WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center
ADMINISTRATIVE PANEL DECISION
Meetup, Inc. v. Pro-Life domains Not For Sale
Case No. D2003-1031
1. The Parties
The Complainant Meetup, Inc., is a corporation organized and existing under the laws of the State of Delaware, having its principal place of business in New York, New York, United States of America, represented by Sughrue Mion, PLLC, United States of America.
The Respondent is Pro-Life domains Not For Sale, Bronx, New York, United States of America.
2. The Domain Name and Registrar
The disputed domain name <meetups.com> is registered with Intercosmos Media Group d/b/a directNIC.com (the "Registrar" or "directNIC").
3. Procedural History
The Complaint was filed electronically with the WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center (the "Center") on December 24, 2003, and in hard copy on December 30, 2003. On December 24, 2003, the Center transmitted by email to directNIC a request for registrar verification in connection with the domain name at issue. On the same date directNIC transmitted by email to the Center its verification response confirming that the Respondent is listed as the registrant and providing the contact details for the administrative and technical contact. In response to a notification by the Center that the Complaint was administratively deficient, the Complainant filed an amendment to the Complaint which was received by the Center on January 20, 2004. The Center verified that the Complaint together with the amendment to the Complaint satisfied the formal requirements of the Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy (the "Policy"), the Rules for Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy (the "Rules"), and the WIPO Supplemental Rules for Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy (the "Supplemental Rules").
In accordance with the Rules, paragraphs 2(a) and 4(a), the Center formally notified the Respondent of the Complaint, and the proceedings commenced on January 21, 2004. In accordance with the Rules, paragraph 5(a), the due date for Response was February 10, 2004. The Respondent did not submit any response. Accordingly, the Center notified the Respondentís default on January 13, 2004.
The Center appointed M. Scott Donahey as the sole panelist in this matter on February 19, 2004. The Panel finds that it was properly constituted. The Panel has submitted the Statement of Acceptance and Declaration of Impartiality and Independence, as required by the Center to ensure compliance with the Rules, paragraph 7.
4. Factual Background
Complainant was formed in 2002 to provide an opportunity for people sharing common interests and living in close proximity to meet over the Internet and to form groups that can physically meet in designated locations. Complainant provides its services to individuals without charge and is not affiliated with any particular interest group or political group. Complaint, Annex C. Complainant may charge fees to some venues. Complaint, Annex D.
From the outset Complainant has used the mark and trade name MEETUP in connection with its business. Complainant has used the domain name <meetup.com>, which was first registered on August 20, 1998, to resolve to a website through which its business is conducted. Complaint, Annex A.
On November 4, 2003, Complainant filed an application with the United States Patent and Trademark Office for a service mark for MEETUP in connection with providing access to an interactive computer database to facilitate others with common interests to communicate. The application shows a first use in commerce of April 2002. Complaint, Annex B.
Complainant receives approximately 200,000 "hits" on its website per day and currently has over 900,000 registered members and has received extensive press coverage. Complaint, Annex G. Complainant garnered national publicity in connection with the use of its services by supporters of the candidacy of Dr. Howard Dean for the nomination of the Democratic Party for the office of President of the United States. Complaint, Annex H. As a result, MEETUP has acquired a secondary meaning from being associated with Complainantís services.
Respondent registered the domain name at issue on June 1, 2003. Complaint, Annex I. Respondent is not authorized by Complainant to use the domain name at issue and is indeed unknown to Complainant. Respondent has used the domain name at issue to resolve to a website that presents information and views that are anti-abortion in nature.
Respondent and/or its principal, has been a party to numerous proceedings in which domain names are at issue. Complaint, Annex K. In each such proceeding, the registration of the domain name at issue has been ordered to be transferred to the complaining party.
5. Partiesí Contentions
Complainant contends that the domain name at issue is confusingly similar to a service mark in which Complainant has rights, that Respondent has no rights or legitimate interests in respect of the domain name at issue, and that the Respondent has registered and is using the domain name at issue in bad faith.
