WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center
ADMINISTRATIVE PANEL DECISION
Harrods Limited v. Jamie Gordon
Case No. D2006-1063
1. The Parties
The Complainant is Harrods Limited, London, United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, represented by Burges Salmon LLP, United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.
The Respondent is Jamie Gordon, Spilsby, United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.
2. The Domain name and Registrar
The disputed domain name <hharrods.com> is registered with Schlund + Partners AG.
3. Procedural History
The Complaint was filed with the WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center (the “Center”) on August 21, 2006. On August 22, 2006, the Center transmitted by email to Schlund + Partners AG a request for registrar verification in connection with the domain name at issue. On August 24, 2006, Schlund + Partners AG transmitted by email to the Center its verification response confirming that the (then) Respondent was listed as the registrant and providing the contact details for the administrative, billing, and technical contact.
The Complaint initially showed the Respondent as a Chris Wyatt of United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. However, as a consequence of a change of ownership in the Domain name (dealt with in greater detail below) the Complainant filed an amendment to the Complaint dated September 15, 2006. The Complaint and the amendment need to be read together in order to understand the totality of the Complainant’s case.
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 September 18, 2006. In accordance with the Rules, paragraph 5(a), the due date for Response was October 10, 2006. The Respondent did not submit any response. Accordingly, the Center notified the Respondent’s default on October 11, 2006.
The Center appointed Antony Gold as the sole panelist in this matter on October 26, 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 Complainant assertS and provide evidence in support of the following facts which, unless otherwise indicated, the Panel accepts as established.
Harrods Limited and its predecessors have operated the Harrods Department Store in London, England since about 1849. The store is famous worldwide and typically serves about 35,000 customers each business day. The Harrods Department Store has been promoted internationally for many years and there are satellite stores at many airports including Frankfurt, Kuala Lumpur, Lisbon and Vienna. The goodwill and reputation in the Harrods name extends to ranges which include Harrods Estates, Harrods Bank and Harrods Casino Online.
The Complainant has been active on the Internet for some years and has operated an Internet website at “www.harrods.com” since February 1989. The goodwill in the Harrods brand is substantial. It is very widely known. HARRODS is also the subject of numerous trademarks including UK trademarks for the mark HARRODS as well as Community Trademarks, also for HARRODS.
The Complainant says that it initially complained to Mr. Wyatt (who, at that point was the Registrant) about the domain name in April 2006. Copies of correspondence provided by the Complainant between the Complainant’s lawyers and Mr. Wyatt include re-iterations by the Complainant’s lawyers of their client’s trademark rights and a series of purported explanations by Mr. Wyatt as to his motive for registration of the domain name. The correspondence concludes with an invitation by Mr. Wyatt to the Complainant to put forward an offer for the domain name.
At this point that there was a holding page on the site at the domain name which took the Internet user to a holding page containing “Designer Wear Gifts Info”. It appears that at some later point, the home page was altered by Mr. Wyatt to a site showing a computerised picture of a fishing rod under the title “Hhar Rod Fishing Supplies”. The narrative on the web page provided by the Complainant says “The lasted [sic] in fishing rods, to be launched later this year, bookmark this page and come back often. Details will be here as soon as released”.
A transfer of the domain name from Mr. Wyatt to the Respondent took place in September 2006. The website use now appears to comprise a page which indicates that the domain name is for sale. The page says that the seller’s price expectation is £4,000.
5. Parties’ Contentions
The Complainant says as follows:
The domain name is identical or confusingly similar to a trademark in which it has rights. In support of this contention, the Complainant produces evidence of various trademarks for the word HARRODS which it owns and couples this with evidence of the extent of trading by the Complainant worldwide under the HARRODS brand.
The Complainant says that the only difference between the domain name and the Complainant’s trademark is the addition of the letter “h”. It says that, at a glance, the Domain name looks identical to that of the Complainant and that the Respondent’s site can mistakenly be accessed by internet users seeking the Complainant’s site as a result of a typographical error by the user.
In support of its contentions, the Complainant cites remarks made by previous panelists in earlier decisions concerning the Harrods domain name disputes, including Harrods Limited v. Pete Lormer, WIPO Case No. D2003-0504, Harrods Limited v. Chris Brick WIPO Case No. D2003-0876 and Harrods Limited v. Surrinder Gill, WIPO Case No. D2003-0243. Most of the decisions indicate that minor variations in the spelling of the HARRODS mark in the domain names in dispute do not prevent the name from being similar to that of HARRODS.
