World Intellectual Property Organization

WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center

ADMINISTRATIVE PANEL DECISION

Government Employees Insurance Company (GEICO) v. Anthony Griffith

Case No. D2012-1488

1. The Parties

Complainant is Government Employees Insurance Company (“GEICO”) of Chevy Chase, Maryland, United States of America (“U.S.”) represented by Burns & Levinson LLP, U.S.

Respondent is Anthony Griffith of Chicago, Illinois, U.S.

2. The Domain Name and Registrar

The disputed domain name <geic.com> is registered with 1&1 Internet AG (the “Registrar”).

3. Procedural History

The Complaint was filed with the WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center (the “Center”) on July 21, 2012. On July 23, 2012, the Center transmitted by email to the Registrar a request for registrar verification in connection with the disputed domain name. On July 25, 2012, the Registrar 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 July 26, 2012. In accordance with the Rules, paragraph 5(a), the due date for Response was August 15, 2012. Respondent did not submit any response. Accordingly, the Center notified Respondent’s default on August 16, 2012.

The Center appointed Sandra J. Franklin as the sole panelist in this matter on August 23, 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

Complainant is a well-known company offering a variety of insurance services under its GEICO mark since 1936. Complainant provided evidence of its trademark registrations with the United States Patent and Trademark Office for its GEICO, GEICO DIRECT, and GEICO MOTORCYCI marks, the earliest of which was registered in 1964. Complainant also operates a website at “www.geico.com”.

Respondent uses the disputed domain name <geic.com> to display links to insurance companies that compete with Complainant.

5. Parties’ Contentions

A. Complainant makes the following assertions:

1. Respondent’s <geic.com> domain name is confusingly similar to Complainant’s GEICO mark.

2. Respondent does not have any rights or legitimate interests in the <geic.com> domain name.

3. Respondent registered and uses the <geic.com> domain name in bad faith.

B. Respondent

Respondent did not reply to Complainant’s contentions.

6. Discussion and Findings

Paragraph 15(a) of the Rules instructs this Panel to “decide a complaint on the basis of the statements and documents submitted in accordance with the Policy, these Rules and any rules and principles of law that it deems applicable.”

Paragraph 4(a) of the Policy requires that Complainant must prove each of the following three elements to obtain an order that a domain name should be cancelled or transferred:

(1) the disputed domain name registered by Respondent is identical or confusingly similar to a trademark or service mark in which Complainant has rights; and

(2) Respondent has no rights or legitimate interests in respect of the disputed domain name; and

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

In view of Respondent’s failure to submit a response, the Panel shall decide this administrative proceeding on the basis of Complainant’s undisputed representations pursuant to paragraphs 5(e), 14(a) and 15(a) of the Rules and draw such inferences it considers appropriate pursuant to paragraph 14(b) of the Rules. The Panel is entitled to accept all reasonable allegations and inferences set forth in the Complaint as true unless the evidence is clearly contradictory. See Vertical Solutions Management, Inc. v. webnet-marketing, inc., NAF Claim No. 95095 (holding that the respondent’s failure to respond allows all reasonable inferences of fact in the allegations of the complaint to be deemed true); see also Ticketmaster Corporation v. Bill Hicks, WIPO Case No. D2000-0009 (“In the absence of a [r]esponse, it is appropriate to accept as true all supporting allegations of the Complaint.”).

A. Identical or Confusingly Similar

The Panel finds that Complainant’s trademark registrations sufficiently prove that Complainant has rights in the GEICO mark. See Paisley Park Enterprises v. James Lawson, NAF Claim No. 384834 (finding that the complainant had established rights in the PAISLEY PARK mark under Policy paragraph 4(a)(i) through registration of the mark with the USPTO); see also Google, Inc. v. DktBot.org, NAF Claim No. 286993 (finding that the complainant had established rights in the GOOGLE mark through its holding of numerous trademark registrations around the world).

Respondent’s <geic.com> domain name is confusingly similar to Complainant’s GEICO mark because the only difference is the addition of the generic top-level domain (“gTLD”) “.com” and the deletion of the “o” at the end of the mark. These are insignificant changes that fail to distinguish the disputed domain name from the mark. See Trip Network Inc. v. Cheap Tickets, Inc. v. Sigfredo Alviera, NAF Claim No. 914943 (concluding that the affixation of a gTLD to a domain name is irrelevant to a Policy paragraph 4(a)(i) analysis); see also The Royal Bank of Scotland Group plc, Direct Line Insurance plc, and Privilege Insurance Company Limited v. Demand Domains, c/o C.S.C., NAF Claim No. 714952 (“The Panel finds that merely by misspelling Complainants’ mark, Respondent has not sufficiently differentiated the <privelage.com> domain name from the PRIVILEGE mark under Policy [paragraph] 4(a)(i).”)

The Panel finds that Complainant has satisfied Policy paragraph 4(a)(i).

