AutoZone Parts, Inc. v. Ivenu c/o Joseph Piscanni
Claim Number: FA0711001111831
Complainant is AutoZone Parts, Inc. (“Complainant”), represented by Wesley
C. Achey of Alston & Bird, LLP, 1201 West
Peachtree Street, Atlanta, GA, 30309.
Respondent is Ivenu c/o Joseph Piscanni (“Respondent”),
The domain name at issue is <autozonelibertybowl.com>, registered with Godaddy.com, Inc.
The undersigned certifies that she has acted independently and impartially and that to the best of her knowledge she has no known conflict in serving as Panelist in this proceeding. Hon. Carolyn Marks Johnson sits as Panelist.
Complainant submitted a Complaint to the National Arbitration Forum electronically November 19, 2007; the National Arbitration Forum received a hard copy of the Complaint November 26, 2007.
On November 20, 2007, Godaddy.com, Inc. confirmed by e-mail to the National Arbitration Forum that the <autozonelibertybowl.com> domain name is registered with Godaddy.com, Inc. and that Respondent is the current registrant of the name. Godaddy.com, Inc. verified that Respondent is bound by the Godaddy.com, Inc. registration agreement and thereby has agreed to resolve domain-name disputes brought by third parties in accordance with ICANN's Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy (the "Policy").
On December 11, 2007, a Notification of Complaint and Commencement of Administrative Proceeding (the "Commencement Notification"), setting a deadline of December 31, 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 firstname.lastname@example.org by e-mail.
Having received no response from Respondent, the National Arbitration Forum transmitted to the parties a Notification of Respondent Default.
On January 4, 2008, pursuant to Complainant's request to have the dispute decided by a single-member Panel, the National Arbitration Forum appointed Hon. Carolyn Marks Johnson as Panelist.
Having reviewed the communications records, the Administrative Panel (the "Panel") finds that the National Arbitration Forum 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. The domain name Respondent registered, <autozonelibertybowl.com>, is confusingly similar to Complainant’s AUTOZONE mark.
2. Respondent has no rights to or legitimate interests in the <autozonelibertybowl.com> domain name.
3. Respondent registered and used the <autozonelibertybowl.com> domain name in bad faith.
B. Respondent failed to submit a Response in this proceeding.
Complainant, AutoZone Parts, Inc.,
is a wholly owned subsidiary of AutoZone Inc.
Complainant is one of the largest suppliers of automotive parts and
accessories in the nation, operating more than 4000 retail stores in the
Since 2004, Complainant has been the title sponsor of the
Liberty Bowl, one of the oldest college football bowl games in the
Respondent registered the <autozonelibertybowl.com> domain name October 15, 2006. Respondent is using the disputed domain name to resolve to a website, which purports to sell tickets to Complainant’s sponsored event, as well as other events.
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 will draw such inferences as the Panel 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 Complainant to 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 established rights in the AUTOZONE mark through registration with the USPTO pursuant to Policy ¶ 4(a)(i). See Innomed Techs., Inc. v. DRP Servs., FA 221171 (Nat. Arb. Forum Feb. 18, 2004) (“Registration of the NASAL-AIRE mark with the USPTO establishes Complainant's rights in the mark.”); see also Vivendi Universal Games v. XBNetVentures Inc., FA 198803 (Nat. Arb. Forum Nov. 11, 2003) (“Complainant's federal trademark registrations establish Complainant's rights in the BLIZZARD mark.”).
