Microsoft Expands Global Effort to Combat Cybersquatting

LONDON, and REDMOND, Wash. — March 14, 2007 — Microsoft Corp. today announced new legal actions against cybersquatters in the United Kingdom and the United States, which include expansion of a lawsuit filed in Seattle in August and the filing of a new federal lawsuit against the U.S. company Maltuzi LLC for trademark infringement. In addition to these new actions, Microsoft revealed it has settled a domain infringement settlement with the Dyslexic Domain Company Limited from the United Kingdom 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) containing not only widely recognized trademarked names and brands but also misspelled variations of them, which often result in tricking unsuspecting computer users and illegally profiting from them through online ad networks. Screens filled with pay-per-click advertisements greet visitors to these Web sites, which can generate revenue for the registered domain owner and the online ad network. Microsoft has reclaimed more than 1,100 infringing domain names worldwide in the past six months with the help of Microsoft researchers led by Yi-Min Wang, who has played a major role in the company’s efforts to combat cybersquatting.

“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, senior attorney with Microsoft. “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 is also investigating potential violations of intellectual property law in other nations. “We hope that our stance and activity on this issue will help motivate and empower other companies whose brands are abused to take action,” Kornblum said.

U.S.: New and Amended Actions

Microsoft has filed or amended four civil suits in the United States:

  • Microsoft Corp. v. Maltuzi LLC, Case No. C07-1419 (N.D. California). Microsoft alleges that the California company has profited from domain names that infringe on Microsoft® trademarks. Microsoft further alleges that Maltuzi is a large-scale “domain taster” that registers large blocks of domain names, some of which infringe on Microsoft’s intellectual property rights, that it either retains or “drops.”

  • Microsoft Corp. v. Sule Garba, Darin Grabowski and Yi Ning, Case No. 06-1192RSM (W.D. Wash.). Microsoft has amended a civil lawsuit filed in August 2006 in federal district court in Seattle against the owners of 217 infringing domain names who masked their true registration information behind privacy protection shields. In the lawsuit, Microsoft originally named John Doe defendants 1–217 (a legal technique that permits further investigation to uncover actual identities), and has now successfully identified the owners of all 217 domains. Today, Microsoft is amending that complaint to name three defendants who collectively are alleged to have owned at least 135 infringing domain names.

  • Microsoft Corp. v. John Does 1–54, Case No. 07-2-08568-8 SEA (King County Superior Court, Washington). Microsoft has filed a civil lawsuit in state court in Seattle against John Doe defendants 1–54 to unmask defendants hiding their identities.

  • Microsoft Corp. v. John Does 1–105, Case No. C06-1766JLR (W.D. Washington). In December 2006, Microsoft filed a civil lawsuit in federal district court in Seattle to identify defendants who have allegedly registered infringing domain names and “parked” them by associating them with online ad network monetization services. The case is pending.

New and Settled Actions in the United Kingdom

Microsoft has conducted five new legal actions in the U.K. against companies allegedly having registered domain names infringing on Microsoft’s trademark and other statutory and common-law rights. In addition to these actions, Microsoft reached a settlement with U.K.-based Dyslexic Domain Company Limited, which Microsoft alleged had registered more than 6,000 domains. In addition to a monetary payment to Microsoft, Dyslexic Domain Company Limited agreed to other confidential settlement terms.

U.S.: Civil Lawsuits in Utah and California

Microsoft has also settled two federal civil lawsuits filed in August 2006 against five named defendants who allegedly profited from domain names that infringed on Microsoft trademarks:

  • Microsoft Corp. v. Cox et al: Case No. 2:06cv00692 TS. Microsoft filed this case in Salt Lake City, alleging that the defendants and their businesses had registered 324 domain names targeting Microsoft. The settlement ends the litigation with a stipulated order for permanent injunction against all defendants, a $2 million judgment as to defendants Jason Cox of New Mexico and Newtonarch LLC, the Utah-based business of the remaining individual defendants, and other confidential terms.

  • Microsoft Corp. v. Brown: Case No. cv06-5247R. Microsoft filed this case in Los Angeles, alleging that the defendant had registered 85 domain names targeting Microsoft. The settlement ends the litigation with a stipulated order for permanent injunction and a $1 million judgment as to defendant Dan Brown of California dba Partner IV Holdings, and other confidential terms.

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