A judge has cleared the way for an international crusade by Microsoft against the makers of Linux operating system Lindows, by refusing to stop the software giant from pursuing trademark infringement cases outside the US. He also refused to strike a ruling by a Netherlands court against Lindows.com, made in January.

Chief US District Court Judge John Coughenour denied Lindows.com's request, stating in his ruling that there is no reason to interfere with the jurisdiction of foreign courts. However, he indicated that if a foreign court were to impede on the constitutional rights of Lindows.com, he would act.

Lindows.com claims it is technically impossible to comply with a Dutch court's order to block access to its website from the Benelux countries. The company had argued that it would be forced to shut down its site if the US court did not intervene and that closing it would violate its First Amendment rights.

A hearing in Amsterdam District Court on the Dutch ruling that was originally set for last week has been postponed. However, according to the US ruling, Microsoft will propose that Lindows.com use commercially available software to prevent visitors from the Benelux region to access the Lindows.com site, which would satisfy the US court.

Lindows' knowingly daft solution has to be register and run its business in the Netherlands at the website www.lin---s.com. Microsoft followed this with the equally daft claim that it had rights over the Lin---s name.

"We're pleased with the court's decision and believe this was a baseless effort by Lindows to avoid the jurisdiction of international courts where they are in violation of local trademark laws," Microsoft spokeswoman Stacy Drake said. Lindows.com has so far refused to comment on the ruling/

Microsoft sued Lindows.com in the US in December 2001, accusing the company of infringing its Windows trademark and asked the court to bar Lindows.com from using the Lindows name. It has so far lost two injunctions and the case continues.

European courts are, however, siding with Microsoft and it has won injunctions in Finland, Sweden and the Netherlands. It is further pursuing the case in France and Spain, as well as Canada and Mexico.

"The goal of these actions is very simple, we're only asking that Lindows change their name and compete with a name that is distinctly their own and not such an obvious infringement of our trademark," Drake said.