Microsoft Corp. has filed a federal lawsuit in San Francisco accusing “domain taster” Maltuzi LLC of violating the Anti-Cybersquatting Consumer Protection Act, trademark infringement and unfair competition. It’s part of a renewed effort by the Redmond, Wash., software giant to combat alleged cyber-squatting. The company detailed a list of suits and settlements in a news release this morning.
Maltuzi, based in Mountain View, Calif., is one of the most prolific domain tasters. To taste a name is to register it for a maximum of five days and evaluate how much traffic it gets and how much revenue it generates from paid-search ads. If the name generates more revenue than the annual cost to register it, the taster keeps it. Tasting exploits a rule that allows domain-name registrars to return to VeriSign within a five-day grace period any .com or .net name that was registered for a customer by mistake, and to recoup the $6 wholesale price.
Maltuzi has at times tasted hundreds of thousands of names a week, according to people familiar with the matter. Microsoft claims Maltuzi has profited by registering more than 450 names that are typographical variations of its trademarks — including the addresses winowsmediaplayer.com, winowslivemessenger.com and microoutlook.com — and displaying paid-search ads on the sites. Microsoft is seeking an injunction blocking Maltuzi’s use of the names. It also seeks monetary damages, and to have the domains in question transferred to it.
One cannot taste without a registrar’s consent. Maltuzi has used the registrar NameKing.com, owned by Oversee.net, a Los Angeles-based company. Oversee is one of the biggest players in the domain market, owning more than 500,000 names itself.
Maltuzi’s name registrations have raised concerns from bloggers and a credit-union trade group, among others. The company did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the Microsoft suit sent via email.
In a recent BusinessWeek article discussing the controversy surrounding tasting, a person called “T. Salonen” was named as the manager of Maltuzi. Salonen told BusinessWeek that there’s nothing wrong with the company’s tasting efforts. In an email, he told the magazine: “We … purchase those domain names which have certain traffic levels or pay-per-click viability and return those which do not meet those and other criteria.”