WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center
ADMINISTRATIVE PANEL DECISION
Skattebetalarnas Förening v. Åke Wedin, Carl Lundström
Case No. D2005-0515
1. The Parties
The Complainant is Skattebetalarnas Förening, Stockholm, Sweden, represented by Advokatfirman Vinge KB, Sweden.
The Respondents are Åke Wedin, Torsby, Sweden and Carl Lundström, Västra Frölunda, Sweden.
2. The Domain Names and Registrars
The disputed domain names <skattebetalarna.com>, <skattebetalarna.info> and <skattebetalarna.org> are registered with Wild West Domains, Inc.
The disputed domain name <skattebetalarna.nu> is registered with NU Domain Ltd.
3. Procedural History
The Complaint was filed with the WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center (the “Center”) on May 12, 2005. On May 12, 2005, the Center transmitted by email to Wild West Domains, Inc. and “.NU” Domain Ltd. a request for registrar verification in connection with the domain names at issue. On May 13, 2005, and May 17, 2005 respectively, Wild West Domains, Inc. and “.NU” Domain Ltd. 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 June 3, 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 June 21, 2005. In accordance with the Rules, paragraph 5(a), the due date for the Response was July 11, 2005. However, the Respondent did not submit a response within the set deadline. Accordingly, the Center notified the Respondent’s default on July 12, 2005. However, on July 15, 2005, the Center received a late Response from the Respondent. According to paragraph 10(d) of the Rules, the Panel is free to determine the admissibility of the evidence. Although the Response was received four days after the due date, the Panel has decided to consider the Response on its merits, since it finds that ruling a Response inadmissible because of formal deficiencies would be an extreme remedy not consistent with the basic principles of due process.
The Center appointed Jonas Gulliksson as the Sole Panelist in this matter on July 14, 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.
4. Factual Background
The Complaint is based on the Swedish trademark registration SKATTEBETALAREN (reg No. 337544), a copy of the relevant registration certificate is provided as Annex G. The trademark is registered for newspapers in class 16 of the International Nice Classification of Goods and Services and is registered by Skattebetalarnas Förening, a non-profit association which aims at reducing taxes in the Swedish society, attain a more effective use of tax revenue and increase law and order in the tax field. According to the Complainant, the association is very well-known in Sweden. It has existed since 1921, and is today, with approximately 115,000 members, one of the biggest voluntary organizations in Sweden. Among its members, and among Swedish people in general, the Complainant is known simply as “Skattebetalarna”.
5. Parties’ Contentions
The domain names are identical or confusingly similar to a trademark or service mark in which the Complainant has rights
(Policy, paragraph 4(a)(i), Rules, paragraphs 3(b)(viii), b(ix)(1))
The Respondents have registered four domain names. These domain names are confusingly similar to the registered trademark SKATTEBETALAREN, in which the Complainant has rights. “Skattebetalaren” and “Skattebetalarna” are almost identically spelled and pronounced. The two words represent in fact the definite singular (Skattebetalaren) and plural (Skattebetalarna) forms of the Swedish noun “Skattebetalare”. It is obvious that people associate the name “Skattebetalarna” with Skattebetalarnas Förening and its registered trademark SKATTEBETALAREN. The registered domain names are therefore confusingly similar to the trademark in which the Complainant has rights.
The Respondents have no rights or legitimate interests in respect of the domain names
(Policy, paragraph 4(a)(ii), Rules, paragraphs 3(b)(ix)(2))
The Complainant is unaware of any rights or legitimate interests of the Respondents in respect of the disputed domain names.
In its Amendment to the Complaint filed on June 3, 2005, the Complainant has further stated the following.
The Complainant has not authorized the Respondents to register any domain name that contains the name “Skattebetalarna”, which is confusingly similar to the Complainant’s registered trademark SKATTEBETALAREN. Neither have the Respondents been authorized to make any other use of the name “Skattebetalarna”.
There is no evidence of the Respondents’ use of, or demonstrable preparation to use, the domain names or a name corresponding to the domain names in connection with a bona fide offering of any goods or services.
The Respondents do not have any Swedish trademark registration for the name “Skattebetalarna” and have not in any other way acquired any rights to this name. Neither are the Respondents, who are two individuals, commonly known under or recognised by the disputed domain names. The only connection the Respondents have with the Complainant is that they are two out of approximately 115,000 members of the association. They do not, however, hold any leading positions.
It is obvious that the Respondents are not making a fair use of the domain names. As described in the Complaint, the Respondents intend to tarnish and disrupt the business and management of Skattebetalarnas Förening. This clearly demonstrates that the Respondents are using and have registered the disputed domain names in bad faith.
