Complainant is Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) of Zurich, Switzerland, internally represented.
Respondent is Javier Perez of La Verne, California, United States of America.
The disputed domain name <fifaworldcuptickets.com> is registered with GoDaddy.com, Inc.
The Complaint was filed with the WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center (the “Center”) on October 14, 2009. On October 15, 2009, the Center transmitted by email to GoDaddy.com, Inc. a request for registrar verification in connection with the disputed domain name. On October 15, 2009, GoDaddy.com, Inc. transmitted by email to the Center its verification response, confirming that 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” or “UDRP”), 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 October 19, 2009. In accordance with the Rules, paragraph 5(a), the due date for Response was November 8, 2009. Respondent did not submit any response. Accordingly, the Center notified Respondent's default on November 9, 2009.
The Center appointed Desmond J. Ryan as the sole panellist in this matter on November 17, 2009. 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.
Complainant is the world governing body of the association football and the organiser of all world football tournaments, including the FIFA World Cup.
Complainant owns many registered trademarks, including international and United States registrations of FIFA and FIFA WORLD CUP. It operates an official website, “www.fifa.com”, where, amongst other activities, it sells official tickets for FIFA events, including the 2010 FIFA World Cup.
Respondent registered the disputed domain name on July 9, 2009. In August 2009, the domain name resolved to a website which advertised, and attempted to sell, official FIFA World Cup Tickets. Respondent's website at the domain name substantially adopted Complainant website's introductory text, fonts, menu structure, disclaimers and related registered trademarks.
On August 25, 2009, Complainant's appointed ticketing agent, Match AG, sent a letter of demand to Respondent demanding, inter alia, immediate cessation of use of Complainant's trademarks and transfer of the domain name to Complainant.
On October 2, 2009, Complainant sent a letter to Respondent noting that the website at the domain name was inactive and again demanding transfer of the domain name to it.
Complainant asserts in the Complaint that Respondent did not reply to those two letters. However, Complainant later referred to other correspondence between itself and Respondent, as discussed below.
On November 9, 2009, in reply to the Center's Notification of Respondent Default, Respondent emailed the Center with copies to Complainant stating:
“I have reply. Several times to … . I have mentioned to let me know what I need to do so that I can forfeit the domain name to you!”
The Center wrote to Complainant on November 10, 2009, suggesting that Complainant may wish to suspend the proceedings to explore possible settlement and explaining the procedure on suspension. Complainant replied on November 11, 2009, with a copy to Respondent, stating that it did not wish to suspend the proceedings and that:
“Respondent's earlier request in correspondence between parties for compensation (significantly) in excess of the costs of the registration of the domain name are further proof of Respondent's bad faith and in light therefore Complainant prefers to await the Panel's decision on this matter.”
On the same day Respondent wrote to Complainant and the Center stating:
“…, I do not understand why you want to continue to waste everyone's time! I have already told you three times that I would forfeit the domain to you. I do not have the time or money to get into any legal issues with FIFA.
AGAIN WHAT DO YOU WANT TO DO SO I CAN FORWARD EVERYTHING TO YOU!”
Having regard to the fact that by this stage Respondent's website was inactive, the Panel finds it somewhat surprising that Complainant did not accept the opportunity to settle the matter without the necessity of a formal Panel decision. However this may be, it appears that the matter was not able to be resolved between the parties prior to the appointment of the Panel to decide the case.
Complainant contends that <fifaworldcuptickets.com> is identical or confusingly similar to Complainant's FIFA and FIFA WORLD CUP registered trademarks. Complainant asserts that the suffix “tickets” is a descriptive term that does not serve to adequately distinguish the services. Complainant also contends that the matter bears close similarity to ISL Worldwide and The Federal Internationale de Football Association v. Western States Ticket Service, WIPO Case No. D2001-0070, where the panel found <fifatickets.com> to be identical to the FIFA trademark, as the suffix “tickets” was a descriptor, and did not change the fact that the domain name fully incorporated the FIFA trademark.
Complainant also argues, following the panel's decision in National Football League v. Peter Blucher d/b/a BluTech Tickets, WIPO Case No. D2007-1064, that Respondent's addition of the suffix “tickets” is a minor descriptive variation, and is therefore incapable of distinguishing the domain name from Complainant's mark, FIFA WORLD CUP, to avoid user confusion.
