World Intellectual Property Organization

WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center

ADMINISTRATIVE PANEL DECISION

Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide Inc., The Sheraton LLC, Sheraton International Inc. v. infosheraton

Case No. D2010-2195

1. The Parties

Complainant is Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide Inc., The Sheraton LLC, Sheraton International Inc. of White Plains, New York, United States of America, represented by Fross Zelnick Lehrman & Zissu, PC, United States of America.

Respondent is infosheraton of Sunnyvale, California, United States of America.

2. The Domain Name and Registrar

The disputed domain name <infosheraton.com> is registered with Melbourne IT Ltd.

3. Procedural History

The Complaint was filed with the WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center (the “Center”) on December 15, 2010. On December 16, 2010, the Center transmitted by email to Melbourne IT Ltd. a request for registrar verification in connection with the disputed domain name. On December 21, 2010, Melbourne IT Ltd. 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 December 22, 2010. In accordance with the Rules, paragraph 5(a), the due date for Response was January 11, 2011. Respondent did not submit any response. Accordingly, the Center notified Respondent’s default on January 12, 2011.

The Center appointed Sandra A. Sellers as the sole panelist in this matter on January 20, 2011. 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

Complainant is one of the world’s leading hotel chains and owns, manages or franchises over 400 hotels under the SHERATON mark worldwide.

Complainant owns the SHERATON mark, which it has used in connection with goods and services in the hotel and leisure industry since 1928. Complainant has registered the SHERATON mark throughout the world. Through its use and promotion of the mark, the SHERATON mark has become well-known throughout the world.

Complainant also owns <sheraton.com> and <sheratonhotels.com>, through which customers can make reservations and obtain information about SHERATON hotels and services.

Respondent registered the disputed domain name on August 8, 2010. The disputed domain name reverted at the time of filing and the date of this Decision to a page that is under construction.

5. Parties’ Contentions

A. Complainant

Complainant alleges that Respondent is using the SHERATON mark in its entirety in the disputed domain name to conduct a job-search scam aimed at stealing the money and identity of unsuspecting individuals. As shown in the exhibits to the Complaint, someone allegedly has posted fraudulent listing at various job-search websites. Individuals who apply for employment are then sent a letter instructing them to apply for employment with Sheraton and to send a curriculum vitae to “sheraton@infosheraton.com”. A further notice was sent congratulating the victim on receiving a job at Sheraton, and instructing them to obtain a work visa by sending 900GBP each with personal information in a visa application form at various non-existent immigration offices throughout the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. Complainant alleges that although there is no current active website associated with the disputed domain name, the domain name is being used in connection with the email address “sheraton@infosheraton.com” to perpetrate this job fraud scam. Complainant further alleges that consumer complaint message boards detail numerous complaints from victims of this fraud, mentioning particularly the email address “sheraton@infosheraton.com”.

Complainant alleges that the disputed domain name is confusingly similar to complainant’s mark because it consists of Complainant’s mark in its entirety combined with the generic word “info.” Complainant further alleges that Respondent has no right or legitimate interest in the disputed domain name, and that it registered and uses the infringing domain name in bad faith.

B. Respondent

Respondent did not reply to Complainant’s contentions.

6. Discussion and Findings

Paragraph 4(a) of the Policy provides that in order to divest a respondent of a disputed domain name, a complainant must demonstrate each of the following:

(i) the 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 domain name; and

(iii) the domain name has been registered and is being used in bad faith.

A. Identical or Confusingly Similar

Complainant clearly has demonstrated that it has rights in the SHERATON mark. Complainant is a leading worldwide hotel chain, operating over 400 hotels worldwide. Complainant has used the SHERATON mark in connection with hotels since 1928. Complainant owns various United States federally registered marks and other marks worldwide for SHERATON hotels. This Panel finds that the SHERATON mark is well-known worldwide. Additionally, Complainant owns the domain names <sheraton.com> and <sheratonhotels.com>.

The disputed domain name incorporates Complainant’s mark in its entirety, with the addition of the generic term “info.” Many panels have held that the addition of a generic term does not sufficiently distinguish the disputed domain name from Complainant’s mark as to avoid confusing similarity with Complainant’s mark.

The Panel finds that Complainant has rights in the SHERATON mark, and that the disputed domain name is confusingly similar to Complainant’s registered mark, so that Complainant meets the first criterion of paragraph 4(a) of the Policy.

B. Rights or Legitimate Interests

Because it is generally difficult for a complainant to prove the fact that a respondent does not have any rights or legitimate interests in a disputed domain name, previous UDRP decisions have found it sufficient for complainant to make a prima facie showing of its assertion.

Respondent is not affiliated with or related to Complainant, nor is Respondent licensed or authorized to use the SHERATON mark. On the evidence before the Panel, Respondent does not appear to make any legitimate noncommercial or fair use of the disputed domain name. The Panel is satisfied that Complainant has made a prima facie showing of Respondent’s lack of rights or legitimate interests in the disputed domain name.

Respondent is in default, and has not provided any evidence in its own favor.

The Panel finds that the evidence is sufficient to establish that Respondent has no rights or legitimate interests in the disputed domain name, and thus Complainant meets the second criterion of paragraph 4(a) of the Policy.

C. Registered and Used in Bad Faith

Complainant has owned and operated hotels under its SHERATON mark for more than 80 years before Respondent registered the disputed domain name. Complainant’s SHERATON trademark registration was issued more than 52 years before the disputed domain name was registered. The disputed domain name <infosheraton.com> was registered on August 8, 2010, long after Sheraton’s adoption, use and registration of the SHERATON marks, and long after the SHERATON marks became well-known internationally.

Based on these facts, this Panel infers that Respondent was aware or must have been aware of Complainant’s mark when Respondent registered the disputed domain name. See, e.g., Jupiters Limited v. Aaron Hall, WIPO Case No. D2000-0574, in which the panel found it “inevitable that [r]espondent registered the domain names in full knowledge of [c]omplainant’s rights and interests”.

It appears that Respondent’s only use of the disputed domain name is to use it as an email server for an email address used in connection with a job fraud scam designed to steal the identities and money from unsuspecting job applicants. This is a form of “phishing”, since it is intended to steal valuable information, and money, from the respondents to the fake job listings. “Phishing is the criminally fraudulent process of attempting to acquire sensitive information such as usernames, passwords and credit card details by masquerading as a trustworthy entity in an electronic communication. Phishing is typically carried out by email or instant messaging and if often directs users to enter details at a fake website whose look and feel are almost identical to the legitimate one.” Confédération Nationale du Crédit Mutuel v. Daniel Delcore, WIPO Case No. DLC2009-0001. This type of use cannot constitute a legitimate use of the disputed domain name.

The Panel is of the view that Respondent thus registered and is using <infosheraton.com> in bad faith.

7. Decision

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 <infosheraton.com> be transferred to Complainant.

Sandra A. Sellers
Sole Panelist
Dated: February 2, 2011

 

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