WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center
ADMINISTRATIVE PANEL DECISION
AT&T Knowledge Ventures, L.P. v. Kurt Briers, Interxis Technologies Bvba
Case No. D2007-1245
1. The Parties
The Complainant is AT&T Knowledge Ventures, L.P., San Antonio, Texas, of United States of America, represented by Haynes and Boone, LLP, of United States of America.
The Respondent is Kurt Briers, Interxis Technologies Bvba, Bost, of Belgium.
2. The Domain Name and Registrar
The disputed domain name <sbc.info> is registered with Secura GmbH.
3. Procedural History
The Complaint was filed with the WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center (the “Center”) on August 23, 2007. On August 27, 2007, the Center transmitted by email to Secura GmbH a request for registrar verification in connection with the domain name at issue. On August 30, 2007, Secura GmbH transmitted by email to the Center its verification response confirming that the Respondent is listed as the registrant and providing the contact details. In response to a notification by the Center that the Complaint was administratively deficient, the Complainant filed an amendment to the Complaint on September 4, 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 the Respondent of the Complaint, and the proceedings commenced on September 7, 2007. In accordance with the Rules, paragraph 5(a), the due date for Response was September 27, 2007. The Respondent did not submit any response. Accordingly, the Center notified the Respondent’s default on October 2, 2007.
The Center appointed James A. Barker as the sole panelist in this matter on October 9, 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
In the absence of a Response, the following facts stand uncontested.
The Complainant is the owner of all intellectual property assets (and a subsidiary) of what was formerly known as SBC Communications Inc., but is now AT&T Inc., and its subsidiaries and affiliates. AT&T is one of the largest providers of telecommunication products and services.
The Complainant is the owner of various registered marks incorporating the letters “sbc”. Those marks are registered on the principal register of the United States Patent and Trademark Office. The marks of which the Complainant provided evidence were variously accepted for registration between 1994 and 2005, with the earliest date of effect being 1993. The Complainant’s earliest such registered mark is for the word mark SBC.
Since at least 1994, the Complainant promoted its SBC mark through advertising to a large audience via television, radio, publications, signage and the Internet.
The Complainant is the registrant of a number of domain names that incorporate its marks, including <sbc.com>, <sbcathome.com>, <sbc-arkansas.com>, and <sbc-biz.com>.
The disputed domain name was first registered on February 9, 2007 (as indicated by the “creation date” in the Whois record).
The Complainant provided evidence of visiting the website to which the disputed domain name referred on March 20, 2007. On that date, the website appeared to be a mere “portal” website – providing links to various products, including those which compete with those of the Complainant. The website included links such as “Sbc Business Telephone”, “SBC Yahoo! DSL”, and “Sbc Phone Cable Internet”. The website also included the statement “This website is for sale!”. A link on the website also resolved to a different website that offered the disputed domain name for sale, and invited bids for it.
On April 10, 2007 and June 25, 2007, the disputed domain name no longer resolved to an active website. However, the Complainant provided evidence that, as at June 4, 2007, the disputed domain name was still offered for sale via the website at “www.sedo.com”.
The Complainant sent a letter of demand to the Respondent on March 22, 2007 and a reminder on April 25, 2007, which the Complainant confirmed (by Federal Express records) were received by the Respondent. The Complainant received no response to those letters.
5. Parties’ Contentions
The following contentions are summarized from the Complaint.
The disputed domain name is identical or confusingly similar to the Complainant’s SBC marks. The Complainant’s marks are well-known and distinctive.
The Respondent has no rights or legitimate interests in the disputed domain name. There is no evidence that the Respondent has a bona fide interest in the disputed domain name. It reverts to an inactive website. The Complainant never consented to the Respondent’s use of its marks. The Respondent is not commonly known by the disputed domain name. The domain name consists of an arbitrary mark which suggests no logical reason for the Respondent to use it. The Respondent has also offered the disputed domain name for sale.
