WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center
ADMINISTRATIVE PANEL DECISION
LakeLand Holdings, LLC v. LaPorte Holdings, Inc.
Case No. D2006-0131
1. The Parties
The Complainant is LakeLand Holdings, LLC, Charlottesville, Virginia, United States of America, represented by Wolf, Greenfield & Sacks, P.C., United States of America.
The Respondent is LaPorte Holdings, Inc., Los Angeles, California, United States of America.
2. The Domain Name and Registrar
The disputed domain name <worldstides.com> (the “Domain Name”) is registered with NameKing.com.
3. Procedural History
The Complaint was filed with the WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center (the “Center”) on January 30, 2006. On January 31, 2006, the Center transmitted by e-mail to NameKing.com a request for registrar verification in connection with the Domain Name. That same day, NameKing.com transmitted by e-mail to the Center its verification response confirming that Respondent is listed as the registrant and providing the contact details for the administrative, billing, and technical contact. The Center verified that 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 Respondent of the Complaint, and the proceedings commenced on February 7, 2006. In accordance with the Rules, paragraph 5(a), the due date for Response was February 27, 2006. Respondent did not submit any response. Accordingly, the Center notified Respondent’s default on March 1, 2006.
The Center appointed Robert A. Badgley as the sole panelist in this matter on March 14, 2006. 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 following facts are alleged in the Complaint and are undisputed by Respondent. Unless indicated otherwise, the facts set forth in this section are found by the Panel to be plausible and/or supported by evidence annexed to the Complaint.
Complainant LakeLand Holdings, LLC owns LakeLand Finance, LLC (collectively, “LakeLand”). Both are Delaware corporations with principal places of business in Virginia.
LakeLand is a leading provider of educational travel programs for students. It claims to have provided such programs to over two million students since 1967, and as many as 200,000 students travel on its programs each year to destinations around the United States.
LakeLand has continuously used the mark WORLDSTRIDES for the sale of the aforementioned travel services since 2001. In addition to its claimed rights in the mark WORLDSTRIDES at common law, LakeLand owns two U.S. Federal Registrations for trademarks consisting of the word WORLDSTRIDES:
- Reg. No. 2,614,277 (September 3, 2002) for the logo WORLDSTRIDES for the provision of educational services such as programs, seminars, and distance learning courses, travel services related to educational trips for youths, and making reservations and booking of temporary lodging; and
- Reg. No. 2,643,884 (October 29, 2002) for the word mark WORLDSTRIDES for the same purposes.
LakeLand registered the domain name <worldstrides.com> on July 13, 2000, and has used this domain name to display its services since at least as early as February 2001.
Respondent LaPorte Holdings, Inc. (“LaPorte”) registered the Domain Name <worldstides.com> on September 29, 2004, several years after LakeLand registered and began using their WORLDSTRIDES mark and its corresponding e-commerce website located at “www.worldstrides.com”.
Since registering the Domain Name, Respondent has directed the Domain Name to a search engine and portal located at “www.searchportal.information.com”. According to materials annexed to the Complaint, Domainsponsor.com operates that website, and offers a revenue program which pays domain name owners 50% of all revenues generated from searches and pop-ups from the domain name in question. Respondent’s <worldstides.com> website links to sponsored websites on a variety of topics, many of which are topics associated with student travel, such as “Registration for Washington, DC Trip,” “New York Trip,” “Students,” “My Trip,” and “Parent Place.”
5. Parties’ Contentions
Complainant, which requests that the Panel order the transfer of the Domain Name from Respondent to Complainant, asserts that the Domain Name is confusingly similar to Complainant’s WORLDSTRIDES mark.
Complainant also asserts that Respondent lacks rights or legitimate interests in respect of the Domain Name. In particular, Complainant alleges that: Respondent does not own any trademarks containing WORLDSTRIDES, WORLDSTIDES or any similar term; Respondent has not been commonly known by the mark WORLDSTRIDES, or by the Domain Name (as an individual, business or other organization); Respondent has not made any demonstrable preparations to use the Domain Name in connection with any bona fide offering of goods or services; Respondent is not making any legitimate non-commercial or fair use of the Domain Name. and Respondent is not licensed by LakeLand to use the WORLDSTRIDES mark.
With respect to the element of bad faith registration and use of the Domain Name, Complainant argues that Respondent, with both constructive and actual knowledge of Complainant’s trademark rights: (a) registered the Domain Name incorporating Complainant’s mark; (b) engaged in a pattern of registering other domain names of well-known trademarks and profiting by setting up paid search and pop-up advertising on websites under those domain names; (c) is free-riding on Complainant’s goodwill by collecting revenue from its arrangement with domainsponsor.com; (d) has no plausible legitimate reason for its choice of a Domain Name that is confusingly similar to Complainants’ trademark.
Complainant asserts that it in highly unlikely that the links to various travel services accessible through the Domain Name could have occurred without Respondent being aware of Complainant’s trademark rights.
Respondent did not reply to Complainant’s contentions.
