Hotbar Claiming a "Certified Partner" Relationship with Microsoft - Analysis and Screenshots
Hotbar Installs via Banner Ads at Kids Sites - Ben Edelman

The screenshots below shows Hotbar describing itself as a Microsoft "certified partner." Microsoft's Resource Directory site confirms that Microsoft has issued such a certification to Hotbar.

But what does the certification mean? Microsoft's About Partners page explains the purpose of the program: To identify companies with staff trained to install and support certain Microsoft programs. The certification program does not reflect any Microsoft endorsement of the software such partners may make or distribute.

Hotbar's prominent display of its Microsoft certification gives users the impression that Microsoft endorses or approves of Hotbar's business or methods -- an impression likely to cause users to accept Hotbar software they might otherwise decline. But that impression is mistaken: Being a Microsoft Certified Partner entails no such endorsement, one way or the other.

My analsis of the applicable Microsoft rules indicates that Hotbar is probably in breach of Microsoft's various requirements for Certified Partners and for partners' use of the Certified Partner logo. For one, Microsoft's About Partners page specifically requires that Certified Partners have at least two Microsoft Certified Professionals on staff. However, Microsoft's entry for Hotbar indicates that Hotbar has zero Certified Professionals on staff. If so, Hotbar would seem to be ineligible to be a Microsoft Certified Partner and ineligible to use the Microsoft Certified Partner logo.

Hotbar also seems to be violating the logo terms and conditions linked from Microsoft's Certified Partner site includes logo terms & conditions. Unfortunately, accessing these conditions requires registration, but I have found a registration-free copy (PDF). In particular, Hotbar seems to violate the T&C's restrictions on the permitted implications of logo use, on the size of such logo, and on layout and formatting.