HintTech, Inc. v. Rene van der Steen
Claim Number: FA0808001220438
Complainant is HintTech, Inc. (“Complainant”), represented by Dana H. Shultz, California, USA. Respondent is Rene van der Steen (“Respondent”), California, USA.
REGISTRAR AND DISPUTED DOMAIN NAME
The domain name at issue is <hinttechusa.com>, registered with Godaddy.com, Inc.
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.
Sandra J. Franklin as Panelist.
Complainant submitted a Complaint to the National Arbitration Forum electronically on August 13, 2008; the National Arbitration Forum received a hard copy of the Complaint on August 14, 2008.
On August 14, 2008, Godaddy.com, Inc. confirmed by e-mail to the National Arbitration Forum that the <hinttechusa.com> domain name is registered with Godaddy.com, Inc. and that Respondent is the current registrant of the name. Godaddy.com, Inc. has verified that Respondent is bound by the Godaddy.com, 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").
18, 2008, a Notification of Complaint and Commencement of Administrative
Proceeding (the "Commencement Notification"), setting a deadline of
September 8, 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 September 15, 2008, pursuant to Complainant's request to have the dispute decided by a single-member Panel, the National Arbitration Forum appointed Sandra J. Franklin 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 <hinttechusa.com> domain name is confusingly similar to Complainant’s HINTTECH mark.
2. Respondent does not have any rights or legitimate interests in the <hinttechusa.com> domain name.
3. Respondent registered and used the <hinttechusa.com> domain name in bad faith.
B. Respondent failed to submit a Response in this proceeding.
Complainant, HintTech, Inc., is a leading company in the computer and computer software field. Complainant has used the HINTTECH mark in association with computer and computer programming products and services since 1997. Complainant owns a United States service mark registration for the HINTTECH mark (Reg. No. 3,360,074 filed on November 8, 2006 and issued December 25, 2007).
Respondent registered the <hinttechusa.com> domain name on February 20, 2007 on behalf of Complainant as an employee of Complainant. On April 5, five days after Complainant terminated Respondent from employment, Respondent transferred the disputed domain name from Complainant to Respondent without Complainant’s authorization. The disputed domain name still resolves to Complainant’s official website and Complainant has control over the contents of the 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 owns a service mark registration for the HINTTECH mark. The Panel finds that service mark registration is sufficient in creating rights in a mark pursuant to Policy ¶ 4(a)(i). See Men’s Wearhouse, Inc. v. Wick, FA 117861 (Nat. Arb. Forum Sept. 16, 2002) (“Under U.S. trademark law, registered marks hold a presumption that they are inherently distinctive [or] have acquired secondary meaning.”); see also Janus Int’l Holding Co. v. Rademacher, D2002-0201 (WIPO Mar. 5, 2002) ("Panel decisions have held that registration of a mark is prima facie evidence of validity, which creates a rebuttable presumption that the mark is inherently distinctive.").
Complainant contends that Respondent’s <hinttechusa.com> domain name is confusingly similar to Complainant’s HINTTECH mark pursuant to Policy ¶ 4(a)(i). Respondent’s disputed domain name contains Complainant’s mark in its entirety, adds the geographic description “usa,” and adds the generic top-level domain (“gTLD”) “.com.” The Panel finds that a disputed domain name that contains a complainant’s registered mark and adds a geographic location creates a confusing similarity between the disputed domain name and the registered mark. See Sunkist Growers, Inc. v. S G, D2001-0432 (WIPO May 22, 2001) (finding that the domain names <sunkistgrowers.org>, <sunkistgrowers.net> and <sunkistasia.com> are confusingly similar to the complainant’s registered SUNKIST mark and identical to the complainant’s common law SUNKIST GROWERS mark); see also VeriSign, Inc. v. Tandon, D2000-1216 (WIPO Nov. 16, 2000) (finding confusing similarity between the complainant’s VERISIGN mark and the <verisignindia.com> and <verisignindia.net> domain names where the respondent added the word “India” to the complainant’s mark). In addition, the Panel finds that the addition of a gTLD is irrelevant in distinguishing a disputed domain name from an established mark. See Pomellato S.p.A v. Tonetti, D2000-0493 (WIPO July 7, 2000) (finding <pomellato.com> identical to the complainant’s mark because the generic top-level domain (gTLD) “.com” after the name POMELLATO is not relevant); see also Sporty's Farm L.L.C. vs. Sportsman's Mkt., Inc., 202 F.3d 489 (2d Cir. 2000), cert. denied, 530 U.S. 1262 (2000), ("For consumers to buy things or gather information on the Internet, they need an easy way to find particular companies or brand names. The most common method of locating an unknown domain name is simply to type in the company name or logo with the suffix .com."). Therefore, pursuant to Policy ¶ 4(a)(i), the Panel finds that Respondent’s disputed domain name is confusingly similar to Complainant’s HINTTECH mark.
