Terri-Jane Yuzda

Microsoft Changes Stance
On Title Infringement


Microsoft Canada Co. has decided against honouring last year's agreement to stop promoting the term "engineer" as a label for the computer technicians it certifies. In a July 25 letter, the software giant told its MCSE technicians to "feel free" to call themselves the spelled-out version of the title - Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer.

That goes against an agreement reported in the May 2001 PEGG. After meetings with the Canadian Council of Professional Engineers and provincial/territorial associations, Microsoft had agreed to ask its MCSEs to use only the acronym. Now, Microsoft has changed its mind, saying it has considered the legal issues but decided that its title is well recognized as something other than professional engineer.

APEGGA and the CCPE disagree. If MCSEs follow Microsoft's advice, they open themselves up to legal action, which legislation requires provincial and territorial associations to take.

APEGGA Executive Director Neil Windsor, P.Eng., says: "The agreement in 2001 was a reasonably acceptable means of resolving the problem. However, this recent action by Microsoft has nullified that agreement and leaves the associations with no other alternative but to seek the appropriate remedies through the courts. Persons representing themselves as engineers in Alberta are required by law to be licensed by APEGGA in order to practice engineering and use the protected titles 'engineer' or 'P.Eng.' Persons calling themselves Microsoft Certified Systems Engineers should be aware of the implications."

The reason behind taking action is to ensure public trust and safety, the CCPE points out in a recent news release. Engineering associations work on behalf of their provincial and territorial governments, their members and the public to make sure the title "engineer" is backed up by education and experience.

MCSEs must complete seven exams for their certification. Preparation for each exam can range from several days to several months, depending on experience and training. "This is far short of the four-year engineering degree required as one of the prerequisites to becoming licensed as an engineer," the CCPE release points out.

All jurisdictions in Canada also have an experience requirement. Most jurisdictions, including Alberta, require four years experience under the supervision of a professional engineer, before licensure is considered.
Says Marie Lemay, P.Eng., CEO of CCPE: "It is pretty obvious that the certificate holders would see value in the use of the title 'engineer.' But engineering is a profession and with that comes an obligation to protect the public. It is important for the public to know that the term 'engineer' refers to a person with a university engineering education and engineering experience, who follows a professional code of ethics."

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