Expedia, Inc. v. Wang Piao Liang
Claim Number: FA0902001248162
Complainant is Expedia, Inc. (“Complainant”), represented by John
L. Slafsky, of Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati,
REGISTRAR AND DISPUTED DOMAIN NAME
The domain name at issue is <expediaweb.com>, registered with Directi Internet Solutions Pvt. Ltd. d/b/a Publicdomainregistry.com.
The undersigned certifies that he has acted independently and impartially and to the best of his or knowledge has no known conflict in serving as Panelist in this proceeding.
Honorable Karl V. Fink (Ret.) as Panelist.
Complainant submitted a Complaint to the National Arbitration Forum electronically on February 17, 2009; the National Arbitration Forum received a hard copy of the Complaint on February 18, 2009.
On February 18, 2009, Directi Internet Solutions Pvt. Ltd. d/b/a Publicdomainregistry.com confirmed by e-mail to the National Arbitration Forum that the <expediaweb.com> domain name is registered with Directi Internet Solutions Pvt. Ltd. d/b/a Publicdomainregistry.com and that Respondent is the current registrant of the name. Directi Internet Solutions Pvt. Ltd. d/b/a Publicdomainregistry.com has verified that Respondent is bound by the Directi Internet Solutions Pvt. Ltd. d/b/a Publicdomainregistry.com 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 February 23, 2009, a Notification of Complaint and Commencement of Administrative Proceeding (the "Commencement Notification"), setting a deadline of March 16, 2009 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 March 24, 2009, pursuant to Complainant's request to have the dispute decided by a single-member Panel, the National Arbitration Forum appointed Honorable Karl V. Fink (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 <expediaweb.com> domain name is confusingly similar to Complainant’s EXPEDIA mark.
2. Respondent does not have any rights or legitimate interests in the <expediaweb.com> domain name.
3. Respondent registered and used the <expediaweb.com> domain name in bad faith.
B. Respondent failed to submit a Response in this proceeding.
Complainant, Expedia Inc., has used its EXPEDIA mark since 1996 in connection with its online travel services provided through its websites. Complainant also provides a number of related goods under this mark to its customers. Complainant has registered its EXPEDIA mark with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (“USPTO”) (i.e. Reg. No. 2,220,719 issued January 26, 1999) and other governmental trademark authorities worldwide. Complainant also owns and operates the <expedia.com> domain name in connection with its operations.
Respondent registered the <expediaweb.com> domain name on May 31, 2008. Respondent’s disputed domain name resolves to a website displaying third-party links and advertisements in competition with 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 submitted evidence of its numerous
registrations of the EXPEDIA mark with the USPTO and other governmental
trademark authorities worldwide. The
Panel finds that, pursuant to Policy ¶ 4(a)(i), Complainant has set forth
satisfactory evidence of its rights in the EXPEDIA mark. See
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).”); see also
Complainant argues that Respondent’s disputed domain name is confusingly similar to Complainant’s EXPEDIA mark pursuant to Policy ¶ 4(a)(i). Respondent’s disputed domain name contains Complainant’s mark in its entirety, adds the generic term “web,” and adds the generic top-level domain (“gTLD”) “.com.” The Panel finds that the addition of generic terms, especially generic terms with an obvious relationship to Complainant’s online travel business operation, create a confusing similarity between the disputed domain name and the mark. 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 Christie’s Inc. v. Tiffany’s Jewelry Auction, Inc., D2001-0075 (WIPO Mar. 6, 2001) (finding that the domain name <christiesauction.com> is confusingly similar to the complainant's mark since it merely adds the word “auction” used in its generic sense). In addition, the Panel finds that the addition of a gTLD is irrelevant in distinguishing a disputed domain name from a registered mark. See 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 Busy Body, Inc. v. Fitness Outlet Inc., D2000-0127 (WIPO Apr. 22, 2000) ("[T]he addition of the generic top-level domain (gTLD) name ‘.com’ is . . . without legal significance since use of a gTLD is required of domain name registrants . . . ."). Therefore, Respondent’s disputed domain name is confusingly similar to Complainant’s EXPEDIA mark pursuant to Policy ¶ 4(a)(i).
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. If Complainant makes a prima facie case in support of its allegations, the burden shifts to Respondent to prove that rights and legitimate interests exist pursuant to Policy ¶ 4(a)(ii). The Panel finds that 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).
By failing to respond to the Complaint, the Panel may assume that Respondent fails to meet its burden of establishing rights or legitimate interests in the disputed domain name. See 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.”); see also Law Soc’y of Hong Kong v. Domain Strategy, Inc., HK-0200015 (ADNDRC Feb. 12, 2003) (“A respondent is not obligated to participate in a domain name dispute . . . but the failure to participate leaves a respondent vulnerable to the inferences that flow naturally from the assertions of the complainant and the tribunal will accept as established assertions by the complainant that are not unreasonable.”). However, the Panel will examine the evidence on record against the applicable Policy ¶ 4(c) elements before making a final determination with regards to Respondent’s rights and legitimate interests.
