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Sunday, September 16, 2007

Ind. Courts - Microsoft sues alleged typo-squatter in Fort Wayne

Rebecca S. Green of the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette reported Saturday:

A Fort Wayne man is at the center of a trademark infringement lawsuit filed by techno-giant Microsoft, but it’s not the first time he has found himself in this position.

Microsoft sued Anthony Peppler this week, one of three lawsuits filed by the Washington-based company. Filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Indiana, the lawsuit against Peppler also names his companies, 260.com, RealTimeInternet.com, based in Delaware, and Modern Limited, with offices in the Cayman Islands.

The lawsuit is similar to suits filed this week against different individuals in federal courts in Washington and New York.

All the suits allege trademark infringement by creating and registering Internet domain names “confusingly similar” to marks belonging to Microsoft. Such actions are in violation of the Anticybersquatting and Consumer Protection Act, according to the court documents.

For example, if a Web surfer was looking for Microsoft’s Internet portal for news, www.msn.com, but they mistakenly typed in msnnew.com, they would find a site that provided some news links but also links to other fake sites.

The Web site is one of the 95 listed in the lawsuit against Peppler.

Within the past few years, Peppler has been sued in similar cases by companies ranging from America Online Inc.; Linens ‘n Things; Syracuse University; Stargate Communications (Chuck E. Cheese); and, most recently by Express Franchise Services, according to federal court records.

Attempts to locate Peppler were unsuccessful. A search of court documents and recent public records indicate he lived in Fort Wayne within the last couple of years. His current whereabouts are not known.

This particular type of trademark infringement is known as “typo squatting,” and involves registering Internet domain names similar to licensed trade names, said Fred Cate, a professor at the Indiana University School of Law. * * *

People usually typo-squat or cyber-squat – using companies’ actual names in a Web site. But in this case, Cate suspects it is a form of extortion, an attempt to make money deviously by creating a similar site, creating confusion and then demanding money from the legitimate company to go away, he said.

“It’s irritating for customers who are trying to get to a site and go to a wrong site,” he said.

Peppler is listed on the Web site Hourlylaff as a member of the top 100 people who made $1 million selling domain names.

Besides seeking money from the real company, it is possible to make money by selling ads on the copycat Web pages. Customers, who may think they are on a different site, click on the ads, making money for whoever owns the similar Web page.

“If I can get you to my site mistakenly and you click on a banner ad, I’m going to make money,” Cate said. “It’s like collecting a toll on the way to the site that you want.”

Typo-squatting is not new, see this story from Set. 23, 2000 titled "'Typosquatters' turn flubs into cash."

Posted by Marcia Oddi on September 16, 2007 04:42 PM
Posted to Ind Fed D.Ct. Decisions