The Respondent registered and has used the disputed domain name in bad faith. The Respondent intentionally created confusion with the Complainant’s mark to divert Internet traffic to a portal website, including links to products that compete with the Complainant’s products. The Respondent does not use the disputed domain name for a bona fide offering of goods or services. The Respondent has constructive knowledge of the Complainant’s marks. Use of the disputed domain name to now resolve to a dormant website is evidence of bad faith, as is the Respondent’s failure to respond to the Complainant’s letters of demand.
The Complainant referred to previous decisions under the Policy to support its contentions.
The Respondent did not reply to the Complainant’s contentions.
6. Discussion and Findings
The Complaint has the burden of proving all of the following, if it is to succeed, under paragraph 4(a) of the Policy:
(i) the disputed 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 disputed domain name; and
(iii) the disputed domain name was registered in bad faith and is being used in bad faith.
Each of these three elements are discussed in turn below.
A. Identical or Confusingly Similar
Under paragraph 4(a)(i) of the Policy, the Complainant must establish that it both “has rights” in a trademark, and that the disputed domain name is identical or confusingly similar to that mark.
The Complainant has clearly established that it has registered rights in trademarks comprising the letters “sbc”, including marks that comprise those letters as the dominant feature of the mark. Although the Complainant’s mark, to the extent it is comprised of the three letter combination “sbc”, might be at the weaker end of the scale, the relative strength of the Complainant’s mark is not a factor in determining whether it is identical to the disputed domain name.
The Panel finds that the disputed domain name is identical to those marks. The three letter “sbc” combination is incorporated entirely, and without variation, in the disputed domain name.
B. Rights or Legitimate Interests
The Complainant has established a prima facie case against the Respondent who has not answered it.
The only evidence of the Respondent’s use of the disputed domain name is that it formerly reverted to a portal website, including links to products related to the Complainant’s, and was offered for sale. At some point, it then did not revert to an active website, but was still offered for sale at the website “www.sedo.com”. This evidence suggests that the Respondent’s registration of the disputed domain name was done to benefit from the goodwill in the Complainant’s mark. The Respondent offered no evidence to the contrary.
There is otherwise no evidence from the case file of the Respondent’s business or activity that might suggest the Respondent’s right or legitimate interest in the disputed domain name.
The disputed domain name incorporates only a three letter combination. As a general proposition, it might be easier for a respondent to demonstrate a right or legitimate interest in it for that reason. However there is no evidence to support such a finding in this case.
C. Registered and Used in Bad Faith
A finding of bad faith under paragraph 4(a)(iii) of the Policy may be made where there is evidence that the Respondent intentionally sought to benefit from the reputation of the Complainant’s mark by registering the disputed domain name.
This is what the evidence suggests in this case. The disputed domain name reverted only to a portal website. That website included links closely related to the Complainant’s products. That fact alone suggests that the Respondent deliberately sought to create confusion to divert Internet users looking for the Complainant. There appears to be no independent relationship between the letters “sbc” and the Respondent’s formerly active website. The Complainant otherwise appears to have a substantial presence on the Internet of which the Respondent, even though in Belgium, would likely have been aware.
Although there is no Response that might have given an explanation of the Respondent’s business activity, the Respondent’s apparent business name (“Interxis Technologies Bvba”) suggests that the Respondent operates in a technology-related field. So does the Complainant. This lends further weight to a finding that the Respondent knew of the Complainant when he registered the disputed domain name.
It might be arguable that the three-letter combination could have a number of potential associations, unconnected with the Complainant. However, the Respondent has presented no evidence of his purpose in registering the disputed domain name. On its face, the content of the Respondent’s portal website suggests that the disputed domain name is more likely to have been chosen for its association with the Complainant.
For these reasons, the Panel finds that the disputed domain name was registered and 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, <sbc.info>, be transferred to the Complainant.
James A. Barker
Dated: October 26, 2007