LF, LLC v. Ryan Bertalotto
Claim Number: FA0706001000013
Complainant is LF, LLC (“Complainant”), represented by J.
Mark Wilson, of Moore & Van Allen PLLC,
REGISTRAR AND DISPUTED DOMAIN NAME
The domain name at issue is <lowesclosets.com>, registered with Network Solutions, Inc.
The undersigned certifies that he has acted independently and impartially and, to the best of his knowledge, has no known conflict in serving as Panelist in this proceeding.
The Honorable Charles K. McCotter, Jr. (Ret.) as Panelist.
Complainant submitted a Complaint to the National Arbitration Forum electronically on June 6, 2007; the National Arbitration Forum received a hard copy of the Complaint on June 7, 2007.
On June 7, 2007, Network Solutions, Inc. confirmed by e-mail to the National Arbitration Forum that the <lowesclosets.com> domain name is registered with Network Solutions, Inc. and that Respondent is the current registrant of the name. Network Solutions, Inc. has verified that Respondent is bound by the Network Solutions, Inc. registration agreement and has thereby agreed to resolve domain-name disputes brought by third parties in accordance with ICANN's Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy (the "Policy").
On June 12, 2007, a Notification of Complaint and Commencement of Administrative Proceeding (the "Commencement Notification"), setting a deadline of July 2, 2007 by which Respondent could file a response to the Complaint, was transmitted to Respondent via e-mail, post and fax, to all entities and persons listed on Respondent's registration as technical, administrative and billing contacts, and to email@example.com by e-mail.
Having received no response from Respondent, the National Arbitration Forum transmitted to the parties a Notification of Respondent Default.
On July 6, 2007, pursuant to Complainant's request to have the dispute decided by a single-member Panel, the National Arbitration Forum appointed the Honorable Charles K. McCotter, Jr. (Ret.) as Panelist.
Having reviewed the communications records, the Administrative Panel (the "Panel") finds that the National Arbitration Forum has discharged its responsibility under Paragraph 2(a) of the Rules for Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy (the "Rules") "to employ reasonably available means calculated to achieve actual notice to Respondent." Therefore, the Panel may issue its decision based on the documents submitted and in accordance with the ICANN Policy, ICANN Rules, the National Arbitration Forum's Supplemental Rules and any rules and principles of law that the Panel deems applicable, without the benefit of any response from Respondent.
Complainant requests that the domain name be transferred from Respondent to Complainant.
A. Complainant makes the following assertions:
1. Respondent’s <lowesclosets.com> domain name is confusingly similar to Complainant’s LOWE’S mark.
2. Respondent does not have any rights or legitimate interests in the <lowesclosets.com> domain name.
3. Respondent registered and used the <lowesclosets.com> domain name in bad faith.
B. Respondent failed to submit a Response in this proceeding.
One of the largest and best-known networks of home
improvement retail stores in the
Respondent registered the disputed domain name on December 29, 2003. The disputed domain name resolves to a website displaying links to third-party commercial websites, some of which offer closet organization products and services that directly compete with similar goods and services offered by Complainant.
Paragraph 15(a) of the Rules instructs this Panel to "decide a complaint on the basis of the statements and documents submitted in accordance with the Policy, these Rules and any rules and principles of law that it deems applicable."
In view of Respondent's failure to submit a response, the Panel shall decide this administrative proceeding on the basis of Complainant's undisputed representations pursuant to paragraphs 5(e), 14(a) and 15(a) of the Rules and draw such inferences it considers appropriate pursuant to paragraph 14(b) of the Rules. The Panel is entitled to accept all reasonable allegations and inferences set forth in the Complaint as true unless the evidence is clearly contradictory. See Vertical Solutions Mgmt., Inc. v. webnet-marketing, inc., FA 95095 (Nat. Arb. Forum July 31, 2000) (holding that the respondent’s failure to respond allows all reasonable inferences of fact in the allegations of the complaint to be deemed true); see also Talk City, Inc. v. Robertson, D2000-0009 (WIPO Feb. 29, 2000) (“In the absence of a response, it is appropriate to accept as true all allegations of the Complaint.”).
