WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center
ADMINISTRATIVE PANEL DECISION
General Electric Company v. Recruiters
Case No. D2007-0584
1. The Parties
The Complainant is General Electric Company, Fairfield, Connecticut, United States of America, represented by Kilpatrick Stockton, LLP, United States of America.
The Respondent is Recruiters, Melbourne, VIC, Australia.
2. The Domain Name and Registrar
The disputed domain name <ge-recruiting.com> is registered with Melbourne IT trading as Internet Names Worldwide.
3. Procedural History
The Complaint was filed with the WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center (the “Center”) on April 18, 2007. On April 19, 2007, the Center transmitted by email to Melbourne IT trading as Internet Names Worldwide a request for registrar verification in connection with the domain name at issue. On April 20, 2007, Melbourne IT trading as Internet Names Worldwide transmitted by email to the Center its verification response confirming that the Respondent is listed as the registrant and providing the contact details. 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 April 25, 2007. In accordance with the Rules, paragraph 5(a), the due date for Response was May 15, 2007. The Respondent did not submit any response. Accordingly, the Center notified the Respondent’s default on May 16, 2007.
The Center appointed Adam Samuel as the sole panelist in this matter on May 24, 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
The Complainant owns registered trademarks for the name GE going back at least to 1974. It only owns registered marks for the word GE followed by a number of generic words such as “foundation”, “freedom”, “interest plus”, “extra”, “legacy”, “gold”, “trading”, “hydro” and “access” and composite made-up words such as “veriwise” and “multilin”
5. Parties’ Contentions
A. The complainant
What follows here are the Complainant’s arguments.
The Complainant uses, owns and has registered its world-famous name and mark GE and numerous other trademarks and domain names incorporating it. As a result, the Complainant is commonly known to the trade and to consumers worldwide as simply GE. The Complainant has named and promoted a number of its business units using the GE name and mark in combination with another term or terms.
The Complainant has also registered and uses the domain name <ge.com> (registered August 5, 1986) to deliver information concerning the Complainant, its company, and its products and services. The Complainant owns and operates a wide network of domain names and websites dedicated to the Complainant’s various divisions and business units.
As a result of the Complainant’s substantial marketing, advertising, and promotional efforts and activities in connection with the GE Marks, many millions of people around the world have been exposed to the GE Marks, and the consuming public and the trade recognize and associate the GE Marks with the Complainant.
GE is widely recognized as a preeminent employer for skilled professionals. The Complainant’s recruiting and staffing services are widely recognized. The Complainant and its business units collectively employ hundreds of thousands of individuals worldwide and receive tens of thousands of resumes every year. The Complainant provides job seekers interested in employment with GE a medium for searching open positions and investigating potential employment opportunities through its website “www.gecareers.com”. The Complainant’s recruiting services and teams of recruiting professionals are frequently referred to simply as “GE Recruiting.”
Although the Respondent has concealed his or her identity, the website at the Domain Name displays the name “Goodman Evans – Recruiting,” a name that conveniently may be abbreviated as “GE-Recruiting.” The Complainant’s representatives, however, have investigated this purported recruiting firm and discovered that there is no evidence of any corporate entity with the name “Goodman Evans” or “Goodman Evans Recruiting.” Indeed, a general Internet search for the name “Goodman Evans” reveals only a web log with a discussion thread referencing the Domain Name and describing the website that appears at the Domain Name as a “phishing” scam in the nature of a phony job posting board.
The “Goodman Evans” recruiting firm, whose name appears on the website to which the domain name resolves, appears to be nothing more than a fictitious pretense deliberately named such that Respondent could take advantage of the name’s abbreviation, “GE.” Respondent uses the famous GE name and mark in the Domain Name to lure Internet users to its website under the mistaken belief that that website is affiliated with the Complainant and its recruiting services. Through an online “application,” the Respondent then gathers personal identifying information about the Internet users, which is used for commercial marketing purposes, all for the Respondent’s financial gain.
The Respondent’s Domain Name, <ge-recruiting.com>, is identical and confusingly similar to the Complainant’s well-known GE marks, as it fully incorporates the mark GE exactly and in its entirety, with the mere addition of the generic word “recruiting.” In determining similarity between the Domain Name and the Complainant’s GE Marks, the addition of the generic word “recruiting” merely suggests to Internet users that the Domain Name is related to the Complainant or the Complainant’s recruiting and employment services. The addition of the generic word “recruiting” to the Complainant’s famous GE name and mark does not detract from - but rather adds to - the confusing similarity between the Domain Name and the GE Marks. Accordingly, the domain name <ge-recruiting.com> is confusingly similar to the Complainant’s GE marks.
