Choice Hotels International, Inc. v. URI SNEGOV
Claim Number: FA1508001633023
Complainant is Choice Hotels International, Inc. ("Complainant"), represented by Thorne Maginnis of Arent Fox LLP, Washington, D.C., United States. Respondent is URI SNEGOV ("Respondent"), Russia.
REGISTRAR AND DISPUTED DOMAIN NAMES
The domain names at issue are <wwwchoicehotels.com> and <qualityinnhotel.com>, registered with eNom, 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.
David E. Sorkin as Panelist.
Complainant submitted a Complaint to the Forum electronically on August 12, 2015; the Forum received payment on August 12, 2015.
On August 12, 2015, eNom, Inc. confirmed by email to the Forum that the <wwwchoicehotels.com> and <qualityinnhotel.com> domain names are registered with eNom, Inc. and that Respondent is the current registrant of the names. eNom, Inc. has verified that Respondent is bound by the eNom, 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 August 13, 2015, the Forum served the Complaint and all Annexes, including a Written Notice of the Complaint, setting a deadline of September 2, 2015 by which Respondent could file a Response to the Complaint, via email to all entities and persons listed on Respondent's registration as technical, administrative, and billing contacts, and to firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com. Also on August 13, 2015, the Written Notice of the Complaint, notifying Respondent of the email 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 September 8, 2015, pursuant to Complainant's request to have the dispute decided by a single-member Panel, the Forum appointed David E. Sorkin 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 names be transferred from Respondent to Complainant.
Complainant is one of the world's largest lodging franchisors. In 2001 Complainant had over 3,200 U.S. hotels and nearly 1,200 international hotels in 36 countries; today, Complainant has over 6,300 hotels. Complainant and its predecessors in interest have used CHOICE HOTELS, QUALITY INN, and related marks continuously since 1990 or earlier, and these marks are registered in the United States, Russia, and elsewhere. Complainant also claims common-law rights in these marks, and asserts that consumers have come to associate the marks with Complainant's services.
Complainant contends that the disputed domain names <wwwchoicehotels.com> and <qualityinnhotel.com> are identical or confusingly similar to Complainant's marks; that Respondent has no rights or legitimate interests in the disputed domain names; and that the disputed domain names were registered and are being used in bad faith. In support thereof, Complainant alleges that Respondent is not known by the disputed domain names, and has never been licensed or authorized to use Complainant's marks. Complainant further alleges, based upon historical Whois data, that the domain names were originally registered in 2001 and were acquired by Respondent in 2013. Complainant states that the domain names resolve to either third-party websites offering competing hotel reservation services or sites comprised of pay-per-click links to competing hotel reservation services.
Respondent failed to submit a Response in this proceeding.
The Panel finds that each of the disputed domain names is confusingly similar to a mark in which Complainant has rights; that Respondent lacks rights or legitimate interests in respect of each of the disputed domain name; and that the each of disputed domain names was registered and has been used in bad faith.
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(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.").
The disputed domain name <wwwchoicehotels.com> corresponds to Complainant's registered mark CHOICE HOTELS, with the space omitted and the generic term "www" and the ".com" top-level domain affixed thereto. The disputed domain name <qualityinnhotel.com> corresponds to Complainant's registered mark QUALITY INN, with the space omitted and the generic term "hotel" and the ".com" top-level domain appended thereto. These alterations do not diminish the similarity between the domain names and Complainant's marks. See, e.g., Choice Hotels Int'l, Inc. v. Steve Kerry d/b/a North West Enterprise, Inc., FA 796347 (Nat. Arb. Forum Nov. 2, 2006) (finding <wwwcomfortinnhotel.com> confusingly similar to COMFORT INN); Choice Hotels Int'l, Inc. v. Digi Real Estate Foundation a/k/a Digi Real Estate, FA 787950 (Nat. Arb. Forum Oct. 31, 2006) (finding <wwwsleepinn.com> and <sleepinnhotel.com> confusingly similar to SLEEP INN). The Panel finds that each of the disputed domain names is confusingly similar to a mark in which Complainant has rights.
Under the Policy, the Complainant must first make a prima facie case that the Respondent lacks rights and legitimate interests in the disputed domain name, and then the burden shifts to the Respondent to come forward with concrete evidence of such rights or legitimate interests. See Hanna-Barbera Prods., Inc. v. Entm't Commentaries, FA 741828 (Nat. Arb. Forum Aug. 18, 2006).
The disputed domain names correspond to Complainant's registered marks and are being used to promote competing services. Complainant has made a prima facie case that Respondent lacks rights and legitimate interests in the disputed domain names, and Respondent has failed to come forward with any evidence of such rights or interests. Accordingly, the Panel finds that Complainant has sustained its burden of proving that Respondent lacks rights or legitimate interests in respect of each of the disputed domain names.
Finally, Complainant must show that the disputed domain names were registered and have been used in bad faith. Under paragraph 4(b)(iii) of the Policy, bad faith may be shown by evidence that Respondent registered the disputed domain name "primarily for the purpose of disrupting the business of a competitor." Under paragraph 4(b)(iv), bad faith may be shown by evidence that "by using the domain name, [Respondent] intentionally attempted to attract, for commercial gain, Internet users to [Respondent's] web site or other on-line location, by creating a likelihood of confusion with the complainant's mark as to the source, sponsorship, affiliation, or endorsement of [Respondent's] web site or location or of a product or service on [Respondent's] web site or location."
Respondent is using domain names that correspond closely to Complainant's marks to promote competing services, either by redirecting the domain names to competitors of Complainant or by displaying pay-per-click links to competing services. Absent any indications to the contrary, the Panel infers that Respondent acquired the domain names with such use in mind, and concludes that the domain names were registered and are being used in bad faith.
Having considered the three elements required under the ICANN Policy, the Panel concludes that relief shall be GRANTED.
Accordingly, it is Ordered that the <wwwchoicehotels.com> and <qualityinnhotel.com> domain names be TRANSFERRED from Respondent to Complainant.
David E. Sorkin, Panelist
Dated: September 9, 2015
Click Here to return to the main Domain Decisions Page.
Click Here to return to our Home Page