Microsoft sues cybersquatters in US, UK

Company clamps down on those taking advantage of misspellings in domain names

Microsoft Wednesday said it filed lawsuits against cybersquatters in the U.S. and the U.K. to stop them from illegally profiting from the misuse of intellectual property and Internet domain names using online ads.

In addition to the new lawsuits, Microsoft said it settled a domain-infringement settlement with the Dyslexic Domain Co. in the U.K. and two U.S. civil lawsuits filed against defendants in Salt Lake City and Los Angeles.

Cybersquatters register Internet domain names, such as winowslivemessenger.com and www.micr0soft.co.uk, that contain widely recognized trademarked names but also include misspelled variations of those names to trick users and illegally profit from them through online ad networks.

In a statement, Microsoft said it has reclaimed more than 1,100 infringing domain names worldwide in the past six months.

"These sites confuse visitors who are trying to reach genuine company Web sites, which can negatively affect corporate brands and reputations as well as impair the end users' experience online," said Aaron Kornblum, a senior attorney at Microsoft, in the statement. "With every ad hyperlink clicked, a registrant or ad network harvests cash at the trademark owner's expense, while derailing legitimate efforts by computer users who are trying to go to a specific Web site."

Microsoft said it is also investigating potential violations of intellectual property law in other nations.

Microsoft said it has filed or amended four U.S. civil suits.

The company claims that Maltuzi profited from domain names that infringe on Microsoft trademarks. Microsoft also alleges that Maltuzi registers large blocks of domain names, some of which infringe on Microsoft's intellectual property rights.

Microsoft names Sule Garba, Darin Grabowski and Yi Ning as defendants in an amended civil lawsuit filed in August in federal court in Seattle. The lawsuit names owners of 217 domains that the company says infringed on Microsoft trademarks and hid their correct registration information. In the initial lawsuit, Microsoft identified the defendants as John Doe 1-217.

The company also filed a civil lawsuit in state court in Seattle against 54 unnamed defendants to determine the identities of people infringing on Microsoft trademarks.

The company in December filed a civil lawsuit in federal court in Seattle to identify defendants who allegedly registered infringing domain names and "parked" or reserved them, pointing users to Web pages filled with advertising. The case is pending.

In the U.K., Microsoft said it has filed lawsuits against companies that it claims have registered domain names infringing on Microsoft's trademark and other statutory and common-law rights.

The company said it also settled two federal civil lawsuits filed in August against five defendants who allegedly profited from domain names that infringed on Microsoft trademarks.

Microsoft filed one case in Salt Lake City, alleging that the defendants and their businesses had registered 324 domain names targeting Microsoft. The settlement includes an order for a permanent injunction against the defendants and a US$2 million judgment against Jason Cox of New Mexico and Newtonarch, a Utah-based business.

In Los Angeles, Microsoft settled a lawsuit against Dan Brown, claiming he registered 85 domain names targeting Microsoft. The settlement provides for a permanent injunction and a $1 million judgment against Brown and his company Partner IV Holdings.

The number of cybersquatting disputes filed with the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) in 2006 increased by 25% in comparison with 2005, according to the standards body.

In 2006, 1,823 cybesquatting complaints were filed with WIPO's Arbitration and Mediation Center, representing the highest number of cybersquatting cases handled by WIPO since the year 2000.

One example is the Swiss company F. Hoffmann-La Roche and its U.S. subsidiary, the manufacturer of Tamiflu, a flu vaccine. Thirty-four cases covering 64 domain names were filed with WIPO in 2006 that were related to the Tamiflu trademark.

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