WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center
ADMINISTRATIVE PANEL DECISION
La Quinta Worldwide, L.L.C. v. PrivacyProtect.org, Domain Admin/ Web Master Internet Services Private Limited, Web Master Internet Services Private Limited
Case No. D2011-2323
1. The Parties
The Complainant is La Quinta Worldwide, L.L.C. of Nevada, United States of America, represented by Gardere Wynne Sewell LLP, United States of America (the “US”).
The Respondent is PrivacyProtect.org, Domain Admin of Queensland, Australia / Web Master Internet Services Private Limited, Web Master Internet Services Private Limited of Maharashtra, India.
2. The Domain Name and Registrar
The disputed domain name <lequinta.com> is registered with Tirupati Domains and Hosting Pvt Ltd.
3. Procedural History
The Complaint was filed with the WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center (the “Center”) on December 30, 2011. On January 3, 2012, the Center transmitted by email to Tirupati Domains and Hosting Pvt Ltd. a request for registrar verification in connection with the disputed domain name. On January 4, 2012, Tirupati Domains and Hosting Pvt Ltd. transmitted by email to the Center its verification response disclosing registrant and contact information for the disputed domain name which differed from the named Respondent and contact information in the Complaint. The Center sent an email communication to the Complainant on January 13, 2012 providing the registrant and contact information disclosed by the Registrar, and inviting the Complainant to submit an amendment to the Complaint. The Complainant filed an amended Complaint on January 16, 2012.
On January 10, 12, 13, 16 and 18, the Center tried to contact the Registrar Tirupati Domains and Hosting Pvt Ltd. in respect to the expiry issue involving the disputed domain name. On January 19, 2012, the Registrar replied to the Center that the Parties did not contact it “for renewal due to reason Domain Name is in Redemption”. On the same date and on January 20, 2012, the Center sent email communications to the Registrar in order to clarify whether paragraph 126.96.36.199 of the ICANN Expired Domain Deletion Policy (EDDP) applied. On January 23, 2012, the Registrar confirmed that the EDDP applied to the disputed domain name. On the same date, the Center informed the Parties about the possibility to renew the disputed domain name, and on February 3, 2012, the Complainant confirmed that it was able to renew the disputed domain name.
The Center verified that the Complaint together with the amended 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 February 6, 2012. In accordance with the Rules, paragraph 5(a), the due date for Response was February 26, 2012. The Respondent did not submit any response. Accordingly, the Center notified the Respondent’s default on February 27, 2012.
The Center appointed Adam Samuel as the sole panelist in this matter on March 1, 2012. 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
The Complainant owns and operates a chain of hotels. It is the legal owner of a number of US trademark registrations for LA QUINTA, the earliest of which appears to be number 0875802, registered on August 26, 1969. The disputed domain name was registered on December 7, 2007. The Complainant has registered numerous domain names using its LA QUINTA trademark, notably <laquinta.com> in 1995.
5. Parties’ Contentions
This section sets out the Complainant’s contentions with which the Panel may or may not agree.
The disputed domain name was registered thirty eight years after the Complainant registered its first LA QUINTA trademark and twelve years after the Complainant registered its <laquinta.com> domain name. “Lequinta” has no meaning in any language. It differs from the Complainant’s trademark LA QUINTA only by misspelling the definite article with which the trademark begins.
There is no evidence of the Respondent’s use or preparations to use the disputed domain name in any way. The website at the disputed domain name has merely been a parking page for the Respondent where the “Related Searches” direct the user to various unrelated links. The Respondent offers no services and makes no reference to a brand of its own. The Respondent is using the disputed domain name to create a false sense of association, affiliation or sponsorship with the Complainant. The Complainant has never authorized the Respondent’s use of its LA QUINTA trademarks.
Typosquatting of itself is evidence of bad faith and use of a domain name. The Respondent has been notified of the illegitimate use of the disputed domain name and has produced no evidence supporting a legitimate use. The Respondent was clearly aware of the Complainant and registered the disputed domain in order to profit from the Complainant’s name and goodwill.
The Respondent did not reply to the Complainant’s contentions.
