HEALTH NET: Warns MA Not-for-Profit to Change Web Site Domain
California's Health Net HMO has issued a warning to the much smaller not-for-profit group SatelLife, which assists doctors in remote areas of Africa and Asia, to change its Web site name from healthnet.org. Health Net charges that the not-for-profit's site violates the company's trademark on "Health Net," according to USA Today. The issue will be decided in a Massachusetts Federal District Court, where Watertown, MA-based SatelLife has filed suit to block the HMO's demands. SatelLife officials claim that changing the Web site's name could "cost thousands of dollars and hamper its ability to contact health workers" in 164 countries who rely on the site for various information, including infectious disease warnings. SatelLife Executive Director Holly Ladd said that "getting the word out to thousands of workers in remote areas could be challenging, creating confusion." In addition, a new Web address would require materials to be translated and could affect links with computers and the company's satellite. But Lisa Haines of Foundation Health Systems, owner of the 2.2 million-member Health Net, expressed little sympathy, arguing that if SatelLife "had done a trademark search before naming the site, there would not have been a problem." She said, "We've owned the trademark (on Health Net) since 1981. This is about protecting our name. It's not unlike what any other company in America would do." According to attorney Henry Wixon, senior partner at Washington-based Hale and Dorr, Health Net, which has Web addresses at healthnet.com and healthnet.net, must show that SatelLife's site name has caused confusion for its customers in order to prove trademark infringement. "If SatelLife can show that there has been little or no confusion over the long period of its use of the domain name, it may carry the day," he said. Ladd concluded, "In the end it's a question about who controls the Internet, and it raises questions about what the Internet is about" (Appleby, USA Today, 12/6).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.