Paris Hilton has more to cry about these days than the end of her engagement to Greek shipping heir Paris Latsis. Now someone has apparently stolen the 'heirhead's' identity, even going so far as to set up a phony website under her name. But Ms. Hilton isn't taking the identity theft lying down. Sources close to the aspiring actress say that she plans to file a suit with the World Trade Organization, maintaining that 'Paris' is a recognizable trademark.
Will France have to pay Hilton to use 'Paris'?
By Russell D'Arby, arts and entertainment correspondent
PARIS—Imagine waking up one morning to discover that someone had stolen your identity. That's precisely what happened to aspiring actress and Hollywood celebutante Paris Hilton.
The trouble started this week, says a source close to the starlet, just days after Ms. Hilton let drop that her engagement to Greek shipping heir Paris Latsis is kaput. While still smiling through the pain of a breakup, the actress learned that someone had created an unauthorized website using her name.
"She was furious when she heard. The Internet obviously has a lot of negative connotations with Paris," says the source, referring to x-rated video of Ms. Hilton with then boyfriend Rick Salomon that was leaked onto the Web in 2003. "When she heard that somebody was using her name without her permission, well you can imagine what she thought."
Law suit in the works?
While the web footage depicted on paris.org does not depict Ms. Hilton sans culottes, it did not meet with her approval, say sources. Over the weekend, the hotel heiress reportedly retained a lawyer and plans to file suit against the creators of the website, demanding that they remove her name from its pages. While the name of the lawyer has not yet been made public, sources say that he has worked on several high-profile international trade disputes and is highly respected at the World Trade Organization, where Ms. Hilton plans to file her complaint.
We'll always have 'Paris'
At the heart of the legal dispute is a question of to whom the name 'Paris' belongs. While several other entities use the famous moniker, none is as well known as Paris Hilton herself. That means, say experts, that under the current system of intellectual property rights and trademark laws, if Ms. Hilton can document that most references to 'Paris' refer to her and not some other individual or thing, than she can claim ownership of the name. Currently a search for the name 'Paris' on Google attributes some 6,700,000 'hits' to the actress, far more than any other person or place.
Show her the argent
And if Ms. Hilton prevails in her lawsuit? Any other entity that wants to use the name 'Paris' would have to pay her for that privilege, say experts. "We're probably talking about a transfer of several billion dollars by the time that adequate compensation has changed hands here," says international trade lawyer Bob Townsend. "While that figure drops by about half when you calculate it into Euros, it probably makes sense for the trespasser to just change their name."
That's not hot
As for Ms. Hilton, sources close to the actress and budding entrepreneur say that she's not interested in the money—the Hilton fortune is estimated to be worth as much as $38 billion. She just wants her identity back. "Paris is just like so unhappy about the fact that somebody she's never even heard of is using her name," says a close friend. "It's like really unfair and they just need to stop doing it."
What do you think about Paris Hilton's identity theft? Talk back to Russell D'Arby.