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Microsoft Files Suit Against Texans

December 31, 1998

HOUSTON (AP) _ Microsoft has filed a federal lawsuit against two Texas men who have registered Internet domain names including microsoftwindows.com and microsoftoffice.com.

Microsoft claims the two men are infringing on trademarks for popular Microsoft products and are misleading the public.

The men have registered other Internet domain names nearly identical to Airborne Express, Wal-Mart, Alamo Car Rental and The Associated Press.

The lawsuit describes the men as ``pirates″ and ``cybersquatters.″

``No one, on the Internet or off, should be permitted to benefit from using Microsoft’s trademarks to mislead the public,″ Microsoft attorney Steve Aeschbacher said in a written statement. ``We believe that once the court has had a chance to review the facts, it will agree the defendants’ registration, offer to sell and use of these domain names is deliberately designed to be confusing to consumers and is a violation of federal and state trademark law.″

The Redmond, Wash.-based software giant is seeking unspecified damages, all profits from the sites and full possession of the domain names.

The lawsuit names as defendants Kurtis K. Karr and Kenny Brewer, both of La Feria. The men could not be reached for comment Wednesday, the Houston Chronicle reported today.

They are doing business as TexasRGV.com and Trademarkdomain.com, according to the lawsuit. TexasRGV.com is now operating online as launchbase.com.

Microsoft says the men have registered domain names for more than a dozen companies, including AirborneExpress.com, AlamoRentaCar.com, AssociatedPress.com, Hollywood-Video.com, KiwanisClub.com, Olympic.com and TravelersInsurance.com.

For years, there was no standard governing who could actually register a domain name, allowing ordinary people to register familiar company names as their own Internet addresses and then try to get the corporations to fork over money for the registration.

Jan Simpson, an intellectual property lawyer with Houston law firm Fulbright & Jaworski said the company that administers the domain registration process, Network Solutions, has tightened standards somewhat in recent years.

Microsoft spokesman Adam Sohn said the company has run into this registration problem in the past, but always has been able to resolve the dispute with a modest settlement. Microsoft offered Karr and Brewer a small settlement, which they rejected, Sohn said.

Sohn said it cost around $100 to register a domain name, but the Texas men wanted Microsoft to pay them much more.

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