WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center

 

ADMINISTRATIVE PANEL DECISION

The Coca-Cola Company v. Garry Skaggs Company and Garry Skaggs

Case No. D2000-1806

 

1. The Parties

The Complainant is The Coca-Cola Company, a corporation organized in the State of Delaware, United States of America (USA), with place of business in Atlanta, Georgia, USA.

The Respondent is Garry Skaggs Company and Garry Skaggs, with address in Crandall, Indiana, USA.

 

2. The Domain Name and Registrar

The disputed domain name is <cocacolacollectibles.com>.

The registrar of the disputed domain name is Tucows, Inc., with address in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.

 

3. Procedural History

The essential procedural history of the administrative proceeding is as follows:

(a) Complainant initiated the proceeding by the filing of a complaint via e-mail, received by the WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center ("WIPO") on December 22, 2000, and by courier mail received by WIPO on December 27, 2000. Payment by Complainant of the requisite filing fees accompanied the courier mailing. On January 3, 2001, WIPO transmitted a Request for Registrar Verification to the registrar, Tucows, Inc. (with the Registrarís Response received by WIPO on January 4, 2001).

(b) On January 3, 2001, WIPO transmitted via e-mail to Complainant a request for correction of the complaint in regard to the listing of the disputed domain name. On January 9, 2001, WIPO received via e-mail from Complainant an amended complaint, and on January 11, 2001, WIPO received via courier mail from Complainant the amended complaint in hardcopy.

(c) On January 18, 2001, WIPO transmitted notification of the complaint and commencement of the proceeding to Respondent via e-mail, telefax and courier mail. Courier mail and fax transmission receipts indicate successful delivery.

(d) On February 1, 2001, Respondent transmitted via e-mail to WIPO a message regarding his alleged efforts to settle this dispute with Complainant, and indicating his wish to work out arrangements to transfer the disputed domain name to Complainant. On February 7, 2001, WIPO transmitted an e-mail message to Respondent acknowledging his response.

(e) In response to an e-mail inquiry of February 12, 2001, from WIPO to Complainant, Complainant confirmed by telephone that it wished to proceed with this administrative proceeding.

(f) On February 23, 2001, WIPO invited the undersigned to serve as panelist in this administrative proceeding, subject to receipt of an executed Statement of Acceptance and Declaration of Impartiality and Independence ("Statement and Declaration"). On February 26, 2001, the undersigned transmitted by fax the executed Statement and Declaration to WIPO.

(g) On February 28, 2001, Complainant and Respondent were notified by WIPO of the appointment of the undersigned sole panelist as the Administrative Panel (the "Panel") in this matter. WIPO notified the Panel that, absent exceptional circumstances, it would be required to forward its decision to WIPO by March 13, 2001. On February 28, 2001, the Panel received an electronic file in this matter by e-mail from WIPO. The Panel subsequently received a hard copy of the file in this matter by courier mail from WIPO.

(h) On February 28, 2001, the Panel contacted Complainant, Respondent and WIPO by e-mail suggesting that the parties to the proceeding might wish to consider a settlement of this matter in light of Respondentís stated interest in so doing. The Panel noted that Complainant had previously gone to some lengths to accommodate Respondentís repeated indications of a willingness to transfer the disputed domain name, and indicated that any settlement arrangements should be concluded expeditiously. By e-mail of February 28, 2001, Complainant indicated its willingness to further explore the possibility of a settlement.

(i) On March 1, 2001, Respondent transmitted via e-mail to the Panel a message indicating his willingness to settle this matter by transferring the disputed domain name to Complainant, provided that arrangements for a transfer could be made that would not require him to disclose his Tucows, Inc. password to Complainant.

(j) Following various correspondence between the Panel, WIPO, Tucows, Inc., Respondent and Complainant, the Panel was satisfied that a mutually satisfactory mechanism for resolving this matter had been found. The Panel prepared and, on April 10, 2001, transmitted to WIPO an Agreement of Settlement, Transfer and Termination ("Agreement of Settlement") for circulation to and execution by the parties.

(k) On April 17, 2001, WIPO transmitted via fax to Respondent and Complainant a copy of the Agreement of Settlement for execution. On May 15, 2001, WIPO transmitted via fax to Respondent a copy of the Agreement of Settlement as executed by Complainant. WIPO fax reports indicate successful transmission of both telefaxes to Respondent. On April 24 and May 15, 2001, counsel for Complainant sent via fax its executed copy of the Agreement of Settlement to Respondent.

