WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center
ADMINISTRATIVE PANEL DECISION
The Gates Corporation v. WhoisGuard, Embelle Litumbe
Case No. D2013-0231
1. The Parties
Complainant is The Gates Corporation of Denver, Colorado, United States of America, represented by Dorsey & Whitney, LLP, United States of America.
Respondents are WhoisGuard and Embelle Litumbe, of Los Angeles, California and Parsippany, New Jersey, United States of America (“United States”), respectively.
2. The Domain Name and Registrar
The disputed domain name <gatesbelts.org> (the “Domain Name”) is registered with eNom (the “Registrar”).
3. Procedural History
The Complaint was filed with the WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center (the “Center”) on February 1, 2013. On the same date, the Center transmitted by email to the Registrar a request for registrar verification in connection with the Domain Name. On February 5, 2013, 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.
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 February 8, 2013. In accordance with the Rules, paragraph 5(a), the due date for Response was February 28, 2013. Respondent did not submit any Response. Accordingly, the Center notified the Respondent’s default on March 6, 2013.
The Center appointed Mark Partridge as the sole panelist in this matter on March 11, 2013. 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 provides advanced power transmission and fluid transfer solutions for a range of industrial applications. Its products include mechanical belts used in engines of various kinds. According to the Complaint, it sells its products under the GATES mark (the “Mark”) in 77 countries, and has obtained corresponding trademark registrations in each of those countries. Complainant currently maintains eight valid and subsisting registrations in the United States, the earliest of which having a registration date of October 23, 1951.
Complainant claims use of the Mark dating back to its founding in 1912. Its oldest subsisting Mark registration identified in the Complaint claims first use in 1944 GATES (and design), Registration No. 549,898.
Respondent WhoisGuard provides privacy shielding for domain name registrants. Its services are administered by various third parties and by domain name registrars with whom it partners.
By contacting the operator of the WhoisGuard for the disputed domain name <gatesbelts.org>, Complainant obtained information identifying Respondent “Embelle Litumbe” as the registrant of the Domain Name. The WhoIs Report for the Domain Name indicates that Respondent Litumbe registered it on May 25, 2012.
5. Parties’ Contentions
Complainant contends that (1) the Domain Name is confusingly similar to the Mark; (2) Respondents have no rights or legitimate interests in the Domain Name; and (3) Respondent registered and is using the Domain Name in bad faith.
Respondents did not reply to Complainant’s contentions.
6. Discussion and Findings
A. Effect of the Default
Paragraph 14(b) of the Rules provides that “[i]f a Party, in the absence of exceptional circumstances, does not comply with any provision of, or requirement under, these Rules or any request from the Panel, the Panel shall draw such inferences therefrom as it considers appropriate.”
The consensus view is that a respondent’s default does not automatically result in a decision in favor of a complainant, and that a complainant must establish each of the three elements required by paragraph 4(a) of the Policy (See WIPO Overview of WIPO Panel Views on Selected UDRP Decisions Second Edition (“WIPO Overview 2.0”), paragraph 4.6).
Respondents, by failing to submit a timely Response, has squarely violated paragraph 5(a) of the Rules. This Panel finds that no exceptional circumstances are present in this matter. Thus, the Panel infers that Respondents do not deny the facts asserted and contentions made by Complainant from these facts. Allianz, Compañía de Seguros y Reaseguros S.A. v. John Michael, WIPO Case No. D2009-0942, citing Reuters Limited v. Global Net 2000, Inc., WIPO Case No. D2000-0441; LCIA (London Court of International Arbitration) v. Wellsbuck Corporation, WIPO Case No. D2005-0084; Ross-Simons, Inc. v. Domain.Contact, WIPO Case No. D2003-0994. Those facts that are not unreasonable will be taken as true, along with such inferences as flow naturally from the information provided by Complainant (See Allianz, Compañía de Seguros y Reaseguros S.A. v. John Michael, Supra).
B. Identical or Confusingly Similar
The Domain Name incorporates Complainant’s Mark in its entirety. Numerous UDRP panels have found that total incorporation of a complainant's registered mark may be sufficient to establish confusing similarity for the purposes of the Policy. See, e.g. The Ritz Hotel, Limited v. Damir Kruzicevic, WIPO Case No. D2005-1137. Where the matter added to a mark consists of an apt term relating to the complainant’s mark or business, the addition will not normally suffice to avoid a finding of confusing similarity. See Compagnie Gervais Danone v. Daniel Wang, WIPO Case No. 2009-1361.
Here, the additional matter is the generic name of a class of products that Complainant manufactures, markets, and sells under its GATES mark. Because Respondent merely adopted Complainant’s mark and appended an apt term, the Panel finds that the Mark and the Domain Name are confusingly similar, and that Complainant has satisfied the requirements of paragraph 4(a)(i) of the Policy.
C. Rights or Legitimate Interests
Complainant must make a prima facie showing that Respondent lacks any rights or legitimate interests in the Domain Name. Policy, paragraph 4(a)(ii). Complainant has done so.
The Complaint alleges that Respondents use the Domain Name to host a collection of pay-per-click advertising links supported by brief editorial content on the subject of industrial transmission belts. This contention is supported by a series of printouts from Respondent’s websites located at the Domain Name. Though the Domain Name does not currently resolve, this prior evidence strongly suggests that Respondent adopted the Mark in an attempt to derive commercial benefit from confusion with Complainant’s business.
Respondents did not use the Domain Name for the bona fide purpose of selling related goods or services, but instead used it to misdirect Internet users to pay per click advertising. The Respondents are not called “gates belts” or anything similar and do not appear to trade under that or any related name. There is no evidence that Complainant has ever authorized Respondents to use its Mark. Respondents have never asserted any rights or legitimate interests in the Domain Name.
The Panel holds that Respondents lack any rights or legitimate interests in respect of the Domain Name.
D. Registered and Used in Bad Faith
The evidence presented in this proceeding indicates that Respondents registered and is using the Domain Name in bad faith.
Complainant is an established manufacturer of industrial belts that has used the Mark for a substantial number of years. Respondents registered the Domain Name on May 25, 2012, and established a website that combined pay-per-click advertising and editorial content describing Complainant’s goods. Persons seeking information about Complainant’s goods and finding themselves at Respondents’ website would likely have been misled as to the affiliation or origin of the website and its goods or services. Furthermore, the fact that the Domain Name is currently inactive does not prevent a finding of bad faith registration and use.
The Panel concludes that Respondents registered and used the Domain Name in bad faith.
For the foregoing reasons, in accordance with paragraphs 4(i) of the Policy and 15 of the Rules, the Panel orders that the Domain Name <gatesbelts.org> be transferred to Complainant.
Date: April 16, 2013