Sturm, Ruger & Co., Inc. v. RICHARD OCONNOR
Claim Number: FA2105001943862
Complainant is Sturm, Ruger & Co., Inc. (“Complainant”), represented by Jonathan Uffelman of Finnegan, Henderson, Farabow, Garrett & Dunner, LLP, District of Columbia, USA. Respondent is RICHARD OCONNOR (“Respondent”), Massachusetts, USA.
REGISTRAR AND DISPUTED DOMAIN NAME
The domain name at issue is <freddierugers.com>, registered with NameSilo, LLC.
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.
Richard Hill as Panelist.
Complainant submitted a Complaint to the Forum electronically on May 4, 2021; the Forum received payment on May 4, 2021.
On May 4, 2021, NameSilo, LLC confirmed by e-mail to the Forum that the <freddierugers.com> domain name is registered with NameSilo, LLC and that Respondent is the current registrant of the name. NameSilo, LLC has verified that Respondent is bound by the NameSilo, LLC registration agreement and has thereby agreed to resolve domain disputes brought by third parties in accordance with ICANN’s Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy (the “Policy”).
On May 5, 2021, the Forum served the Complaint and all Annexes, including a Written Notice of the Complaint, setting a deadline of May 25, 2021 by which Respondent could file a Response to the Complaint, via e-mail to all entities and persons listed on Respondent’s registration as technical, administrative, and billing contacts, and to email@example.com. Also on May 5, 2021, the Written Notice of the Complaint, notifying Respondent of the e-mail addresses served and the deadline for a Response, was transmitted to Respondent via post and fax, to all entities and persons listed on Respondent’s registration as technical, administrative and billing contacts.
Having received no response from Respondent, the Forum transmitted to the parties a Notification of Respondent Default.
On May 28, 2021, pursuant to Complainant's request to have the dispute decided by a single-member Panel, the Forum appointed Richard Hill 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" through submission of Electronic and Written Notices, as defined in Rule 1 and Rule 2. 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.
Complainant states that it is one of the nation’s leading firearm manufacturers. Through its quality craftsmanship and innovations, Complainant has helped revolutionize the firearms industry and has earned a reputation as an iconic American maker of rugged and reliable firearms. As the result of decades of use, substantial sales and advertising, and third-party recognition and acclaim, Complainant has become a well-known and trusted firearms brand. Complainant’s roots trace back to 1949. With an initial investment of only $50,000 and an idea, Complainant’s founders started the company by producing a .22 caliber auto-loading pistol. Over the ensuing seven decades, Complainant’s growth and recognition soared. By 1997, Complainant was producing more than 600,000 firearms a year for hunting, target-shooting, collecting, self-defense, law enforcement, and the armed forces. By its 50th anniversary, Complainant had built over 16,000,000 firearms. Today, Complainant has grown and expanded its offerings to include more than forty product lines, totaling over 700 SKUs for the commercial, sporting, military, and law enforcement markets. Over the years, Complainant and its products have received myriad awards and industry recognition. Complainant has rights in the RUGER mark through its registration in the United States in 1955.
Complainant alleges that the disputed domain name is confusingly similar to its RUGER mark, only differing by the addition of the male name “Freddie” and an “s” at the end of Complainant’s mark, along with adding the “.com” generic top-level domain (“gTLD”).
According to Complainant, Respondent lacks rights and legitimate interests in the disputed domain name as Respondent is not commonly known by the disputed domain name and is neither an authorized user nor licensee of the RUGER mark. Additionally, Respondent does not use the disputed domain name for any bona fide offering of goods or services, nor for any legitimate noncommercial or fair use, but instead uses the disputed domain name to purport to offer Complainant’s products for sale. In reality, the likely purpose of the resolving website is to perpetrate a fraudulent phishing scheme. Further, moving the “s” from “Freddie’s” (a licensed dealer of Complainant) to the end of Complainant’s RUGER mark may, in this instance, qualify as typosquatting.
Further, says Complainant, Respondent registered and uses the disputed domain name in bad faith. Respondent uses the disputed domain name to displays Complainant’s products and purports to offer them for sale, both disrupting Complainant’s business and likely leading to commercial gain for Respondent. The disputed domain name may also qualify as typosquatting. Respondent’s use of a privacy service, along with providing false contact information when registering the disputed domain name (an incorrect zip code and the address of what appears to be a legitimate business) may further indicate bad faith registration. Additionally, Respondent possessed actual knowledge of Complainant’s rights in the RUGER mark prior to registering the disputed domain name.
Respondent failed to submit a Response in this proceeding.
Complainant owns rights in the mark RUGER dating back to 1955, and uses it to market firearms.
The disputed domain name was registered in 2020.
Complainant has not licensed or otherwise authorized Respondent to use its mark.
The resolving website purports to offer Complainant’s products for sale.
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."
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.
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(f), 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 set forth in a complaint; however, the Panel may deny relief where a complaint contains mere conclusory or unsubstantiated arguments. See WIPO Jurisprudential Overview 3.0 at ¶ 4.3; see also eGalaxy Multimedia Inc. v. ON HOLD By Owner Ready To Expire, FA 157287 (Forum June 26, 2003) (“Because Complainant did not produce clear evidence to support its subjective allegations [. . .] the Panel finds it appropriate to dismiss the Complaint”).
