WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center
ADMINISTRATIVE PANEL DECISION
Scholastic Inc. v. ScholasticAdvising.com and Ramit Sethi
Case No. D2001-0946
The Complainant in this Administrative Proceeding is Scholastic Inc., a corporation organized and existing under the laws of the State of New York, with its principal place of business at 555 Broadway, New York, New York 10012-3999, U.S.A.
The Respondents are ScholasticAdvising.com, with an address at 6825 Mellodora Drive, Orangevale, California 95662, U.S.A., and Ramit Sethi, an individual residing at the same address.
2. Domain Name and Registrar
The domain name in dispute is as follows: <scholasticadvising.com>. The domain name was registered with Dotster Inc. on July 7, 2000.
3. Procedural Background
On July 24, 2001, the WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center received from Complainant, via e-mail, a Complaint for decision in accordance with the Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy, adopted by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers ("ICANN") on August 26, 1999, ("Policy"), the Rules for Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy, approved by ICANN on October 24, 1999, ("Rules"), and the WIPO Supplemental Rules for Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy ("Supplemental Rules").
On August 20, 2001, WIPO e-mailed a Complaint Deficiency Notification advising that, according to the records of Dotster Inc., the Registrant of record of the disputed domain name is ScholasticAdvising.com and requesting that Complainant amend its Complaint accordingly. The Complaint was so amended on August 23, 2001.
The instant Administrative Proceeding was commenced on August 29, 2001.
On September 17, 2001, Respondent requested an extension of time to file its Response. WIPO granted such request, and a Response was filed on September 25, 2001.
On October 15, 2001, WIPO informed the parties of the appointment of the instant three-person Administrative Panel. Each Panelist submitted the required Statement of Acceptance and Declaration of Impartiality and Independence.
The decision of the Panel originally was due to WIPO on or before October 29, 2001. However, the decision due date was later extended to November 5, 2001.
4. Factual Background
Complainant Scholastic is a global children's publishing and media company producing and distributing material for students, teachers, and parents, including the singularly successful "Harry Potter" book series. Since at least as early as 1922, Scholastic has been using the mark SCHOLASTIC and other marks incorporating the term SCHOLASTIC in connection with a variety of goods and services. Scholastic owns more than 100 registrations for SCHOLASTIC marks. See Complaint, Exhibit C.
Since about 1993, Scholastic has used its SCHOLASTIC marks on or in connection with information and services offered through online services, including advising services for teachers and parents.
Respondent ScholasticAdvising.com ("ScholasticAdvising") was formed in May 2000. ScholasticAdvising assists high school seniors and entering college students with financial aid applications, targeted scholarship searches and college recommendations.
As noted above, Respondent registered the domain name in dispute on July 7, 2000. On July 31, 2000, Complainant sent a "cease and desist" letter to Respondent demanding, among other things, that Respondent transfer the domain name <scholasticadvising.com> to Complainant. See Complaint, Exhibit E. In response, Respondent noted that "if we transfer [the domain name] to Scholastic Inc., our business launch will be delayed…." As a result, Respondent requested that Scholastic reimburse Respondent for loss-of-business costs totaling $10,365. See Complaint, Exhibit H. In an e-mail dated October 17, 2000, Respondent recalculated its costs to $7,975. See Complaint, Exhibit I.
5. Parties' Contentions
Complainant contends that the domain name in issue is confusingly similar to Scholastic's domain name, <scholastic.com>, and to the SCHOLASTIC marks because, like many of the SCHOLASTIC marks, its uses the word "Scholastic" in conjunction with another word. According to Complainant, the suffix "Advising" connotes information or advice regarding educational resources or materials and combining the terms "Scholastic" and "Advising" in the disputed domain name suggests the online source of such information is from Scholastic. "Consumers who are highly familiar with Scholastic and its products, including its advising services for parents, new teachers and others, are likely to be confused and will think that <scholasticadvising.com> is a website associated with Scholastic and its goods and services." Complainant refers the Panel to the decision in Scholastic Inc. v. Applied Software Solutions, Inc., WIPO Case No. D2000-1629 (see Complaint, Exhibit F), for the proposition that the term "Scholastic", as used by Complainant, is not generic or merely descriptive and has likely acquired secondary meaning.
In support of its Complaint, Scholastic further argues that Respondent: (1) registered or acquired the domain name primarily for the purpose of selling, renting, or otherwise transferring it to Scholastic for valuable consideration in excess of Respondent's out-of-pocket costs directly related to the domain name; (2) is not currently using, has not used, and, upon information and belief, has made no preparations to use the domain name in connection with the provision of any goods or services; and (3) has not been commonly known as <scholasticadvising.com> or ScholasticAdvising as an individual, business or other organization.