The disputed domain name, <autozonelibertybowl.com>, incorporates Complainant’s AUTOZONE mark while adding “liberty bowl,” which heightens potential confusion concerning the affiliation or source of the website and disputed domain name. Thus, the Panel finds that the disputed domain name is confusingly similar to Complainant’s mark under Policy ¶ 4(a)(i). See Nikon, Inc. v. Technilab, Inc., D2000-1774 (WIPO Feb. 26, 2001) (holding that confusing similarity under the Policy is decided upon the inclusion of a trademark in the domain name rather than upon the likelihood of confusion test under U.S. trademark law); see also G.D. Searle & Co. v. Pelham, FA 117911 (Nat. Arb. Forum Sept. 19, 2002) (finding that the addition of other drug names does not create a distinct mark capable of overcoming a claim of confusing similarity, “it merely creates a domain name with severe potential to confuse Internet users as to the source, sponsorship and affiliation of the domain”); see also Oki Data Ams., Inc. v. ASD, Inc., D2001-0903 (WIPO Nov. 6, 2001) (“[T]he fact that a domain name wholly incorporates a Complainant’s registered mark is sufficient to establish identity [sic] or confusing similarity for purposes of the Policy despite the addition of other words to such marks”).
The Panel finds that Complainant satisfied Policy ¶ 4(a)(i).
Complainant asserted that Respondent lacks rights and legitimate interests in the <autozonelibertybowl.com> domain name. Once Complainant sets forth a prima facie case supporting its allegations, as it has in this case, the burden shifts to Respondent to prove that it does have rights or legitimate interests under Policy ¶ 4(a)(ii). 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); see also G.D. Searle v. Martin Mktg., FA 118277 (Nat. Arb. Forum Oct. 1, 2002) (“Because Complainant’s Submission constitutes a prima facie case under the Policy, the burden effectively shifts to Respondent. Respondent’s failure to respond means that Respondent has not presented any circumstances that would promote its rights or legitimate interests in the subject domain name under Policy ¶ 4(a)(ii).”).
Respondent’s failure to respond to the Complaint allows the Panel to find that Respondent lacks rights and legitimate interests in the disputed domain name. See Bank of Am. Corp. v. McCall, FA 135012 (Nat. Arb. Forum Dec. 31, 2002) (“Respondent's failure to respond not only results in its failure to meet its burden, but also will be viewed as evidence itself that Respondent lacks rights and legitimate interests in the disputed domain name.”); see also Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce v. D3M Virtual Reality Inc., AF-0336 (eResolution Sept. 23, 2000) (finding no rights or legitimate interests where no such right or interest was immediately apparent to the panel and the respondent did not come forward to suggest any right or interest it may have possessed). However, this Panel examines the entire record to determine if Respondent has rights or legitimate interests pursuant to Policy ¶ 4(c).
Respondent is using the <autozonelibertybowl.com> domain name to resolve to a website that sells tickets to Complainant’s officially sponsored event. The Panel therefore finds that this commercial use of the disputed domain name, which incorporates Complainant’s AUTOZONE mark, does not constitute a bona fide offering of goods or services pursuant to Policy ¶ 4(c)(i), or a legitimate noncommercial or fair use of the disputed domain name pursuant to Policy ¶ 4(c)(iii). See G.D. Searle & Co. v. Pelham, FA 117911 (Nat. Arb. Forum Sept. 19, 2002) (finding that because the respondent is using the infringing domain name to sell prescription drugs, the panel could infer that the respondent is using the complainant’s mark to attract Internet users to its website for commercial benefit); see also MSNBC Cable, LLC v. Tysys.com, D2000-1204 (WIPO Dec. 8, 2000) (finding no rights or legitimate interests in the famous MSNBC mark where the respondent attempted to profit using the complainant’s mark by redirecting Internet traffic to its own website).
Respondent offers no evidence that suggests it is commonly known by the <autozonelibertybowl.com> domain name. Moreover, the WHOIS domain name registration information offers no contrary conclusion. Thus the Panel finds that Respondent lacks rights and legitimate interests in the disputed domain name pursuant to Policy ¶ 4(c)(ii). See Gambro AB v. Family Health & Wellness Ctr., D2001-0447 (WIPO May 25, 2001) (finding that the respondent did not submit any evidence to support its suggestion that its employee was known by the nickname “Gambro”); see also Am. W. Airlines, Inc. v. Paik, FA 206396 (Nat. Arb. Forum Dec. 22, 2003) (“Respondent has registered the domain name under the name ‘Ilyoup Paik a/k/a David Sanders.’ Given the WHOIS domain name registration information, Respondent is not commonly known by the [<awvacations.com>] domain name.”).
