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Microsoft Sues Domain Name Registrar for Typosquatting

Microsoft has sued domain name registrar Red Register claiming that it is illegally profiting from Microsoft’s trademarks.

In a lawsuit filed in Seattle earlier this month Microsoft alleges that Red Register snatched up 125 domain names, all « confusingly similar to Microsoft’s Marks » in order to profit from Web advertising, a practice known as typosquatting and cybersquatting.

Web surfers may be tricked into clicking on ads on these sites « because the person finds it easier to click on the advertisement or hyperlink than to continue searching for the Microsoft site, or because the person mistakenly believes Microsoft has authorized or endorsed the advertisements, » the filings state.

Typosquatting is the practice of registering domain names that contain misspellings of trademark terms. Cybersquatting is the registration of a variant of trademark.

Red Register owns domains such as windowslivecare.com, msnmesnger.com, and ageofmathology.com, Microsoft said in court filings.

Microsoft is seeking to take control of the Red Register domains and is asking for the court to fine the company for unspecified damages. The lawsuit was filed Dec. 4 in King County Superior Court in Seattle.

Although the domains are now registered to a Tortola, Virgin Islands, company named Versata Software, they were previously registered to Red Register and Microsoft believes the current Versata registration information to be false, the filings state.

Domain registrars historically made money by registering domain names to third parties, but that has changed as it has become easier to get into the domain name game. Now many registrars have begun to amass portfolios of domains themselves, or even temporarily registering domains and then dropping them before they are required to pay any fees, a practice called « domain tasting, » said Karl Kronenberger, a partner with Kronenberger Burgoyne LLP, a law firm specializing in Internet disputes.

Some companies have even set up several domain name registrars and they pass their domain names from one to the other without ever having to pay fees. This is possible, because domains can be held for three days before any fees are due, Kronenberger said.

Registrars must be accredited by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), the group that oversees the Internet’s domain name system, but once that has happened they can get better access to the database of domain names. Companies like Microsoft and Google have become accredited registrars for this reason.

There are presently more than 1,000 registrars worldwide, according to Kronenberger. « It costs US$8,000 per year to maintain your existence as a registrar, » he said. « once you pay that, you can register domains very cheaply. »

Some registrars have amassed valuable portfolios without running afoul of trademark law, but Microsoft’s Red Register lawsuit is not unprecedented. In October, Yahoo filed a similar lawsuit against Belgium Domains. One month later another lawsuit was filed against Belgium Domains, this time by Dell.

Kronenberger said the Microsoft lawsuit « seems to be a pretty straightforward case of a registrar registering large batches of domains containing trademarks. »

Microsoft has filed at least five other similar lawsuits in recent years. In March it announced that reached a $2 million settlement against Jason Cox of New Mexico and Newtonarch LLC. It also announced a $1 million settlement in a similar suit against Partner IV Holdings.

Microsoft and Red Register did not immediately return e-mail seeking comment for this story.

Source pcworld.com

Microsoft poursuit en justice un registrar

Sur fond de typosquatting et plus encore, Microsoft a déposé une plainte aux Etats-Unis à l’encontre d’un registrar dénommé Red Register. Dans la ligne de mire, 125 noms de domaine qui portent préjudice à la marque Microsoft.
Le registrar Red Register détient ou du moins a détenu, des noms de domaine tels que windowslivecare.com, msnmesnger.com et ageofmathology.com. Leur ressemblance avec des noms de domaine susceptibles d’être la propriété de Microsoft paraît évidente, sous couvert parfois d’une faute de frappe, d’une erreur typographique.

En dupant les internautes, ce typosquatting nuit à la marque Microsoft et la firme de Redmond d’avoir porté plainte en début de mois à Seattle pour obtenir réparation, et prendre le contrôle des noms de domaine incriminés de Red Register.

Le Domain Tasting des registrars
Ce type d’affaire qui n’est pas une première pour Microsoft mais également Yahoo! et Dell qui ont déjà porté plainte contre un registrar ( BelgiumDomains ) pour des faits similaires, met à jour une pratique allant plus loin que le typosquatting et le cybersquatting.

Certains bureaux d’enregistrement se constituent en effet un véritable portefeuille de noms de domaine, les enregistrent temporairement puis les testent afin de vérifier qu’ils génèrent du trafic et si ce n’est pas le cas, les rendent à nouveau disponibles avant de devoir payer des frais dessus (délai de 5 jours).

Source Generation-NT.com

Former Microsoft Domain Manager indicted for fraudulent Billing Scheme

Carolyn M. Gudmundson, 44, of Kirkland, Washington, was indicted yesterday by a grand jury in Seattle for eleven counts of Wire Fraud and seven counts of Mail Fraud for a scheme in which she fraudulently billed her employer and related entities for reimbursement for costs she had purportedly incurred in registering and maintaining Internet domain names for Microsoft and Expedia.

Gudmundson fraudulently made more than $1 million with this scheme. Gudmundson was arrested last night and will make her initial appearance on the charge in federal court in Seattle at 2:30 p.m. today. Wire Fraud and Mail Fraud are punishable by up to 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

According to the indictment, Gudmundson was employed by Microsoft as a Program Manager in Microsoft’s MSN Division. Between 2000 and 2004, Gudmundson was responsible for registering, transferring, renewing, acquiring and retiring Internet domain names for Expedia and Microsoft. During the course of this part of her job, Gudmundson defrauded Microsoft in three ways.

First, Gudmundson was authorized to use her personal credit card to purchase, renew and acquire Microsoft’s domain names and then submit reimbursement requests to Microsoft. Gudmundson altered the credit card receipts she submitted so that they showed a much higher price for the purchase, renewal and acquisition of domain names than she actually had paid, and then used these altered credit card receipts to support the false and fraudulent amounts claimed on her reimbursement requests to Microsoft.

Second, Gudmundson allegedly submitted invoices to Expedia for the registration of domain names that she had not paid for.

Third, Gudmundson used an outside company that assists in the negotiation for the purchase of domain names from private parties. Gudmundson told an employee of that company that a fictitious individual had purchased domain names in his name on Microsoft’s behalf and that she needed the employee to send a check to that individual to reimburse him for his costs. Gudmundson then directed the employee to send the checks to her, where she allegedly deposited them into a bank account that she controlled.

The charges contained in the indictment are only allegations. A person is presumed innocent unless and until he or she is proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.

The case was investigated by the US Postal Inspection Service. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Kate Crisham.

For additional information please contact Emily Langlie, Public Affairs Officer for the United States Attorney’s Office, at (206) 553-4110.

Source: United States Attorney’s Office Western State of Washington Announcement – December 7th, 2007