World Intellectual Property Organization

WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center

ADMINISTRATIVE PANEL DECISION

FitFlop Limited v. Domains By Proxy, Inc. / Michael Kingsley

Case No. D2011-0179

1. The Parties

The Complainant is FitFlop Limited, a limited company registered in London, United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, represented by Fross Zelnick Lehrman & Zissu, P.C., United States of America.

The Respondent is Domains by Proxy, Inc. / Michael Kingsley, of Scottsdale, Arizona, United States of America and of Jupiter, Florida, United States of America, respectively (the “Respondent”).

2. The Domain Name and Registrar

The disputed domain names <fitflopboots.com>, <fitflopsandal.com> and <fitflopsdirect.com> (collectively, the “Domain Names”) are registered with GoDaddy.com, Inc. (the “Registrar”).

3. Procedural History

The Complaint was filed with the WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center (the “Center”) on January 31, 2011. On February 1, 2011, the Center transmitted by email to the Registrar a request for registrar verification in connection with the Domain Names. On February 2, 2011, the Registrar transmitted by email to the Center its verification response confirming that the Respondent is listed as the registrant and providing the contact details for the administrative contact.

The Center verified that 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 February 8, 2011. In accordance with the Rules, paragraph 5(a), the due date for the Response was stated to be February 28, 2011. The Respondent did not submit any formal response. Accordingly, the Center notified the Respondent’s default on March 1, 2011.

The Center appointed Haig Oghigian as the sole panelist in this matter on March 15, 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

As there is no submission from the Respondent, the facts are taken from the Complaint and generally are accepted as true.

The Complainant has been a global maker of footwear sold under the FITFLOP and FITFLOPS marks (collectively, the “FITFLOP Mark”) since 2007. FITFLOP branded footwear is sold in more than fifty countries under the FITFLOP Mark and has been available in the United States since 2007, a year prior to the registration of the first of the Domain Names. The Complainant’s products routinely receive editorial coverage from publications around the world.

The Complainant owns approximately twenty-seven trademark registrations for the FITFLOP Mark across the world, many of which were issued before any of the Domain Names were registered. Every product prominently bears the FITFLOP Mark. The FITFLOP Mark also appears on bags, signage, business cards and letter head.

The Domain Names were registered on April 10, 2008, June 24, 2008 and October 7, 2009.

5. Parties’ Contentions

A. Complainant

The Complainant requests that the Domain Names be transferred from the Respondent to the Complainant.

The Complainant contends that it has strong rights in the FITFLOP Mark based on its use of FITFLOP in and as part of a trademark since the start of its business in 2007, its use of the mark on footwear products sold throughout the world, its web presence at “www.fitflop.com” since 2007 and its twenty-seven international trademark registrations.

The Complainant argues that the Domain Names are identical or confusingly similar to its marks because each of the Domain Names incorporates, in its entirety, the FITFLOP Mark. The addition of generic terms “sandal,” “boots” and “direct” do nothing to distinguish the Domain Names from the FITFLOP Mark as these terms clearly relate to or can be about the Complainant, and do not affect the overall impression of the dominant portion of the name “fitflop”. The Complainant further indicates that the websites operating at the Domain Names or to which the Domain names redirect all contain images of the Complainant’s products, descriptions of the Complainant’s products and links to other websites where consumers can purchase the Complainant’s products. As such, the Complainant asserts that consumers are likely to be left with the false impression that the Respondent is authorized to sell the Complainant’s merchandise or that the websites to which the Respondent’s Domain Names redirect are somehow affiliated with or endorsed by the Complainant.

The Complainant asserts that the Respondent has no rights or legitimate interests in respect of the Domain Names as the Respondent fails to submit evidence that it has such rights or legitimate interests. The Complainant asserts that there exists no relationship between the Complainant and the Respondent which would give rise to any license, permission or authorization by which the Respondent could own or use the FITFLOP Mark, in the Domain Names or in any other connection, and that there is no evidence to suggest that the Respondent has been or is commonly known by the Domain Names. Further, the Complainant contends that the Respondent’s use of the FITFLOP Mark, whether in connection with counterfeit products or the purported resale of FITFLOP products cannot constitute a bona fide use of the mark.

The Complainant further claims that the Domain Names were registered and are used in bad faith. It contends that the Respondent’s use of Domain Names incorporating the Complainant’s trademark to sell unauthorized or non-genuine products and to falsely suggest a connection with the Complainant demonstrates that the Respondent was in bad faith. Furthermore, the Respondent’s failure to respond to a demand letter sent by the Complainant also evidences bad faith.

B. Respondent

The Respondent did not submit a response to the Complainant’s contentions.

6. Discussion and Findings

Paragraph 4(a) of the Policy requires that the complainant must prove each of the following:

(i) The domain name is identical or confusingly similar to the trademark; 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

Pursuant to paragraph 4(a)(i) of the Policy, the complainant must prove that the domain name is identical or confusingly similar to a trademark or service mark in which the complainant has rights. In line with such provision, the Complainant must prove that it enjoys the trademark right, and that the disputed domain name is identical with or confusingly similar to its trademark or service mark.

It is established that “where a domain name incorporates complainant’s registered mark, this is sufficient to establish that the domain name is identical or confusingly similar for the purposes of the Policy.” See, Kabushiki Kaisha Hitachi Seisakusho (d/b/a Hitachi Ltd) v. Arthur Wrangle, WIPO Case No. D2005-1105.

It is clear on the given evidence that the Complainant has strong rights in the FITFLOP Mark based on its use of FITFLOP in and as part of its twenty-seven international trademark registrations since 2007 and its use of the mark on footwear products sold throughout the world.