Complainant contends that Respondent is neither commonly known by, nor licensed to register the disputed domain names. Respondent’s WHOIS information identifies Respondent as “Wang Piao Liang.” The Panel finds that Respondent’s failure to respond to the Complaint and the WHOIS information demonstrate that Respondent is not commonly known by the disputed domain name. Therefore, pursuant to Policy ¶ 4(c)(ii), Respondent lacks rights and legitimate interests in the disputed domain name. See G.D. Searle & Co. v. Cimock, FA 126829 (Nat. Arb. Forum Nov. 13, 2003) (“Due to the fame of Complainant’s mark there must be strong evidence that Respondent is commonly known by the disputed domain name in order to find that Respondent has rights or legitimate interests in the disputed domain name pursuant to Policy ¶ 4(c)(ii). However, there is no evidence on record, and Respondent has not come forward with any proof to establish that it is commonly known as CELEBREXRX or <celebrexrx.com>.”); see also 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).
Respondent is using the disputed domain name to display links advertising third-party websites, some of which are in competition with Complainant. The Panel infers that Respondent is using the disputed domain name to earn click-through fees, and thus finds that Respondent has not made a bona fide offering of goods or services under Policy ¶ 4(c)(i) or a legitimate noncommercial or fair use under Policy ¶ 4(c)(iii). See Wells Fargo & Co. v. Lin Shun Shing, FA 205699 (Nat. Arb. Forum Dec. 8, 2003) (finding that using a domain name to direct Internet traffic to a website featuring pop-up advertisements and links to various third-party websites is neither a bona fide offering of goods or services under Policy ¶ 4(c)(i) nor a legitimate noncommercial or fair use under Policy ¶ 4(c)(iii) because the registrant presumably receives compensation for each misdirected Internet user); see also Coryn Group, Inc. v. Media Insight, FA 198959 (Nat. Arb. Forum Dec. 5, 2003) (finding that the respondent was not using the domain names for a bona fide offering of goods or services nor a legitimate noncommercial or fair use because the respondent used the names to divert Internet users to a website that offered services that competed with those offered by the complainant under its marks).
The Panel finds that Policy ¶ 4(a)(ii) has been satisfied.
Respondent is using the disputed domain name to intentionally divert Internet users to the associated website, which displays third-party links to competing websites. In cases such as this, the Panel may assume that Respondent is collecting click-through fees and attempting to profit by creating a likelihood of confusion between Complainant’s mark and the disputed domain name. The Panel finds that Respondent’s use of the disputed domain name is evidence of bad faith registration and use pursuant to Policy ¶ 4(b)(iv). See Associated Newspapers Ltd. v. Domain Manager, FA 201976 (Nat. Arb. Forum Nov. 19, 2003) (“Respondent's prior use of the <mailonsunday.com> domain name is evidence of bad faith pursuant to Policy ¶ 4(b)(iv) because the domain name provided links to Complainant's competitors and Respondent presumably commercially benefited from the misleading domain name by receiving ‘click-through-fees.’”); see also Kmart v. Khan, FA 127708 (Nat. Arb. Forum Nov. 22, 2002) (finding that if the respondent profits from its diversionary use of the complainant's mark when the domain name resolves to commercial websites and the respondent fails to contest the complaint, it may be concluded that the respondent is using the domain name in bad faith pursuant to Policy ¶ 4(b)(iv)).
In addition, the Panel finds that Respondent’s use of the disputed domain name to disrupt the business of Complainant by offering links to competitors is further evidence of bad faith registration and use pursuant to Policy ¶ 4(b)(iii). See Travant Solutions, Inc. v. Cole, FA 203177 (Nat. Arb. Forum Dec. 6, 2003) (“Respondent registered and used the domain name in bad faith, pursuant to Policy ¶ 4(b)(iii), because it is operating on behalf of a competitor of Complainant . . .”); see also Disney Enters., Inc. v. Noel, FA 198805 (Nat. Arb. Forum Nov. 11, 2003) (“Respondent registered a domain name confusingly similar to Complainant's mark to divert Internet users to a competitor's website. It is a reasonable inference that Respondent's purpose of registration and use was to either disrupt or create confusion for Complainant's business in bad faith pursuant to Policy ¶¶ 4(b)(iii) [and] (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 <expediaweb.com> domain name be TRANSFERRED from Respondent to Complainant.
Honorable Karl V. Fink (Ret.), Panelist
Dated: April 7, 2009
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