The domain names were registered and are being used in bad faith
(Policy, paragraphs 4(a)(iii), 4(b); Rules, paragraph 3(b)(ix)(3))
On the websites that are connected with the domain names in question there is a text regarding tax issues and some critical opinions about the political composition of Skattebetalarnas Förening and the way the association is managed. The text is written by a group of people calling themselves “Förnyargruppen” (The Group of Innovators, “the Group”). The text conveys the message that the Group will save the association from falling into decay and fulfill its aims in a proper way. The Group calls on people to vote for them at the annual meeting on Skattebetalarnas Förening. On the websites there is also a linked memorandum written by Åke Wedin as a member of the Group. Åke Wedin is also the author of a number of xenophobic books. According to Swedish newspapers, Carl Lundström also forms part of the Group. There have been some indications inter alia in the Swedish newspapers that the Group is connected with the Swedish rightwing extremist political party Sverigedemokraterna. Even if the Respondents’ connection with Sverigedemokraterna cannot be proved, the illegal registration and use of Skattebetalarna as a domain name still remain. It is obvious that the Respondents’ aim is to take control over the association Skattebetalarnas Förening. It is also obvious that the Respondents want to draw people’s attention to their websites by using the name Skattebetalarna. By these means the Respondents are disrupting the business of Skattebetalarnas Förening. The likelihood of confusion is impending since the Respondents, by using the name Skattebetalarna, make people believe that the web page and the opinions presented there belong to Skattebetalarnas Förening. Hereby, the Respondents are using the disputed domain names in bad faith.
In accordance with paragraph 4(i) of the Policy, for the reasons described above, the Complainant requests the Administrative Panel to issue a decision that the contested domain names be transferred to the Complainant.
In its Response, the Respondent has requested the Administrative Panel to deny the remedies requested by the Complainant and stated the following.
Whether the domain names are identical or confusingly similar to a trademark or service mark in which the Complainant has rights
(Policy, paragraph 4(a)(i))
The Complainant apparently has registered a figure consisting of the word “Skattebetalaren” (Swedish, meaning “the taxpayer”). This figure is registered as a trademark in the class Newspapers. Apparently, it has not been possible for the Complainant to register the noun Skattebetalarna (the “taxpayers”) as a trademark. The registration of Skattebetalaren as a newspaper name (without an existing newspaper) is irrelevant to this case since
- The disputed domains are not used in relation to any newspaper.
- The disputed domains are not confusingly similar to the trademark.
Whether the Respondent has rights or legitimate interests in respect of the domain names
(Policy, paragraph 4(a)(ii))
The Respondents are members in good standing of the Swedish taxpayers association (Skattebetalarnas Förening, i.e. the Complainant). The association is democratic and has an internal debate with opposing views on internal and external policies. The Respondents have a leadership role on the opposition fraction among members of the association. Therefore, the Respondents have a legitimate right to use domain names relevant to information and debate regarding the association.
In case the Respondents should be expelled from the association for one reason or another, they would consider starting a second Swedish taxpayer’s association. Regardless of what name they would choose for this new association, it would be an association representing the taxpaxers (in Swedish: skattebetalarna). Therefore, the Respondents would legitimately have use for a domain name with that word in it. The Respondents point out that they do not, since May 2005, use any of the disputed domain names, but use instead <skattegranskarna.se>.
Whether the domain names have been registered and are being used in bad faith
(Policy, paragraph 4(a)(iii))
According to the Respondent, the Complainant paints a silly and irrelevant picture of the events in the association during the last few years. The following is the correct and relevant facts. The Respondent’s refutes the Complainant’s political dillitantery.
The Complainant makes the assertion that the Respondents’ website of the can be confused with that of the Complainant. This assertion is totally senseless. The current design of the Respondent’s web-site can be seen at “www.skattegranskarna.se”, to be compared with the Complainant’s website at “www.skattebetalarna.se”. The previous design, when the disputed domain names were actually used, was also totally dissimilar to the Complainant’s website. The claim that “the likelihood of confusion is impending” is fantastic.
Even sillier is the Complainant’s claim that the message on the Respondents website is “making people believe that the web page and the opinions there belong to Skattebetalarnas Förening”. The message on the opposition site is clearly and specifically critical to the current leadership of the association and there is no, repeat no, room for any misunderstanding whatsoever in this respect.
As is described under the previous paragraph, the intended purpose of registering the disputed (now dormant) domain names was not the disruption of the Complainant’s business. The Complainant is not a business but an association with a democratic structure. The Respondents belong in the Complainant, as members. Internal discussions, such as those in which the Respondents have a leading role, is in fact part of life in this and all other democratic institutions. Opposition within a democratic organisation is not a disruption of its business.
