Bank of America Corporation v. Bill McCall
Claim Number: FA0211000135012
Complainant is Bank of America Corporation, Charlotte, NC (“Complainant”) represented by Larry C. Jones, of Alston & Bird, LLP. Respondent is Bill McCall, Crofton, MD (“Respondent”).
REGISTRAR AND DISPUTED DOMAIN NAME
The domain name at issue is <bankofamericacom.com>, registered with Go Daddy Software, 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.
Hon. Ralph Yachnin as Panelist.
Complainant submitted a Complaint to the National Arbitration Forum (the “Forum”) electronically on November 26, 2002; the Forum received a hard copy of the Complaint on December 2, 2002.
On November 26, 2002, Go Daddy Software, Inc. confirmed by e-mail to the Forum that the domain name <bankofamericacom.com> is registered with Go Daddy Software, Inc. and that Respondent is the current registrant of the name. Go Daddy Software, Inc. has verified that Respondent is bound by the Go Daddy Software, 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”).
On December 2, 2002, a Notification of Complaint and Commencement of Administrative Proceeding (the “Commencement Notification”), setting a deadline of December 2, 2002 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, using the same contact details and methods as were used for the Commencement Notification, the Forum transmitted to the parties a Notification of Respondent Default.
On December 30, 2002, pursuant to Complainant’s request to have the dispute decided by a single-member Panel, the Forum appointed Hon. Ralph Yachnin as Panelist.
Having reviewed the communications records, the Administrative Panel (the “Panel”) finds that the 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 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:
Respondent’s <bankofamericacom.com> domain name is confusingly similar to Complainant’s registered BANK OF AMERICA mark.
Respondent does not have any rights or legitimate interests in the <bankofamericacom.com> domain name.
Respondent registered and used the <bankofamericacom.com> domain name in bad faith.
B. Respondent failed to submit a Response in this proceeding.
Complainant, Bank of America Corporation, is the largest consumer bank in the United States, and currently holds numerous trademark registrations for the BANK OF AMERICA mark worldwide (e.g. U.S. Reg. No. 853,860, registered on July 30, 1968 and Chinese Reg. No. 935,995, registered on January 21, 1997).
Complainant reflects its mark online through its registration of the <bankofamerica.com> and <bankofamericaonline.com> domain names, both operating as important components of Complainant’s marketing program. Through the Internet and other media, Complainant spends tens of millions of dollars annually promoting the goodwill associated with the BANK OF AMERICA mark.
Respondent, Bill McCall, registered the <bankofamericacom.com> domain name on October 24, 2002, and is not licensed or authorized to use Complainant’s mark for any purpose. Respondent is using the disputed domain name to host a website titled “Asian Angels” featuring sexually explicit content.
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 the 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.
Paragraph 4(a) of the Policy requires that the 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.
Identical and/or Confusingly Similar
Complainant has established rights in the BANK OF AMERICA mark through registration on the Principal Register of the United States Patent and Trademark Office as well as through continuous and widespread use of the mark.
Respondent’s <bankofamericacom.com> domain name is confusingly similar to Complainant’s registered BANK OF AMERICA mark. Previous Panels have repeatedly held that the addition of a top-level domain name, such as “.com,” do nothing to prevent a domain name from being held confusingly similar or identical to a complainant’s mark. Respondent’s addition of the equivalent of a top-level domain name within the disputed second-level domain name is equally unable to create a distinction capable of overcoming a finding of confusing similarity. 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 Complainant combined with a generic word or term); see also Pomellato S.p.A v. Tonetti, D2000-0493 (WIPO July 7, 2000) (finding <pomellato.com> identical to Complainant’s mark because the generic top-level domain (gTLD) “.com” after the name POMELLATO is not relevant); 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).
Accordingly, the Panel finds that the <bankofamericacom.com> domain name is confusingly similar to Complainant’s registered BANK OF AMERICA mark under Policy ¶ 4(a)(i).
Rights or Legitimate Interests
Policy paragraphs 4(c)(i)-(iii) list three circumstances illustrative of situations where a respondent would have rights or legitimate interests in a domain name. When a respondent has failed to respond to a complaint, a showing by a complainant that none of these three circumstances are present is sufficient for that complainant to meet its burden under the Policy. At that point, the burden shifts to the respondent to rebut the complainant’s allegations. See Do The Hustle, LLC v. Tropic Web, D2000-0624 (WIPO Aug. 21, 2000) (finding that once Complainant asserts that Respondent has no rights or legitimate interests in respect of the domain, the burden shifts to Respondent to provide credible evidence that substantiates its claim of rights and legitimate interests in the domain name).
