WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center
ADMINISTRATIVE PANEL DECISION
Alamo Rent-A-Car Management, LP v. Ameriasa
Case No: D2002-0919
1. The Parties
The Complainant is Alamo Rent-A-Car Management, LP, Fort Lauderdale, Florida, United States of America, represented by Piper Rudnick of the United States of America.
The Respondent is Ameriasa, C/O Rob Smith, Ravels, Belgium.
2. The Domain Name and Registrar
The disputed domain name is <alamo-car-rental.net> (the "Domain Name") registered with Intercosmos Media Group d/b/a directNIC.com.
3. Procedural History
The Complaint was filed with the WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center (the "Center") on October 4, 2002. On October 9, 2002, the Center transmitted by email to Intercosmos Media Group d/b/a directNIC.com a request for registrar verification in connection with the domain name at issue. On October 9, 2002, Intercosmos Media Group d/b/a directNIC.com transmitted by email to the Center its verification response confirming that the Respondent is listed as the registrant, providing the contact details of Respondent and confirming that the Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy applies to the Domain Name. 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 October 10, 2002. In accordance with the Rules, paragraph 5(a), the due date for the Response was October 30, 2002. The Respondent did not submit any Response. Accordingly, the Center notified the Respondentís default on November 1, 2002.
The Center appointed Anne-Virginie Gaide as the sole panelist in this matter on November 11, 2002. 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.
On November 14, 2002, the Panel issued an Interim Order requesting that Complainant submit to the Center, no later than November 20, 2002, copies of the certificates of registration for the trademarks cited in Annex D to the Complaint. On November 19, 2002, the Complainant sent to the Center by fax an amended list of trademark registrations together with copies of certificates of registration. The Panel finds that these documents were timely submitted.
4. Factual Background
Complainant has demonstrated that it is the registered owner of the two following service mark registrations in the United States of America :
- Service mark ALAMO & design (no. 2,427,041) filed on March 15, 2000, and registered on February 6, 2001, in relation to the following services of class 39: "automotive renting and leasing services";
- Service mark ALAMO & design, claiming colors blue and yellow (no. 2,427, 040), filed on March 15, 2000, and registered on February 6, 2001, in relation to the following services of class 39: "automotive renting and leasing services".
The Domain Name was registered on July 12, 2001.
On February 11, 2002, Complainant sent through its counsel a cease and desist letter to an entity named TRN, which appeared to be at that time the registrant of the Domain Name. Complainant requested that TRN discontinue any use of the marks ALAMO and ALAMO RENT-A-CAR and transfer the Domain Name to Complainant. Complainant then found out that the Domain Name was registered in the name of Respondent, and sent a similar cease and desist letter to Respondent on July 19, 2002.
Complainant has demonstrated that at the time of the filing of the Complaint, Respondent was using the Domain Name in connection with an active web site. The homepage of this web site, a printout of which was provided by Complainant, may be described as follows:
- The logo Lowest-AirFare.com is prominently displayed on the top left corner of the page.
- At the very top of the page, the following text is featured: "Need Cheap Flights from USA to Europe, Asia, Australia, Africa, South America? These Forms pop up on our best Agents' screens within 5 Seconds, Click here!! You get FREE Fare Quotes within 1 business hour from 5 different agents!"
- Under this text, the logos of the following six car rental companies are reproduced in a line: Alamo, Avis, Budget, Dollar, Hertz and National.
- the page features three columns with the following headings: "***** Hotel Reservations", "Alamo Car Rental Car Reservations" and "Receive FREE Fare Quotes - Clik below your type of travel". Under the first two columns is a list of cities in the USA and elsewhere.
Complainant also provided printouts of another page of Respondent's web site, connected to the address "www.alamo-car-rental.net/carrental.html", the content of which is the following :
- a window is displayed with the title "CarWiz Rate Search And Availability Check". Boxes are provided in the window to indicate car pick-up and drop-off location, car pick-up date/time, car drop-off date/time, car company name and car type. One of the choices provided for the company name is "Any Company". The logos of Alamo, Avis, Budget, Dollar, Hertz and National appear under the window.
- The following text appears above the window: "Car Wiz provides direct access to dozens of car rental companies. It's your one-stop source to comparison shop the leading rent a car companies. Car Wiz offers exclusive car rental discounts and money-saving deals worldwide. Finding a great deal on an airport rental car has never been easier. Drive away a great deal!"
- on the same web page is a text on Lowest Airfare: "Lowest Airfare cooperates with the 750 most professional on-line travel agents in the World, and our computer keeps track which discount deals and routings are available from which agents in over 125 countries worldwide! Our agents have negotiated deals which they will quote by e-mail but cannot publish on the Internet because airlines and cruise lines don't want our agents to compete directly with their Web Sites".