6. Discussion and Findings
According to paragraph 15(a) of the Rules, the Panel shall decide the Complaint in accordance with the Policy, the 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 names registered by the Respondent are 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 names; and
(3) that the domain names have been registered and are being used in bad faith.
A. Identical or Confusingly Similar
The Complainant has shown that it is the owner of the Swedish trademark registration No. 337 544 SKATTEBETALAREN, which is registered for “newspapers” in international class 16. The trademark application was filed on June 26, 1998, and registered on May 26, 2000. Although the trademark SKATTEBETALAREN, which is a word mark, can be considered per se as having a weak distinctive character, since it simply means “the taxpayer” and refers to newspapers and magazines in class 16, the Swedish Trademark Office has obviously regarded the trademark as sufficiently distinctive for registration. Furthermore, it can not be excluded that Skattebetalarnas Förening has acquired rights through use of its name, which is confusingly similar with the disputed domain names. However, no such evidence has been presented in this case, and therefore, the decision is based simply on the fact that there exists a registration right in the word mark. Thus, the Complainant has shown that it has rights in the trademark SKATTEBETALAREN.
Obviously, the word “skattebetalarna” of the contested domain names is not identical to the word “skattebetalaren” of the Complainant’s trademark. However, as held by the Complainant, “skattebetalaren” and “skattebetalarna” are almost identically spelled and pronounced, since the two words represent the definite singular (“skattebetalaren”) and the definite plural (“skattebetalarna”) forms of the Swedish noun “skattebetalare”.
It is therefore the Panel’s opinion that the registered domain names are confusingly similar to the trademark in which the Complainant has rights.
B. Rights or Legitimate Interests
According to its own allegations the Complainant has not authorized the Respondents to register any domain name containing the word “Skattebetalarna”, which is confusingly similar to the Complainant’s registered trademark SKATTEBETALAREN. Neither have the Respondents been authorized to make any other use of the name “Skattebetalarna”. Further, there is no evidence of the Respondents’ use of, or demonstrable preparation to use, the domain names or a name corresponding to the domain names in connection with a bona fide offering of any goods or services.
The Respondents do not have any Swedish trademark registration for the word “Skattebetalarna” and have not shown that they have acquired any rights to the domain names at hand. Neither has it been shown that the Respondents are commonly known under or recognised by the domain names.
The Respondents assert that they have a legitimate interest to use the disputed domain names in order to provide information on the Complainant. The Panel finds that the right to provide information does not extend to registering domain names confusingly similar to Complainant’s trademark.
In view of the above, it is the Panel’s opinion that the Respondents have no rights or legitimate interests in respect of the contested domain names. Nothing contained in the Response changes the opinion of the Panel in this regard.
C. Registered and Used in Bad Faith
As has been shown above, the Respondents are members of Skattebetalarnas Förening, i.e. the Complainant. Thus, the Respondents have apparently been well aware of the Complainant’s association. According to their own allegations, the Respondents are also aware of the fact that the Complainant has registered the trademark SKATTEBETALAREN in Sweden. Since the disputed domain names have been registered long after the application for SKATTEBETALAREN was filed, it is the opinion of the Panel that the Respondents have been aware of the Complainant’s rights at the time of registration of the domain names in question.
The Respondents have held that the Complainant is not a business but an association with a democratic structure and that opposition within a democratic organisation is not a disruption of its business, but a part of life in all democratic institutions. This may be the case, but in the Panel’s opinion the Respondents have been using the disputed domain names in order to intentionally attempt to attract Internet users to its website, by creating a likelihood of confusion with the Complainant’s trademark. Although this may not have been done for commercial gain, the Panel would like to point out that the circumstances mentioned under paragraph 4(b) of the Policy are only examples of evidence of registration and use in bad faith without limitation to these particular circumstances. Therefore, it is the Panel’s opinion that the conduct of the Respondents in this case of using domain names that are confusingly similar to Complainant’s trademark with a view to diverting Internet users looking for the Complainant to the Respondent’s site is sufficient to constitute evidence of registration and use in bad faith in accordance with paragraph 4(b) of the Policy.
Consequently, all the prerequisites for cancellation or transfer of the disputed domain names according to paragraph 4(i) of the Policy are fulfilled.
The Complainant has requested transfer of the domain name.
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 <skattebetalarna.com>, <skattebetalarna.info>, <skattebetalarna.org> and <skattebetalarna.nu> be transferred to the Complainant.
Dated: July 29, 2005