Verizon Wins 'Cybersquatting' Lawsuit

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A federal court in California has awarded Verizon more than $33 million in a case involving Internet domain names. OnlineNic registered at least 663 names that were identical to or confusingly similar to Verizon trademarks. The court said the names were designed in bad faith.

RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

NPR's Business News starts with a big victory over cybersquatting. An Internet company in San Francisco has been ordered to pay Verizon more than $33 million for unlawfully creating website names that are similar to Verizon sites. Verizon says it's the largest judgment ever against a cybersquatter. NPR's Wendy Kaufman reports.

WENDY KAUFMAN: The cybersquatter in the Verizon case registered at least 663 domain names that were identical to or confusingly similar to Verizon trademarks. A federal court in California ruled those names were designed in bad faith to attract web users who were trying to visit legitimate Verizon sites. Attorney Sarah Deutsch of Verizon says once a visitor arrived at the squatter's site, which would be filled with ads, one of two things would happen.

Ms. SARAH DEUTSCH (Attorney, Verizon): They'll either see an ad for Verizon, and you'll click on that and get back to the real Verizon, or you might see an ad for something else that will attract your attention, another company, and you'll be diverted away to a competitor's website. Either way, though the cybersquatter gets paid.

KAUFMAN: Deutsch goes on to say that the squatter, a company called Online NIC used mathematical computer programs to generate tens of thousands of possible names. Then they decided which ones were likely to generate a lot of traffic. Here's what they came up with.

Ms. DEUTSCH: Everything from Verizon with an 'A' to Verizon with the number 8 inserted into it, to Verizon cell-phone company, verizoncenterwashingtondc.com, or combined our names with others like the razor, or Motorola. Really, everything that could exceed one's imagination.

KAUFMAN: The squatter Online NIC did not appear in court to defend itself, and the phone number listed on its website went unanswered. Cybersquatting was outlawed in the US in 1999 but problems with cybersquatters persist. Wendy Kaufman, NPR News.

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