We are currently planning to create a 'preview' version for one of our asp.net mvc apps.

Is it allowed to use a company like Microsoft's contoso for such a case (Branding etc.)?

  • I'd say 'yes', but can't find any reference material for it.
    – Jan_V
    Commented Mar 24, 2011 at 11:55
  • I've said this at least a thousand times, but goddammit people! Consult a lawyer about these issues! We are programmers, we don't know crap about legal issues!
    – Jas
    Commented Nov 15, 2011 at 14:51
  • Who needs an expensive lawyer? Why not just ask Microsoft?
    – Mawg
    Commented Jan 14, 2016 at 13:00
  • 3
    I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because it is asking for legal advice (and it'd be far more straightforward to just ask Microsoft themselves).
    – Ixrec
    Commented Jan 14, 2016 at 14:19
  • For an open source alternative, take a look at chinookdatabase.codeplex.com
    – Mawg
    Commented Jan 14, 2016 at 19:14

2 Answers 2


There's no official statement by Microsoft but they do own the contoso.com domain. It's used in various products and most Virtual Machines used for hands on labs and such have a local domain named contoso.com along with @contoso.com users.

Fabrikam is another fictional company Microsoft uses (along with Northwind Traders, the source of the original Northwind access database). All of these domains are owned by Microsoft and redirect to Microsoft's main website.

I see no reason why you wouldn't use it yourself. I use it in all my demos and presentations but you might want to ping Microsoft by sending an email to [email protected]. Sometimes it's better to ask permission than to beg for forgiveness, especially with larger organizations.


I could not find anything regarding the Contoso database, but I did find Microsoft's AdventureWorks database in Codeplex, which is open source. If it were my app and I couldn't switch the preview to AdventureWorks, I would continue to use Contoso under the same license listed for Adventureworks.

But that's just me and I am in no way an attorney.


To further backup my assumption that using Contoso would probably be fine... Telerik, a Microsoft partner, uses the NorthWinds database on their web site as a sample database.

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