The Complainant is Laureate Education, Inc. and Walden University, LLC of Baltimore, Maryland, United States of America, represented by Venable, LLP, United States of America.
The Respondent is Ahmed Altadbeek of Assiut, Egypt.
The disputed domain name <waldene.org> is registered with Wild West Domains, Inc.
The Complaint was filed with the WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center (the “Center”) on June 30, 2010. On July 2, 2010, the Center transmitted by email to Wild West Domains, Inc. a request for registrar verification in connection with the disputed domain name. On July 2, 2010, Wild West Domains, Inc. 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” 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 the Respondent of the Complaint, and the proceedings commenced on July 5, 2010. In accordance with the Rules, paragraph 5(a), the due date for Response was July 25, 2010. The Respondent did not submit any response. Accordingly, the Center notified the Respondent's default on July 26, 2010.
The Center appointed Francine Tan as the sole panelist in this matter on July 29, 2010. 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.
Laureate Education Inc., the first Complainant, claims to operate a leading international network (“the Laureate network”) of quality, innovative institutions of higher education. One of these is Walden University, owned by the second Complainant, Walden University, LLC. The latter is a wholly-owned subsidiary of the first Complainant. The Laureate network of more than 50 accredited campus-based and online universities offers undergraduate and degree programs to more than 550,000 students, spanning 21 countries in North America, Latin America, Europe and Asia. One of the flagship institutions in the United States is Walden University. Walden University is claimed to be a leading institution of higher education in distance learning and online formats. It offers Bachelor of Science, Master of Science, Master of Business Administration, Master of Public Administration, Master of Public Health, Ed.S (Education Specialist), Ed.D. (Doctor of Education), D.B.A. (Doctor of Business Administration), and Ph.D. (Doctor of Philosophy) degrees in a number of academic fields.
The first Complainant and/or its affiliates own registrations for the trade mark WALDEN UNIVERSITY in the United States and several other countries. It also claims to own common law rights in the word “walden” as used in connection with higher education and distance learning. Reference to the use of the word “Walden” standing alone appears in their website at “www.waldenu.edu”.
The disputed domain name was registered on February 23, 2010.
On July 5, 2010, the Center received an email from an individual by the name of Ali Mohmd, in reply to the email of July 5, 2010 which was sent to the Respondent at the known available email addresses. He claimed that the registration of the disputed domain name had been made without his knowledge or authorization by a third party using his identity.
The Complainants contend that the disputed domain name is closely similar to their trade marks WALDEN UNIVERSITY and WALDEN. They submit that “[a] domain name that is a clear ‘typosquat' of a well known mark and website is a classic example of cybersquatting”. The disputed domain name is only one letter different from the mark WALDEN and is highly similar to Walden University's website address at “www.walden.edu”. Someone looking for Walden University might not know how to spell the name of the university or might hit the letter “e” by mistake.
The Complainants further assert that the Respondent has no legitimate rights to the name “Walden”, for the following reasons: The Complainants' rights predate the Respondent's registration. The first Complainant's first use date as set forth in its United States trade mark registration for WALDEN UNIVERSITY is 1978. The Respondent is not an authorized user of the WALDEN or WALDEN UNIVERSITY marks. The Respondent registered and has used the <waldene.org> domain name for a website that is an exact replica of the authentic Walden University website. The fact that all the Respondent has done is to copypages from the said website is evidence that the Respondent has no legitimate interest in the disputed domain name.
Finally, the Complaints contend that the disputed domain name was acquired and is also being used in bad faith. The fact that the Respondent copied the Complainants' website indicates prior knowledge of the Complainants' rights in the marks WALDEN/ WALDEN UNIVERSITY. In impersonating Walden University on the Internet, the Respondent is intending to divert current and prospective students, educators and business partners to its own site. The fact that there were interfaces on the Respondent's website for applications and tuition matters suggest a possibility that this website could be used for fraudulently obtaining personal information. There is no conceivable scenario under which this activity was conducted in anything but bad faith.
The Respondent did not reply to the Complainants' contentions.
Paragraph 15(a) of the Rules instructs that the Panel has to “decide a complaint on the basis of the statements and documents submitted and in accordance with the Policy, these Rules and any rules and principles of law that it deems applicable.”
In accordance with paragraph 4(a) of the Policy, the Complainants must prove the following three circumstances in order to obtain the transfer of the disputed domain name:
(i) the disputed domain name is identical or confusingly similar to a trade mark or service mark in which the Complainant has rights; and
(ii) the Respondent does not have rights or legitimate interests in respect of the disputed domain name; and
(iii) the disputed domain name has been registered and is being used by the Respondent in bad faith.
The Complainants have to establish two requirements under this paragraph, namely: that they have rights in a trade mark, and that the disputed domain name is identical or confusingly similar to the mark.
The Panel finds that the Complainants have proven that they have registered rights in the trade mark WALDEN UNIVERSITY and common law rights in the trade mark WALDEN. Whilst the disputed domain name <waldene.org> is not confusingly similar to WALDEN UNIVERSITY, the Panel finds it to be confusingly similar to WALDEN. It is an established principle that one should disregard the generic top level domains such as “.org” and “.com” when considering the issue of identity or confusing similarity. The focus should therefore be on whether the word “waldene” is confusingly similar to the trade mark WALDEN. The Panel agrees that it is confusingly similar as “waldene” differs with WALDEN only in respect of one letter. Further, the likelihood of prospective students, business partners or other Internet users typing the domain name wrongly when looking for the website of Walden University cannot be denied.
Accordingly, the Panel finds that the first element of paragraph 4(a) of the Policy has been established.
In this case, the Complainants have not licensed or otherwise authorized the Respondent to use the trade marks WALDEN UNIVERSITY and/or WALDEN. The fact that the Respondent's website was effectively an exact replica of the Complainants' website demonstrates a lack of rights or legitimate interests on the Respondent's part. The Panel is of the view that the evidence proffered by the Complainants has been sufficient to establish a prima facie case for the purposes of paragraph 4(a)(ii) of the Policy. The Respondent has not rebutted the assertion made in the Complaint. In the circumstances and in accordance with Rule 15(a), the Panel concludes that the Respondent does not have rights or legitimate interests in respect of the disputed domain name.
Consequently, the Panel finds that the second element of paragraph 4(a) the Policy is also fulfilled.
There is clear evidence provided by the Complainants of bad faith on the part of the Respondent which has not been refuted, namely the wholesale copying of the look and contents of the Complainants' website at “www.waldenu.edu”. In the absence of an explanation by the Respondent for his choice of the disputed domain name, the Panel can only conclude from the evidence that the Respondent had intentionally attempted to attract for commercial gain, Internet users to his website by creating a likelihood of confusion with the Complainants' marks as to source, sponsorship, affiliation or endorsement of the website. The fact that the respective websites are so closely similar indicates that the Respondent had knowledge of the Complainants and of their trade marks WALDEN and WALDEN UNIVERSITY at the time he registered the disputed domain name. In the Panel's view, it is inconceivable that the Respondent would be able to show that he registered and used the disputed domain name other than in bad faith. The communication received by the Center on July 5, 2010, from the individual claiming that the registration of the disputed domain name had been made without his knowledge or authorization by a third party using his identity is a further indication of bad faith registration.
The circumstances surrounding the registration and use of the disputed domain name are such that the Panel has no difficulty concluding that the disputed domain name has been registered and used in bad faith. The Panel accordingly finds that the Complainant has established the third element of paragraph 4(a) of the Policy.
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 <waldene.org> be transferred to the Complainants.
Dated: August 5, 2010