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Companies Owned By One of World's Richest Men Found Guilty of Reverse Domain Hijacking

This was not a good week for Hong Kong based billionaire Li Ka Shing  who Forbes Magazine listed as the world's 11th richest man last year. A World Intellectual Property 

Organization (WIPO) domain name dispute adjudication panel ruled that two of Shing's companies (Cheung Kong (Holdings) Limited and Cheung Kong Property Development Limited) were guilty of reverse domain name hijacking when they tried to wrest an IDN domain name, 長江.com (YangtzeRiver.com) away from its rightful owner, Canada's Netego DotCom.

The Muscovitch Law Firm, experts in Intellectual Property and Internet Law represented Netego in the dispute. Firm Principal Zak Muscovitch said, "This judgment is a great victory for our client, Netego, and sends a 

strong message to any large company that thinks that they can abuse the legal system to wrestle a domain name away from the rightful owner. The fact is that the Yangtze River was around long before Li Ka Shing’s corporate name. Accordingly, anyone in the world, including my client, has a right to register this domain name."

Cruise boat on the Yangtze River

Li Ka Shing’s companies had alleged that Netego registered the domain name eight years ago in order to capitalize off of the complainant’s trademark rights in "Cheung Kong" (meaning Yangtze River). Netego however defended the legal proceeding on the basis that it had an inherent legitimate interest to register the name of one of the most famous rivers in the world, the Yangtze River, as a domain name, and was using it in connection with a web site about Yangtze river cruises.

Muscovitch said this was not the first time Li Ka Shing’s companies had tried to grab this domain name. Only months before, they had tried and lost a nearly identical arbitration against Netego. The Panel of three intellectual property adjudicators stated in their decision that "what is particularly troubling here is that Complainants never even notified the Panel that this was a re-filed Complaint. The fact that the submitted Complaint nowhere refers to the previous proceeding suggests to the Panel that Complainants may have deliberately attempted to hide that fact from the Panel." Accordingly, the WIPO Panel found that Li Ka Shing’s companies’ actions constituted an "abuse of process" and therefore entered a finding of "Reverse Domain Name Hijacking".

(Posted August 7, 2009)

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