Subway IP LLC v. Hassaan Khan
Claim Number: FA2203001987898
Complainant is Subway IP LLC (“Complainant”), represented by Steven M. Levy of FairWinds Partners LLC, District of Columbia, USA. Respondent is Hassaan Khan (“Respondent”), Pakistan.
REGISTRAR AND DISPUTED DOMAIN NAME
The domain name at issue is <subwayfranchise.co>, registered with NameCheap, 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.
Paul M. DeCicco, as Panelist.
Complainant submitted a Complaint to the Forum electronically on March 11, 2022; the Forum received payment on March 11, 2022.
On March 11, 2022, NameCheap, Inc. confirmed by e-mail to the Forum that the <subwayfranchise.co> domain name is registered with NameCheap, Inc. and that Respondent is the current registrant of the name. NameCheap, Inc. has verified that Respondent is bound by the NameCheap, Inc. 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 March 14, 2022, the Forum served the Complaint and all Annexes, including a Written Notice of the Complaint, setting a deadline of April 4, 2022 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 firstname.lastname@example.org. Also on March 14, 2022, 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 April 10, 2022, pursuant to Complainant's request to have the dispute decided by a single-member Panel, the Forum appointed Paul M. DeCicco 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 contends as follows:
Complainant is a multinational restaurant chain, offering a variation of sandwiches, wraps, salads, paninis, beverages, and backed goods.
Complainant asserts rights in the SUBWAY mark through its registration of the mark with multiple trademark agencies around the world, including the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO).
Respondent’s <subwayfranchise.co> domain name is identical or confusingly similar to Complainant’s SUBWAY mark, as it incorporates the mark while adding the generic term “franchise” and the “.co” country-code top-level domain (ccTLD).
Respondent has no rights or legitimate interests in the <subwayfranchise.co> domain name. Complainant has not authorized or licensed Respondent to use the SUBWAY mark, nor is Respondent commonly known by the disputed domain name. Further, Respondent is not using the disputed domain name in connection with a bona fide offering of goods and services or legitimate noncommercial or fair use as Respondent uses the at-issue domain name to pass off as Complainant in furtherance of a phishing scheme.
Respondent registered and uses the at-issue domain name in bad faith. Respondent attempts to attract users for commercial gain by passing off as Complainant. Further, Respondent had actual notice of Complainant’s rights in the SUBWAY mark, evidenced by Respondent’s use of the mark and the fame of the mark. Respondent makes use of a privacy shield. Finally, Respondent uses the mark to engage in a phishing scheme.
Respondent failed to submit a Response in this proceeding.
Complainant has rights in the SUBWAY trademark.
Respondent is not affiliated with Complainant and had not been authorized to use Complainant’s trademark in any capacity.
Respondent registered the at‑issue domain name after Complainant acquired rights in the SUBWAY trademark.
Respondent’s uses the <subwayfranchise.co> domain name to address a website mimicking Complainant’s official website in furtherance of fraud.
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 at-issue domain name is confusingly similar or identical to a trademark in which Complainant has rights.
Any of Complainant’s national trademark registrations for SUBWAY, including registration with authorities in India, European Union, and the USPTO, demonstrates Complainant’s rights in a mark under Policy ¶ 4(a)(i). See Google LLC v. Bhawana Chandel / Admission Virus, FA 1799694 (Forum Sept. 4, 2018) (“Complainant has rights in the GMAIL mark based upon its registration of the mark with numerous trademark agencies around the world.”).
Respondent’s SUBWAY domain name contains Complainant’s SUBWAY SUBWAY trademark followed by the suggestive term “franchise” with all followed by the “.co” top-level domain name. The differences between Respondent’s domain name and Complainant’s trademark are insufficient to distinguish the <subwayfranchise.co> domain name from Complainant’s SUBWAY trademark for the purposes of Policy ¶ 4(a)(i). Therefore, the Panel concludes that Respondent’s <subwayfranchise.co> domain name is confusingly similar or identical to SUBWAY. See Vanguard Group Inc. v. Proven Fin. Solutions, FA 572937 (Forum Nov. 18, 2005) (holding that the addition of both the word “advisors” and the gTLD “.com” did not sufficiently alter the disputed domain name to negate a finding of confusing similarity under Policy ¶ 4(a)(i)); see also Bloomberg Finance L.P. v. Nexperian Holding Limited, FA 1782013 (Forum June 4, 2018) (“Where a relevant trademark is recognizable within a disputed domain name, the addition of other terms (whether descriptive, geographical, pejorative, meaningless, or otherwise) does not prevent a finding of confusing similarity under the first element.”).
Under Policy ¶ 4(a)(ii), Complainant must first make out a prima facie case showing that Respondent lacks rights and legitimate interests in respect of an at-issue domain name and then the burden, in effect, shifts to Respondent to come forward with evidence of its rights or legitimate interests. See Hanna-Barbera Prods., Inc. v. Entm’t Commentaries, FA 741828 (Forum Aug. 18, 2006).
Respondent lacks both rights and legitimate interests in respect of the at-issue domain name. Respondent is not authorized to use Complainant’s trademark in any capacity and, as discussed below, there are no Policy ¶ 4(c) circumstances from which the Panel might find that Respondent has rights or interests in respect of the at‑issue domain name. See Emerson Electric Co. v. golden humble / golden globals, FA 1787128 (Forum June 11, 2018) (“lack of evidence in the record to indicate a respondent is authorized to use [the] complainant’s mark may support a finding that [the] respondent does not have rights or legitimate interests in the disputed domain name per Policy ¶ 4(c)(ii)”).
