Ashley Furniture Industries, Inc. v. Robert Cole
Claim Number: FA0810001227714
Complainant is Ashley Furniture Industries, Inc. (“Complainant”), represented by Terrence
J. Madden, of Kostner, Koslo & Brovold LLC,
REGISTRAR AND DISPUTED DOMAIN NAME
The domain name at issue is <ashleyfurnituresale.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.
James A Crary as Panelist.
Complainant submitted a Complaint to the National Arbitration Forum electronically on October 3, 2008; the National Arbitration Forum received a hard copy of the Complaint on October 6, 2008.
On October 3, 2008, Godaddy.com, Inc. confirmed by e-mail to the National Arbitration Forum that the <ashleyfurnituresale.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").
8, 2008, a Notification of Complaint and Commencement of Administrative
Proceeding (the "Commencement Notification"), setting a deadline of
October 28, 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 November 3, 2008, pursuant to Complainant's request to have the dispute decided by a single-member Panel, the National Arbitration Forum appointed James A Crary 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 <ashleyfurnituresale.com> domain name is confusingly similar to Complainant’s ASHLEY FURNITURE mark.
2. Respondent does not have any rights or legitimate interests in the <ashleyfurnituresale.com> domain name.
3. Respondent registered and used the <ashleyfurnituresale.com> domain name in bad faith.
B. Respondent failed to submit a Response in this proceeding.
Complainant, Ashley Furniture Industries, Inc., holds several trademark registrations with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (“USPTO”) containing the phrase ASHLEY FURNITURE (i.e. Reg. No. 2,680,466 issued January 28, 2003) used in connection with a variety of goods, specifically furniture and design lines.
Respondent registered the <ashleyfurnituresale.com> domain name on January 23, 2007. Respondent is using the disputed domain name as a landing website offering links to competitors of 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 has established rights in the ASHLEY FURNITURE mark through registration of the mark with the USPTO. See Am. Online, Inc. v. Thomas P. Culver Enters., D2001-0564 (WIPO June 18, 2001) (finding that successful trademark registration with the USPTO creates a presumption of rights in a mark); see also Innomed Tech., Inc. v. DRP Servs., FA221171 (Nat. Arb. Forum Feb. 18, 2004) (“Registration of the NASAL-AIRE mark with the USPTO establishes Complainant’s rights in the mark.”).
Respondent’s <ashleyfurnituresale.com> domain name is confusingly similar to Complainant’s ASHLEY FURNITURE mark because Respondent’s disputed domain name incorporates Complainant’s mark, adds a generic term related to Complainant’s business (i.e. “sale”), and the generic top-level domain (“gTLD”) “.com.” The Panel finds that such minor alterations to Complainant’s registered mark do not negate the confusingly similar aspects of Respondent’s disputed domain name pursuant to Policy ¶ 4(a)(i). See Arthur Guinness Son & Co. (Dublin) Ltd. v. Healy/BOSTH, D2001-0026 (WIPO Mar. 23, 2001) (finding confusing similarity where the domain name in dispute contains the identical mark of the complainant combined with a generic word or term); see also 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).
The Panel finds that Policy ¶ 4(a)(i) has been satisfied.
Complainant has alleged that Respondent does not have any rights or legitimate interests in the <ashleyfurnituresale.com> domain name. Once Complainant makes a prima facie case in support of its allegations, the burden shifts to Respondent to prove that it does have rights or legitimate interests pursuant to Policy ¶ 4(a)(ii). Due to Respondent’s failure to respond to the Complaint, the Panel may assume that Respondent does not have rights or legitimate interests in the disputed domain name. However, the Panel will still analyze the evidence in the record to determine if Respondent does have rights or legitimate interests. See G.D. Searle v. Martin Mktg., FA 118277 (Nat. Arb. Forum Oct. 1, 2002) (holding that, where the complainant has asserted that respondent does not have rights or legitimate interests with respect to the domain name, it is incumbent on respondent to come forward with concrete evidence rebutting this assertion because this information is “uniquely within the knowledge and control of the respondent”); 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 does not have rights or legitimate interests is sufficient to shift the burden of proof to the respondent to demonstrate that such a right or legitimate interest does exist).
Respondent’s disputed domain name resolves to a landing website that has a number of links to competitors of Complainant. Respondent’s use of a domain name that is confusingly similar to Complainant’s ASHLEY FURNITURE mark to attract Internet users to Respondent’s website is not a use in connection with 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 eBay Inc. v. Hong, D2000-1633 (WIPO Jan. 18, 2001) (stating that the respondent’s use of the complainant’s entire mark in domain names makes it difficult to infer a legitimate use); see also Tercent Inc. v. Lee Yi, FA 139720 (Nat. Arb. Forum Feb. 10, 2003) (holding that the respondent’s use of the disputed domain name to host a series of hyperlinks and a banner advertisement was neither a bona fide offering of goods or services nor a legitimate noncommercial or fair use of the domain name).
Respondent’s WHOIS registration shows that Respondent is not commonly known by the disputed domain name <ashleyfurnituresale.com>. The registrant is listed as “Robert Cole.” Therefore, Respondent cannot be said to be 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 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 finds that Policy ¶ 4(a)(ii) has been satisfied.
Respondent’s confusingly similar <ashleyfurnituresale.com> domain name has been registered and is being used in bad faith pursuant to Policy ¶ 4(b)(iii). Respondent’s disputed domain name resolves to a landing website that has links to Complainant’s competitors, which pursuant to Policy ¶ 4(b)(iii), is a disruption of Complainant’s business. See Mission KwaSizabantu v. Rost, D2000-0279 (WIPO June 7, 2000) (defining “competitor” as “one who acts in opposition to another and the context does not imply or demand any restricted meaning such as commercial or business competitor”) ; see also Puckett, Individually v. Miller, D2000-0297 (WIPO June 12, 2000) (finding that the respondent has diverted business from the complainant to a competitor’s website in violation of Policy ¶ 4(b)(iii)).
Respondent’s use of a confusingly similar domain name attracts commercial business as the website is likely a pay-per-click site. Internet users that mistakenly assume that Respondent’s website is related to Complainant will likely click through the offered links, thereby providing Respondent with commercial gain. The Panel therefore finds Respondent to have engaged in bad faith registration and use under Policy ¶ 4(b)(iv). See H-D Michigan, Inc. v. Petersons Auto., FA 135608 (Nat. Arb. Forum Jan. 8, 2003) (finding that the disputed domain name was registered and used in bad faith pursuant to Policy ¶ 4(b)(iv) through the respondent’s registration and use of the infringing domain name to intentionally attempt to attract Internet users to its fraudulent website by using the complainant’s famous marks and likeness); see also Qwest Comm’ns Int’l Inc. v. Ling Shun Shing, FA 187431 (Nat. Arb. Forum Oct. 6, 2003) (“Respondent has attempted to commercially benefit from the misleading <qwestwirless.com> domain name by linking the domain name to adult oriented websites, gambling websites, and websites in competition with Complainant. Respondent’s attempt to commercially benefit from the misleading domain name is evidence of bad faith pursuant to Policy ¶ 4(b)(iv).”).
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 <ashleyfurnituresale.com> domain name be TRANSFERRED from Respondent to Complainant.
James A Crary, Panelist
Dated: November 13, 2008
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