Complainant asserts that it has established a prima facie case that Respondent has no rights or legitimate interests in respect of the disputed domain name. Complainant argues that Respondent is unable to rebut Complainant's prima facie case.
Complainant contends that Respondent's use is not bona fide, as Respondent's website does not accurately disclose its relationship with Complainant. Complainant argues that Respondent's website improperly suggests that it is an authorised seller of tickets, by using the “look and feel” of Complainant's official website, and by Respondent using deceptive terms such as “official” throughout its website.
Complainant contends that Respondent's use is commercial and unauthorised. Complainant asserts that Respondent is using Complainant's goodwill for its own commercial purposes, which are in competition with Complainant's activities.
Complainant also contends that the disputed domain name was registered, and is being used in bad faith. Complainant asserts that given the international fame and high repute of the FIFA marks, it is inconceivable that Respondent registered its domain name without knowledge of Complainant's rights in the marks. Complainant contends that Respondent simulated Complainant website's “look and feel” to intentionally attract and confuse users, and exploit Complainant's goodwill.
Respondent did not formally reply to Complainant's contentions.
Complainant is internationally recognised as the world's most prominent football authority. It organises all world championship football tournaments, including the FIFA World Cup, and engages in a number of commercial activities in order to improve the state of world football.
Complainant has shown that it owns a number of trademarks including FIFA and FIFA WORLD CUP. Respondent's domain name, <fifaworldcuptickets.com> clearly incorporates both of Complainant's trademarks. The addition of “tickets” serves a purely descriptive function, and does not adequately distinguish the services. This minor variation does not dispel confusion, but rather accentuates the unauthorised connection with Complainant.
This conclusion is consistent with the panel's finding in ISL Worldwide and The Federal Internationale de Football Association v. Western States Ticket Service, WIPO Case No. D2001-0070, where the domain name <fifatickets.com> was held to be identical or confusingly similar to the FIFA trademark. The suffix “tickets” was a mere descriptor, and did not change the fact that the domain name in issue incorporated the FIFA trademark in its entirety. By extension, <fifaworldcuptickets.com> clearly incorporates Complainant's FIFA and FIFA WORLD CUP trademarks.
The Panel therefore concludes that the disputed domain name is confusingly similar with a trademark in respect of which Complainant has rights.
Complainant has shown that it attempts to exploit its trademarks by licensing their use to approved entities. Complainant asserts that is has not licensed or authorised Respondent to use its trademarks as part of the disputed domain name or otherwise. Complainant has made a strong prima facie case, showing documented evidence that the attempted sale of tickets on Respondent's website is unauthorised.
Respondent has not submitted any contrary evidence. Respondent's commercial use is not bona fide. At the time of the filing of the Complaint, Respondent's website used terms such as “official FIFA ticketing offer” and attempted to simulate the same “look and feel” as the official FIFA website, in addition to displaying FIFA's trademarks. These factors point strongly to a finding that Respondent clearly had knowledge of Complainant's trademarks and reputation. Furthermore, Respondent's use is intentionally deceptive. Respondent has not attempted to accurately disclose its relationship with the trademark owner. Respondent's website improperly suggested that it was authorised to sell FIFA world cup tickets.
The Panel therefore finds that Respondent has no rights or legitimate interests in the domain name.
Given Complainant's international notoriety, it is inconceivable that Respondent registered the disputed domain name without knowledge of Complainant's rights in the FIFA marks. Respondent's attempt to simulate the official FIFA website, by incorporating the relevant trademarks, false disclaimers, and “look and feel” also indicates that Respondent had such knowledge. The Panel can only conclude that these elements were included on Respondent's website in order to attract and confuse its users. Respondent's website intentionally deceived consumers that it had a legitimate connection with FIFA in order to exploit Complainant's goodwill. Consistent with A.C. Milan S.p.A v. Domains By Proxy, Inc. / Official Tickets Ltd, WIPO Case No. D2009-0347, Respondent's use is in bad faith.
The Panel therefore concludes that Respondent intentionally attempted to attract users to the website, for commercial gain, by creating a likelihood of confusion with Complainant's marks as to Respondent's connection with Complainant.
The Panel therefore concludes that Respondent's registration and use of the domain name has been in bad faith.
For all the foregoing reasons, in accordance with paragraph 4(i) of the Policy and 15 of the Rules, the Panel orders that the domain name <fifaworldcuptickets.com> be transferred to Complainant.
Desmond J. Ryan AM
Dated: November 26, 2009