Given the renown of the GE marks, as well as the Complainant’s extensive use of the GE designation in combination with other terms, including the term “recruiting”, the relevant consumers, on seeing the Domain Name, will reasonably believe that it is related to the Complainant. Consumers who come across the domain name in issue and/or search the Internet for the Complainant or the Complainant’s products or services by using the Complainant’s names and marks may be directed to the domain name in issue and associated website, thereby creating a likelihood of confusion. Indeed, despite the relatively recent registration date of the domain Name, evidence of consumer confusion is already abundant online, as a number of consumers have mistakenly believed there is a connection between GE and the “www.ge-recruiting.com” website.
Since the Complainant’s adoption and extensive use of the GE Marks predate the first use of the Domain Name, the burden is on Respondent to establish rights or legitimate interests in the Domain Name. Where the Complainant’s GE Marks are so well-known and recognized, there can be no rights or legitimate use by Respondent.
The Respondent cannot demonstrate or establish any rights or legitimate interest in the Domain Name. There is no relationship between the Complainant and the Respondent giving rise to any license, permission, or other right by which the Respondent could own or use any domain name incorporating the Complainant’s GE Marks. The Respondent is not an authorized provider of job placement services for the Complainant’s recruiting needs, and there has never been any business relationship whatsoever between the Complainant and the Respondent. The Complainant does not sponsor or endorse Respondent’s activities in any respect and has not provided its consent to Respondent’s use and exploitation of the GE Marks in the Domain Name and on its affiliated website.
The Respondent is neither using the Domain Names in connection with a bona fide offering of goods or services nor making a legitimate noncommercial or fair use of the Domain Names. The Respondent appears to have registered and is using the Domain Name solely for commercial gain. When an Internet user types into a browser the address of the Domain Name, the user is connected to what appears on the surface to be a job posting board that includes a list of highly generic job titles (e.g., “manager,” “supervisor,” “buyer,” etc.), followed by highly generic job descriptions. None of the job descriptions specify location, years of experience required, preferred education or professional background, or other common items that would be expected on a job board site. Moreover, Internet users are unable to select any of the listed jobs in order to view details pertaining to the alleged positions. Indeed, the viewer is directed to complete an online “application” in the event that he or she is “interested” in any of the listed positions. In order to submit an “application,” however, users are required to provide personal identifying information, such as name, e-mail address, phone number, and best time to be contacted.
The Complainant has been unable to locate any use in commerce of the name or mark “Goodman Evans,” much less use of the abbreviation “GE” to refer to a company called “Goodman Evans.” It appears that Respondent conceived the fictitious name “Goodman Evans” in a blatant attempt to trade off of the valuable goodwill and reputation of the famous abbreviation “GE.” The Respondent is operating under the pretense of a fictitious recruiting firm, which in fact offers no recruiting services, and which bears a name that was calculated to be abbreviated as “GE” in order to lure Internet users to its commercial website under the mistaken belief that that the website is affiliated with the Complainant and its recruiting services. The Respondent then gathers personal identifying information about the Internet users to be used for commercial marketing purposes.
That Respondent has registered at least one other domain name based on a well-known third party mark and name. The Respondent has registered or is affiliated with the domain name <chase-hr.com>, based on the third party mark and name CHASE. The registrar of the <chase-hr.com> domain name—Melbourne IT—is also the registrar of the Domain Name; the registrant information for the <chase-hr.com> domain name is similarly protected by the “My Private Registration” identity protection program; the <chase-hr.com> domain name directs viewers to a website that is nearly identical in layout and substance to the “ge-recruiting.com” site, including the generic job description listings; and Internet users who click on the contact information provided on the “www.ge-recruiting.com” website are directed to a “chase-hr.com” e-mail address, thereby indicating that the operator of the two sites are one and the same. The operator of the website at the “www.chase-hr.com” also conveniently refers to itself as “Chase – H. Recruiters” despite the fact that there is no evidence of a corporate entity called “Chase – H. Recruiters.” Accordingly, “Chase – H. Recruiters” appears to be yet another fictitious entity created for purposes of online phishing. Similar to the website at the <ge-recruiting.com> domain name, the website at “www.chase-hr.com” directs Internet users to provide personal identifying information in an on-line “application.” There is no reasonable basis for the registration of two identical websites with identical generic job postings, other than a bad faith attempt to trade on the fame of the third party marks contained in the domain names in order to generate traffic to the related websites and gather personal identifying information, which may then be used for commercial marketing purposes.
