Why do I see the same fake names in Microsoft samples over and over?

If you see a fake name in a Microsoft sample web site, sample code, or sample documentation, you'll probably find that it's usually one from a small set of names. A sample corporation is typically called Contoso or Fabrikam. A sample store is typically Wingtip Toys. (For a few weeks, they used Wingtip Toys on Windows Live Local.) A sample bank is Woodgrove Bank. And a sample software company is Litware, Inc. (There are other fake names, but these are the ones you're most likely to see.)

Where did these fake names come from?

The Trademark Group in Microsoft's legal department.

The Trademark Group performed background checks on these names and cleared them for use as fictitious entities by Microsoft samples and documentation. The web sites for all of these "companies" redirect to the main Microsoft home page. Having a pool of "standard fake names" means that Microsoft samples and documentation don't run into the problem of a fake URL turning into a porn site.

Comments (27)
  1. Igor says:


    Seriously, is that lit like in "fire has been lit" or like in "litterware"?

  2. Larry Lard says:

    I wonder about all those companies and products in the Northwind sample database. Some of that stuff sounded really tasty! I bet some of those must be real companies by now, if they weren’t already.

  3. ::Wendy:: says:

    it probably also reduces the likelihood that fake names produced by individuals might actually be companies somewhere that might actually like to sue Microsoft for using their company name ….

  4. dbt says:

    maybe "literary-ware"?

  5. noname says:

    It’s actually a real problem, I have seen it happen again and again in websites my company built, we finally decided to buy many related domains and domain endings and redirect them to the real site so that no company will buy these domains and ask us (or other porn sites) to pay for them.

  6. Stu says:

    Seeing as Microsoft is not using these names, and that some of them are in areas where Microsoft would have a hard time defending a trademark, what is to stop somebody setting up companies with these names?

    I could just imagine "Litware, Inc has a long-standing relationship with Microsoft Corp." showing up on the new Litware website. "litwaresoftware.com" seems to be available…

    Why dont Microsoft just use obviously-fake names like "Example Company, Inc" or "Insert real data here"?

  7. Robert says:

    I had need of a corporation for contracting purposes.  Instead of choosing a generic Advance Technology Group, or some other combination of vague tech sounding words, I picked a name from a sample test..

    Industrial MegaWidgets, if you must know.

    Incorporation papers went through fine, but I never did try to trademark it.

  8. Neal says:

    So, what happens when some enterprising businessman starts up a company and uses one of these names?  The name has (some) national, even worldwide, recognition in certain circles thanks to its use by Microsoft.  Microsoft would stand little chance of stopping the use of the name – it’s a fictitious name used in their literature.  Then what happens if that business demands the url?  There might be a financial cost, but it’d be possible or even likely that the domain would be taken and given to the legitimate business rather than fiction creator…

  9. This is why the .example TLD was invented… and why example.com and .org (and presumably others) are reserved.

  10. Andreas says:

    Actually, not all of the sample URLs point to the Microsoft homepage. See https://www.woodgrovebank.com/

  11. Lurker says:


    This site is for demonstration purposes only.

    WoodGrove Bank is a fictional entity and does not represent an actual financial institution or regulated banking authority.

  12. Dan McCarty says:

    Was I the only one who thought one of those employees in the Access Employees demo database was a hottie?  And I was sure she was on the MS dev team.

    Cheap stock photography, eh?


  13. Jade Phiosopher says:

    I checked the federal trademarks at uspto.gov and found no trademarks for Wingtip Toys, Woodgrove Bank, Contoso, or Litware.

    However, "Fabrikam" was registerd in May 2006 to Mark August of St. Charles, Missouri. The trademark is related to cabinets, so Microsoft’s Fabrikam Fine Furniture reference app may be conflict with this trademark.

  14. Of course Wikipedia has already documented many fictitious Microsoft company names:



  15. Ross says:

    And lets not forgot tempuri.com

  16. platformagnostic says:

    Fabrikam points to the main Microsoft Site, and I don’t think this is a good idea.  The name Fabrikam immediately reminds one of the words "Fabricated" and "fake."  And then you go to Microsofts website.  Not a good association.  If anything, it should point to http://www.kernel.org, or to http://www.google.com :).

  17. Noel Nyman says:

    Microsoft also maintains a list of "safe" people names to use for situations such as customer or employee names in sample databases. Many (perhaps all) of the names come from real Microsoft employees who volunteer their nnames for the purpose and sign legal agreements to that effect.

  18. I’ve been working with Microsoft training materials (MCSE, MCSA, MCDBA, etc) for a goodly number of years, and I’m, of course, quite familiar with our friends "Trey Research", "Fabrikam", "Contoso Ltd.", "Ferguson & Bardell", etc…

    What I find more interesting is the use of names of real Microsoft employees in training materials. I remember some slides from an Exchange 5.5 MOC training course that referenced a "Suzan Fine". I remembered her name, to me, the first name’s spelling is a bit odd (I think of "Susan" before "Suzan"). A buddy of mine handed me an article from a 1994 magazine, a couple of years ago, talking about this upcoming Microsoft email server product, "Exchange", and a "Suzan Fine", a product manager from Microsoft’s MAPI group, is quoted in the article.

    After that, I started searching for other names that I found in course materals, and discovered that a lot of them were also real Microsoft employees ("Kim Yoshida", "Adam Barr", "Tsvi Reiter", etc). As Microsoft employees started getting blogs, I enjoyed seeing postings from the "example people" from my classes. Apparently I’m not the only one (http://oakleafblog.blogspot.com/2005/10/microsoft-staff-moonlighting-as.html) who has caught onto the use of Microsoft employees in examples, course materials, etc…

    (One of the Exchange classes came w/ a PST file with a bunch of messages in it dated, like, 1995, where various members of the Exchange team talked about restaurants in the Seattle, WA area they liked. I really enjoyed that one…)

  19. Dean Harding says:

    The creators of "The Simpsons" register all of the domain names they mention on the show. For example, there’s http://www.mrxswebpage.com/ or http://www.whatbadgerseat.com/ or even http://www.springfieldisforgayloversofmarriage.com/ :)

    Also, homer’s email address chunkylover53@aol.com is apparently owned by one of the writers (though I’ve never actually tried emailing it)

  20. Evan,

     The restaurant thingy originated in a public folder deployed in the Exchange dogfood hierarchy.

     I hadn’t realized they used it in training.  Cool.

  21. Norman Diamond says:

    Friday, October 13, 2006 11:49 AM by Lurker


    This site is for demonstration purposes only.

    WoodGrove Bank is a fictional entity and does

    not represent an actual financial institution

    or regulated banking authority.

    And if you don’t input your customer ID and password into these here fake boxes, your fictional account will be closed down.

    (The latest password collecting scam spam e-mail to reach me had its password collecting server on a Verisign IP address.  Really comforting eh?)

  22. James Risto says:

    Better this than real names that MS used in the past … e.g. BurgerMaster (segment)!

  23. Bob says:

    Looks like someone on the Windows Live Team should  read your blog…


    ("Sample email address: bob@bobco.com")

  24. Hairstyle says:

    Whos wearing short hair v/s long hair or whats your hair style your wearing now?


    “I’ll have to walk a thousand miles just to find the ground deserving of your feet.” ~ Saves The Day

  25. In the category of, "things you wondered but never knew who to ask"… The Old New Thing blog explains

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