The domainer community was abuzz this week after Microsoft sued many individuals for registering domains with its trademark in them.
If you search on Google news for “microsoft domain name” you’ll find over 130 hits about Microsoft’s lawsuits that were announced this week. Instead of filing UDRP complaints to get back domains that include Microsoft trademarks, the company decided to sue under the 1999 Anticybersquatting Consumer Protection Act. This act allows for fines of up to $100,000 for cybersquatters.
By suing rather than just trying to get the names back, Microsoft has sent a clear signal to cybersquatters: don’t mess with our trademarks. This is much more efficient in the long run than going after each and every cybersquatter.
But I can’t help but think that Microsoft’s actions are misplaced. There are two types of Microsoft-related domains: those about its software (such as Office) and those about its services (such as Hotmail). I understand Microsoft trying to prevent squatting of domains related to services, but what do they hope to accomplish by going after its software-related domains? After all, it’s not like someone searching for Microsoft Office is going to land on a parking page and decide to purchase a “competing” productivity suite. Furthermore, many of these domains can be used by people providing supporting products and reviews of Microsoft’s software. Think about the possibilities for domains like “VistaPlugins”, “VistaReviews”, and “VistaWatch”.
There’s a hidden agenda underlying Microsoft’s actions. Microsoft wants to stomp out all typosquatting and cybersquatting, not just that of its trademarks. The company has taken proactive steps by launching its Strider TypoPatrol research and software.
Why is Microsoft at the forefront of this issue? Two reasons. First, the ad networks that benefit from a lot of this activity are Microsoft’s arch enemies Google and Yahoo. Microsoft has launched its own PPC ad network and wants to take a bite out of its competitors. Second, Microsoft benefits when someone enters a typo URL and the domain is not registered. If the web surfer is using Microsoft’s Internet Explorer browser and hasn’t added any plugins from competitors, entering a non-existent domain name leads surfers to MSN search results. Alongside those search results are MSN’s ads. In other words, the fewer domains actually registered the more traffic Microsoft gets.