In these circumstances, Respondent’s failure to respond not only results in its failure to meet its burden, but also will be viewed as evidence itself that Respondent lacks rights and legitimate interests in the disputed domain name. See Am. Online, Inc. v. AOL Int'l, D2000-0654 (WIPO Aug. 21, 2000) (finding no rights or legitimate interests where Respondent fails to respond); see also Parfums Christian Dior v. QTR Corp., D2000-0023 (WIPO Mar. 9, 2000) (finding that by not submitting a Response, Respondent has failed to invoke any circumstance which could demonstrate any rights or legitimate interests in the domain name).
Respondent’s <bankofamericacom.com> domain name hosts a website which features sexually oriented material. Respondent either gains direct commercial profit from this website, or earns referral fees from the owners of the content. In either context, the commercial nature of the website, coupled with the fact that Respondent is using and tarnishing Complainant’s registered mark, results in the conclusion that Respondent is neither making a bona fide offering of goods or services under Policy ¶ 4(c)(i), nor a legitimate noncommercial or fair use of the domain name under Policy ¶ 4(c)(iii). See MatchNet plc v. MAC Trading, D2000-0205 (WIPO May 11, 2000) (finding that it is not a bona fide offering of goods or services to use a domain name for commercial gain by attracting Internet users to third party sites offering sexually explicit and pornographic material, where such use is calculated to mislead consumers and tarnish Complainant’s mark); see also Big Dog Holdings, Inc. v. Day, FA 93554 (Nat. Arb. Forum Mar. 9, 2000) (finding no legitimate use when Respondent was diverting consumers to its own website by using Complainant’s trademarks); see also Household Int’l, Inc. v. Cyntom Enter., FA 95784 (Nat. Arb. Forum Nov. 7, 2000) (inferring that Respondent registered the domain name <householdbank.com>, which incorporates Complainants HOUSEHOLD BANK mark, with hopes of attracting Complainant’s customers and thus finding no rights or legitimate interests).
Respondent’s contact information states that it is “Bill McCall” and no evidence supports the proposition that it has ever been “commonly known by” the name BANKOFAMERICACOM or <bankofamericacom.com>. As such, the Panel finds that Complainant has met its burden in showing that Respondent does not fall under the ambit of Policy ¶ 4(c)(ii). See Vestel Elektronik Sanayi ve Ticaret AS v. Kahveci, D2000-1244 (WIPO Nov. 11, 2000) (finding that “merely registering the domain name is not sufficient to establish rights or legitimate interests for purposes of paragraph 4(a)(ii) of the Policy”); see also RMO, Inc. v. Burbridge, FA 96949 (Nat. Arb. Forum May 16, 2001) (Interpreting Policy ¶ 4(c)(ii) "to require a showing that one has been commonly known by the domain name prior to registration of the domain name to prevail").
Accordingly, the Panel finds that Respondent does not have rights or legitimate interests in the <bankofamericacom.com> domain name under Policy ¶ 4(a)(ii).
Registration and Use in Bad Faith
Respondent’s <bankofamericacom.com> domain name is confusingly similar to Complainant’s BANK OF AMERICA mark. Internet users seeking Complainant’s services will likely be confused as to the source, sponsorship, or affiliation that any website hosted at <bankofamericacom.com> has with Complainant. Respondent created this likelihood of confusion when it chose to register the disputed domain name, just as it capitalized on this likelihood of confusion for commercial gain by hosting a commercial pornographic website. As such, Respondent’s activity evidences bad faith use and registration of a domain name under Policy ¶ 4(b)(iv). See Rittenhouse Dev. Co. v. Domains For Sale, Inc., FA 105211 (Nat. Arb. Forum Apr. 8, 2002) (finding that “when a party registers and uses a domain name that incorporates a well-known mark and connects the domain name with a website that depicts offensive images,” the party has registered and used the disputed domain name in bad faith); see also Geocities v. Geociites.com, D2000-0326 (WIPO June 19, 2000) (finding bad faith where Respondent linked the domain name in question to websites displaying banner advertisements and pornographic material); see also G.D. Searle & Co. v. Celebrex Drugstore, FA 123933 (Nat. Arb. Forum Nov. 21, 2002) (finding that Respondent registered and used the domain name in bad faith pursuant to Policy ¶ 4(b)(iv) because Respondent was using the confusingly similar domain name to attract Internet users to its commercial website).
Accordingly, the Panel finds that Respondent registered and used the <bankofamericacom.com> domain name in bad faith, and Policy ¶ 4(a)(iii) is satisfied.
Having established all three elements under ICANN Policy, the Panel concludes that relief shall be hereby GRANTED.
Accordingly, it is Ordered that the <bankofamericacom.com> domain name be TRANSFERRED from Respondent to Complainant.
Hon. Ralph Yachnin, Panelist
Justice, Supreme Court, NY (Ret.)