The Panel finds that Policy ¶ 4(a)(i) has been satisfied.
Complainant asserts that Respondent lacks all rights and legitimate interests in the disputed domain name. When Complainant makes a prima facie case in support of its allegations, the burden is shifted to Respondent to prove that it does have rights or legitimate interests in the disputed domain name pursuant to Policy ¶ 4(a)(ii). The Panel finds that, in this case, Complainant has established a prima facie case. 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).
Due to Respondent’s failure to respond to the Complaint, the Panel assumes that Respondent does not have rights or legitimate interests in the disputed domain name. See CMGI, Inc. v. Reyes, D2000-0572 (WIPO Aug. 8, 2000) (finding that the respondent’s failure to produce requested documentation supports a finding for the complainant); see also Broadcom Corp. v. Ibecom PLC, FA 361190 (Nat. Arb. Forum Dec. 22, 2004) (“Respondent’s failure to respond to the Complaint functions as an implicit admission that [Respondent] lacks rights and legitimate interests in the disputed domain name. It also allows the Panel to accept all reasonable allegations set forth…as true.”). The Panel will nevertheless examine the evidence for applicable Policy ¶ 4(c) elements before making a final determination with regards to Respondent’s rights and legitimate interests.
Respondent’s transfer of registration from Complainant of the disputed domain name to his name after he was terminated from employment by Complainant constitutes an attempt by Respondent to pass himself off as Complainant. The Panel finds that this is not a use in connection with a bona fide offering of goods or services pursuant to Policy ¶ 4(c)(i), nor a legitimate noncommercial or fair use of the disputed 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).
Complainant contends that Respondent is not commonly known by the <hinttechusa.com> domain name. Respondent’s WHOIS information indentifies Respondent as “Rene van der Steen”. Even though Respondent was an employee of Complainant’s, he transferred the disputed domain name without Complainant’s consent after Respondent was terminated from employment. Therefore, the Panel finds that Respondent is not commonly known by the disputed 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 Wells Fargo & Co. v. Onlyne Corp. Services11, Inc., FA 198969 (Nat. Arb. Forum Nov. 17, 2003) (“Given the WHOIS contact information for the disputed domain [name], one can infer that Respondent, Onlyne Corporate Services11, is not commonly known by the name ‘welsfargo’ in any derivation.”).
The Panel finds that Policy ¶ 4(a)(ii) has been satisfied.
Respondent transferred the disputed domain name registration from Complainant to Respondent without Complainant’s authorization. The Panel finds that this constitutes bad faith use and registration pursuant to Policy ¶ 4(a)(iii) because Respondent attempted to pass himself off as Complainant. 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 and to provide misleading information to the public supported a finding of bad faith); see also DaimlerChrysler Corp. v. Bargman, D2000-0222 (WIPO May 29, 2000) (finding that the respondent’s use of the title “Dodgeviper.com Official Home Page” gave consumers the impression that the complainant endorsed and sponsored the respondent’s website).
In addition, Respondent had full knowledge of Complainant’s rights in the disputed domain name, yet Respondent proceeded to transfer registration of the disputed domain name to his own name. The Panel finds this constitutes a bad faith use and registration pursuant to Policy ¶ 4(a)(iii). See Albrecht v. Natale, FA 95465 (Nat. Arb. Forum Sept. 16, 2000) (finding registration in bad faith based where there is no reasonable possibility, and no evidence from which to infer that the domain name was selected at random since it entirely incorporated the complainant’s name); see also Cellular One Group v. Brien, D2000-0028 (WIPO Mar. 10, 2000) (finding bad faith when (1) the domain name contains the complainant’s mark in its entirety, (2) the mark is a coined word, well-known and in use prior to the respondent’s registration of the domain name, and (3) the respondent fails to allege any good faith basis for use of the domain name).
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 <hinttechusa.com> domain name be TRANSFERRED from Respondent to Complainant.
Sandra J. Franklin, Panelist
Dated: September 29, 2008
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