B. Rights or Legitimate Interests

Once Complainant makes a prima facie case that Respondent lacks rights and legitimate interests in the disputed domain name under Policy paragraph 4(a)(ii), the burden shifts to Respondent to show it does have rights or legitimate interests. See Hanna-Barbera Productions, Inc. v. Entertainment Commentaries, NAF Claim No. 741828 (holding that the complainant must first make a prima facie case that the respondent lacks rights and legitimate interests in the disputed domain name under UDRP paragraph 4(a)(ii) before the burden shifts to the respondent to show that it does have rights or legitimate interests in a domain name); see also AOL LLC v. Jordan Gerberg, NAF Claim No. 780200 (“Complainant must first make a prima facie showing that Respondent does not have rights or legitimate interest in the subject domain names, which burden is light. If Complainant satisfies its burden, then the burden shifts to Respondent to show that it does have rights or legitimate interests in the subject domain names.”).

Complainant states that is it has never consented to Respondent’s use of the disputed domain name and that it has no affiliation with Respondent. Complainant contends that Respondent is not commonly known by the <geic.com> domain name. The registrant of the <geic.com> domain name is identified as “Anthony Griffith,” which is not similar to the disputed domain name. Thus, the Panel finds that Respondent is not commonly known by the disputed domain name under Policy paragraph 4(c)(ii). See Marriott International, Inc. v. Thomas, Burstein, and Miller, WIPO Case No. D2000-0610 (no legitimate interest when there is no evidence that respondent is commonly known by the domain name); see also St. Lawrence University v. Nextnet Tech c/o Domain Dept, NAF Claim No. 881234 (concluding a respondent has no rights or legitimate interests in a disputed domain name where there was no evidence in the record indicating that the respondent was commonly known by the disputed domain name).

Complainant asserts that the <geic.com> domain name resolves to a website displaying links to websites offering competing insurance services. The Panel finds that this use by Respondent is not a bona fide offering of goods or services under Policy paragraph 4(c)(i) or a legitimate noncommercial or fair use under Policy paragraph 4(c)(iii). See Disney Enterprises, Inc. v. Dayanand Kamble, NAF Claim No. 918556 (holding that the operation of a pay-per-click website at a confusingly similar domain name was not a bona fide offering of goods or services under Policy paragraph 4(c)(i) or a legitimate noncommercial or fair use under Policy paragraph 4(c)(iii)); see also TM Acquisition Corp. v. Sign Guards a/k/a William Moore, NAF Claim No. 132439 (finding that the respondent’s diversionary use of the complainant’s marks to send Internet users to a website which displayed a series of links, some of which linked to the complainant’s competitors, was not a bona fide offering of goods or services).

The Panel finds that Complainant has satisfied Policy paragraph 4(a)(ii).

C. Registered and Used in Bad Faith

Respondent displays pay-per-click links on the website resolving from the disputed domain name, which promote services that compete with Complainant’s products. These links divert potential customers away from Complainant to third-party websites, thereby disrupting Complainant’s business. The Panel finds that Respondent’s display of competitive links disrupts Complainant’s business and therefore indicates bad faith registration and use according to Policy paragraph 4(b)(iii).) See St. Lawrence University v. Nextnet Tech c/o Domain Dept, FA 881234 (“This Panel concludes that by redirecting Internet users seeking information on Complainant’s educational institution to competing websites, Respondent has engaged in bad faith registration and use pursuant to Policy [paragraph] 4(b)(iii).”).

Respondent uses the disputed domain name to take advantage of Complainant’s well-known mark to achieve a wrongful competitive advantage and commercial gain. The Panel finds that this also constitutes bad faith under Policy paragraph 4(b)(iv). See Emirates v. WhoisGuard Protected, WIPO Case No. D2006-0433 (panel found that respondent’s use of domain name to display pay-per-click advertising links was deliberate attempt to attract Internet users for commercial gain, in bad faith); see also AltaVista Company v. Andrew Krotov, WIPO Case No. D2000-1091 (finding bad faith under Policy paragraph 4(b)(iv) where the respondent’s domain name resolved to a website that offered links to third-party websites that offered services similar to the complainant’s services and merely took advantage of Internet user mistakes).

Respondent’s registration of the <geic.com> domain name also indicates typosquatting, which is further evidence of bad faith registration under Policy paragraph 4(a)(iii). See Nextel Communications Inc. v. Jason Geer, NAF Claim No. 477183 (finding that the respondent’s registration and use of the <nextell.com> domain name was in bad faith because the domain name epitomized typosquatting in its purest form).

Finally, Complainant also alleges that Respondent had knowledge of Complainant’s rights in the GEICO mark when Respondent registered the disputed domain name. Complainant claims that its GEICO mark is famous and that its registrations for the mark were readily available to Respondent. The Panel agrees and finds that this is further evidence that Respondent registered the disputed domain name in bad faith under Policy paragraph 4(a)(iii). See Minicards Vennootschap Onder Firma Amsterdam v. Moscow Studios c/o Tamer Malekames, NAF Claim No. 1031703 (holding that respondent registered a domain name in bad faith under Policy paragraph 4(a)(iii) after concluding that respondent “actual knowledge of Complainant’s mark when registering the disputed domain name”).

The Panel finds that Complainant has satisfied Policy paragraph 4(a)(iii).

7. Decision

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 <geic.com> be transferred to Complainant.

Sandra J. Franklin
Sole Panelist
Dated: August 31, 2012

 

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