FTC tries to catch notorious 'mousetrapper'

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has decided to take action against infamous cybersquatter John Zuccarini, but not directly for his cybersquatting activities. Instead, the commission intends to halt deceptive practices used by the domain names he owns.

The FTC has filed a complaint with a federal court in Pennsylvania seeking to force Zuccarini to halt his 'mousetrapping' activities and return all the money he made by using this type of annoying advertising.

Mousetrapping occurs when a user mistakenly visits one of Zuccarini's thousands of sites, and the site automatically launches new screens, one after another. If the user attempts to close a screen, even more open up. Zuccarini receives income from advertisers each time a new screen opens. This practice is most commonly used by adult websites to prevent visitors from leaving a site.

An FTC investigation found that Zuccarini uses more than 5,000 domain names to direct traffic to his mousetraps. The commission estimates that he earns in excess of $800,000 from the scheme each year. Zuccarini's domain names have already been the subject of more than 60 trademark infringement arbitrations and lawsuits. He has lost 53 of those cases to trademark holders, forcing him to turn more than 200 names over to plaintiffs. But his mousetrapping activities have continued unabated.

The FTC believes that Zuccarini's activities not only threaten trademark holders, but also children and workers who may unwittingly find their web browsers redirected to sites containing pornography or other questionable material.

Douglas Wood and Linda Goldstein, Hall Dickler Kent Goldstein & Wood LLP, New York

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