- At the bottom of the page is the following statement: "Copyright & Legal Statement © 2002 Alamo-Car-Rental.net Travel Reservations Network".
5. Partiesí Contentions
Complainant makes the following contentions:
With over 1,000 locations, Alamo (comprising Complainant and other affiliated companies) is known throughout the United States, Canada and the world as a provider of high-quality vehicle rental and leasing services. For over 25 years, Alamo has prominently used the Alamo Marks (defined by Complainant as the marks related to the "Alamo Rent-a-Car" vehicle rental and leasing business) in connection with its vehicle rental and leasing business. Alamo has established and maintains high standards of quality for its services. Since 1974, the Alamo Marks have become well and favorably known throughout the United States of America, Canada and the world.
The Alamo Marks have been advertised to the purchasing public and to the trade throughout the United States and internationally on an extensive and frequent basis by a variety of advertising media, including newspapers, magazines, television, radio, trade publications, the Internet, and through signs and counters in numerous major airports. The Alamo Marks are easily recognizable to the trade and public as originating from Alamo. As a result, the Alamo Marks and the goodwill associated therewith are of inestimable value to Complainant. By virtue of the wide renown of the Alamo Marks, and the wide geographic availability and extensive sale of Alamoís services, the Alamo Marks have become famous and distinctive in the minds of the purchasing public.
Alamo operates its official Internet web site at <alamo.com> . Consumers can access information about Alamo and its products and services, and even book reservations on-line via the Alamo Web Site. The Alamo Web Site is a vital and integral part of Alamoís worldwide vehicle rental and leasing business.
Respondent registered and is using the Domain Name <alamo-car-rental.net> which is nearly identical to Complainantís famous service marks ALAMO and ALAMO RENT-A-CAR and thus confusingly similar thereto. Respondent is using the Domain Name to host a web site that includes numerous registered service marks and logos of Complainant and purports to provide on-line reservation services for ALAMO RENT-A-CAR. However, the alleged links to the ALAMO RENT-A-CAR reservation service simply lead back to Respondentís travel-related web site or link to other web sites at which various competing automobile rental and travel-related services are offered. For example, after accessing <alamo-car-rental.net>, the consumer is offered multiple links for travel information related to numerous cities and countries, in addition to what appear to be links to the Alamo Web Site. However, the supposed links to the Alamo Web Site simply lead back to the first page of Respondentís web site or to the "Car Wiz Ė Discount Car Rental" link. These links do not access the Alamo Web Site or any other site authorized by Alamo.
At the "Car Wiz" site, the consumer apparently can rent a vehicle on-line. After inputting the desired dates for renting a vehicle and other required information, the consumer is provided with a drop-down menu listing Complainant, as well as a number of Complainantís competitors. By accessing the drop down menu, the consumer may then choose to obtain information relating to the rental of vehicles from any of these companies. Thus, Respondent is using a Domain Name identical to Alamoís famous ALAMO RENT-A-CAR service mark to ensnare consumers who are looking for the Alamo Web Site. This use of the Domain Name leads consumers to Respondentís travel-related web site, as well as the other links connected to Respondentís web site, which include links featuring competing travel and automobile rental services.
Complainant has no business relationship whatsoever with Respondent. Complainant has not licensed or otherwise permitted Respondent to use its service marks or to apply for any domain name incorporating any such service marks. Respondent has made no use of the unauthorized Domain Name other than to use it as a host for Respondentís web site and to link to other web sites offering services that compete with Complainantís services. Thus, Respondent has no rights or legitimate interest in the Domain Name. Moreover, Respondent cannot establish any such rights or interests in the Domain Name because it is comprised entirely of Complainantís famous service mark and functions solely as a link to other web sites apparently affiliated with Respondent.
Finally, Respondent is using the Domain Name to attract customers from Alamo, by misleading customers into thinking that they are contacting Alamo. This infringing use demonstrates Respondentís bad faith registration and use of the Domain Name, as well as the fact that Respondent has ignored Complainantís demand that Respondent cease and desist from this unauthorized use of Complainantís service mark.
The Respondent did not reply to the Complainantís contentions.
6. Discussion and Findings
A. Identical or Confusingly Similar
Complainant has submitted evidence of registration for nine U.S. federal service marks consisting in or comprising the term ALAMO. According to the documentation provided by Complainant, only two of these marks appear to be registered in the name of Complainant :
ALAMO & design in class 39 (no. 2,427,041);
ALAMO & design claiming colors blue and yellow in class 39 (no. 2,427,040).