The WHOIS information for <subwayfranchise.co> identifies the domain name’s registrant as “Hassaan Khan” and the record before the Panel contains no evidence showing that Respondent is commonly known by the <subwayfranchise.co> domain name. The Panel therefore concludes that Respondent is not commonly known by <subwayfranchise.co> for the purposes of Policy ¶ 4(c)(ii). See Radio Flyer Inc. v. er nong wu, FA 2011001919893 (Forum Dec. 16, 2020) (“Here, the WHOIS information lists “er nong wu” as the registrant and no information suggests Complainant has authorized Respondent to use the RADIO FLYER mark in any way. Therefore, the Panel finds that Respondent is not commonly known by the disputed domain name under Policy ¶ 4(c)(ii).”).
Respondent uses <subwayfranchise.co> to pass itself off as Complainant and address a website designed to fool visitors into falsely believing they are dealing with franchise related material sponsored by Complainant. Respondent’s <subwayfranchise.co> website displays Complainant’s trademark as well as copyright notice and other proprietary content lifted from actual SUBWAY franchise promotion webpages at the www.Subway.com site all in furtherance of stealing Complainant’s identity and perpetrating fraud. Respondent intends that confused visitors seeking SUBWAY franchise opportunities and believing they are dealing with Complainant will unwittingly convey personal information, financial information, and make payments to Respondent. Respondent’s use the of the at-issue domain name in this manner indicates neither a bona fide offering of goods or services under Policy ¶ 4(c)(i), nor a non-commercial or fair use pursuant to Policy ¶ 4(c)(iii). See Enterprise Holdings, Inc. v. I S / Internet Consulting Services Inc., FA 1785242 (Forum June 5, 2018) (“On its face, the use of a domain name that is confusingly similar to the mark of another in order to facilitate a phishing scheme cannot be described as either 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).”).
Given the forgoing, Complainant satisfies its initial burden and shows Respondent’s lack of rights and legitimate interests in the at-issue domain name under Policy ¶ 4(a)(ii).
The at-issue domain name was registered and used in bad faith. As discussed below without limitation, bad faith circumstances are present from which the Panel concludes that Respondent acted in bad faith pursuant to Policy ¶ 4(a)(iii).
As mentioned above regarding rights or legitimate interests, Respondent uses the confusingly similar <subwayfranchise.co> domain name to pass itself off as Complainant. Respondent’s <subwayfranchise.co> website pretending to be a Complainant sponsored website concerned with SUBWAY franchise opportunities. Using the confusingly similar domain name in such a manner is disruptive to Complainant’s business and falsely indicates that there is a sanctioned relationship between Complainant and Respondent when there is no such relationship. Respondent’s use of the domain name thus demonstrates Respondent’s bad faith under Policy ¶¶ 4(b)(iii) and (iv). See Ripple Labs Inc. v. Jessie McKoy / Ripple Reserve Fund, FA 1790949 (Forum July 9, 2018) (finding bad faith per Policy ¶¶ 4(b)(iii) and (iv) where the respondent used the disputed domain name to resolve to a website upon which the respondent passes off as the complainant and offers online cryptocurrency services in direct competition with the complainant’s business); see also Bittrex, Inc. v. Wuxi Yilian LLC, FA 1760517 (Forum Dec. 27, 2017) (finding bad faith per Policy ¶ 4(b)(iv) where “Respondent registered and uses the <lbittrex.com> domain name in bad faith by directing Internet users to a website that mimics Complainant’s own website in order to confuse users into believing that Respondent is Complainant, or is otherwise affiliated or associated with Complainant.”).
Next, Respondent engages in phishing. Respondent dupes the wayward visitors it misdirects to its <subwayfranchise.co> website into giving up private data and funds as part of an elaborate criminal scheme. Using the at-issue domain name to phish for private data and swindle third parties constitutes bad faith under Policy ¶ 4(a)(iii). See Morgan Stanley v. Bruce Pu, FA 1764120 (Forum Feb. 2, 2018) (“[T]he screenshot of the resolving webpage allows users to input their name and email address, which Complainant claims Respondent uses that to fraudulently phish for information. Thus, the Panel agrees that Respondent phishes for information and finds that Respondent does so in bad faith under Policy ¶ 4(a)(iii).”).
Moreover, Respondent registered the <subwayfranchise.co> domain name knowing that Complainant had trademark rights in SUBWAY. Respondent’s prior knowledge is evident from the notoriety of Complainant’s trademark and from Respondent’s use of the domain name to pass itself off as Complainant in furtherance of fraud as discussed above. Respondent’s prior knowledge of Complainant's trademark further shows that Respondent registered and used its <subwayfranchise.co> domain name in bad faith pursuant to Policy ¶ 4(a)(iii). See Minicards Vennootschap Onder FIrma Amsterdam v. Moscow Studios, FA 1031703 (Forum Sept. 5, 2007) (holding that respondent registered a domain name in bad faith under Policy ¶ 4(a)(iii) after concluding that respondent had "actual knowledge of Complainant's mark when registering the disputed domain name").
Having established all three elements required under the ICANN Policy, the Panel concludes that relief shall be GRANTED.
Accordingly, it is Ordered that the <subwayfranchise.co> domain name be TRANSFERRED from Respondent to Complainant.
Paul M. DeCicco, Panelist
Dated: April 11, 2022
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