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Teen fights to keep

Microsoft concedes taking case 'a little too seriously'

By Daniel Sieberg

Mike Rowe shows off the documents sent to him by Microsoft asking him to give up
Mike Rowe, 17, holds documents he says Microsoft Corp. sent asking him to give up

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start quoteI really think it's a lawyer thing with them trying to get more money.end quote
-- Mike Rowe, owner of
• Business 2.0: Microsoft's vision thing again  external link
Microsoft Corporation
Patents, Copyright and Trademarks
Bill Gates
British Columbia (Canada)

(CNN) -- Mike Rowe just wanted to keep running.

But the 17-year-old student and Web designer from Victoria, British Columbia, has attracted worldwide attention after refusing to comply with Microsoft Corp.'s demands that he give up his domain name, which phonetically sounds the same as the software giant's name.

Rowe had to take his site down Monday when more than 250,000 visitors flocked there in 12 hours and his Web host told him that the bandwidth would be too costly.

By Monday night, was back in business. A note on the site from Rowe said that a Web-hosting company called had "come through with a great offer."

"I don't think Microsoft's really to blame for this," Rowe said. "I'm a supporter of Microsoft actually. I use their programs. I think [Microsoft founder] Bill Gates is a great guy. He donates a lot of his money. Everybody thinks I'm against Microsoft, but I'm not. I really think it's a lawyer thing with them trying to get more money."

The flood of support for Rowe apparently had made Microsoft soften their stance, saying that they were simply trying to protect their trademark.

"We take our trademark seriously, but in this case maybe a little too seriously," the company said in a statement issued Tuesday afternoon.

"That said, we appreciate that Mike Rowe is a young entrepreneur who came up with a creative domain name. We are currently in the process of resolving this matter in a way that will be fair to him and satisfy our obligations under trademark law."

Rowe said he was aware of the name similarities between his site and Microsoft's but never expected the tech Goliath to object.

Rowe wrote on his site that he received a letter from Microsoft's attorneys in November asking him to give up his domain name. Rowe refused, instead asking for compensation.

He said that Microsoft offered him $10 for the name. Rowe countered by asking for more money, arguing that his business was worth about $10,000.

"The $10 is pretty insulting for all the work I've put into my Web site," Rowe said. "That's why I asked for the 10,000 because I was mad at the low amount they [offered]."

As for notoriety, Rowe said his high school friends had not picked up on the scope of his tale yet.

"Most of them have no idea how big it's gotten," he said Monday. "I went to school today, and only a couple of people stopped me to ask what's going on. I do think it'll be very good for me in the long run. Getting into university might be easier for me after this."

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