Microsoft Files Suit Over Domain Names

Microsoft Corp. is going after two companies it calls "cyber-squatters" for registering domains that the company says infringe on its trademarks.

The two firms, doing business as and, have registered scores of domains that Microsoft says infringe on its trademarks, including and Microsoft filed suit earlier this week in federal court in Texas, seeking temporary and permanent injunctions against the companies.

The Internet explosion has led to several sticky legal situations over the use of domain names. Many companies that are slow to register their name have found that someone else got there first. The disputes have sometimes resulted in multimillion-dollar payments.

Some cases involve two firms with similar names, as was the case with Alta Vista Technology originally registered the domain, and Compaq Computer Corp. (NYSE:CPQ), owner of the AltaVista search engine, reportedly paid the company $3 million for the domain.

But some firms may find their name taken by a so-called "cyber-squatter," someone who registers well-known company names and then tries to get the companies to pay for them.

Microsoft accused the companies in this case of doing just that.

"Microsoft is one of the most well-known and admired companies in the world. No one, on the Internet or off, should be permitted to benefit from using Microsoft's trademarks to mislead the public. That type of behavior is not permitted under the law," Microsoft attorney Steve Aeschbacher said in a release. "Trademarks are vital pieces of intellectual property and are critical to the clear communication of information to individual consumers, businesses and others regarding a product's source, quality, and compatibility."

The domain names in question are registered to a Kurtis K. Karr of La Feria, Texas. Karr could not immediately be reached for comment.

The lawsuit lists 10 domains that the Redmond, Wash., company says it has issues with:,,,,,,,, and

Some of the domains do not have accessible Web pages, while others, including the and sites, link to sites that frame third-party e-commerce sites where Microsoft products are sold.

Network Solutions Inc. (Nasdaq:NSOL), the company responsible for administering domain names in the .com hierarchy, generally favors trademark holders in such disputes. The situation is murkier when it comes to so-called "dictionary words," like Windows, however.

By Margaret Kane, ZDNN
December 30, 1998 10:34 AM ET


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