The other service marks appear to be registered in the name of either ARC-TM, Inc. or Alamo Rent-A-Car, Inc. Complainant has provided no explanation as to why it may claim rights to such registrations. The Panel has, however, not considered it necessary to require further information from Complainant on this issue. Indeed, the Panel found that it could decide the case on the basis of the two above-mentioned service marks, which are registered in the name of Complainant and currently in force in the U.S.A.
The sole verbal element of both marks is ALAMO, a term which has no particular meaning. The graphic elements of both marks consists in a dark rectangle with a clear border, in the middle of which the term ALAMO is featured. In the case of the second mark, the colors claimed are blue for the rectangle and yellow for the border and letters. The predominant element of both marks is clearly the word ALAMO, as the graphic elements are quite banal.
The term ALAMO is reproduced in its entirety in the Domain Name, and is combined with the terms "car rental". Since these terms are purely descriptive, they are not apt to influence significantly the overall impression produced by the Domain Name, which is dominated by the term "alamo". The predominance of the term "alamo" is moreover strengthened by its position at the beginning of the Domain Name.
Accordingly, the Panel finds that the Domain Name is confusingly similar to service marks in which Complainant has rights.
B. Rights or Legitimate Interests
Complainant states that it has not licensed or otherwise permitted Respondent to register the Domain Name.
From the excerpts of Respondent's web site submitted by Complainant, it appears that Respondent provides various travel-related information, including rates and availability of cars rented out by several car rental companies, among which Complainant.
The Panel has examined whether the provision by Respondent of information on Complainant's cars and rates could warrant a finding that Respondent had a legitimate interest in the Domain Name, on the ground that it could be seen as using the Domain Name in connection with a bona fide offering of services or making a legitimate fair use of the Domain Name.
This situation may be compared to the one that exists when a respondent offers on its web site goods manufactured by the complainant or goods that are compatible with the complainant's goods. It has been held in a number of previous decisions that the offering, on the respondent's web site, of complainant's goods or of goods compatible with complainant's goods did not in itself justify the use of complainant's trademark in a domain name. The case of Nokia Corporation v. Nokia Ringtones & Logos Hotline WIPO Case No. D2001-1101, may be cited on this issue:
"The domain name <worldnokia.com> has been used by Respondent to offer logos, ringtones, software and other products and services to owners of mobile phones. Respondent has stated that the products offered by Respondent are only compatible with the Nokia mobile phone and that it was for this reason that the name "worldnokia" was used. As was held by the Panel in, inter alia, WIPO Case No. D2000-0079, Motorola Inc. v NewGate Internet Inc.; WIPO Case No. D2000-0113 Stanley Works and Stanley Logistics Inc. v Camp Creek Co.; WIPO Case No. AF-0126 Mikimoto (America) Co. v Asanti Jewellers Ltd; WIPO Case No. D2000-1201 R.T. Quaife Engineering Ltd v Luton) a licensee or a dealer, agent or distributor of products of the trademark owner or of compatible products does not per se have a right to a domain name which includes that trademark. It follows that Respondent in this case would only have a right to the domain name <worldnokia.com> if Complainant had specifically granted that right. Respondent has not contested that Complainant has not licensed or otherwise permitted Respondent to use the trademark NOKIA. The mere fact that Respondent sells logos and ringtones compatible with NOKIA mobile phones is not sufficient for Respondent to claim a legitimate interest."
The case of Chanel, Inc. v. Estco Technology Group, WIPO Case No. D2000-0413 is also of interest here. The respondent in this case planned to use the domain names <chanelstore.com> and <chanelfashion.com> in connection with a web site on which various information on the products and stores of Chanel and of other fashion houses would be provided. The Panel held:
"While it might be fair use for Respondent to mention Chanel in giving out information in the public domain, the Panel disagrees that is fair use for Respondent to use Complainant's famous trademark in order to attract the public to the web site. Fair use allows Respondent to use Complainant's trademark when providing information on Complainant and the rest of the fashion industry to clients seeking this information. Thus, Respondent's database at "DesignerGlobe.com" can talk about "Chanel" stores and "Chanel" products. In contrast, it would not be fair use for Respondent to use Complainant's trademark outside a shop or office to entice customers in to use its database. The same logic applies in cyberspace: Respondent may not use Complainant's famous fashion trademark as a domain name to entice Internet users to its database. This is not fair use but instead infringing use".
It would appear, following the reasoning of these decisions, that the offering of information on Complainant's car rental services should not give Respondent the right to reproduce Complainant's mark in the Domain Name.
