WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center
American Family Life Assurance Company of Columbus v. Stephen Andrus
Case No. D2007-0218
1. The Parties
Complainant is American Family Life Assurance Company of Columbus, Columbus, Georgia, United States of America, represented by Alston & Bird, LLP, United States of America.
Respondent is Stephen Andrus, Brownsville, Texas, United States of America.
2. The Domain Name and Registrar
The disputed domain name <aflacexposed.com> is registered with BRANDON GRAY INTERNET SERVICES INC.
3. Procedural History
The Complaint was filed with the WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center (the “Center”) on February 14, 2007. On February 16, 2007, the Center transmitted by email to BRANDON GRAY INTERNET SERVICES INC. a request for registrar verification in connection with the domain name at issue. On February 16, 2007, BRANDON GRAY INTERNET SERVICES INC. transmitted by email 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. In response to a notification by the Center that the Complaint was administratively deficient, Complainant filed an amendment to the Complaint on March 1, 2007. 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 Respondent of the Complaint, and the proceedings commenced on March 9, 2007. In accordance with the Rules, paragraph 5(a), the due date for Response was March 29, 2007. Respondent did not submit any response. Accordingly, the Center notified Respondent’s default on April 2, 2007.
The Center appointed Kevin H. Fortin as the sole panelist in this matter on April 26, 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
AFLAC is a registered trademark used by the American Family Life Assurance Company of Columbus, which is the Complainant in this action. Complainant has used this mark at least as early as 1989. Complainant has obtained several U.S. Trademark Registrations for the mark ALFAC including U.S. Trademark Reg. No. 1,570,222; No. 2,582,114; and No. 2,582,108.
Respondent uses the domain name <aflacexposed.com> for, among other things, providing hyper-links to competing insurance companies including Allstate Insurance and State Farm Insurance.
5. Parties’ Contentions
Complainant alleges that the domain name <aflacexposed.com> is confusingly similar to the AFLAC mark, that Respondent has no rights or legitimate interests in the domain name, and that Respondent registered and is using the domain name in bad faith.
Respondent has defaulted in this matter, and has not otherwise objected to Complainant’s contentions.
6. Discussion and Findings
Paragraph 4(a) of the Policy directs that Complainant must prove each of the following:
(i) the disputed 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 disputed domain name has been registered and is being used in bad faith.
A. Identical or Confusingly Similar
Whether the domain name and the mark are confusingly similar is an objective inquiry and must be determined on a case-by-case basis. In many instances it has been found that simply adding a word or letters to an existing mark may not eliminate confusion. Here the term “exposed” is added to the mark AFLAC. Complainant argues, in essence, that the use of the term “Aflac” with the addition of the term “exposed” makes the domain name and the mark confusingly similar. The Panel finds that the domain name <aflacexposed.com> and Complainant’s mark AFLAC are confusingly similar.
B. Rights or Legitimate Interests
A right or legitimate interest may be found as either a commercial interest or non-commercial interest. Complainant argues that Respondent’s use of the domain is a transparent attempt to capitalize on the fame and goodwill of the registered mark. Complainant further argues that Respondent has never made use of the domain name in connection with a bona fide offering of goods or services. Since Respondent has defaulted, this Panel accepts Complainant’s arguments and finds that Respondent has no right or legitimate interest in the domain name <aflacexposed.com>.
C. Registered and Used in Bad Faith
Registration and use in bad faith can be found in numerous circumstances, many of which are described by section 4(b) of the Policy. Complaint alleges that Respondent should have known of the trademark registration and rights of Complainant when the domain name was registered, and that by registering the domain name bad faith is shown. In view of Respondent’s default, Complainants argument is accepted. The Panel finds that the domain name <aflacexposed.com> was 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 <aflacexposed.com > be transferred to Complainant.
Kevin H. Fortin
Dated: May 10, 2007