Paragraph 4(a) of the Policy requires that Complainant must prove each of the following three elements to obtain an order that a domain name should be cancelled or transferred:
(1) the domain name registered by Respondent is identical or confusingly similar to a trademark or service mark in which Complainant has rights; and
(2) Respondent has no rights or legitimate interests in respect of the domain name; and
(3) the domain name has been registered and is being used in bad faith.
Complainant asserts rights in the LOWE’S mark through registration of the mark with the USPTO. The Panel finds that Complainant’s registration with the USPTO sufficiently establishes its rights in the LOWE’S mark pursuant to Policy ¶ 4(a)(i). See ESPN, Inc. v. MySportCenter.com, FA 95326 (Nat. Arb. Forum Sept. 5, 2000) (concluding that the complainant demonstrated its rights in the SPORTSCENTER mark through its valid trademark registrations with the USPTO and similar offices around the world); see also Ameridream, Inc. v. Russell, FA 677782 (Nat. Arb. Forum May 24, 2006) (holding that the complainant’s registration of the AMERIDREAM mark with the USPTO established its rights in the mark pursuant to Policy ¶ 4(a)(i)).
Respondent’s <lowesclosets.com> domain name contains Complainant’s protected mark in its entirety, eliminates the apostrophe, and adds the descriptive term “closets,” which relates to Complainant’s business, as well as the generic top-level domain (“gTLD”) “.com.” The Panel finds that the elimination of an apostrophe and the addition of both a descriptive term relating to Complainant’s business and a gTLD to an otherwise identical mark fail to sufficiently distinguish the domain name from the mark for purposes of Policy ¶ 4(a)(i). See Gillette Co. v. RFK Assocs., FA 492867 (Nat. Arb. Forum July 28, 2005) (finding that the addition of the term “batteries,” which described a complainant’s products, and the generic top-level domain “.com” were insufficient to distinguish a respondent’s <duracellbatteries.com> domain name from the DURACELL mark); see also LOreal USA Creative Inc v. Syncopate.com – Smart Names for Startups, FA 203944 (Nat. Arb. Forum Dec. 8, 2003) (finding that the omission of an apostrophe did not significantly distinguish the domain name from the mark); see also Isleworth Land Co. v. Lost in Space, SA, FA 117330 (Nat. Arb. Forum Sept. 27, 2002) (“[I]t is a well established principle that generic top-level domains are irrelevant when conducting a Policy ¶ 4(a)(i) analysis.”).
The Panel finds that Policy ¶ 4(a)(i) has been satisfied.
In scenarios where Complainant has made a prima facie case supportive of its allegations, the burden shifts to Respondent to set forth evidence indicating that it has rights or legitimate interests pursuant to Policy ¶ 4(a)(ii). See ALPITOUR S.p.A. v. Albloushi, FA 888651 (Nat. Arb. Forum Feb. 26, 2007) (finding that Policy ¶ 4(a)(ii) requires that the complainant must show that the respondent has no rights to or legitimate interests in the subject domain name and that once the complainant makes this showing, the burden of production shifts to the respondent to rebut the complainant’s allegations); see also F. Hoffman-La Roche AG v. Tomasso Di Salvatore, D2006-1417 (WIPO Feb. 1, 2007) (“Proper analysis of paragraph 4(a)(ii) of the Policy shows that the burden of proof shifts from the Complainant to the Respondent once the Complainant has made out a prima facie case that the Respondent has no rights or interests in the domain names.”). The Panel finds that this Complainant’s assertions are sufficient to establish a prima facie case for purposes of the Policy. See Clerical Med. Inv. Group Ltd. v. Clericalmedical.com, D2000-1228 (WIPO Nov. 28, 2000) (finding that, under certain circumstances, the mere assertion by the complainant that the respondent has no right or legitimate interest is sufficient to shift the burden of proof to the respondent to demonstrate that such a right or legitimate interest does exist).