Respondent’s <autozonelibertybowl.com> domain name resolves to a website that lists a disclaimer purporting to divest Respondent of any affiliation with Complainant. However, such a disclaimer fails to mitigate the initial confusion that occurs when the Internet user is diverted to Respondent’s website by way of the disputed domain name. The Panel therefore finds that Respondent’s disclaimer does not create legitimate rights or interests in the disputed domain name under Policy ¶ 4(a)(ii). See AltaVista Co. v. AltaVista, FA 95480 (Nat. Arb. Forum Oct. 31, 2000) (finding that since a disclaimer does not, and could not, accompany the domain name, then the “domain name attracts the consumer’s initial interest and the consumer is misdirected long before he/she has the opportunity to see the disclaimer”); see also DaimlerChrysler Corp. v. Bargman, D2000-0222 (WIPO May 29, 2000) (finding that addition of a disclaimer, when the domain name consists of the complainant’s well-known trademark, does not counter the expectation of Internet users that the domain name is sponsored by the complainant); see also Las Vegas Sands, Inc. v. Red Group, D2001-1057 (WIPO Dec. 6, 2001) (justifying the conclusion that the respondent wishes to trade on the fame of the complainant’s trademark, regardless of the presence of a small-print disclaimer that is unavailable to Internet users until they have already entered the gambling site, because the disclaimer fails to remedy initial confusion).
The Panel finds that Complainant satisfied Policy ¶ 4(a)(ii).
The Panel finds that Respondent’s primary use of Complainant’s mark in its <autozonelibertybowl.com> domain name is to intentionally create a likelihood of confusion with Complainant’s AUTOZONE mark as to the affiliation, endorsement, and source of the website and the disputed domain name. Respondent opportunistically profits from the sale of tickets to Complainant’s sponsored events based on the confusion surrounding Respondent’s unauthorized use of Complainant’s mark. Therefore, the Panel finds that Respondent’s use of the disputed domain name constitutes bad faith registration and use pursuant to Policy ¶ 4(b)(iv). See Perot Sys. Corp. v. Perot.net, FA 95312 (Nat. Arb. Forum Aug. 29, 2000) (finding bad faith where the domain name in question is obviously connected with the complainant’s well-known marks, thus creating a likelihood of confusion strictly for commercial gain); see also Entrepreneur Media, Inc. v. Smith, 279 F.3d 1135, 1148 (9th Cir. 2002) ("While an intent to confuse consumers is not required for a finding of trademark infringement, intent to deceive is strong evidence of a likelihood of confusion.").
The Panel finds that Respondent’s use of a disclaimer fails to mitigate bad faith registration and use under Policy ¶ 4(a)(iii), since it does not allay any of the initial confusion that was fostered by Respondent’s use of Complainant’s AUTOZONE mark within the disputed domain name. See Thomas & Betts Int’l, Inc. v. Power Cabling Corp., AF-0274 (eResolution Oct. 23, 2000) (finding bad faith based upon initial interest confusion despite disclaimer and link to the complainant’s website on the respondent’s website); see also Ciccone v. Parisi, D2000-0847 (WIPO Oct. 12, 2000) (“Respondent’s use of a disclaimer on its website is insufficient to avoid a finding of bad faith. First, the disclaimer may be ignored or misunderstood by Internet users. Second, a disclaimer does nothing to dispel initial interest confusion that is inevitable from Respondent’s actions. Such confusion is a basis for finding a violation of Complainant’s rights.”).
The Panel finds that Complainant satisfied Policy ¶ 4(a)(iii).
Having established all three elements required under the ICANN Policy, the Panel concludes that relief shall be GRANTED.
Accordingly, it is Ordered that the <autozonelibertybowl.com> domain name be TRANSFERRED from Respondent to Complainant.
Hon. Carolyn Marks Johnson, Panelist
Dated: January 18, 2008.
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