6. Discussion and Findings
Paragraph 4(a) of the Policy lists the three elements which Complainant must satisfy in order to succeed:
(i) the Domain Name is identical or confusingly similar to a trademark or service mark in which Complainant has rights; and
(ii) 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
Complainant has clearly established rights, both at common law and through USPTO registration, in the mark WORLDSTRIDES. Apart from the .com Top-Level Domain (which is not relevant to an analysis under Policy Paragraph 4(a)(i)), the Domain Name differs from the mark only by its omission of the letter “r.” Under these circumstances, the Panel finds that the Domain Name is confusingly similar to Complainant’s mark.
Accordingly, the Panel rules that Policy Paragraph 4(a)(i) is satisfied.
B. Rights or Legitimate Interests
Pursuant to paragraph 4(c) of the Policy, Respondent may establish its rights or legitimate interests in the domain name, among other circumstances, by showing any of the following elements:
(i) before any notice to you [Respondent] of the dispute, your use of, or demonstrable preparations to use, the Domain Name or a name corresponding to the Domain Name in connection with a bona fide offering of goods or services; or
(ii) you [Respondent] (as an individual, business, or other organization) have been commonly known by the Domain Name, even if you have acquired no trademark or service mark rights; or
(iii) you [Respondent] are making a legitimate noncommercial or fair use of the Domain Name, without intent for commercial gain to misleadingly divert consumers or to tarnish the trademark or service mark at issue.
Complainant bears the burden of proof on the “rights or legitimate interests” issue (as it does for all three elements of the Policy). Louis de Bernieres v. Old Barn Studios Limited, WIPO Case No. D2001-0122 (March 26, 2001).
Respondent, who filed no response in this proceeding, has not invoked any of the circumstances of Policy, paragraph 4(c) to suggest any “rights or legitimate interests” in respect of the Domain Name.
As noted above, Respondent has linked the Domain Name to a portal site offering links to travel services similar to those offered by Complainant. The Panel is satisfied from the record that Respondent generates fee income from this use. The Panel further concludes that such unauthorized use of the Domain Name, confusingly similar to a mark well established within a particular line of business, does not confer rights or legitimate interests upon Respondent.
Accordingly, the Panel rules that Policy Paragraph 4(a)(ii) is satisfied.
C. Registered and Used in Bad Faith
Paragraph 4(b) of the Policy provides that the following circumstances, “in particular but without limitation,” are evidence of the registration and use of the Domain Name in “bad faith”:
(i) circumstances indicating that Respondent has registered or has acquired the Domain Name primarily for the purpose of selling, renting, or otherwise transferring the domain name registration to Complainant who is the owner of the trademark or service mark or to a competitor of that Complainant, for valuable consideration in excess of its documented out-of-pocket costs directly related to the Domain Name; or
(ii) that Respondent has registered the Domain Name in order to prevent the owner of the trademark or service mark from reflecting the mark in a corresponding domain name, provided that Respondent has engaged in a pattern of such conduct; or
(iii) that Respondent has registered the Domain Name primarily for the purpose of disrupting the business of a competitor; or
(iv) that by using the Domain Name, Respondent has intentionally attempted to attract, for commercial gain, Internet users to Respondent’s website or other on-line location, by creating a likelihood of confusion with Complainant’s mark as to the source, sponsorship, affiliation, or endorsement of Respondent’s website or location or of a product or service on Respondent’s website or location.
With respect to the element of bad faith, the Panel first notes that it rejects Complainant’s argument that constructive notice of Complainant’s mark, a legal incident of registration of a mark with the USPTO, gives rise to an inference of bad faith in this record. Bad faith under the Policy is not to be equated with trademark infringement under the Lanham Act. This Panel believes that the relevant inquiry is whether actual notice of a complainant’s trademark rights is present.
Having said that, the Panel, on this record, finds it more likely than not that Respondent had Complainant’s mark in mind when registering the Domain Name. As noted above, Complainant asserts that it in highly unlikely that the links to various travel services accessible through the Domain Name could have occurred without Respondent being aware of Complainant’s trademark rights. The Panel agrees.
It is a reasonable inference that Respondent registered this Domain Name, which varies from the mark by only one letter, in order to channel traffic arising from misspellings and typos to the fee-generating website to which the Domain Name resolves. Accordingly, the Panel concludes that Respondent has intentionally attempted to attract, for commercial gain, Internet users to its website by creating a likelihood of confusion with Complainant’s mark, in violation of Policy Paragraph 4(b)(iv).
This conclusion is all the easier to draw since, as pointed out in the Complaint and not disputed by the Repsondent, Respondent and/or its alter egos or aliases (Henry Chan and Horoshiy, Inc.) have engaged in precisely this type of conduct on numerous occasions.
Accordingly, the Panel rules that Policy Paragraph 4(a)(iii) is satisfied.
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 <worldstides.com> be transferred to Complainant LakeLand Holdings, LLC.
Robert A. Badgley
Dated: March 22, 2006