A news story going around today about Microsoft suing people to stop what’s called typosquatting (this is when a site is spelled on a common typo – such as Yaho.com instead of Yahoo.com).
I guess when you’re a monopoly, the idea of a company making money without you sharing it with them is unfathomable. Microsoft is sort of like the mob that way.
Part of me agrees that the practice of typosquatting is shady, but is it trademark infringement? Isn’t this the same as moving next door to the most popular store on the block in an attempt to increase the sales in your own store? Or positioning lower selling products on a shelf next to more popular products. It’s an attempt to draft off of the popularity of a more popular brand – and this has been around forever. Someone will say “but people accidentally go to the URL because of the typo and this is misleading.” Is it? They typed in the wrong URL and were sent to the site they requested.
If Microsoft wants to prevent this, then buy the URL, but otherwise if the site in question isn’t using the copyrighted material of Microsoft and it’s not doing something illegal, then it’s free game.
BTW – the following is from Wikipedia’s article on typosquatting:
Microsoft’s Internet Explorer automatically redirects users’ mistyped URL queries to their MSN Search page. Though a user can reconfigure their browser to use a different search tool, Google, one of MSN’s biggest rivals, is not in the list. However, on their web site, Google has explained how to make their search engine the IE default for mistyped urls
So in other words, Microsoft uses it’s dominance in the browser world to typosquat themselves.