6. Discussion and Findings
Under the Policy, the Complainant must prove that:
(i) the disputed domain name is identical or confusingly similar to a trademark or service mark in which it has rights; and
(ii) the respondent has no rights or legitimate interests in respect of the disputed domain name; and
(iii) the disputed domain name has been registered and is being used in bad faith.
A. Identical or Confusingly Similar
The disputed domain name reproduces the Complainant’s trademark with the substitution of the letter “e” for the letter “a” and the addition of the standard suffix “.com”. The word “lequinta” has no independent meaning except as a misspelling of the Complainant’s trademark.
This appears to be a classic example of “typo-squatting”, where a domain name attracts Internet users who make a small typing error. The disputed domain name without the generic “.com” both sounds and looks almost identical to the Complainant’s trademark.
In Sierra HealthStyles LLC v. Modern Limited - Cayman Web Development, WIPO Case No. D2006-0020, the panel said on this subject:
“Here, the domain name has two differences from Registration No. 2152729 and the key element of the other two registrations: the addition of the .com suffix and the substitution of “i” for the first “a” in the trademark. […] The substitution of the “i” for the first “a” is visually apparent on close inspection. The domain name and the trademark, MIRAVAL, however, are phonetically similar. There are various ways that both versions of the word may be pronounced and some of these will or may sound the same or similar. The word element of the domain name created by the substitution of the “i” for the “a” is not a plain English word or otherwise generic. There are likely to be circumstances where a person might unintentionally type in the domain name instead of the trademark term, particularly having regard to imperfect recollection and the potential for persons using the Internet to “guess” at domain names. In these circumstances a finding of confusing similarity in line with the “typosquatting” cases is appropriate. See e.g. AltaVista Company v. Saeid Yomtobian, WIPO Case No. D2000-0937; America Online, Inc. v. Johuathan Investments, Inc. and AOLLNEWS.COM, WIPO Case No. D2001-0918; and Wachovia Corporation v. Peter Carrington, WIPO Case No. D2002-0775. Consequently, the Panel finds that the disputed domain name is at least confusingly similar to the Complainant’s registered trademark rights.”
For essentially the same reasons, the Panel concludes here that the disputed domain name is confusingly similar to the Complainant’s registered trademark.
B. Rights or Legitimate Interests
The Respondent is not called “lequinta” or anything similar and does not appear to trade under that or any related name. There is no evidence that the Complainant has ever authorized the Respondent to use its trademarks. The Respondent has never asserted any rights or legitimate interests in that name. For these reasons, the Panel concludes that the Respondent has no rights or legitimate interests in respect of the disputed domain name.
C. Registered and Used in Bad Faith
The name “lequinta” has no apparent independent existence or meaning except as a misspelling of the Complainant’s trademark and domain name <laquinta.com>. Both were registered many years before the disputed domain name was registered. The disputed domain name does not currently resolve to a website. It is impossible, at least without a Response to the Complaint, to identify a reason why the Respondent registered the disputed domain name other than to attract business or Internet users to its site who were looking for a site connected to the Complainant’s trademark or business.
The only explanation of what has happened seems to be that the Respondent’s motive in registering the disputed domain name and using the site is, as the Complainant says, simply to disrupt the Complainant’s relationship with its customers or potential customers, attempt to attract Internet users for potential gain or persuade the Complainant to buy the disputed domain name for an amount in excess of the Respondent’s out-of-pocket expenses. These all constitute evidence of registration and use in bad faith.
This conclusion is supported by the view expressed in Go Daddy Software, Inc. v. Daniel Hadani, WIPO Case No. D2002-0568:
“Typosquatting is virtually per se registration and use in bad faith. It is difficult to conceive of circumstances that would overcome the inference that the typosquatter “intentionally attempted to attract, for commercial gain, Internet users to [Respondent’s] website . . . by creating a likelihood of confusion with the complainant’s mark as to the source” of the website. Here such conduct was undertaken to send Complainant’s customers to a site that promoted directly competing services.”
For all these reasons, the Panel concludes that the disputed domain name was registered and is being used in bad faith. In the circumstances, it is unnecessary to deal with the Complainant’s other contentions.
For 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 <lequinta.com> be transferred to the Complainant.
Dated: March 4, 2012