by CIO Staff

Microsoft Hits Cybersquatters With Lawsuits

Mar 14, 20073 mins
IT Strategy

Microsoft has filed two new lawsuits against companies it accuses of registering domain names similar to its trademarks. It has also settled three similar suits with other companies, it said Wednesday.

It alleges that the companies intentionally registered domain names with variations of its trademarks, a practice known as cybersquatting, or misspellings of those names, known as typosquatting. Often, domains registered in this way point to webpages containing advertisements that, if clicked upon, generate revenue for the owner of the domain. Microsoft said the practice is deceptive and confusing for users.

Microsoft will receive damages from some companies, it said.

The Dyslexic Domain Company, registered in Cardiff, Wales, agreed to pay unspecified damages for infringing on Microsoft brands with some of the 6,000 domain names it had registered, according to Microsoft. The company is pursuing five more complaints in the United Kingdom regarding similar cases, but did not provide further details.

In the United States, Microsoft agreed to settle for US$2 million a suit over 324 domain names filed against Jason Cox of New Mexico and a Utah company, Newtonarch. Microsoft also reached a $1 million settlement with Dan Brown of California, doing business as Partner IV Holdings.

Microsoft filed a new suit against Maltuzi of California for allegedly registering large blocks of domain names including some close to Microsoft brands.

The company filed an additional civil lawsuit in Seattle against 54 unnamed individuals for cybersquatting. Filing suits with anonymous individuals is a legal technique that permits further investigation to get their names, Microsoft said.

Microsoft amended a suit filed in August 2006 in U.S. District Court in Seattle to add the names of the owners of 217 domain names it contests. It also added three new defendants regarding an additional 135 domains. The defendants include Sule Garba, Darin Grabowski and Yi Ning.

It is difficult to prevent cybersquatting, said Jean Christophe Le Toquin, a Microsoft attorney based in Paris. Those who engage in cybersquatting use software to automatically register expired domains, among other techniques, he said.

Microsoft is encouraging owners of other brands to take legal action in the hope of deterring cybersquatters, he said.

“There is a business model of profiting from the traffic generated by popular brands and domains, and we have to remove the profitability of this business,” Le Toquin said.

The World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), a United Nations agency, said on Monday it dealt with 1,823 cybersquatting complaints in 2006 regarding the abuse of trademarks, the highest number of cases it has handled since 2000 and a 25 percent increase over 2005.

WIPO blamed a proliferation of new registrars, new generic top-level domains and companies that allow free, five-day registrations of domains for traffic testing purposes, also known as “tasting.”

Over the past six months, Microsoft said it has reclaimed 1,100 domain names that infringe on its brand. The company owns 21,000 domain names, and new ones recovered through settlements are redirected to the domain, Le Toquin said.

-Jeremy Kirk, IDG News Service (London Bureau)

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