WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center
ADMINISTRATIVE PANEL DECISION
Easecredit v. Barnas, Jeff
Case No. D2005-0004
1. The Parties
The Complainant is Easecredit, Bern, Switzerland, represented by Mason Charles, Switzerland.
The Respondent is Jeff Barnas, United States of America.
2. The Domain Name and Registrar
The disputed domain name <easecredit.com> is registered with Tucows.
3. Procedural History
The Complaint was filed with the WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center (the “Center”) on January 3, 2005. On January 4, 2005, the Center transmitted by email to Tucows a request for registrar verification in connection with the domain name at issue. On January 5, 2005, Tucows 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, billing, 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 on January 7, 2005. 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 14, 2005. In accordance with the Rules, paragraph 5(a), the due date for Response was February 3, 2005. The Respondent did not submit any response. Accordingly, the Center notified the Respondent’s default on February 7, 2005.
The Center appointed Dawn Osborne as the sole panelist in this matter on February 21, 2005. 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.
The Panelist issued a procedural Order on March 8, 2005 requesting further information from both the Complainant and the Respondent. The Complainant filed further evidence on March 14, 2005. The Respondent did not file any supplementary evidence.
4. Factual Background
The Complainant has a trade registration (not a trademark registration) dated 13 August 2002 to trade as EASECREDIT.ch as a sole trader in Switzerland. The Respondent registered the Domain Name on 17 September 2004.
5. Parties’ Contentions
The Complaint can be summarized as follows:
A. The domain name is identical or confusingly similar to a trademark or service mark in which the Complainant has rights;
EASECREDIT is an International Private Banking Company. EASECREDIT financial services are Internet based. It is a Non-Profit Organization, and its business objective is to provide easily accessible Internet Banking services, instant and secure online money transfer and credit services to underprivileged individuals and business, or other organizations in Asia, Africa, Latin America and elsewhere. The EASECREDIT trademark has been used in Africa, for example Ghana, Asia for example China and Europe for example Great Britain, Germany and Switzerland. All letters of credit from EASECREDIT are issued through E-Mail, sealed with the service mark EASECREDIT and the mark appears on every page of the Complainant’s website. The Complainant has transferred over CHF150,000 under the EASECREDIT trademark. This trademark was unique because it was created by the Complainant.
The Domain Name is confusingly similar to the EASECREDIT trademark or service mark and would confuse anybody who were to receive a letter of credit from that Domain Name who would assume it was associated with the Complainant. Such a letter of credit can be sent by anyone who has access to the EASECREDIT.COM network.
The Respondent is using the service mark to attract Internet users to a competing website. It took the Complainant four years and a lot of money to successful create and establish the EASECREDIT service mark.
B. The Respondent has no rights or legitimate interests in respect of the domain name;
A sign up button on the Respondent’s website connects you directly to a competitor website.
The Respondent has not been previously known by the Domain Name.
The Respondent is not making a legitimate non-commercial or fair use of the domain name(s), The Respondent indicated in correspondence with the Complainant that the website EASECREDIT.COM is for sale for a value in excess of $50,000.
C. The domain name was registered and is being used in bad faith.
The Respondent offered to pay $50 to reimburse the registration fee for the Domain Name. The Respondent replied demanding $20,000. This indicates that the Respondent only registered the Domain Name with the intention to sell it back to the Complainant, the lawful owner of the EASECREDIT trademark or to its competitor. The price increases every time the Complainant contacts the Respondent. The price is now $50,000. The Respondent made available an E-Mail address <email@example.com> through which the Respondent would accept offers for the domain name.
The Domain Name as registered is preventing the publication of the English version of EASECREDIT, which the Complainant has already completed. The timing of the registration by the Respondent was chosen for the purpose of disrupting the release of the English version from the Complainant.
The Respondent is using the Domain Name in bad faith, by intentionally attempting to attract for commercial gain, Internet users to the Respondent’s website or other on-line location, by creating a likelihood of confusion such that an innocent Internet user would follow a link from EASECREDIT.COM to a competitor’s website.
The Respondent did not formally reply to the Complainant’s contentions.
6. Discussion and Findings
According to paragraph 4(a) of the Uniform Dispute Resolution Procedure Policy, the Complainant must prove that:
(i) The Domain Name is identical or confusingly similar to a trademark or service mark in which the Complainant has rights; and
(ii) The Respondent has no rights or legitimate interests in respect of the domain name; and
(iii) The Domain Name has been registered and is being used in bad faith.
A. Identical or Confusingly Similar
The Complainant does not have a registered trademark but has a Swiss trade registration dating from 2002 for EASECREDIT.CH and appears to have been using the EASECREDIT name for three years in relation to its financial services.
Whilst the EASECREDIT name is not the most distinctive mark in its field, no doubt if another trader began trading in the same territory as the Complainant under the EASECREDIT name for identical services the Complainant would be able to restrain such use. As such the Complainant has unregistered trademark rights in the EASECREDIT name.
The Domain Name is identical to the Complainant’s EASECREDIT mark (save for the generic .com suffix). As such the Complainant has demonstrated that the Domain Name is identical to a service mark in which the Complainant has rights.
B. Rights or Legitimate Interests
The Respondent has not filed a Response and did not file any evidence of its use of the EASECREDIT mark as invited by the panelist in the Procedural Order. Based on the evidence available to the Panellist in this case the Respondent does not appear to have any rights or legitimate interest in the Domain Name.
C. Registered and Used in Bad Faith
Paragraph 4 (b) of the Rules sets out four non exclusive criteria which shall be evidence of the registration and use of a domain name in bad faith including
“[the Respondent] has registered or has acquired the domain name 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 the Respondent’s documented out-of-pocket costs directly related to the domain name”; and
“[the Respondent] has registered the domain name primarily for the purpose of disrupting the business of a competitor; and
“by using the domain name [the Respondent] has intentionally attempted to attract, for commercial gain, Internet users to [its] website or other on line location, by creating a likelihood of confusion with the Complainant’s mark as to the source, affiliation or endorsement of [its] website or location or of a product or service on [its] website or location.”
Based on the Complainant’s allegations and evidence, and in the absence of a Response from the Respondent, there appears to be no explanation other than that the Respondent registered the Domain Name in bad faith with an intent to use the Domain Name to attract business to its competing site, to disrupt the business of the Complainant and/or to profit by eventual sale of the name to the Complainant or another third party for profit.
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 <easecredit.com> be transferred to the Complainant.
Date: April 6, 2005