The Complainant says also that the Respondent has no legitimate interest in the domain name. It says that the domain name was transferred to the Respondent on August 22, 2006, by Mr. Wyatt, against whom the Complaint was initially made. The Complainant says that the site had been altered by Mr. Wyatt from a site showing a computerised picture of a fishing rod under the title “Hhar Rod Fishing Supplies”. An internet search and a search of the records has not revealed any such company or product. The Complainant’s enquiries in relation to the Respondent have not revealed any legitimate connection with a family name or surname of Harrods. The Respondent is a director of a financial services company called Lynas Vokes Investments Limited. Apparently, there is no connection between that company and the Complainant.
In relation to bad faith, the Complainant refers to correspondence between its lawyers and Mr. Wyatt. It says that the domain name could not have been chosen for any reason other than its association with the Complainant’s trademarks and primarily for the purpose of selling, renting, or otherwise transferring the Domain name registration to the Complainant or to a competitor of the Complainant for valuable consideration in excess of the domain name registrant’s documented out-of-pocket costs directly related to the domain name.
The Complainant says that there is evidence of a relationship of some form between Mr. Wyatt and the Respondent and that these parties have been working in concert to delay and disrupt the proceeding in an attempt to exert pressure on the Complainant to pay the premium they are requesting.
The Respondent did not reply to the Complainant’s contentions.
6. Discussion and Findings
Paragraph 4(a) of the Policy requires a Complainant to be able to establish the following in order to succeed with its Complaint;
(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 Panel is satisfied that the Complainant has rights in the mark HARRODS. There is abundant evidence of trademark ownership in the name coupled with evidence of extensive use.
The Panel is also satisfied that the domain name <hharrods.com> is confusingly similar to HARRODS. It is established that the “.com” suffix is disregarded for the purposes of considering identicality or similarity. The addition of a single h at the beginning of the Domain name does not operate to prevent the Domain name from being dissimilar. Moreover, the similarity is confusing. As the Complainant says, the difference between its trademarks and the Domain Name is so slight as to be liable to cause confusion.
B. Rights or Legitimate Interests
There is no evidence from the Respondent as to the basis of any rights it might have in a name which is identical or similar to that of the Domain Name. Mr. Wyatt’s use of the website to promote fishing supplies and particularly, Hhar Rods, is ingenious, but as there is no evidence of a bona fide business operating under that name and it is not considered that the holding page containing the image and information about the rods reflects any genuine business under the name Hhar Rods. None of the information imparted by Mr. Wyatt in the correspondence between him and the Complainant’s lawyers is informative on the nature and extent of any other rights.
There is manifestly no business connection between the Complainant and the Respondent. There is no explanation put forward by the Respondent about the nature or extent of any rights Respondent may have. Accordingly, the Panel concludes that the Respondent does not have any rights or legitimate interest in the domain name.
C. Registered and Used in Bad Faith
The Panel is satisfied that the Domain Name was registered by Mr. Wyatt in bad faith. The prominence of the Complainant’s brand is such that Mr. Wyatt cannot have been unaware of the Complainant’s brand at the time that the Domain Name was registered. Moreover, it is likely that, on a balance of probabilities, that Mr. Wyatt would have realised that registration by him of the Domain Name was likely to be a matter of concern to the Complainant. The explanations by him as to the reasons why the Domain Name was registered are unconvincing. In such circumstances, it is appropriate to find bad faith in relation to the registration on the basis that the likely motive was the expectation that the (then) registrant would be able to obtain from the Complainant or one of its competitors a sum for the domain name in excess of its out of pocket registration costs.
The Panel is also satisfied that the domain name was used in bad faith. In this respect the Panel has noted the transfer of the Domain Name from Mr. Wyatt to the Registrant at a time when the initial Complaint had already been filed, coupled with the lack of any known justification for the transfer together with the use of the website to promote offers to purchase the Domain Name for the seller’s proclaimed expectation of£4,000. The Complainant’s suspicions that the transfer is not bona fide seem, on balance, to be justified and the site is clearly being used to solicit offers (which will almost certainly only come from the Complainant or one of its competitors) which are in excess of Respondent’s out-of-pocket registration costs.
Accordingly, the Panel finds that the domain name has been registered and is being used in bad faith.
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 be transferred to the Complainant.
Dated: November 10, 2006