The Respondent’s bad faith registration and use is further evidenced by the fact that Respondent has wholly failed to identify himself or herself, choosing instead to conceal his or her identity by using an identity protection service
The Respondent did not reply to the Complainant’s contentions.
6. Discussion and Findings
Under the Policy, the Complainant must prove that:
(i) the domain name is identical or confusingly similar to a trademark or service mark in which it 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 Complainant has rights in the trademark “GE” as a result of numerous registrations in the United States of America and elsewhere. The only issue is whether the addition of “-recruiting.com” to that name means that the domain name in issue is not confusingly similar to the GE trademark.
Normally, the addition of a generic word such as “recruiting” does not remove a confusing similarity between a domain name and a trademark. In National Collegiate Athletic Association v. Rosemary Giancola WIPO Case No. D2000-0836, the Panel took the same view. It said:
“Respondent has also registered names 5-20 that include the NCAA mark and events with which the NCAA is associated, but also include other terms such as “schedule,” “scores,” “results,” and “recruiting.” The services or information included in these terms are close to those provided by the NCAA and thus these domain names would tend to cause confusion. Such names are therefore considered confusingly similar to the NCAA mark.”
GE engages in recruitment activities throughout the world for its many different business units. As a result, its position is identical to the NCAA. This is demonstrated by its own website “www.gecareers.com” which recruits staff to work for the company.
A number of the comments at the website address, “http://www.tabathamarshall.com/2007/03/23/good-grief-goodman-evans/” reveal that a number of people have looked at the website to which the domain name used to resolve, thinking that it would provide an opportunity to seek employment with the Complainant. This supports the view that the domain name in issue is confusingly similar to the Complainant’s trademark which is also the letters by which the Complainant is best known worldwide.
For all these reasons, the Panel concludes that the domain name in issue is confusingly similar to the GE trademark in which the Complainant has rights.
B. Rights or Legitimate Interests
There is no evidence that the Complainant has authorized the Respondent to use any of its trademarks. There is little or no evidence to suggest that the Respondent has ever asserted any rights or legitimate interests in the domain name. Currently, the website to which the domain name resolves cannot be found. The Complaint includes printouts of the website that used to be found through the relevant website address. It refers to Goodman Evans Recruiting. This might suggest a legitimate interest in the name “GE Recruiting”. The Complainant, however, has been unable to identify a genuine recruiting business of this name. It has also submitted a printout of “http://www.tabathamarshall.com/2007/03/23/good-grief-goodman-evans/”, a series of comments from various Internet users. All suggest that the site is not a genuine recruitment website but a means for obtaining e-mail addresses for onward sale to other businesses. In the light of this evidence and in the absence of a Response, the Panel accepts the Complainant’s assertion that the name Goodman Evans Recruiting is fictitious and not one in respect of which the Respondent has legitimate interests.
For these reasons, and in the absence of evidence to the contrary, the Panel concludes that the Respondent has no rights or legitimate interests in respect of the domain name in issue.
C. Registered and Used in Bad Faith
“All information provided to the Company by a registrant may be used to support our suppression, validation and enhancement services to marketing companies, advertising agencies, compilers and data companies.”
Evidence from contributors to “http://www.tabathamarshall.com/2007/03/23/good-grief-goodman-evans/” supports the view that giving information away through using the website to which the domain name resolves results in the person doing this receiving a great deal of unwanted e-mail.
All this supports the view that the domain name in issue was registered and was being used to collect information from unsuspecting jobseekers interested in opportunities with the Complainant that it could sell to other companies for profit. It was never used to fulfil its apparent purpose of helping people to find jobs. Such “phishing” activity or purpose constitutes bad faith: Banca Intesa S.p.A. v. Moshe Tal WIPO Case No. D2006-0228.
It is a further element of bad faith that the Respondent chose to use the Complainant’s trademark and extensive recruitment activity to persuade members of the public to part with their personal information.
For all these reasons, the Panel concludes that the domain name in issue was registered and is being used in bad faith. Removing the website concerned following the filing of the Complaint does not change that: Advanced Micro Devices, Inc. v. Chapar Rasneh, WIPO Case No. D2006-1249.
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, <ge-recruiting.com> be transferred to the Complainant.
Dated: June 7, 2007