updated 5/24/2004 8:20:22 PM ET 2004-05-25T00:20:22

Microsoft Corp.’s trademark infringement case against Lindows Inc. is heading to trial possibly later this year after a federal appeals court denied a request to hear Microsoft’s appeal on a key matter in the legal battle.

The request for an appeal centered on whether the word “windows” is a generic term in the technology industry or whether Redmond-based Microsoft can argue that Lindows is violating its trademark by using a term similar to that of its Windows operating system. (MSNBC is a Microsoft - NBC joint venture.)

In February, U.S. District Judge John Coughenour in Seattle said he would instruct a jury to consider only whether “windows” was a generic term before November 1985, when the first version of Microsoft’s Windows was released.

He allowed Microsoft to appeal that ruling. Late last week, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said it would not hear the appeal before the case goes to trial.

Coughenour is expected to hear the case perhaps as early as the second half of this year.

In April, Lindows changed the name of its operating system to Linspire, responding to Coughenour’s refusal to halt Microsoft’s trademark infringement lawsuits outside the United States. But San Diego-based Lindows did not change its company name.

In addition to the U.S. case filed in December 2001, Microsoft has filed similar complaints in Europe, Canada and Mexico and won preliminary injunctions in the Netherlands, Sweden and Finland.

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