Although KHON-TV’s official website at khon.com has been “under construction” for years, the station recently fought to wrest control of the khon2.com domain name from a known cybersquatter in the Bahamas. Last month, the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) ruled that the khon2.com address should be transferred to KHON-TV and owner Emmis Communications, as it was registered and used “in bad faith.”
A cybersquatter is someone who buys web domain names identical to or similar to the names and trademarks of companies and celebrities, in the hopes of misdirecting visitors to their own sites or reselling the names at exorbitant prices. The WIPO has decided several high-profile cybersquatting cases, such as those filed by Julia Roberts and Bruce Springsteen, although not all have gone in favor of the complainant.
Several other Hawaii broadcasters have had their call signs snapped up by cybersquatters, including Honolulu radio stations KSSK, KQMQ and KRTR.
KHON’s petition to the WIPO was filed May 19, 2004 by the law firm Bays Deaver Lung Rose Baba, of which KHON attorney and former reporter Bruce Voss is a partner. It targeted Henry Chan of Nassau, Bahamas, who the WIPO said had a history of cybersquatting and had recently tangled with companies including Wal-Mart and Pepsi. The station claimed that “KHON2” was “confusingly similar” to its registered trademark, “KHON-TV,” and that Chan was not using it for any legitimate purpose.
The contested domain name, like many domains held by cybersquatters, currently delivers visitors to a fake search engine that generates revenue through advertiser referrals.
In its published decision, made by a single panelist, the WIPO reviewed the station’s trademark of the letters “KHON” in detail, nothing that some of the evidence submitted by the station was “somewhat unsatisfactory” since the history of its ownership since 1965 wasn’t entirely clear.
Nonetheless, as Chan failed to respond to the complaint, the WIPO declared him in default and ordered that khon2.com be transferred to Emmis Communications.
Despite the WIPO victory, transfer of ownership of the contested domain name is not certain, as it depends on the level of cooperation the WIPO receives from the registrar the company through which the domain was registered. And if the long-fallow khon.com site is any indication, web surfers aren’t likely to find anything at the address any time soon.