Trade fair organizer settles domain name dispute

China

The China Harbin Economic and Trade Fair Office (CHETFO) and Harbin Langxin Technology Development Company Limited (Langxin) have reached a court-mediated settlement in their dispute over various domain names that include the mark HAQIAHUI - the transliteration in Latin characters of the Chinese for CHETFO.

CHETFO, of Harbin, Heilongjiang province, has been involved in organizing trade fairs promoting economic and trade development as well as offering business opportunities for local enterprises for 15 years. In 2000 CHETFO registered in China several trademarks incorporating its acronym either in Chinese characters or transliterated as Haqiahui. The marks cover various goods and services, ranging from printed publications and greetings cards to the provision of exhibition facilities and hotel accommodation. CHETFO has established substantial reputation and goodwill in its Chinese characters and transliterated trademarks and names. In particular, Haqiahui in Chinese characters is well known not only in the Heilongjiang province, but in China as a whole.

In February 2004 Langxin, a technology company also located in Harbin, registered the domain names 'haqiahui.com.cn', 'haqiahui.cn' and 'haqiahui.net', and their equivalents in Chinese characters with the China Internet Network Information Centre (CNNIC). It had previously registered Haqiahui in Chinese characters as its internet keyword - a system supported by CNNIC that allows a party to register a key word (usually in Chinese characters) that when entered into a browser address bar acts as a direct link to that party's website. CHETFO claimed that the registrations were made in bad faith, infringed its trademark rights and constituted unfair competition. However, rather than file a complaint with CNNIC, it filed a complaint with the Harbin Intermediate People's Court - probably in the hope of recovering damages (it requested Rmb20,000). CHETFO also asked the court to (i) enjoin Langxin from infringing the HAQIAHUI mark immediately, and (ii) order the cancellation of the domain names.

Langxin denied that its domain names infringed CHETFO's trademarks and claimed that it should not be liable for damages. However, CHETFO and Langxin settled their dispute through the mediation service of the court rather than wait for a judgment. Langxin agreed to transfer the Chinese character domain names to CHETFO together with the related Chinese character keyword. Langxin was allowed to retain the transliterated domain names but agreed not to use them.

Gabriela Kennedy and Paloma Wang, Lovells, Hong Kong

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