Microsoft, Pfizer Sue Viagra Spammers

Federal and state suits target online pharmacies pushing generic versions of Viagra and the spammers who promote their Web sites.

Microsoft Corp. and Pfizer Inc. on Thursday announced parallel lawsuits against two international spam rings pushing a variety of drugs, especially those purporting to be generic versions of Pfizers Viagra product. The two companies filed a total of 17 lawsuits in courts in New York and Washington state.

According to the companies, Pfizer filed civil actions against CanadianPharmacy and E-Pharmacy Direct, alleging trademark infringement, "unfair competition under both federal and state law, as well as deceptive trade practices in violation of New York state law." They also allege that the companies are selling non-FDA approved sildenafil citrate, the chemical name for Viagra, in violation of U.S. law.

Pfizer also filed 10 actions against Web sites whose names violate the companys Viagra trademark.

Microsofts legal actions were against two spamming groups that promote CanadianPharmacy and E-Pharmacy Direct. The software giant also filed three additional suits against spammers promoting three other online pharmacies. The suits were brought under the federal CAN-SPAM act and various state laws.

The defendants are listed as John Doe because the individuals controlling the online pharmacies and spamming groups are unknown. The plaintiffs plan to obtain the names of the controlling individuals through discovery from ISPs and other intermediaries. According to the companies, an investigation found that many of the dozens of Web sites that promote CanadianPharmacy are registered to uninvolved third parties who were unaware that their identities were being used to hide the true operators of the Web site.

/zimages/5/28571.gifClick here to read about more Microsoft lawsuits against spammers.

The actual product fulfillment involves an international organization. The customer, following links in spam messages, visits Web sites on computers in New York. The orders are forwarded to a call center in Canada and then to India. From there, the drugs are shipped to the United States by a U.S.-based air freight company.

/zimages/5/28571.gifCheck out eWEEK.coms for the latest security news, reviews and analysis. And for insights on security coverage around the Web, take a look at eWEEK.com Security Center Editor Larry Seltzers Weblog.