criticism for “bullying” a student.
As soon as the story went viral, everyone sided with Mike and criticized Microsoft for “giving up” too violently with a 17-year-old student. In just 12 hours, Mike’s website got more than 250,000 views, causing server crashes.
Meanwhile, a hosting company helped Mike put the website on their servers for free. There were even people who raised money so that Mike could have more money to hire a defense lawyer. Not stopping there, many law firms accepted free excuses for this student.
Meanwhile, Microsoft continues to accuse Mike “try to maintain the site for a larger amount“But they were criticized even more. Mike replied,”I never thought my domain name caused such trouble, I just thought it was an interesting name for my little part-time business.“.
After a period of “word of mouth”, Mike accepted Microsoft’s settlement offer: Give up his domain name in exchange for an Xbox console.
Jim Desler, a Microsoft spokesman, said: “We believe that he is a bright young man with great potential. Mike will choose a new name and we will help redirect any traffic to his new website to ensure you don’t miss out on business opportunities.“In addition, Microsft invited Mike and his parents to visit the company’s headquarters in Washington.
Mike did not comment further on the deal. He just wrote on the website: “I apologize for not posting much news lately. I’m quite busy with new school, exams, websites and problem solving with Microsoft“.
To justify its “bullying”, Microsoft said: “We take our brand very seriously. In this case, however, we would have been a bit too strict“.