Microsoft has launched a series of lawsuits against cybersquatters in the UK, as part of a wider campaign to thwart the fraudsters from illegally profiting through the misuse of intellectual property.

The software maker is pursuing five legal cases in the UK against firms that are accused of registering domain names infringing on Microsoft’s trademark. No details have yet been disclosed, except that the cases are against both businesses and individuals. The company is also investigating several lawsuits in the US, Germany and Italy.

Microsoft’s efforts come in the same week that the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) warned that the domain registration process is too easy for cybersquatters, with many loopholes in the system failing to curb the escalating number of bogus domain names.

“These sites confuse visitors who are trying to reach genuine company websites, which can negatively affect corporate brands and reputations as well as impair the end-users’ experience online,” said Aaron Kornblum, senior attorney with Microsoft.

“With every ad hyperlink clicked, a registrant or ad network harvests cash at the trademark owner’s expense, while derailing legitimate efforts by computer users who are trying to go to a specific website.”

The corporation also revealed that it had reached a settlement in the UK with the Dyslexic Domain Company, which has registered more than 6,000 domains. In a first, the London-based firm was ordered to pay the software giant £24,000 in damages, reinstating the fraudulent profits made from the sham domains.

“This has set a clear precedent,” said Jean-Christophe LeToquin, attorney for Microsoft EMEA. “These cases are more about driving the cybersquatters away. It’s important that other companies join us and do the same. Cybersquatters will not go away easily by just asking for domain names back. They must return the profits too, in order to have an impact on their takings.”

He also urged for there to be more user education. “If more people are aware of these illegitimate websites then we can tell them to stop clicking on the links. If this happens there will be no money for the cybersquatters, and therefore it will cost them more money to register the domain than the profit they make,” he said.

According to Microsoft, 2000 domain names similar to its brands are registered each day and WIPO said that the number of cybersquatting disputes filed with the organisation jumped by 25 per cent last year.