The generic terms “sandal”, “boots” and “direct” do not provide the disputed domain name with self-distinctiveness.

Therefore, the Panel finds that the Domain Names are identical or confusingly similar to the Complainant’s name and mark. The Complainant has therefore satisfied the requirement of paragraph 4(a)(i) of the Policy.

B. Rights or Legitimate Interests

Paragraph 4(c) of the Policy gives a non-exhaustive list of circumstances that may be brought forward by the Respondent in order to demonstrate its rights or legitimate interests. Such circumstances include:

- (demonstrable preparations to) use the domain name in connection with a bona fide offering of goods or services prior to the dispute;

- an indication that the registrant has been commonly known by the domain name even if it has acquired no trademark rights; or

- legitimate noncommercial or fair use of the domain name without intent to divert consumers or to tarnish the trademark.

Since the Complainant’s adoption and extensive use of the FITFLOP Mark predates the registration of the Domain Names, the burden is on the Respondent to establish its rights or legitimate interests in the Domain Names. See, PepsiCo, Inc. v. Amilcar Perez Lista d/b/a Cyberson, WIPO Case No. D2003-0174. The Panel finds that there is no evidence that suggests that the Respondent has rights or legitimate interests in the Domain Names.

Registration of the Domain Names occurred after the Complainant had made extensive use of the FITFLOP Marks and after the Complainant had obtained registrations for its FITFLOP Marks. The fact that the Respondent is using the Domain Names to link to websites selling the Complainant’s products as well as those of the Complainant’s direct competitors establishes the fact that the Respondent is fully aware of the Complainant and the exclusive association between the FITFLOP Mark and the Complainant.

The Respondent failed to respond to two demand letters from the Complainant or to otherwise explain his justification for using the Complainant’s trademark in the Domain Names. The fact that the Respondent could not and did not set out any rights or legitimate interests in the Domain Names is evidence that can be used to establish bad faith. See, RRI Financial, Inc. v. Ray Chen, WIPO Case No. D2001-1242.

There is no evidence that establishes the existence of a relationship between the Complainant and the Respondent that would give rise to any license, permission or authorization by which the Respondent could own or use the Domain Names, the FITFLOP Mark, or any mark confusingly similar thereto, as a domain name of for any other purpose.

There is no evidence to suggest that the Respondent has been or is commonly known by the Domain Names.

Further, the Respondent’s use of the FITFLOP Mark, whether in connection with counterfeit products or the purported resale of FITFLOP products cannot constitute a bona fide use of the FITFLOP Mark under paragraph 4(c)(i) of the Policy. To the extent that the Respondent is offering counterfeit goods or directing customers to websites where counterfeit goods are sold, such use cannot be found to constitute a bona fide offering of goods and services. See, Cartier International, N.V. , Cartier International, B.V. v. David Lee, WIPO Case No. D2009-1758. If the goods sold by the Respondent are actually genuine, sale of those goods by the Respondent is still unauthorized, and particularly, in the absence of appropriate relationship disclosure, therefore, cannot constitute a bona fide use of the FITFLOP Mark. Under the consensus view, for a reseller to make a bona fide use of a trademarked term in a domain name, the Respondent must inter alia: (i) sell only the trademarked goods or services; and (ii) accurately disclose the Respondent’s relationship with the trademark owner. See, Oki Data Americas, Inc. v. ASD, Inc., WIPO Case No. D2001-0903, and other relevant cases cited in paragraph 2.3 of the WIPO Overview of WIPO Panel Views on Selected UDRP Questions 2.0. In this case, the Panel finds that the Respondent cannot satisfy either of these requirements, as (i) the authenticity of the products shown at the Respondent’s websites is questionable, as is the authenticity of the products sold at the sites to which the Respondent links, and there is no evidence to suggest that the Respondent sells only the trademarked goods or services; and (ii) neither the Domain Names themselves nor the associated websites disclose the lack of any relationship between the Complainant and the Respondent, and the Respondent’s website fails to disclaim any affiliation with the Complainant.

Therefore, the Panel finds that the Complainant has established that the Respondent has no rights or legitimate interests in the Domain Names.

C. Registered and Used in Bad Faith

There is clearly bad faith where the Respondent uses domain names incorporating the Complainant’s trademark to sell unauthorized or non-genuine products and to falsely suggest a connection with the Complainant. See, Farouk Systems Inc. v. Originalchi.com, WIPO Case No. D2007-1201. Even if the goods being sold are not counterfeit, but rather merely unauthorized, the Respondent’s sale of those goods through the webistes affiliated with the Domain Names would in the present circumstances still be in bad faith. See, Bumble & Bumble LLC v. Eduard Gladyshev, WIPO Case No. D2008-1956. Given that the Respondent has never been authorized by the Complainant to use the FITFLOP Mark, and mindful of the present use now being made of it (including the above-discussed lack of appropriately-disclosed relationship with the Complainant) the very fact that the Respondent has registered the Domain Names establishes bad faith use and registration. See, Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin, Maison Fondée en 1772 v. The Polygenix Group Co., WIPO Case No. D2000-0163. Furthermore, the Respondent’s failure to respond to a demand letter by the Complainant also evidences bad faith. See, NFL Properties, Inc. et al. v. BBC Ab, WIPO Case No. D2000-0147. The Panel has little hesitation in finding that the Domain Names were registered and are being used in bad faith.

Therefore, the Panel is satisfied that the Complainant has established bad faith as required by paragraph 4(a)(iii).

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 Domain Names be transferred to the Complainant.

Haig Oghigian
Sole Panelist
Dated: April 19, 2011

 

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