Many people in New York and nationwide have been annoyed or even harmed by spam emails that aim to distribute malware onto Windows computers. While there are a number of technical solutions that can protect users from this type of malware, Microsoft is taking an alternative option to challenge the creators. The software giant filed a federal lawsuit against unnamed parties for creating the Necurs botnet, a network of computers connected together through malware, unbeknownst to the computer’s legitimate owners. Once computers are infected, they begin sending massive numbers of spam emails, clogging recipients’ inboxes and often promoting malicious, deceptive offers.
Microsoft is accusing the malware operators of infringing its trademarks on Windows, because Windows contains Microsoft trademarks even when the operating system is deployed and changed for the benefit of the spammers. At least 9 million computers around the world have been infected by the malware. These computers are used to steal credit card and banking information, hoard personal data and install more malware, bringing other machines into the botnet. Microsoft says that the malware’s operation misuses its own trademarks to deceptively encourage consumers to continue to use their computers. It says that customers may blame Microsoft for the malfunctioning machines as a result.
When Necurs infects a computer, it can block the machine from downloading firewall and antivirus updates that would protect it from the malware. While trademark law may be an unusual approach to what would appear to be a criminal problem, Microsoft wants the authority to seize domain names used by the malware creators and botnet operators to promulgate spam and other attacks.
While malware may be an unusual topic for trademark lawsuits, intellectual property is at the heart of many technical ventures. An intellectual property attorney may help clients to protect their ideas and pursue litigation in case of infringement.