Microsoft goes to war on cybersquatters


24 Aug 2006

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Software giant Microsoft has revealed plans to take cybersquatters to court who are profiting from the use of Microsoft trademarked names or misspelled words associated with its products.

The company alleges that these operators are illicitly bringing people genuinely looking for information relating to Microsoft products to websites chock full of pay-per-click advertisements and little meaningful content.

Each click yields a transaction that delivers revenue to the cybersquatter, paid through an online ad network.

The result, Microsoft says, is potential confusion for visitors to the company’s legitimate websites and illegal profiteering through the misuse of its intellectual property.

The company cited examples of similar sounding domain names such as freehotmail.net, gamesonxbox.com, office2003home.info and downloadvistaforwindows.com. It warned that thousands of such domains targeting Microsoft are being registered every day.

Internet safety enforcement attorney Aaron Kornblum, who leads Microsoft’s new enforcement campaign targeting cybersquatters and typosquatters, says that Microsoft’s trademark and internet safety enforcement groups began to notice a surge in domain name registrations containing the company’s intellectual property earlier this year while monitoring websites registered by online fraudsters known as phishers.

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

Rod Rasmussen, director of operations at Microsoft vendor Internet Identity, carefully monitors internet activity that pertains to Microsoft trademarks and intellectual property. He said that on an average day more than 2,000 domain names are registered that contain Microsoft trademark terms. Of those, his company can readily categorise that at least 75pc are owned by what are believed to be professional domain name holding operations. Approximately one quarter of all domain registrations containing Microsoft trademark terms are registered via so-called “privacy services”.

“These are all very conservative estimates,” Rasmussen says. “We’re thinking that we’re really looking at 90pc or more of domain registrations containing Microsoft trademarks as being these kind of operators.”

By John Kennedy