WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center
ADMINISTRATIVE PANEL DECISION
Silicon Space Inc. v. Koteshwar Rao Pilla, SiliconSpace Technologies Pvt Ltd.
Case No. D2007-0010
1. The Parties
The Complainant is Silicon Space Inc., San Diego, California, United States of America, represented by Mayfield & Associates, Solana Beach, California, United States of America.
The Respondent is Koteshwar Rao Pilla and SiliconSpace Technologies Pvt Ltd., of Secunderabad, Andhra Pradesh, India and they are represented by Koteshwar Rao Pilla of Andhra Pradesh, India.
2. The Domain Name and Registrar
The disputed domain name <siliconspace.net> is registered with Network Solutions, LLC.
3. Procedural History
The Complaint was filed with the WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center (the “Center”) on January 4, 2007. On January 5, 2007, the Center transmitted by email to Network Solutions, LLC a request for registrar verification in connection with the domain name at issue. On January 5, 2007, Network Solutions, LLC 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 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 the Respondent of the Complaint, and the proceedings commenced on January 15, 2007. In accordance with the Rules, paragraph 5(a), the due date for Response was February 4, 2007. The Response was filed with the Center by e-mail on February 5, 2007.
The Center appointed Clive L. Elliott as the sole panelist in this matter on February 28, 2007. 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
Complainant was founded in 1996, as an internet technology consulting firm. On January 7, 1997, it incorporated in the State of California. It provides consulting services to local and nationally based governmental agencies and companies in the United States of America. It has used the mark SILICON SPACE and it is the service mark by which Complainant is known.
SiliconSpace Technologies Pvt Ltd. was formed on December 16, 2004, and does business under the name and style “SST”. It operates in the Asia Pacific Region and provides IT staff augmentation services. Koteshwar Rao Pilla is the former registrant of the disputed domain name and appears to be associated with the company SiliconSpace Technologies Pvt Ltd. For ease of references, Koteshwar Rao Pilla and SiliconSpace Technologies Pvt Ltd. will be referred to as Respondents here.
5. Parties’ Contentions
Some doubt exists as to just who the Respondent is. Complainant sets out a series of detailed steps involving contact between the parties. Firstly, Complainant states that according to Network Solutions, the concerned registrar’s Whois database, the Respondents in this administrative proceeding are Koteshwar Rao Pilla and SiliconSpace Technologies, Pvt Ltd., an Indian Company, both located in West Marredpally, Secunderabad, Andhra Pradesh, India.
On May 5, 2006, attorneys for Complainant queried the computer system located at whois.networksolutions.com with the domain name <siliconspace.net>. The result from the query listed Koteshwar Rao Pilla as the registrant. Thereafter, on May 11, 2006, attorneys for Complainant emailed and mailed a letter demanding return of the domain name to Complainant.
On May 31, 2006, attorneys for Complainant again queried the computer system located at “www.whois.networksolutions.com” with the domain name <siliconspace.net>. The result from the query listed SiliconSpace Technologies, Pvt Ltd. as the registrant.
It is noted that both respondents share the same physical address and email address. Complainant asserts that Koteshwar Rao Pilla controls the domain name as evidenced by the fact he caused the “registrant” of the Domain Name to be changed from his own name to the company shortly after receipt of Complainant’s demand letter.
On June 26, 2006, Respondent Koteshwar Rao responded to the May 11, 2006 demand letter. On June 27, 2006, Complainant’s attorney responded to Respondent’s email and offered Respondent “…200 USD as compensation for any changes to their stationary, business cards, etc. …”
On September 4, 2006, Respondent emailed Complainant’s attorney stating: “I will be more kinder if you are willing to surrender <siliconspace.com> for $2,000.00.” On September 12, 2006, Respondent emailed counsel for Complainant and proposed a business relationship with Complainant.
It is asserted that upon receipt of Complainant’s demand to turn over the domain name, Respondent, Koteshwar Rao Pilla, transferred the domain name to Respondent SiliconSpace Technologies, Pvt Ltd. Respondents then removed all content from the website previously located at <siliconspace.net> and replaced the home page with text that stated that access/directory listing was denied.
It is contended that there is no evidence that the current owner of the website, has used the domain name prior to receipt of Complainant’s demand letter.
Complainant asserts that the SILICON SPACE mark has become synonymous with it. In support of this it states that a search on “www.google.com” for the term “Silicon Space” results in about 14,100 hits. Of the first 30 hits, Complainant’s mark is used 18 times and the first 9 hits all refer to Complainant.
Complainant argues that Respondent registered the domain name with the intent to divert the business of Complainant by creating a likelihood of confusion with Complainant’s domain name. It is asserted that Respondent placed Complainant’s email address (“firstname.lastname@example.org”) on its “Contact Us” page in an apparent attempt to confuse and fool Internet search engines and claimed to be headquartered in the United States of America when in fact Respondents did not have a physical presence in the United States.