The Respondent did not reply to the Complainantís contentions.
6. Discussion and Findings
Paragraph 15(a) of the Rules instructs the Panel as to the principles the Panel is to use in determining the dispute: "A Panel shall 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 directs that the Complainant must prove each of the following:
(1) that the domain name registered by the Respondent is identical or confusingly similar to a trademark or service mark in which the Complainant has rights; and
(2) that the Respondent has no rights or legitimate interests in respect of the domain name; and
(3) that the domain name has been registered and is being used in bad faith.
A. Identical or Confusingly Similar
Complainant has been using the service mark at issue since April 2002 and has subsequently applied for registration of the service mark with the USPTO. Through its use of the mark and its subsequent application for registration, Complainant has established rights in the mark, MEETUP. Document Technologies, Inc. v. International Electronic Communications Inc., WIPO Case No. D2000-0270.
The addition or subtraction, of a single character, such as a letter or number, to a mark for use in a domain name has not precluded Panels from finding the domain name to be identical or confusingly similar to a mark, especially where the conversion is from singular to plural. Play Network, Inc. v. Play Industries. NAF Case No. FA94232 (<playnetworks.com>); InfoSpace.com, Inc. v. Registrar Administrator Lew Blanck, WIPO Case No. D2000-0069 (<wwwinfoseeks.com>, finding a deliberate attempt to take advantage of typographical errors by users, i.e., "typosquatting").
Accordingly, the Panel finds that the domain name at issue is confusingly similar to a service mark in which Complainant has rights.
B. Rights or Legitimate Interests
Complainant has in a credible way alleged that Respondent has no rights or legitimate interests in respect of the domain name at issue. Respondent has failed to show that Respondent has any rights or legitimate interests in respect of the domain name at issue. This entitles the Panel to infer that Respondent has no rights or legitimate interests in respect of the domain name at issue. Alcoholics Anonymous World Services, Inc. v. Lauren Raymond, WIPO Case No. D2000-0007; Ronson Plc v. Unimetal Sanayi ve Tic. A.S., WIPO Case No. D2000-0011.
C. Registered and Used in Bad Faith
Respondent has used the domain name at issue to resolve to an anti-abortion website. Complainant has not alleged nor has it offered proof that Respondent provided false contact information to the registrar. Complainant has not alleged nor offered proof that Respondent registered the domain name for the primary purpose of selling it to Complainant or to a competitor of Complainant. Complainant has not alleged nor offered proof that Respondent registered the domain name for the primary purpose of disrupting the business of a competitor. Complainant has not alleged nor offered proof that Respondent is deriving commercial gain from its website, although the Panel believes that this is most probably the case, as indicated by the many prior decisions that Complainant cites, where allegations and proof were offered that Respondent sold videos on the site. However, this Panel cannot assume that the facts set forth in the prior cases as to the use of the website are also true in this case. It is Complainantís duty to assert and prove the necessary facts.
Complainant does allege that Respondent registered the domain name to prevent Complainant from reflecting the mark in a corresponding domain name. However, Complainant does not allege nor offer proof that Respondent has engaged in a pattern of such conduct vis-a-vis this Complainant.
Complainant has alleged and shown that it is essential to the conduct of Complainantís business that is conducted on Complainantís website that Complainant be seen to be independent of any particular political affiliation or cause and that Complainantís business is open to anyone of whatever view. Therefore, Respondentís conduct in having used the domain name at issue to resolve to a highly politicized website, associating Complainantís mark with a controversial point of view, is potentially very damaging to Complainantís business and to its mark. It matters not whether the site to which the domain name at issue resolves is "pro-life" or "pro-abortion." The fact that Complainantís business and the value of its mark are dependent upon a completely neutral stance makes Respondentís registration and use, even if non-commercial, in bad faith, and the Panel so holds.
For all the foregoing reasons, in accordance with paragraphs 4(i) of the Policy and 15 of the Rules, the Panel orders that the domain name, <meetups.com>, be transferred to the Complainant.
M. Scott Donahey
Date: February 26, 2004