In its Response, Respondent argues that Complainant has no rights to every word combination with "Scholastic". Respondent points out that it operates a different type of business than Complainant, for a different type of customer and, thus, there has not been, and will not be, confusion in the marketplace. According to the Response, "ScholasticAdvising registered the domain name <scholasticadvising.com> in good faith, after a name and trademark search. We noted Scholastic's presence in the media-publishing field, but concluded that they were of a significantly different focus and market."
In response to the assertion that it registered and uses the domain name in "bad faith", Respondent contends that it did not register the domain name for the purposes of "selling, renting, or otherwise transferring it to Scholastic for valuable consideration." Rather, according to Respondent, it registered the domain name only after conducting a name and trademark search. The amount requested for transfer of the domain name -- $7,975 --, according to Respondent, was based on research for costs incurred by it. These costs, it contends, were reasonable and represent direct, out-of-pocket costs directly related to the domain name.
Further, Respondent adds, the domain name accurately describes the services of scholarship searches, financial aid assistance, and college recommendations. Respondent notes that there was significant activity on its part to prepare for a Web launch, including professional design, copywriting, and marketing materials with the name "SchoalsticAdvising". According to Respondent, it has expended significant funding into Website development and will activate the site after a positive decision from the instant Panel.
6. Discussion and Findings
The Panel has carefully reviewed the evidence presented and determines that Complainant has not met all the requirements set forth in paragraph 4(a) of the Policy.
While the Panel concludes that the evidence clearly establishes that Complainant has rights in its SCHOLASTIC marks, it determines that the domain name <scholasticadvising.com> is neither identical nor confusingly similar to any of Complainant's SCHOLASTIC marks. None of Complainant's marks covers the term "ScholasticAdvising" and none look, sound, or create the same commercial impression as the disputed domain name. The addition of the term "Advising" in the domain name is sufficient, in the view of the Panel, to render the name non-confusingly similar. Nothing in the decision in Scholastic Inc. v. Applied Software Solutions, Inc. is inconsistent with our holding on this issue.
The Panel emphasizes that its determination on this issue is based on a comparison between the commercial impressions imparted by the domain name and Complainant's SCHOLASTIC marks. Respondent points out that a trademark owner does not "own" all combinations of marks using its principal word. We note that there are other registered marks, such as "Scholastic Furniture", for example.
The Panel further concludes that the evidence supports the determination that Respondent has rights or legitimate interests in the domain name. The evidence clearly establishes that, prior to notice to Respondent of the dispute, Respondent had undertaken preparations to use the domain name in connection with a bona fide offering of services. Further, the evidence supports a finding that Respondent is making a legitimate fair use of the domain name, without intent for commercial gain to misleadingly divert consumers. The domain name <scholasticadvising.com> describes the nature of the services offered by Respondent under the domain name. Respondent advises students with respect to securing scholarship and other financial assistance to attend college.
With respect to the issue of "bad faith" registration and use, the Panel concludes, based on the totality of circumstances, that this element of the Policy has not been established. Though the evidence indicates that Respondent offered to transfer the domain name to Respondent for almost $8,000, the evidence does not support a finding that Respondent registered the domain name primarily for the purpose of selling it to Complainant. Rather, the evidence indicates that Respondent registered the domain name only after conducting a search.
There is no other indicia of "bad faith", either under the Policy or based on other circumstances. To the contrary, the Panel concludes that Respondent, at all times, acted reasonably and in good faith.
In view of the above, the Panel denies Complainant's request for transfer to it of the domain name <scholasticadvising.com> .
Jeffrey M. Samuels
Frederick M. Abbott
G. Gervaise Davis III
Dated: November 4, 2001
1. The Panel is aware that another Panel, in a 2-1 decision, recently ordered that the domain names <scholasticnetworks.com> and <schoolasticnetworks.com> be transferred to Scholastic Inc. See Scholastic Inc. v. Tonya Parker -Jones/Scholasticnetworks.Com/Schoolasticnetworks.Com, WIPO Case No. D2001-0872. In so holding, the majority concluded that the domain names in issue were confusingly similar to the SCHOLASTIC marks. The majority accepted, and seemingly placed great weight on, Complainant's argument that <scholasticnetworks.com> suggests an information system operated or endorsed by the Complainant.
Suffice it to say that each case must be decided based on its own unique set of facts. The majority in the "<scholasticnetworks.com>" case reached its decision on the issue of confusing similarity based on a determination that Respondent's use of its domain names would, in effect, create a likelihood of confusion with the SCHOLASTIC marks. In the case we decide, involving the domain name "<scholasticadvising.com>", the evidence does not support a connection with Complainant. There is no evidence, for example, that Complainant uses any of the SCHOLASTIC marks in connection with providing advisory services to students.
In D2001-0872, the majority also appeared substantially influenced by the Respondent's apparent agreement to cease use of one of the disputed domain names, and failure to act on this agreement. There is no such issue and no showing of bad faith by the Respondent in the instant case.