The disputed domain name incorporates Complainant’s mark in its entirety, merely adding the male name “Freddie”, the letter “s”, and the “.com” gTLD. Previous Panels have held that such changes may not sufficiently distinguish a domain name from a mark under Policy ¶ 4(a)(i). See State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company v. New Ventures Services, Corp, FA 1647714 (Forum Dec. 17, 2015) (finding that adding the common name “John” to complainant’s STATE FARM mark was insufficient to overcome a determination of confusing similarity.); see also PathAdvantage Associated v. VistaPrint Technologies Ltd, FA 1625731 (Forum July 23, 2015) (holding that the <pathadvantages.com> domain name was confusingly similar to the PATHADVANTAGE trademark because the domain name “merely adds the letter ‘s’ to Complainant’s mark”). Therefore, the Panel finds that the disputed domain name is confusingly similar to Complainant’s mark under Policy ¶ 4(a)(i).
Complainant has not licensed or otherwise authorized Respondent to use its mark. Respondent is not commonly known by the disputed domain name: when no response is submitted, relevant WHOIS information may demonstrate that a Respondent is not commonly known by a disputed domain name under Policy ¶ 4(c)(ii). See Chevron Intellectual Property LLC v. Fred Wallace, FA1506001626022 (Forum July 27, 2015) (finding that the respondent was not commonly known by the <chevron-europe.com> domain name under Policy ¶ 4(c)(ii), as the WHOIS information named “Fred Wallace” as registrant of the disputed domain name). Here, the WHOIS information of record identifies “RICHARD OCONNOR” as the registrant of the disputed domain name. Thus the Panel finds that Respondent is not commonly known by the disputed domain name under Policy ¶ 4(c)(ii).
Respondent uses the disputed domain name to display Complainant’s products and purports to offer them for sale. Regardless of whether these products are counterfeit versions of Complainant’s firearms or legitimate versions that Respondent is not authorized to sell, such use does not qualify as a bona fide offering of goods or services, nor can it be a legitimate noncommercial or fair use under Policy ¶¶ 4(c)(i) and (iii). See Wolverine World Wide, Inc. v. Fergus Knox, FA 1627751 (Forum Aug. 19, 2015) (finding no bona fide offering of goods or legitimate noncommercial or fair use existed where Respondent used the resolving website to sell products branded with Complainant’s MERRELL mark, and were either counterfeit products or legitimate products of Complainant being resold without authorization). Thus, the Panel finds that Respondent fails to use the disputed domain name to make a bona fide offering of goods or legitimate noncommercial or fair use lacks under Policy ¶¶ 4(c)(i) or (iii). And the Panel finds that Respondent does not have rights or legitimate interests in the disputed domain name.
Respondent (who did not reply to Complainant’s contentions) has not presented any plausible explanation for its use of Complainant’s mark. In accordance with paragraph 14(b) of the Rules, the Panel shall draw such inferences from Respondent’s failure to reply as it considers appropriate. Accordingly, the Panel finds that Respondent did not have a legitimate use in mind when registering the disputed domain name.
Indeed, as already noted, Respondent uses the disputed domain name to display Complainant’s products and purport to offer them for sale. Such use may qualify as both bad faith disruption and attraction to commercial gain under Policy ¶¶ 4(b)(iii) and/or (iv). See G.D. Searle & Co. v. Celebrex Cox-2 Vioxx.com, FA 124508 (Forum Oct. 16, 2002) (“Unauthorized use of Complainant’s CELEBREX mark to sell Complainant’s products represents bad faith use under Policy ¶ 4(b)(iii).”); see also Fanuc Ltd v. Mach. Control Servs., FA 93667 (Forum Mar. 13, 2000) (finding that the respondent violated Policy ¶ 4(b)(iv) by creating a likelihood of confusion with the complainant's mark by using a domain name identical to the complainant’s mark to sell the complainant’s products). Therefore, the Panel finds that Respondent registered and uses the disputed domain name in bad faith under Policy ¶¶ 4(b)(iii) and/or (iv).
Further, Respondent registered the disputed domain name with actual knowledge of Complainant’s mark: the resolving website displays Complainant’s mark and products. While constructive notice is insufficient to demonstrate bad faith, actual knowledge of a complainant’s rights in a mark prior to registration may be evidence of bad faith per Policy ¶ 4(a)(iii). See Custom Modular Direct LLC v. Custom Modular Homes Inc., FA 1140580 (Forum Apr. 8, 2008) (“There is no place for constructive notice under the Policy.”); see also Orbitz Worldwide, LLC v. Domain Librarian, FA 1535826 (Forum Feb. 6, 2014) (“The Panel notes that although the UDRP does not recognize ‘constructive notice’ as sufficient grounds for finding Policy ¶ 4(a)(iii) bad faith, the Panel here finds actual knowledge through the name used for the domain and the use made of it.”); see also Univision Comm'cns Inc. v. Norte, FA 1000079 (Forum Aug. 16, 2007) (rejecting the respondent's contention that it did not register the disputed domain name in bad faith since the panel found that the respondent had knowledge of the complainant's rights in the UNIVISION mark when registering the disputed domain name). The Panel finds that Respondent had actual knowledge of Complainant’s rights in the mark prior to Respondent’s registration of the disputed domain name and that this constitutes bad faith under Policy ¶ 4(a)(iii).
Having established all three elements required under the ICANN Policy, the Panel concludes that relief shall be GRANTED.
Accordingly, it is Ordered that the <freddierugers.com> domain name be TRANSFERRED from Respondent to Complainant.
Richard Hill, Panelist
Dated: June 1, 2021
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