It need not be decided whether, in some particular instances, the use of the complainant's mark in a domain name in connection with the provision of information on the complainant's services may be legitimate. Indeed, the fact that Respondent in the present matter offers information not only on Complainant's services but also on the services of Complainant's competitors prevents in any event a finding that Respondent is using the Domain Name in connection with a bona fide offering of services. Indeed, using a domain name to attract consumers to a web site where they may be switched to other goods or services cannot constitute a bona fide use of the Domain Name (see Oki Data Americas, Inc. v. ASD, Inc, WIPO Case No. D2001-0903, concerning the issue of bona fide use of the domain name by an authorized seller of the complainant's goods, where the Panel held that bait and switch is not legitimate). It may be noted that in the above cited Chanel case, the fact that information on other fashion firms was to be provided in the respondent's database might have played a role in the Panel's decision, although this is not said explicitly.
In such circumstances, the Panel finds that Respondent is not using the Domain Name in connection with a bona fide offering of services, nor making a legitimate fair use of the Domain Name within the meaning of paragraph 4 c) i and iii) of the Policy, so that it has no rights or legitimate interests in respect of the Domain Name.
C. Registered and Used in Bad Faith
As a preliminary remark, the Panel indicates that it has based its observations regarding the use of the Domain Name only on the excerpts provided by Complainant and included in the record, and did not explore itself Respondent's web site on-line.
According to paragraph 4 b) iv) of the Policy, the following circumstance shall be evidence of the registration and use in bad faith of a domain name:
"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 web site or location or of a product or service on your web site or location".
It is obvious that Respondent knew Complainant's mark and did not reproduce it in the Domain Name by coincidence. This is evidenced at least by the use on the web site of Complainant's mark in its protected logo form (blue and yellow rectangle). The commercial nature of Respondent's web site may be inferred from various statements on the web site such as "Car Wiz offers exclusive car rental discounts and money saving deals worldwide" or "Our agents have negotiated special deals which they will quote by e-mail [Ö]". By adopting a domain name consisting in the house mark of Complainant and terms describing Complainant's line of business, Respondent obviously attempted to attract for commercial gain consumers looking for Complainant's services.
Respondent created a likelihood of confusion as to Complainant's endorsement of the web site at least in two ways (on the basis of the excerpts provided). First, the use of Complainant's protected blue and yellow ALAMO logo on the homepage of the web site creates the impression that Complainant has authorized the web site, and may even suggest that the information accessed through the web site comes from Complainant. Second, Respondent included a misleading notice at the bottom of at least one page, i.e. "Copyright and Legal Statement © 2002 Alamo-Car-Rental.net Travel Reservations Network" which gives the impression that an entity named Alamo-Car-Rental.net is responsible for the web site. It would be natural for consumers to assume that such entity is a subsidiary of Complainant.
Another circumstance set forth by paragraph 4 b) of the Policy is satisfied here. According to paragraph 4 b) ii), registration and use in bad faith exist in the following circumstance:
"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".
By registering the Domain Name, Respondent has prevented Complainant from registering such domain name itself. It must be noted that the Domain Name does not combine the mark ALAMO with a fancy element, but with terms describing exactly the core business of Complainant, so that it may obviously present an interest for Complainant.
Complainant has submitted evidence that Respondent has registered several other domain names which reproduce trademarks or service marks of third parties. These domain names include:
It is not disputable that the marks HILTON, DISNEY or TWA belong to third parties. Complainant did not submit evidence of registration for these marks. However, even in the (very unlikely) absence of registration, they are so well-known and have been in use for such a time as to be protected at least as common-law trademarks.
It thus appears that Respondent has engaged in a pattern of registering domain names which reproduce the protected trademarks of third parties, preventing them from reflecting their marks in a corresponding domain name.
The Panel has noted that Respondent was not the original registrant of the Domain Name, but appeared to have acquired it from the entity named TRN. This does not prevent a finding that the domain name was registered and used in bad faith, as requested by paragraph 4) b) of the Policy. First, paragraph 4) b) iv) mentions only the misleading use of the domain name. Nevertheless, the circumstance set forth in this provision shall be evidence of registration and use of a domain name in bad faith, according to the first lines of paragraph 4) b). It is thus apparent that in some instances, bad faith use is sufficient. Second, and more generally, it cannot be the purpose of the Policy to limit its application to persons or entities who are the original registrants. It would be too easy, in such case, to defeat the UDRP system, since it would be sufficient to assign the domain name after registration to another entity, who would then be free to use it. Thus, acquisition of a domain name in bad faith must be considered as equivalent to registration in bad faith for the purposes of paragraph 4) b) of the Policy (see WIPO Case No. D2000-0847 Madonna Ciccone, p/k/a Madonna v. Dan Parisi and "Madonna.com").
In view of the above, the Panel finds that the Domain Name was registered and used in bad faith.
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 name <alamo-car-rental.net> be transferred to the Complainant.
Date: November 25, 2002