WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center
ADMINISTRATIVE PANEL DECISION
La Quinta Worldwide, L.L.C. v. Standard Bearer, Standard Bearer Enterprises Limited
Case No. D2012-0254
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 Respondent is Standard Bearer, Standard Bearer Enterprises Limited of St Johns, Antigua and Barbuda.
2. The Domain Name and Registrar
The disputed domain name <laquintainnhotels.com> is registered with Moniker Online Services, LLC.
3. Procedural History
The Complaint was filed with the WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center (the “Center”) on February 10, 2012. On February 10, 2012, the Center transmitted by email to Moniker Online Services, LLC a request for registrar verification in connection with the disputed domain name. On February 13, 2012, Moniker Online Services, LLC 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 February 22, 2012. In accordance with the Rules, paragraph 5(a), the due date for Response was March 13, 2012. The Respondent did not submit any response. Accordingly, the Center notified the Respondent’s default on March 14, 2012.
The Center appointed Dr. Clive N.A. Trotman as the sole panelist in this matter on March 21, 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 has owned, operated and franchised hotels trademarked LA QUINTA for 43 years, extending currently to over 65,000 rooms principally in the United States, Canada and Mexico.
The Complainant holds numerous registrations and applications for trade or service marks (hereafter, trademarks) at the United States Patent Office, or later United States Patent and Trademark Office (collectively, “USPTO”), mostly for hotel services in International Class 43, of which the following are representative:
LA QUINTA, registration no. 0875802, registered on August 26, 1969;
LA QUINTA, registration no. 1080641, registered on December 27, 1977;
LA QUINTA INN, registration no. 1823440, registered on February 22, 1994;
LA QUINTA INN, registration no. 1841032, registered on June 21, 1994;
LA QUINTA INN & SUITES, registration no. 2298693, registered on December 7, 1999;
LQ LA QUINTA INN & SUITES, registration no. 2300509, registered on December 14, 1999;
LA QUINTA ELINK, registration no. 2575959, registered on June 4, 2002;
LA QUINTA RETURNS, registration no. 2832831, registered on April 13, 2004;
EVERY LA QUINTA, EVERY TIME, registration no. 2855754, registered on June 22, 2004;
LQ LA QUINTA INN & SUITES, registration no. 3064031, registered February 28, 2006.
The Complainant has trademarked its name in 50 countries internationally.
The Complainant also holds a large number of domain names that incorporate the words “laquinta”, “laquintainn”, or these in combination with words or place names related to travel, accommodation or related services, including <laquintahotels.com>, <laquintahotel.com>, <la-quinta-hotel.com>, and others that include the word “hotel”.
Nothing is known about the Respondent except for the information lodged with the creation of the disputed domain name on February 19, 2003.
5. Parties’ Contentions
The Complainant has produced copies of registration documents for its trademarks registered at the USPTO, and a detailed list of its other trademarks registered internationally.
The Complainant contends that the disputed domain name incorporates in its entirety the trademark LA QUINTA INN in which the Complainant has rights, and is confusingly similar to that trademark. The disputed domain name appears not to have been used since it was registered.
The Complainant further contends that the Respondent has no rights or legitimate interests in respect of the disputed domain name. The Respondent’s registration of the disputed domain name was made 34 years after the Complainant registered the trademark LA QUINTA, 8 years after the Complainant registered its <laquinta.com> domain name, and almost 4 years after the Complainant registered its <laquintainn.com> domain name.
The Respondent is not commonly known by or affiliated with the disputed domain name, has made no legitimate use of it, and cannot do so. The Respondent has no obvious connection with the disputed domain name and has not used and could not use it in a legitimate business or for a bona fide offering of goods or services. The onus is upon the Respondent to prove any such legitimacy under the Policy. Furthermore, the Respondent’s failure to use the disputed domain name, in the circumstances, may be taken to support a finding that the Respondent does not have a legitimate interest in it.
The Complainant further contends that the disputed domain name was registered and is being used in bad faith. It is submitted that the registration of a domain name confusingly similar to a famous trademark by an entity that has no relationship to that trademark is in itself sufficient evidence of bad faith registration and use.
In respect of bad faith registration, the Complainant says that with LA QUINTA INN being the Complainant’s trademark, it is clear that the disputed domain name could not have been constructed by chance and was registered to trade on the trademark of the Complainant. It is submitted that registration of a disputed domain name identical to the Complainant’s trademark, where there was knowledge of the Complainant’s rights, is evidence of bad faith registration, and furthermore, that there is a legal presumption of bad faith when the Respondent ought reasonably to have been aware of the Complainant’s trademark, actually or constructively.
The Complainant contends that the Respondent registered the disputed domain name for the purpose of diverting traffic to the Respondent.
In respect of bad faith use, the Complainant contends that the disputed domain name was being used with intent to deceive consumers seeking to reach the Complainant’s authentic LA QUINTA INN websites. Instead, the confusingly similar disputed domain name has led consumers to a website that is essentially inactive and contains no significant content. It is submitted that there is substantial precedent for a finding of bad faith to be made where there has been inactivity such as this by the holder of a disputed domain name embodying another’s trademark.
On January 19, 2012 and on January 28, 2012, the Complainant attempted to contact the Respondent at the address disclosed in order to request a transfer of the disputed domain name. There has not been any reply or action.
