Hawaiian Airlines Cries Search Engine Foul Over Use Of “Hawaiian” On Competitor Web Site

Hawaiian Airlines is alleging that
new rival Go because Go made use of the
word "Hawaiian" too often and thus might be influencing search results.

Hawaiian
Airlines says Go’s web site goes too far
from KHON TV and
Local airline
battle flares anew
from the Honolulu Star Bulletin has more details on the
dispute.

If Go is indeed trying to rank well for Hawaiian’s name, so far, it hasn’t
worked. Checking Google, Yahoo, MSN and Ask for [hawaiian airlines] shows that
Go doesn’t appear on any of them for the first two pages of results.

Hawaiian is a generic term, so it seems pretty absurd to be suggesting that
an airline that flies within Hawaii is somehow using the word ‘hawaiian" too
often.

Clearly, Go hopes that it will be found for the phrase "hawaiian airline,"
given that it uses that exact phrase in its meta description tag, meta keywords
tag, its title tag and five times in its body copy. But "hawaiian airline" is
different from "hawaiian airlines," the latter being a trademark of Hawaiian
Airlines while the former is a generic term that fairly describes what Go is.
And the usage falls well short of what I’d consider keyword stuffing, something
Hawaiian has accused Go of doing.

How about from a search perspective? Google’s long had stemming, so that a
search for the singular might also bring up the plural. But still, you get
differences. A search for
hawaiian airline
is not the same as a search for
hawaiian airlines
(and Go doesn’t show up in either case).

The same is true at other search engines, where you get different results for
the different variations. But Go gets more visibility for the generic term.

At Yahoo, Go ranks number 10 for
hawaiian airline
but not in the top results for
hawaiian airlines
(and Hawaiian rival Aloha Airlines, not accused of any wrong-doing, ranks in the
top results at both places).

At MSN, it ranked number three for

hawaiian airline
but not in the top results for

hawaiian airlines
. Aloha came up in neither.

At Ask, it was number six for
hawaiian airline
and not listed for
hawaiian
airlines
. Aloha ranked in the top results in both versions.

No suit has been filed, so far — only a cease-and-desist letter sent. From
the Star Bulletin’s article:

"(Mesa has) loaded up their Web site with our name, which is called keyword
stuffing, unlike any of the other carriers we compete with," Hawaiian Airlines
spokesman Keoni Wagner said. "Nobody else calls themselves a Hawaiian airline,
for example, and we’re simply asking them to stop.

"It’s like identity theft. Mesa is using our name to gain business, and
that’s just not right."

Honolulu-based media attorney Jeffrey Portnoy, who represents Hawaiian
Airlines, said in a letter to Mesa that the use of the terms "Hawaiian
Flights," "Hawaiian," "Hawaiian Airline" and "The Hawaiian Airline" creates a
likelihood of confusion, constitutes infringement of Hawaiian Airlines’
trademark and represents deceptive trade practices.

Ornstein, reached yesterday at a board meeting in Santa Monica, Calif.,
said he was incredulous about Hawaiian Airlines’ latest legal move.

"This is the most preposterous thing I’ve ever encountered in my business
career, that we’re not supposed to use ‘Hawaiian’ on our Web site for service
in Hawaii," Ornstein said. "Are we supposed to use ‘Chicago’ because it rhymes
with ‘go!’? This is truly a desperate act that defies comprehension. They have
not trademarked the word ‘Hawaiian.’"

In the cease-and-desist letter, though, Portnoy pointed out that Hawaiian
owns various federal trademark registrations for phrases containing
"Hawaiian," such as "Hawaiian Airlines," "Hawaiian Miles" in connection with
its frequent flyer program, and "Hawaiian Premier Club" for airline passenger
services.

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