(l) On different occasions, including by e-mail of May 15, 2001 to WIPO, Respondent indicated that (a) he had not received a fax transmission of the Agreement of Settlement from WIPO or Complainant, and (b) he had received a fax transmission that was difficult to read, or difficult to print. On one occasion, he attached an electronic version of the fax he received that was easily readable by the Panel.

(m) On May 24, 2001, the Panel transmitted to the parties and WIPO several options for assisting Respondent in executing a copy of the Agreement of Settlement. The Panel requested Respondent to notify all parties as to any technical difficulties he might be encountering.

(n) On June 19, 2001, WIPO suggested to the Panel that since it had not received any reply to its e-mail message of May 24, 2001, it proceed to decide this matter. The Panel concurred. On June 28, 2001, the Panel advised Complainant, Respondent and WIPO by e-mail that it would proceed to render its determination within fourteen (14) days. By e-mail of June 28, 2001, Respondent again advised the Panel of his wish to settle this matter by transferring the disputed domain name to Complainant.

The Panel has not received any requests from Complainant or Respondent regarding further submissions, waivers or extensions of deadlines, and the Panel has not found it necessary to request any further information from the parties. The proceedings have been conducted in English.

 

4. Factual Background

Complainant has registered the trademark "COCA-COLA" in several classes on the Principal Register of the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), for example, reg. no. 238145, dated January 31, 1928, in International Class 32 (light beverages). Complainant has referred to several additional registrations with registration numbers and dates of registration (Footnote 1). (Complaint, para. 12(a)).

Complainant engages in extensive advertising of its mark, and Complainantís mark is well known in the United States and the world.

Complainant maintains an active commercial Internet website at address (URL) <www.cocacola.com>. This website includes an e-commerce store, and a web page of that store is headed "Collectibles, Coca Cola stuff for everywhere!" (Complaint, Annex K).

According to the registrarís verification response to WIPO, dated January 4, 2001, Respondent "Garry Skaggs Company" is the listed registrant of the domain name <cocacolacollectibles.com>. The listed Administrative Contact is "Skaggs, Gary". The listed registrant and Administrative Contact show the same mailing address. The record of registration for the disputed domain name was created on September 24, 1997, and was last updated on January 3, 2001.

"Skaggs and Taylor" is the listed registrant of the domain name <louisvillewebdirectory.com>. The registration contact information for such domain name lists "Skaggs, Garry" as the Administrative Contact, and the e-mail address of the registrant as <garry@forwebs.com>. (Complaint, Annex H)

As of April 20, 1999, the disputed domain name <cocacolacollectibles.com> was listed for sale on a website addressed by <bsd.lousivillewebdirectory.com> for eight thousand dollars ($8,000) (id., Annex L).

As of December 5, 2000, the disputed domain name <cocacolacollectibles.com> was used to identify a website headed "The Best Domain Names For Sale, Forwebs.com" (id., Annex I). This website includes links to websites selling various goods and services, as well as domain names. The website on which domain names are offered for sale is identified by the Internet address <bsd.louisvillewebdirectory.com>.

Complainant via counsel has sent numerous cease and desist and transfer demands to Respondent (for example, by letter dated August 17, 2000). Respondent at one point offered to delete the disputed domain name, and transmitted to Complainant a copy of a fax/letter dated March 29, 2000, allegedly sent to Network Solutions requesting that deletion. However, no such deletion took place and, on July 31, 2000, Respondent via letter from counsel notified Complainant that he rejected the request to cease use of the disputed domain name. Said letter from Respondentís counsel concluded, "If your client has a special need for this Domain Name, please let me know. I will be happy to consult with my client regarding any proposal you may have". (Letter from William H. Bode to Bradley A. Slustsky, dated July 31, 2000, Complaint, Annex C)

In his response to the complaint in this proceeding, Respondent claims to have a "three car garage full" of "licensed Coca-Cola products" which he intended to sell on a website identified by the disputed domain name. He also claims to have sold "these types of products" at a flea market booth "for close to 20 years now". He adds "Of course we will not be selling Coca-Cola items no longer and we will be trying to find someone to purchase our items and that really want to sell these items like we wanted to". (Response of February 1, 2001).

