SPTC, Inc. v. World Wide Auction Catalogs, Inc.
Claim Number: FA0903001250365
Complainant is SPTC, Inc. (“Complainant”), represented by Sujata
Chaudhri, of Cowan, Liebowitz & Latman, P.C.,
The domain name at issue is <sothebysauctioncatalogs.com>, registered with Godaddy.com, Inc.
The undersigned certifies that he has acted independently and impartially and to the best of his knowledge has no known conflict in serving as Panelist in this proceeding.
Complainant submitted a Complaint to
the National Arbitration Forum electronically on
On March 5, 2009, a Notification of Complaint and Commencement of Administrative Proceeding (the "Commencement Notification"), setting a deadline of March 25, 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.
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 <sothebysauctioncatalogs.com> domain name is identical/confusingly similar to Complainant’s SOTHEBY’S mark.
2. Respondent does not have any rights or legitimate interests in the <sothebysauctioncatalogs.com> domain name.
3. Respondent registered and used the <sothebysauctioncatalogs.com> domain name in bad faith.
B. Respondent failed to submit a Response in this proceeding.
Complainant, SPTC, Inc., through its affiliates and licensees, has engaged in the auction business since 1744. Complainant has registered its SOTHEBY’S mark with governmental trademark authorities in over 50 countries, including the United States Patent and Trademark Office (“USPTO”) (Reg. No. 1,638,329 issued March 19, 1991).
Respondent registered the disputed <sothebysauctioncatalogs.com> domain
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.
The Panel finds that Complainant’s trademark registration
for the SOTHEBY’S mark with the USPTO confers upon Complainant sufficient
rights in the mark under Policy ¶ 4(a)(i). See Thermo Electron Corp. v.
Xu, FA 713851 (Nat. Arb. Forum
Respondent’s <sothebysauctioncatalogs.com> domain name differs from Complainant’s SOTHEBY’S mark in the following manners: (1) the apostrophe is omitted; (2) the generic top-level domain “.com” has been added; and (3) the descriptive terms “auction” and “catalogs” have been added. The Panel notes that the removal of an apostrophe and the addition of a top-level domain name are not material to a Policy ¶ 4(a)(i) analysis. See Loreal USA Creative Inc. v. Syncopate.com – Smart Names for Startups, FA 203944 (Nat. Arb. Forum Dec. 8, 2003) (finding that the omission of an apostrophe did not significantly distinguish the domain name from the mark); see also Trip Network Inc. v. Alviera, FA 914943 (Nat. Arb. Forum Mar. 27, 2007) (concluding that the affixation of a gTLD to a domain name is irrelevant to a Policy ¶ 4(a)(i) analysis). Moreover, the addition of the descriptive terms, especially when they describe Complainant’s business operations, tend to heighten the confusing similarity. See, e.g., Vance Int’l, Inc. v. Abend, FA 970871 (Nat. Arb. Forum June 8, 2007) (finding that by adding the term “security” to the complainant’s VANCE mark, which described the complainant’s business, the respondent “very significantly increased” the likelihood of confusion with the complainant’s mark). Therefore, the Panel finds that the disputed domain name is confusingly similar to Complainant’s mark under Policy ¶ 4(a)(i).
The Panel finds that Policy ¶ 4(a)(i) has been satisfied.
Complainant has asserted that Respondent lacks rights and legitimate interests in the disputed domain name. Because Complainant has successfully set forth a prima facie case supporting its allegations, Respondent has the responsibility to prove that it does have rights or legitimate interests according to Policy ¶ 4(a)(ii). See 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).”); see also Do The Hustle, LLC v. Tropic Web, D2000-0624 (WIPO Aug. 21, 2000) (holding that, where the complainant has asserted that the respondent has no rights or legitimate interests with respect to the domain name, it is incumbent on the respondent to come forward with concrete evidence rebutting this assertion because this information is “uniquely within the knowledge and control of the respondent”).
Respondent’s disputed domain name diverts Internet users to a website that only features third-party advertisements, including those for Complainant’s direct competitors. Respondent presumably receives monetary benefits from these advertisements through referral fees. The Panel therefore finds that Respondent lacks rights and legitimate interests in the disputed domain name under Policy ¶ 4(c)(i) and (iii) because such use cannot be said to constitute a bona fide offering of goods or services, nor a legitimate noncommercial or fair use, respectively. See Bank of Am. Corp. v. Northwest Free Cmty. Access, FA 180704 (Nat. Arb. Forum Sept. 30, 2003) (“Respondent's demonstrated intent to divert Internet users seeking Complainant's website to a website of Respondent and for Respondent's benefit is not a bona fide offering of goods or services under Policy ¶ 4(c)(i) and it is not a legitimate noncommercial or fair use under Policy ¶ 4(c)(iii).”); see also Computer Doctor Franchise Sys., Inc. v. Computer Doctor, FA 95396 (Nat. Arb. Forum Sept. 8, 2000) (finding that the respondent’s website, which is blank but for links to other websites, is not a legitimate use of the domain names).
There is no evidence within the record, including the WHOIS domain name registration information, by which to conclude that Respondent is commonly known by the disputed domain name. The registrant of the disputed domain name in the WHOIS information is listed as “World Wide Auction Catalogs, Inc.” and there is no evidence of any license belonging to Respondent to use Complainant’s mark in any fashion. Therefore, the Panel finds that Respondent lacks rights and legitimate interests in the disputed domain name pursuant to Policy ¶ 4(c)(ii). See America 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.”); see also Compagnie de Saint Gobain v. Com-Union Corp., D2000-0020 (WIPO Mar. 14, 2000) (finding no rights or legitimate interest where the respondent was not commonly known by the mark and never applied for a license or permission from the complainant to use the trademarked name).
The Panel finds that Policy ¶ 4(a)(ii) has been satisfied.
Respondent’s domain name is confusingly similar to Complainant’s mark and its corresponding website prominently displays advertisements for Complainant’s direct competitors. Therefore, the Panel finds that Respondent has engaged in bad faith registration and use of the disputed domain name under Policy ¶ 4(b)(iii). See 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).”); see also S. Exposure v. S. Exposure, Inc., FA 94864 (Nat. Arb. Forum July 18, 2000) (finding the respondent acted in bad faith by attracting Internet users to a website that competes with the complainant’s business).
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 <sothebysauctioncatalogs.com> domain name be TRANSFERRED from Respondent to Complainant.
Dated: April 14, 2009
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