The Complainant has cited a substantial number of previous decisions under the UDRP that it considers should be treated by the Panel as precedent in the present case.
The Complainant requests the transfer to itself of the disputed domain name.
The Respondent did not reply to the Complainant’s contentions.
6. Discussion and Findings
Paragraph 4(a) of the Policy states that the Respondent is required:
“…to submit to a mandatory administrative proceeding in the event that a third party (a “complainant”) asserts to the applicable Provider, in compliance with the Rules of Procedure, that:
(i) your domain name is identical or confusingly similar to a trademark or service mark in which the complainant has rights; and
(ii) you have no rights or legitimate interests in respect of the domain name; and
(iii) your domain name has been registered and is being used in bad faith.”
The Complainant has made the relevant assertions as above. The dispute is properly within the scope of the Policy and the Panel has jurisdiction to decide the dispute.
A. Identical or Confusingly Similar
The Panel is satisfied on the basis of the documentary evidence produced that the Complainant has valid rights in the trademarks LA QUINTA and LA QUINTA INN.
The disputed domain name is <laquintainnhotels.com>. The generic Top Level Domain (gTLD) designation, in this case “.com”, is not usually taken into account in determining confusing similarity unless it contributes to the confusion. To a person familiar with the Complainant’s trademarks, the disputed domain name reads “La Quinta Inn Hotels” and incorporates entirely the trademarks LA QUINTA and LA QUINTA INN. The Panel finds that the additional word “hotels” does not detract from confusing similarity between the disputed domain name and the Complainant’s trademarks. Furthermore, the synonymous nature of the words “inn” and “hotel” enhances the confusion.
The Panel finds for the Complainant in the terms of paragraph 4(a)(i) of the Policy.
B. Rights or Legitimate Interests
The Complainant is required to prove that the Respondent has no rights or legitimate interests in the disputed domain name. The Complainant has stated that it has no business connection with the Respondent and has asserted that the Respondent cannot have any rights or legitimate interests in the disputed domain name embodying the Complainant’s trademarks.
The Respondent has not availed itself of the provisions under paragraph 4(c) of the Policy to seek to establish rights or legitimate interests in the disputed domain name by demonstrating use in bona fide trade, or that the Respondent is commonly known by a similar name, or use for a fair or noncommercial purpose, or in any other way satisfactory to the Panel.
Accordingly the Panel finds for the Complainant under paragraph 4(a)(ii) of the Policy.
C. Registered and Used in Bad Faith
The Complainant must prove under paragraph 4(a)(iii) of the Policy that the disputed domain name has been registered and is being used in bad faith. Paragraph 4(b) of the Policy lists four illustrative alternative circumstances that shall be evidence of the registration and use of a domain name by a respondent in bad faith, namely:
“(i) circumstances indicating that you [the Respondent] have registered or you have acquired the domain name primarily for the purpose of selling, renting, or otherwise transferring the domain name registration to the complainant who is the owner of the trademark or service mark or to a competitor of that complainant, for valuable consideration in excess of your documented out of pocket costs directly related to the domain name; or
(ii) you have registered the domain name in order to prevent the owner of the trademark or service mark from reflecting the mark in a corresponding domain name, provided that you have engaged in a pattern of such conduct; or
(iii) you have registered the domain name primarily for the purpose of disrupting the business of a competitor; or
(iv) by using the domain name, you have intentionally attempted to attract, for commercial gain, Internet users to your web site or other on-line location, by creating a likelihood of confusion with the complainant’s mark as to the source, sponsorship, affiliation, or endorsement of your website or location or of a product or service on your website or location.”
The provisions of paragraph 4(b) of the Policy are without limitation, and bad faith registration and use may be found otherwise.
On the evidence before the Panel, the disputed domain name has been designed and registered to embody the name of the Complainant’s long-established business and to exhibit the well-known service and trademarks LA QUINTA and LA QUINTA INN. According to the Complainant, the disputed domain name appears to have received token use since the date of its registration.
A screenshot taken on January 19, 2012, produced in evidence, showed indications that the Respondent’s website offered links to other websites, but the screenshot appeared to be superficial. In the exercise of its powers to visit the website in question (paragraph 4.5, WIPO Overview of WIPO Panel Views on Selected UDRP Questions, Second Edition (“WIPO Overview 2.0”)) the Panel found an extensive link farm to hotels and related businesses under headings including “Hotel Deals”, “Airport Hotels”, “Book Hotels” and others, mostly leading to hotels and businesses not apparently connected with the Complainant. It is not reasonably plausible that this operation was set up for other than commercial reasons. This link farm is presented to Internet users who have been led to a website that, by its domain name, would appear to be that of “La Quinta Inn Hotels”.
Accordingly, upon the evidence and on the balance of probabilities, the Panel finds that the Respondent has used the disputed domain name intentionally to attract Internet visitors by confusion with the Complainant’s trademarks, and has done so for the commercial purpose of the collection of pay-per-click revenue, constituting use in bad faith under paragraph 4(b)(iv) of the Policy.
The Panel further finds, on the balance of probabilities, and in the absence of any explanation or evidence to the contrary, that the disputed domain name was registered for the purpose for which is has been used, constituting registration in bad faith.
The Panel finds for the Complainant in the terms of paragraph 4(a)(iii) of the Policy.
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 <laquintainnhotels.com> be transferred to the Complainant.
Dr. Clive N.A. Trotman
Dated: March 26, 2012