When Michael Robertson wanted to create an operating system that merged the best of open source Linux with the popularity of Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) Windows, the name Lindows seemed a natural -- but was it legal?

Robertson may not care. It wasn't long ago that the founder of MP3.com bucked the system to grow his popular indie music site, launching a Beam It feature that allowed folks to listen to their CD collection virtually. You would insert a prerecorded music CD in your computer, MP3.com would recognize it and allow you to stream MP3.com's copy at will. It was a service that promoted convenience over the lengthy uploading process at music locker sites.

It wasn't popular, however, and it was a gamble that Robertson eventually lost when $150 million of the company's coffers had to be set aside to settle with the five major record labels. The largest label, Vivendi (NYSE:V), wound up acquiring the distressed company. Last year, CNET (NASDAQ:CNET) acquired the MP3.com domain with plans to launch a new site next month.

Back to Lindows. Over the weekend, Microsoft filed a trademark infringement lawsuit against the outfit in Canada. A stateside trial starts next week. Microsoft has already prevailed in certain European markets. Surf on over to Lindows.com where users in Belgium, Luxemburg, Sweden, and The Netherlands are directed to the company's sister site at Lin---s.com.

Microsoft knows how to protect its turf. Last month it averted flexing its muscles after reaching a friendly settlement with Mike Rowe's MikeRoweSoft.com site. But where do you draw the line? And if you're Microsoft, at what point do you draw the line of fire from folks who would ridicule the incident as yet another indication of the company's tyrannical ways?

Robertson's battle runs uphill. The difference between Lindows and Windows -- or windows and Windows -- isn't much when your model is all about supplanting Microsoft. Even the most ardent Bill Gates bashing, Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) loving consumer should see Microsoft's point. Then again, Robertson makes these risky gambles because they offer the most potential upside.

If Robertson loses, all hope is not lost. There are plenty of colored hats available for a new take on Red Hat (NASDAQ:RHAT).

What do you think of Microsoft and its case against Lindows? What about Linux? Will it come to replace Windows one day as the operating system of choice? All this and more -- in the Microsoft discussion board. Only on Fool.com.

Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz does Windows, but he doesn't own any shares in the company. He also wonders if there is marketing magic in pairing the absorbency of Huggies with the dependability of Pampers and launching an ill-advisedly named Humpers brand.