The Service Agreement in effect between Respondent and Tucows, Inc. subjects Respondent to Tucows, Inc.ís dispute settlement policy, the Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy, as adopted by ICANN on August 26, 1999, and with implementing documents approved by ICANN on October 24, 1999. The Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy (the "Policy") requires that domain name registrants submit to a mandatory administrative proceeding conducted by an approved dispute resolution service provider, of which WIPO is one, regarding allegations of abusive domain name registration (Policy, paragraph 4(a)).

 

5. Partiesí Contentions

A. Complainant

Complainant states that it is the holder of trademark registrations for "COCA-COLA", that it uses that mark in commerce, and that the mark is well known (see Factual Record supra).

Complainant alleges that the disputed domain name is confusingly similar to its mark. Complainant indicates that the term "collectibles" is "a generic addition to The Coca-Cola Companyís ĎCoca-Colaí trademark, and is widely recognized as being associated with goods used in connection with the ĎCoca-Colaí trademark, as many Coca-Cola products, advertising materials, machines and paraphernalia have become collectorís items."

Complainant states that Respondent has no rights or legitimate interests in the disputed domain name. Respondent has not been authorized to use Complainantís mark. Although Respondent has suggested an intention to use the domain name in connection with the sale of goods related to Complainant, in fact Respondent has never made such use.

Complainant alleges that Respondent registered and has used the disputed domain name in bad faith. Respondent has used the name to intentionally attract Internet users to a website unrelated to Complainant for commercial gain, and Respondent has offered the disputed domain name for sale for $8,000.

Complainant requests the Panel to direct the registrar to transfer the disputed domain name to it.

B. Respondent

Respondent replied to the complaint by offering to transfer the disputed domain name to Complainant. In his response, Respondent indicated that he had intended to sell licensed Coca-Cola products from a website identified by the disputed domain name.

 

6. Discussion and Findings

The Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy (the "Policy") adopted by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) on August 26, 1999 (with implementing documents approved on October 24, 1999), is addressed to resolving disputes concerning allegations of abusive domain name registration. The Panel will confine itself to making determinations necessary to resolve this administrative proceeding.

It is essential to dispute resolution proceedings that fundamental due process requirements be met. Such requirements include that a respondent have notice of proceedings that may substantially affect its rights. The Policy, and the Rules for Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy (the "Rules"), establish procedures intended to assure that respondents are given adequate notice of proceedings commenced against them, and a reasonable opportunity to respond (see, e.g., paragraph 2(a), Rules).

In this case, the Panel is satisfied that WIPO took all steps reasonably necessary to notify the Respondent of the filing of the complaint and initiation of these proceedings. Respondent transmitted a response to the complaint, and exchanged a number of e-mail messages with the Panel, Complainant and WIPO regarding his alleged interest in reaching a settlement of this matter.

Paragraph 4(a) of the Policy sets forth three elements that must be established by a Complainant to merit a finding that a Respondent has engaged in abusive domain name registration, and to obtain relief. These elements are that:

(i) Respondentís domain name is identical or confusingly similar to a trademark or service mark in which the complainant has rights; and

(ii) Respondent has no rights or legitimate interests in respect of the domain name; and

(iii) Respondentís domain name has been registered and is being used in bad faith.

Each of the aforesaid three elements must be proved by a complainant to warrant relief.

Complainant is the holder of the registered trademark "Coca-Cola" and uses that mark in commerce (see Factual Background supra). The "Coca-Cola" mark is well known in the United States and around the world. Complainantís rights in the mark arose at least as early as January 31, 1928, the date of the first registration with the USPTO submitted in this proceeding. Complainantís rights in the mark substantially predate Respondentís registration of the disputed domain name in 1997.

The disputed domain name adds the term "collectibles" to Complainantís well known mark (as well as the generic top level domain (gTLD) ".com"). The addition of the noun "collectibles" does not create a new mark in which Respondent has rights. Moreover, Internet users viewing a domain name that combines Complainantís mark with a noun referring to desirable products identified by it are likely to conclude that the domain name identifies Complainant as the source of the products that offered for sale. The fact that Complainantís mark is well known increases the likelihood that Internet users will associate Complainant with the disputed domain name. The Panel determines that the disputed domain name <cocacolacollectibles.com> is confusingly similar to a trademark in which Complainant has rights. Complainant has established the first element necessary for a finding that Respondent has engaged in abusive domain name registration and use.

