National Westminster Bank plc v. Harold Monsma
Claim Number: FA0803001163427
Complainant is National Westminster Bank plc (“Complainant”), represented by James
A. Thomas, of Troutman Sanders LLP,
REGISTRAR AND DISPUTED DOMAIN NAME
The domain name at issue is <natwest-fund.com>, registered with Melbourne It, Ltd. d/b/a Internet Names Worldwide (“Internet Names Worldwide”).
The undersigned certifies that he or she has acted independently and impartially and to the best of his or her knowledge has no known conflict in serving as Panelist in this proceeding.
Judge Harold Kalina (Ret.) as Panelist.
Complainant submitted a Complaint to the National Arbitration Forum electronically on March 12, 2008; the National Arbitration Forum received a hard copy of the Complaint on March 13, 2008.
On March 18, 2008, Internet Names Worldwide confirmed by e-mail to the National Arbitration Forum that the <natwest-fund.com> domain name is registered with Internet Names Worldwide and that Respondent is the current registrant of the name. Internet Names Worldwide has verified that Respondent is bound by the Internet Names Worldwide 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 March 20, 2008, a Notification of Complaint and Commencement of Administrative Proceeding (the "Commencement Notification"), setting a deadline of April 9, 2008 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 April 14, 2008, pursuant to Complainant's request to have the dispute decided by a single-member Panel, the National Arbitration Forum appointed Judge Harold Kalina (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 <natwest-fund.com> domain name is confusingly similar to Complainant’s NATWEST mark.
2. Respondent does not have any rights or legitimate interests in the <natwest-fund.com> domain name.
3. Respondent registered and used the <natwest-fund.com> domain name in bad faith.
B. Respondent failed to submit a Response in this proceeding.
Complainant, National Westminster Bank plc, has offered a full range of financial services under the NATWEST mark since 1968. Complainant has registered its NATWEST mark with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (“USPTO”) (Reg. No. 1,241,454 issued June 7, 1983).
Respondent registered the disputed domain name on November 5, 2007. Respondent’s <natwest-fund.com> domain name resolves to a website which claims to belong to Complainant and provides a link to Complainant’s website.
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 registered the NATWEST mark with the USPTO, and therefore, established rights to the mark pursuant to Policy ¶ 4(a)(i). See Bloomberg L.P. v. Johnston, FA 760084 (Nat. Arb. Forum Oct. 25, 2006) (finding that the complainant had established rights in the BLOOMBERG mark through registration with the United States Patent and Trademark Office); see also Expedia, Inc. v. Emmerson, FA 873346 (Nat. Arb. Forum Feb. 9, 2007) (“Complainant’s trademark registrations with the USPTO adequately demonstrate its rights in the [EXPEDIA] mark pursuant to Policy ¶ 4(a)(i).”).
Complainant contends that the <natwest-fund.com> domain name is confusingly similar to the NATWEST mark. Respondent’s addition of a hyphen and the generic term “fund” to the registered mark is insufficient to distinguish the disputed domain name from the registered mark because the generic term describes Complainant’s business. In addition, because all domain names are required to have a top-level domain, Respondent’s use of the generic top-level domain (“gTLD”) “.com” does not distinguish the disputed domain name from Complainant’s registered mark. Therefore, the Panel finds that the <natwest-fund.com> domain name is confusingly similar to Complainant’s NATWEST mark pursuant to Policy ¶ 4(a)(i). See Space Imaging LLC v. Brownell, AF-0298 (eResolution Sept. 22, 2000) (finding confusing similarity where the respondent’s domain name combines the complainant’s mark with a generic term that has an obvious relationship to the complainant’s business); see also Rollerblade, Inc. v. McCrady, D2000-0429 (WIPO June 25, 2000) (finding that the top level of the domain name such as “.net” or “.com” does not affect the domain name for the purpose of determining whether it is identical or confusingly similar); see also Health Devices Corp. v. Aspen S T C, FA 158254 (Nat. Arb. Forum July 1, 2003) (“[T]he addition of punctuation marks such as hyphens is irrelevant in the determination of confusing similarity pursuant to Policy ¶ 4(a)(i).”).
The Panel finds that Policy ¶ 4(a)(i) has been satisfied.