The disputed domain name resolves to a website offering unsuspecting Internet users links to commercial websites, some of which offer products and services that compete with Complainant’s business. The Panel finds that Respondent’s use is neither a bona fide offering of goods or services pursuant to Policy ¶ 4(c)(i) nor a legitimate noncommercial or fair use pursuant to Policy ¶ 4(c)(iii). See Charles Letts & Co. v. Citipublications, FA 692150 (Nat. Arb. Forum July 17, 2006) (finding that the respondent’s use of a domain name that was confusingly similar to the complainant’s mark to display links to the complainant’s competitors did not constitute a bona fide offering of goods or services pursuant to Policy ¶ 4(c)(i), or a legitimate noncommercial or fair use pursuant to Policy ¶ 4(c)(iii)); see also TM Acquisition Corp. v. Sign Guards, FA 132439 (Nat. Arb. Forum Dec. 31, 2002) (finding that the respondent’s diversionary use of the complainant’s marks to send Internet users to a website which displayed a series of links, some of which linked to the complainant’s competitors, was not a bona fide offering of goods or services).
Complainant avouches that Respondent is not commonly known by the disputed domain name. An appraisal of Complainant’s WHOIS information indicates that the registrant of the <lowesclosets.com> domain name is “Ryan Bertalotto.” Absent contrary evidence, the Panel finds that Respondent is not commonly known by the disputed domain name pursuant to Policy ¶ 4(c)(ii). See Instron Corp. v. Kaner, FA 768859 (Nat. Arb. Forum Sept. 21, 2006) (finding that the respondent is not commonly known by the <shoredurometer.com> or <shoredurometers.com> domain names where the WHOIS information indicates the registrant of the domain names as “Andrew Kaner c/o Electromatic a/k/a Electromatic Equip’t,” and no other evidence suggests that the respondent is commonly known by the domain names); see also Reese v. Morgan, FA 917029 (Nat. Arb. Forum Apr. 5, 2007) (concluding that the respondent was not commonly known by the <lilpunk.com> domain name as there was no evidence in the record showing that the respondent was commonly known by that domain name, including the WHOIS information as well as the complainant’s assertion that it did not authorize or license the respondent’s use of its mark in a domain name).
The Panel finds that Policy ¶ 4(a)(ii) has been satisfied.
As indicated above, Respondent’s disputed domain name resolves to a website displaying a series of links to commercial websites, some of which offer products and services that compete with Complainant’s business. The Panel finds that Respondent’s use evinces registration and use in bad faith pursuant to Policy ¶ 4(b)(iii). See Persohn v. Lim, FA 874447 (Nat. Arb. Forum Feb. 19, 2007) (finding bad faith registration and use pursuant to Policy ¶ 4(b)(iii) where a respondent used the disputed domain name to operate a commercial search engine with links to the complainant’s competitors); see also Tesco Pers. Fin. Ltd. v. Domain Mgmt. Services, FA 877982 (Nat. Arb. Forum Feb. 13, 2007) (concluding that the use of a confusingly similar domain name to attract Internet users to a website containing commercial links to the websites of the complainant’s competitors represented bad faith registration and use under Policy ¶ 4(b)(iii)).
Presumably, Respondent receives financial remuneration from its diversionary use of the disputed domain name in the form of click-through advertising fees. Unsuspecting Internet users are likely to become confused as to the source and affiliation of the resulting websites. The Panel finds that Respondent’s use suggests registration and use in bad faith pursuant to Policy ¶ 4(b)(iv). See TM Acquisition Corp. v. Warren, FA 204147 (Nat. Arb. Forum Dec. 8, 2003) (“Although Complainant’s principal website is <century21.com>, many Internet users are likely to use search engines to find Complainant’s website, only to be mislead to Respondent’s website at the <century21realty.biz> domain name, which features links for competing real estate websites. Therefore, it is likely that Internet users seeking Complainant’s website, but who end up at Respondent’s website, will be confused as to the source, sponsorship, affiliation or endorsement of Respondent’s website.”); see also AltaVista Co. v. Krotov, D2000-1091 (WIPO Oct. 25, 2000) (finding bad faith under Policy ¶ 4(b)(iv) where the respondent’s domain name resolved to a website that offered links to third-party websites that offered services similar to the complainant’s services and merely took advantage of Internet user mistakes).
The Panel finds that Policy ¶ 4(a)(iii) has been satisfied.
Having established all three elements required under the ICANN Policy, the Panel concludes that relief shall be GRANTED.
Accordingly, it is Ordered that the <lowesclosets.com> domain name be TRANSFERRED from Respondent to Complainant.
The Honorable Charles K. McCotter, Jr. (Ret.), Panelist
Dated: July 17, 2007
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