It is also asserted that Respondents listed a number of companies headquartered in the United States of America on their “Clients” page even though Respondent had no contractual relationship. It is submitted that Respondents’ misrepresentations were apparently aimed at deceiving prospective customers and clients of Complainant into believing Respondents were the same company as Complainant.
Respondent asserts that SiliconSpace Technologies Pvt Ltd. purchased the domain name <siliconspace.net> from the Web and that it was freely available for sale. Respondent states that April 9, 2005, the date that Respondent purchased the domain name, that this was four months after the formation of SiliconSpace Technologies Pvt Ltd.
Respondent contends that SiliconSpace Technologies Pvt Ltd. has in no way violated the business space of Complainant and not hijacked the domain name. Instead, they rely on the fact that they purchased the domain name on the open market and that it was freely available for those purposes.
They deny the Complaint and submit that Complainant is causing unwanted tension and pressure on Respondent to surrender their domain name.
6. Discussion and Findings
According to paragraph 4(a) of the Policy, for this Complaint to succeed in relation to the domain name Complainant must prove that:
(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.
Having considered the Complaint, the Panel finds that all requirements of paragraph 4(a) of the Policy are met.
A. Identical or Confusingly Similar
The evidence in this case is clear and largely un-contradicted. Complainant has clearly used to the SILICON SPACE mark for a number of years and there is sound basis for its assertion that the mark is associated with and has become synonymous with it, throughout the United States of America. The Panel finds that Complainant has traded in a significant way for many years and that it has the necessary rights in and to the trademark SILICON SPACE.
The disputed domain name is not identical to Complainant’s trademark. However, it is virtually identical in that the space between the two component parts of the mark has simply been removed. What matters is that it is readily apparent that the distinctive portion of Complainant’s trademark has been adopted. On this basis, it is found that the disputed domain name is virtually identical and certainly confusingly similar to the trademark SILICON SPACE.
Accordingly, the Panel is satisfied that the first element of the Policy has been met.
B. Rights or Legitimate Interests
As has been noted previously, once a complainant makes a prima facie case the burden shifts to the respondent to establish rights or legitimate interests in the disputed domain name; see Do The Hustle, LLC v. Tropic Web, WIPO Case No. D2000-0624 (finding that once the complainant asserts that the respondent does not have rights or legitimate interests with respect to the domain, the burden shifts to the respondent to provide credible evidence that substantiates its claim of rights and legitimate interests in the domain name). The Panel concludes that, on the basis of the Complaint, that a prima facie case is established under this ground.
Respondent has lodged a Response. However, apart from asserting that they operate a legitimate business and that the domain name was purchased on the open market they do little to challenge the case put forward by Complainant.
Further, Complainant sets out a chain of events which strongly suggest that the disputed domain name was first registered in the name of Koteshwar Rao Pilla and then transferred to a company, the conveniently named SiliconSpace Technologies Pvt Ltd, but only after a demand letter was issued on May 11, 2006. Accordingly, the assertion in the Response that the company purchased the domain name on April 9, 2005, is difficult to reconcile with the detailed chain of events as outlined by Complainant.
This also casts doubt on the assertion by Respondent that they purchased the domain name freely and on the open market and therefore legitimately. Indeed, the inference can be drawn that the parties comprising the Respondent worked together to ensure a transfer of the domain name, presumably so as to defeat the Complaint and to attempt to clothe Respondent with the trappings, of legitimacy, by virtue of the registration and/or involvement of the company SiliconSpace Technologies Pvt Ltd.
Complainant’s assertions in relation to the alleged misleading contact details or parties and efforts to mislead third parties as to the true identity of Respondent calls for a response. It is reasonable to conclude from Respondent’s silence on this issue is that either there is some basis for these allegations or Respondent is unable to refute them in whole or in part.
Notwithstanding these concerns, the Panel is still required to satisfy itself as to whether any reasonable explanation for the registration and use of the domain name might exist. Complainant contends that Respondent placed Complainant’s email address (email@example.com) on its “Contact Us” page in an apparent attempt to confuse and fool Internet search engines, and claimed to be headquartered in the United States of America when in fact Respondents have never had a physical presence in the United States. Once again, this contention is not denied by Respondent. This strongly suggests that Respondent has not acted appropriately. On the basis of what is alleged and what remains un-contradicted, it is reasonable to infer that no right or legitimate interest exists on the part of the Respondent and that the Respondent’s motives are not legitimate.
Thus the Panel is satisfied that the second element of the Policy has been met.
C. Registered and Used in Bad Faith
It is now well-established as to what constitutes bad faith under the Policy. Given what appears to be the substantial reputation and goodwill in the Complainant’s trademark and specifically due to its use of its trademark in an analogous technology related area, it is reasonable to infer that the domain name was probably chosen by Respondent for the reasons contended by Complainant. Put another way, it is difficult to see how (on the current record) Respondent can claim to have registered and been using the disputed domain name in good faith.
The Panel is therefore satisfied that the third element of the Policy has been met.
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 <siliconspace.net> be transferred to the Complainant.
Clive L. Elliott
Dated: March 15, 2007