Complainant claims that Respondent has neither rights nor legitimate interests in the disputed domain name under Policy ¶ 4(a)(ii). Complainant has the initial burden of showing that Respondent does not have rights or legitimate interests in the disputed domain name. Once Complainant has made a prima facie case showing that Respondent lacks rights and legitimate interests, the burden shifts to Respondent to show that it does have rights or legitimate interests in the <natwest-fund.com> domain name. The Panel finds that Complainant has met the initial burden of showing that Respondent lacks rights and legitimate interests, and therefore has made a prima facie case under Policy ¶ 4(a)(ii). See Compagnie Generale des Matieres Nucleaires v. Greenpeace Int’l, D2001-0376 (WIPO May 14, 2001) (“Proving that the Respondent has no rights or legitimate interests in respect of the Domain Name requires the Complainant to prove a negative. For the purposes of this sub paragraph, however, it is sufficient for the Complainant to show a prima facie case and the burden of proof is then shifted on to the shoulders of Respondent. In those circumstances, the common approach is for respondents to seek to bring themselves within one of the examples of paragraph 4(c) or put forward some other reason why they can fairly be said to have a relevant right or legitimate interests in respect of the domain name in question.”); see also 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).
Because Respondent failed to answer the Complaint, the Panel presumes that Respondent lacks all rights and legitimate interests in the disputed domain name. See Am. Express Co. v. Fang Suhendro, FA 129120 (Nat. Arb. Forum Dec. 30, 2002) (“[B]ased on Respondent's failure to respond, it is presumed that Respondent lacks all rights and legitimate interests in the disputed domain name.”); see also Desotec N.V. v. Jacobi Carbons AB, D2000-1398 (WIPO Dec. 21, 2000) (finding that failing to respond allows a presumption that the complainant’s allegations are true unless clearly contradicted by the evidence). Nevertheless, the Panel will examine all evidence in the record to determine if Respondent does have rights or legitimate interests in the disputed domain name under Policy ¶ 4(c).
Complainant asserts that Respondent has never been authorized to use the NATWEST mark, and that Respondent is not and has never been commonly known by the disputed domain name. Further, the WHOIS information does not indicate that Respondent is commonly known by the disputed domain name. Thus, the Panel finds that Respondent is not commonly known by the <natwest-fund.com> domain name pursuant to Policy ¶ 4(c)(ii). See Tercent Inc. v. Lee Yi, FA 139720 (Nat. Arb. Forum Feb. 10, 2003) (stating “nothing in Respondent’s WHOIS information implies that Respondent is ‘commonly known by’ the disputed domain name” as one factor in determining that Policy ¶ 4(c)(ii) does not apply); see also Gallup, Inc. v. Amish Country Store, FA 96209 (Nat. Arb. Forum Jan. 23, 2001) (finding that the respondent does not have rights in a domain name when the respondent is not known by the mark).
The Panel presumes Respondent is using the <natwest-fund.com> domain name to pass itself off as Complainant for financial gain. Respondent’s domain name resolves to a website that imitates the NATWEST website, and displays a link to Complainant’s website. The Panel finds Respondent’s attempt to pass itself off as Complainant to collect click-through fees is not a bona fide offering of goods or services pursuant to Policy ¶ 4(c)(i), or a legitimate noncommercial or fair use of the domain name pursuant to Policy ¶ 4(c)(iii). See Am. Int’l Group, Inc. v. Busby, FA 156251 (Nat. Arb. Forum May 30, 2003) (finding that the respondent attempts to pass itself off as the complainant online, which is blatant unauthorized use of the complainant’s mark and is evidence that the respondent has no rights or legitimate interests in the disputed domain name); see also Crow v. LOVEARTH.net, FA 203208 (Nat. Arb. Forum Nov. 28, 2003) (“It is neither a bona fide offerings [sic] of goods or services, nor an example of a legitimate noncommercial or fair use under Policy ¶¶ 4(c)(i) & (iii) when the holder of a domain name, confusingly similar to a registered mark, attempts to profit by passing itself off as Complainant . . . .”).
The Panel finds that Policy ¶ 4(a)(ii) has been satisfied.
Respondent is using the <natwest-fund.com> domain name, which is confusingly similar to Complainant’s NATWEST mark, to pass itself off as Complainant by imitating Complainant’s official website in order to obtain click-through fees from Complainant’s customers or potential customers. The Panel finds such use constitutes bad faith registration and use pursuant to Policy ¶ 4(b)(iv). See Monsanto Co. v. Decepticons, FA 101536 (Nat. Arb. Forum Dec. 18, 2001) (finding that the respondent's use of <monsantos.com> to misrepresent itself as the complainant supported a finding of bad faith); see also Am. Online, Inc. v. Miles, FA 105890 (Nat. Arb. Forum May 31, 2002) (“Respondent is using the domain name at issue to resolve to a website at which Complainant’s trademarks and logos are prominently displayed. Respondent has done this with full knowledge of Complainant’s business and trademarks. The Panel finds that this conduct is that which is prohibited by Paragraph 4(b)(iv) of the Policy.”).
The Panel finds 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 <natwest-fund.com> domain name be TRANSFERRED from Respondent to Complainant.
Judge Harold Kalina (Ret.), Panelist
Dated: April 25, 2008
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