Complainant is Royal National Lifeboat Institution of Poole, United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland (“UK”), represented internally.
Respondent is Whois Service, Belize Domain Whois Service of Belmopan, Belize.
The disputed domain name <rnli.org> is registered with Assorted, LTD.
The Complaint was filed with the WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center (the “Center”) on October 23, 2009. On October 26, 2009, the Center transmitted by email to Assorted, LTD a request for registrar verification in connection with the disputed domain name. On November 2, 2009, Assorted, LTD 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 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 November 3, 2009. In accordance with the Rules, paragraph 5(a), the due date for Response was November 23, 2009. Respondent did not submit any response. Accordingly, the Center notified Respondent's default on November 25, 2009.
The Center appointed Richard G. Lyon as the sole panelist in this matter on December 2, 2009. The Panel finds that it was properly constituted. The Panel has submitted his Statement of Acceptance and Declaration of Impartiality and Independence, as required by the Center to ensure compliance with the Rules, paragraph 7.
Complainant is a charity based in the British Isles that operates lifeboat and lifeguard services and provides education on preventing seagoing accidents. Complainant was established in 1824 and states that it has used its initials to identify itself and its services since 1854. Complainant holds several RNLI trade marks, including but not limited to the following: three European community - and five UK-registered trademarks that incorporate the initials RNLI as their principal component. The first of these was registered in the UK in 1987.
Respondent registered the disputed domain name in May 2004. According to materials submitted with the Complaint and the Panel's own examination, the disputed domain name resolves to a parking website, with links under the headings (among others) “RNLI” , “seas” , “boat” , and “rescue”. The Wayback Machine at “www.archive.org” indicates that Respondent began using this content at some point in 2007. Prior to that date the disputed domain name resolved to a page of hyperlinks, some of which also related to lifeboats or ocean rescue.1
Complainant contends as follows:
The disputed domain name is identical to the dominant feature of Complainant's registered trademarks and the abbreviation Complainant has used to described its services for over a century. The use of a top level domain “.org” does not obviate confusion with Complainant's marks.
Complainant has no business relationship with Respondent and has never authorized Respondent to use its marks. Except for the disputed domain name Respondent has never been known by the initials “RNLI”. Respondent's use of the disputed domain name for links related to the services provided by Complainant is not legitimate under the Policy and confers upon Respondent no right or legitimate interests in the disputed domain name.
Respondent has engaged in a pattern of conduct that makes it a “serial cybersquatter” ; Respondent includes a list of more than fifty cases in which UDRP panels have ordered transfer of domain names held by Respondent. Also, “Respondent was in prior notice of the Complainant's rights when registering the disputed domain name.” Therefore Respondent fits within the proscription of paragraph 4(b)(iv) of the Policy, as it is using the disputed domain name to attract Internet users to Respondent's website for purposes of advertising services similar or identical to Complainant's services.
Respondent did not reply to Complainant's contentions.
A. Jurisdiction. In any default case the Panel must first look to the requirements of paragraph 2(a) of the Rules, which provides:
(a) When forwarding a complaint, including any annexes, electronically to the Respondent, it shall be the Provider's responsibility to employ reasonably available means calculated to achieve actual notice to Respondent. Achieving actual notice, or employing the following measures to do so, shall discharge this responsibility:
(i) sending Written Notice of the complaint to all postal-mail and facsimile addresses (A) shown in the domain name's registration data in Registrar's Whois database for the registered domain-name holder, the technical contact, and the administrative contact and (B) supplied by Registrar to the Provider for the registration's billing contact; and
(ii) sending the complaint, including any annexes, in electronic form by e-mail to:
(A) the e-mail addresses for those technical, administrative, and billing contacts;
(B) postmaster@<the contested domain name>; and
(C) if the domain name (or "www." followed by the domain name) resolves to an active web page (other than a generic page the Provider concludes is maintained by a registrar or ISP for parking domain-names registered by multiple domain-name holders), any e- mail address shown or e-mail links on that web page; and
(iii) sending the complaint, including any annexes, to any e-mail address the Respondent has notified the Provider it prefers and, to the extent practicable, to all other e-mail addresses provided to the Provider by Complainant under Paragraph 3(b)(v).
Following its customary practice, the Center in this case dispatched a hard copy of the Complaint to Respondent at the address set out in the contact details provided by the Registrar and simultaneously sent a copy by electronic mail to Respondent, again at the address shown in the Registrar's contact details. The copy sent by courier was never delivered; the courier reported “The receiver [Respondent] has moved. UPS attempting to locate receiver to complete delivery, no delivery was made.” One copy sent as provided in paragraph 2(a)(ii)(b) of the Policy electronically bounced; “Microsoft Exchange has been trying to deliver this message without success and has stopped trying.” with diagnostic information following, but electronic delivery was completed successfully to the email address for Respondent set forth in the contact details provided by the Registrar.
Accordingly, “actual notice” has occurred and by the express terms of the second sentence of paragraph 2(a) the Center has discharged its duty and Respondent has received due notice of this proceeding.
Having assured itself of jurisdiction to decide this proceeding, the Panel turns to the three requirements of paragraph 4(a) of the Policy. Complainant has met its burden of proof under each of these. The disputed domain name is identical to the dominant feature of Complainant's registered marks, Respondent has demonstrated and the record reveals no rights or legitimate interests in the disputed domain name, and the evidence furnished by Complainant demonstrates that Respondent falls clearly within the examples of bad faith set out in paragraphs 4(b)(ii)2 and 4(b)(iv) of the Policy. The content at the parking page to which the disputed domain name resolves has continuously since Respondent's acquisition included links that indicate knowledge of Complainant and its RLNI marks3, so there is no question that Respondent both registered and used the disputed domain name in bad faith.
It matters naught that Complainant initiated this proceeding five years after Respondent's registration and first use of the disputed domain name. It is now almost universally accepted that the common law doctrines of laches or estoppel are not applicable in Policy proceedings. E.g., The Gap, Inc. v. Deng Youqian, WIPO Case No. D2009-0113. While longtime use for a legitimate purpose may sometimes provide a defense under paragraphs 4(c)(i) or 4(c)(ii) of the Policy there is nothing in the record of this case to show any special identification of Respondent with the letters at issue or legitimate use of the disputed domain name.
For all the foregoing reasons, in accordance with paragraphs 4(i) of the Policy and 15 of the Rules, the Panel orders that the disputed domain name <rnli.org> be transferred to Complainant.
Richard G. Lyon
Dated: December 8, 2009
1 The archives indicate use of the disputed domain name as early as 1999 for a generic parking page. As this proceeding addresses Respondent's registration and use of the disputed domain name, such earlier use is irrelevant.
2 What constitutes a “pattern” for purposes of paragraph 4(a)(ii) is more than a numbers game, but the raft of cases brought successfully against Respondent by themselves come as close to meeting that Policy requirement as statistics alone can do.
3 Even if Respondent lacked actual knowledge of Complainant and its marks, knowledge could be imputed because of its willful blindness to them. See Mobile Communication Service Inc. v. WebReg, RN, WIPO Case No. D2005-1304.