Microsoft is targeting those who would profit from mis-typed Internet domain names and fake Web addresses that make use of trademarked terms. The company today announced lawsuits against named individuals in Utah and California, as well as 217 "John Doe" defendants, who are allegedly targeting the company.
On an average day, more than 2,000 illegitimate domain names containing Microsoft-trademarked terms are registered, Microsoft said.
"Microsoft has witnessed a virtual land rush for Internet domain names with the goal of driving traffic for profit," Aaron Kornblum, an attorney leading Microsoft's effort against the practice, said in a statement. "Placing a high profile or pop culture trademark in your domain name is a tempting but illegal way to generate pay-per-click revenue."
Most of the illegitimate domain names are owned by professional holding operations, according to Rod Rasmussen, director of operations at Tacoma-based Internet Identity, which is working with Microsoft on its effort to curtail the practice.
Registering illegitimate domain names for profit is referred to as "cybersquatting" or "typosquatting" and was made illegal in 1999 by amendment to the federal Lanham Act, which regulates trademarks.
In the John Doe action, Microsoft is seeking to uncover the identities of several "cybersquatters" who operate infringing domain names.
The company is also seeking to stop the sale of high-traffic infringing domains at auction.
Google and Yahoo! are among the companies profiting from mistyped domain names. Some services pay domain-name owners $24 and up for each 1,000 unique visitors to a Web site.
But there's more than money at stake. Many typosquatters and cybersquatters serve adult-oriented ads on mis-typed addresses for children's Web sites. In the last year, several large typosquatting groups have discontinued that practice.
Microsoft researchers get a lot of the credit. Under a project called Strider Typo-Patrol, they identified and helped put a stop to some of the largest offenders, including those who served sex ads on sites kids might hit.
A tool the company's research division released this year helps legitimate Web site owners seek out "typosquatters" who may be targeting them.