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MS takes up legal cudgels against typosquatters

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Microsoft has launched a legal offensive against "typosquatters" who register domains containing trademarked terms or misspelled words in the hope that lost surfers will help them rake in ad revenue.

Early stages of the campaign include a pair of lawsuits against two, allegedly prolific, typosquatting operations.

Redmond has taken up legal cudgels against cybersquatters who use the misspelled domain tactic to "illegally profit through the misuse of Microsoft's intellectual property" using the Anticybersquatting Consumer Protection Act (ACPA) of 1999.

ACPA sets damages of up up $100,000 against anyone who, with a bad-faith intent to profit, "registers, traffics in, or uses a domain name that is identical to, confusingly similar or dilutive of" an existing trademark.

The two lawsuits both feature federal law claims under ACPA and the Lanham Act, as well as state law claims for unfair competition. Jason Cox, of Albuquerque, New Mexico; Daniel Goggins, of Provo, Utah, and John Jonas, of Springville, Utah are alleged to have registered 324 domain names targeting Microsoft in a lawsuit filed in Utah.

In a separate lawsuit (filed in California), Dan Brown, of Long Beach, Calif, is alleged to have registered 85 domain names that directly target Microsoft via a firm called Partner IV Holdings.

The software giant is also seeking to unmask alleged typosquatters who have used privacy protection services to conceal their identities. Microsoft plans to issue subpoenas to multiple registrars of domain names infringing on Microsoft's intellectual property. The company also vowed to clamp down on online auctions of infringing domain names.

Typosquatting sites are normally full of pay-per-click advertisements and little meaningful content, so surfers who get lost trying to find Microsoft's legitimate sites are faced with potential confusion.

"Thousands of such domains targeting Microsoft are being registered each day," according to the software giant.

This is, perhaps, something of an exaggeration. Nonetheless, Microsoft has hired internet safety lawyer Aaron Kornblum to clamp down on website cybersquatters and typosquatters. Redmond said the practice of typosquatting domains bearing similarities to its trademarks has grown since the start of the year. It plans to expand its existing anti-phishing Domain Defense Program to identify cybersquatters.

"Microsoft has witnessed a virtual land rush for internet domain names with the goal of driving traffic for profit," Kornblum said. "Placing a high profile or pop culture trademark in your domain name is a tempting but illegal way to generate pay-per-click revenue." ®

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