The second element of a claim of abusive domain name registration is that the Respondent has no rights or legitimate interests in respect of the domain name (Policy, paragraph 4(a)(ii). The Policy enumerates several ways in which a respondent may demonstrate rights or legitimate interests:

"Any of the following circumstances, in particular but without limitation, if found by the Panel to be proved based on its evaluation of all evidence presented, shall demonstrate your rights or legitimate interests to the domain name for purposes of Paragraph 4(a)(ii):

(i) before any notice to you of the dispute, your use of, or demonstrable preparations to use, the domain name or a name corresponding to the domain name in connection with a bona fide offering of goods or services; or

(ii) you (as an individual, business, or other organization) have been commonly known by the domain name, even if you have acquired no trademark or service mark rights; or

(iii) you are making a legitimate noncommercial or fair use of the domain name, without intent for commercial gain to misleadingly divert consumers or to tarnish the trademark or service mark at issue." (Policy, paragraph 4(c)) .

Respondent has asserted rights in the disputed domain name as a matter of fair use. He claims to be entitled to use the name in connection with the sale of legitimate Coca-Cola products. This sole panelist recently served on a panel that considered in some detail the right of a domain name registrant to use a mark in a domain name in connection with the third party resale of genuine products (Footnote 2). Whether such use is "fair" depends on a number of factors, including the extent to which the domain name registrant has taken steps to disclaim an affiliation with the trademark holder. In the present proceeding, the Respondent has not used the disputed domain name in connection with the resale of genuine products, and has not in any way disclaimed an affiliation with Complainant. Respondent has instead offered the disputed domain name for sale, and used it to attract Internet users to a website wholly unrelated to Complainantís products. In these circumstances, Respondent has not established a fair use right in the disputed domain name.

Respondent has failed to establish rights or legitimate interests in the disputed domain name. Thus, Complainant has established the second element necessary to prevail on its claim that Respondent has engaged in abusive domain name registration.

The Policy indicates that certain circumstances may, "in particular but without limitation," be evidence of bad faith (Policy, para. 4(b)). Among these circumstances are: (1) that the domain name has been registered or acquired by a respondent "primarily for the purpose of selling, renting, or otherwise transferring the domain name registration to the complainant who is the owner of the trademark or service mark or to a competitor of that complainant, for valuable consideration in excess of [respondentís] documented out-of-pocket costs directly related to the domain name" (id., para. 4(b)(i)); and (2) that a respondent "by using the domain name, Ö [has] intentionally attempted to attract, for commercial gain, Internet users to [its] web site or other on-line location, by creating a likelihood of confusion with the complainantís mark as to the source, sponsorship, affiliation, or endorsement of [respondentís] web site or location of a product or service on [its] web site or location" (id., para. 4(b)(iv)).

Respondent has offered the disputed domain name for sale for $8,000 on a website which he operates. Respondent had no right to sell and profit from the sale to any person of Complainantís well-known trademark. The Panel determines such offer for sale constitutes bad faith within the meaning of paragraph 4(b) of the Policy.

Respondent has used the disputed domain name to direct Internet users to a website that offers domain names for sale, and includes links to products and services for sale. Respondent has intentionally used Complainantís mark to attract Internet users to a commercial website by confusing Internet users as to Complainantís sponsorship of or affiliation with his website. This constitutes bad faith within the meaning of paragraph 4(b)(iv) of the Policy.

Complainant has established the third and final element necessary for a finding that the Respondent has engaged in abusive domain name registration and use.

The Panel will therefore request the registrar to transfer the domain name <cocacolacollectibles.com> to the Complainant.

 

7. Decision

Based on its finding that the Respondent, Garry Skaggs Company and Garry Skaggs, has engaged in abusive registration and use of the domain name <cocacolacollectibles.com> within the meaning of paragraph 4(a) of the Policy, the Panel orders that the domain name <cocacolacollectibles.com> be transferred to the Complainant, The Coca-Cola Company.

 


 

Frederick M. Abbott
Sole Panelist

Dated: July 11, 2001

 


Footnotes:

1. Complainant has not provided evidence of these registrations in the form of copies of certificates of registration or of database records so as to allow the Panel to more fully set forth the nature of its registrations at the USPTO (such as by reference to registration class, and whether the marks are in the form of words, or a combination words and designs). Such information is often relevant to determination of facts in administrative proceedings under the Policy and Rules. (back to text)

2. See General Electric Company v. Japan, Inc., WIPO Case No. D2001-0410, decided June 14, 2001. (back to text)