WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center
ADMINISTRATIVE PANEL DECISION
Government Employees Insurance Company v. Netsolutions Proxy Services
Case No. D2004-0919
1. The Parties
The Complainant is Government Employees Insurance Company of Chevy Chase, Maryland, United States of America, represented by Arnold & Porter, United States of America.
The Respondent is Netsolutions Proxy Services of Hong Kong, SAR of China.
2. The Domain Names and Registrar
The disputed domain names are:
(the “Domain Names”) are registered with Fabulous.com (the “Registrar”).
3. Procedural History
The Complaint was filed with the WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center (the “Center”) on November 3, 2004. The Center transmitted its request for registrar verification to the Registrar by email on November 4, 2004. This request included the domain name <geicoautoinsurance.com> instead of <geicoautoinsurnace.com> referred to in the Complaint. The Registrar responded by email on November 8, 2004, confirming that it was the Registrar of the Domain Names identified in the verification request with the exception of <geicoautoinsurance.com>, that the Respondent was the registrant of these Domain Names, that Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy (the “Policy”) applied to these registrations, that these registrations would remain locked during this proceeding, that the registration agreement was in English, and that the Respondent had submitted to the jurisdiction at the location of the principal office of the Registrar, namely Queensland, Australia, for court adjudication of disputes concerning or arising from the use of these Domain Names. The Registrar also provided the contact details in respect of these registrations on its Whois database.
The Center advised the Registrar of the mistake regarding <geicoautoinsurnace.com> on November 15, 2004, and requested registrar verification in respect of this Domain Name. The Registrar replied on November 16, 2004, giving the same details as in respect of the other Domain Names.
The original Complaint referred to 21 of the Domain Names. On November 15, 2004, the Complainant filed an amended Complaint adding three further Domain Names which had been registered by the Respondent since the Complaint was filed. The Center transmitted its request for registrar verification in respect of these three Domain Names on November 18, 2004. The Registrar replied on November 19, 2004, giving the same details as in respect of the other Domain Names.
The Center verified that the Complaint together with the amendment to the Complaint satisfied the formal requirements of 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”).
The Center formally notified the Complaint to the Respondent and the proceedings commenced on November 19, 2004. The notification was sent by courier to the only postal address in the Registrar’s Whois database in respect of the Domain Names and by email to postmaster@ the respective Domain Names. The courier was unable to delivery the hard copy because the address was incorrect and the emails were returned as undeliverable. Nevertheless, the Panel is satisfied that the Center complied with Paragraph 2(a) of the Rules, since no other postal address was provided in the Whois database and no email addresses were provided there or on the web pages to which the Domain Names resolve.
In accordance with the Rules, Paragraph 5(a), the due date for Response was December 9, 2004. The Respondent did not submit any response. Accordingly, the Center notified the Respondent’s default on December 13, 2004.
The Center appointed Jonathan Turner as the sole panelist in this matter on January 4, 2005. 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.
Having reviewed the file, the Panel is satisfied that the Complaint complied with applicable formal requirements, that reasonably available means were employed to notify it to the Respondent, and that it has been submitted to a properly constituted Panel, in accordance with the Policy, the Rules and the Supplemental Rules.
4. Factual Background
The Complainant is a well-known insurance company which has provided insurance services since 1936. It has over 5.3 million customers and insures more than 8.6 million vehicles. It is the largest direct marketer of private-passenger automobile insurance in the United States. It has registered GEICO, GEICO DIRECT and GEICO DIRECT LINE as trademarks in the United States. It has used and promoted these marks extensively and has a website at “www.geico.com”.
The Domain Names resolve to web pages promoting competing insurance and other companies. As well as the Domain Names in this case, the Respondent has registered a large number of other domain names containing famous marks or misspellings thereof.
5. Parties’ Contentions
The Complainant contends that the Domain Names are confusingly similar to its marks GEICO, GEICO DIRECT and GEICO DIRECT LINE; that the Respondent has no rights or legitimate interests in respect of the Domain Names; and that they were registered and are being used in bad faith, in particular to divert potential customers of the Complainant and disrupt its business by confusion. The Complainant seeks an order that the Domain Names be transferred to it.
As noted above the Respondent did not reply to the Complainant’s contentions.
6. Discussion and Findings
The Respondent’s name might suggest that it is acting as agent or nominee for one or more undisclosed principals or beneficiaries. However, in accordance with general principles of procedure applicable under Paragraphs 10 and 15 of the Rules, the Panel considers that it is legitimate for the Complainant to bring this proceeding against the Respondent, particularly in the absence of any disclosure. Otherwise the Policy could readily be frustrated by those abusing the domain name system. The Panel also considers that the Complaint complies with Paragraph 3(c) of the Rules, since all of the Domain Names have been registered in the name of the Respondent, even if it holds them as agent or nominee for more than one party.
B. Requirements of the Policy
In accordance with Paragraph 4(a) of the Policy, to succeed in this Complaint, the Complainant must prove (i) that the Domain Names are identical or confusingly similar to a mark or marks in which it has rights, (ii) that the Respondent has no rights or legitimate interests in respect of the Domain Names, and (iii) that they were registered and are being used in bad faith. These requirements are considered in turn below.
C. Identical or Confusingly Similar to Mark in which Complainant has Rights
The Panel is satisfied that the Complainant has registered and unregistered rights in the United States in the marks GEICO, GEICO DIRECT and GEICO DIRECT LINE. The Complainant has not demonstrated that it has rights outside the United States. However, rights in the United States are sufficient given that the Respondent has used the Domain Names for web pages readily accessible and intended to be accessed by Internet users in the United States.
The Panel has no doubt that the Domain Names are confusingly similar to the Complainant’s marks. All of the Domain Names contain GEICO and a descriptive word (“auto”, “car”, “insurance”, “direct”, “online”, “Canada”, “international”, “corporation”, “co”, “company”, “quotes”), or misspellings of one or both of these. Internet users are likely to be diverted to the Respondent’s web pages as a result of misspelling, mistyping or misreading search engine results.
D. Rights or Legitimate Interests
The Panel is satisfied that the Respondent has no rights or legitimate interests in respect of the Domain Names. The Respondent has not carried on any bona fide business under the Domain Names or any corresponding names. Using Domain Names confusingly similar to the Complainant’s mark to divert internet users to websites offering services competing with the Complainant’s does not constitute a bona offering giving rise to a right or legitimate interest for the purpose of this requirement of the Policy: see, for example, WIPO Case No. D2003-0654, Mentor ADI Recruitment Ltd (trading as Mentor Group) v. Teaching Driving Ltd (letsdrive.com).
E. Registered and Used in Bad Faith
The Panel is also satisfied that the Domain Names were registered and are being used in bad faith to attract internet users to the Respondent’s web pages by creating a likelihood of confusion with the Complainant’s mark. These pages advertise insurance services competing with the Complainant’s and, in some cases, other services.
Some users diverted to these pages may suppose that the Complainant acts as agent or broker for the services advertised, or is connected with them in some other way. Others may realize that the web pages advertise other companies, but may be tempted by the rival offerings. Either way, damage is done to the Complainant’s business by unfair exploitation of its mark. It is likely that the Respondent receives a commission from revenue obtained by the other companies through internet users accessing them via the Domain Names, this being common practice on the Internet.
In accordance with Paragraph 4(b)(iv) of the Policy, these circumstances constitute evidence of registration and use in bad faith. That the Domain Names were registered for the purpose of this bad faith use is confirmed by the registration and immediate use for similar purposes of further confusingly similar Domain Names after the Complaint was filed.
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 Names
be transferred to the Complainant.
Dated: January 7, 2005