WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center
ADMINISTRATIVE PANEL DECISION
Sallie Mae, Inc. v. Ling Shun Shing
Case No. D2003-0445
1. The Parties
The Complainant is Sallie Mae, Inc., of Reston, Virginia, United States of America, represented by Eric D. Reicin of United States of America.
The Respondent is Ling Shun Shing, of Shanghai, China.
2. The Domain Name and Registrar
The disputed domain name <sallliemae.com> is registered with iHoldings.com Inc. d/b/a DotRegistrar.com.
3. Procedural History
The Complaint was filed with the WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center (the "Center") on June 10, 2003. On June 11, 2003, the Center transmitted by email to iHoldings.com Inc. d/b/a DotRegistrar.com a request for registrar verification in connection with the domain name at issue. On June 11, 2003, iHoldings.com Inc. d/b/a DotRegistrar.com transmitted by email to the Center its verification response confirming that the Respondent is listed as the registrant and providing the contact details for the administrative, billing, and technical contact. In response to a notification by the Center that the Complaint was administratively deficient, the Complainant filed an amendment to the Complaint on June 18, 2003. The Center verified that the Complaint together with the amendment 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 June 25, 2003. In accordance with the Rules, paragraph 5(a), the due date for Response was July 15, 2003. The Respondent did not submit any response. Accordingly, the Center notified the Respondent’s default on July 16, 2003.
The Center appointed Peter G. Nitter as the sole panelist in this matter on July 23, 2003. 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 Sallie Mae, Inc. is a corporation duly organized and existing under the laws of the State of Delaware, with its principal place of business in Reston, Virginia. Sallie Mae, Inc., is a wholly owned subsidiary of SLM Corporation ("Sallie Mae"), a Delaware corporation with its principal place of business in Reston, Virginia. Sallie Mae is a Fortune 500, Forbes Super 200 Company and is publicly traded on the New York Stock Exchange under the symbol SLM.
Sallie Mae is the leading provider of education funding in the United States, managing nearly $81 billion in student loans for more than seven million borrowers.
Serving a global population, the Complainant has developed a strong reputation as a provider of financial services. In doing so, the Complainant used extensively the mark SALLIE MAE and its web site "www.salliemae.com" to promote and provide its services.
The Complainant has registered the trademark SALLIE MAE on May 21, 1985, and May 28, 1991, with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (Registration numbers 1337128 and 1646267), and holds a range of other trademark registrations that include the words ‘Sallie Mae’.
Ling Shun Shing has registered the domain name <sallliemae.com>.
5. Parties’ Contentions
The Domain Name is confusingly similar to the Complainant's marks.
Sallie Mae has common law trademark rights in its SALLIE MAE mark in the United States and elsewhere from its continuous use of the mark for several years. The Respondent’s use of the domain name <sallliemae.com> is confusingly similar to that registered by Sallie Mae and the mark SALLIE MAE. The disputed domain name contains a slight typographical change to the Complainant’s mark. Typographical errors consisting of one misplaced letter easily satisfy the requirement of similarity.
The Respondent has no rights or legitimate interest in the Domain Name.
The Respondent has no rights or legitimate interests with respect to the domain name <sallliemae.com>. The domain name was registered to an individual, Ling Shun Shing, not to an entity named "Salllie Mae." To the best of Complainant’s knowledge, the Respondent has never been known by the name "Salllie Mae."
The use of a domain name to misleadingly divert consumers with the intent for commercial gain evidences an illegitimate interest in a domain name. See Policy Para 4(c)(iii). The Respondent’s unauthorized and unapproved redirection of <salliemae.com> customers to its alias search engine is solely for the purpose of achieving greater commercial gains. The Respondent misleads Internet users by redirecting them from the intended web site to one offering other services, including competing student loan and financial services, and thus has no rights or legitimate interests to the disputed domain name.
The Complainant’s SALLIE MAE mark has acquired fame through its continuous use in global commerce for over 30 years and is associated with Sallie Mae’s reputation as a provider of student loans and financial services. The Respondent would have difficulty establishing that it is known by such a famous mark. The Respondent’s use of Sallie Mae’s valuable goodwill to divert Internet users to an identical or similar search engine web site is not a bona fide offering of goods or services nor a legitimate noncommercial or fair use.
The Respondent registered and is using the Domain Name in bad faith.
The Respondent registered a distinctive domain name, nearly identical to that of Sallie Mae in order to intentionally divert customers to its web site for financial gain. The Respondent has constructive notice of Sallie Mae’s rights, and its unauthorized use of the service mark, therefore, is illustrative of a bad faith intention.
The Respondent’s bad faith is further highlighted by the fact that the disputed domain name is a misspelling of one commonly associated with and identified as Sallie Mae.
The Respondent has furthermore a history of registering domain names in bad faith that are confusing similar to registered marks and in which the Respondent has no rights or legitimate interests. Other reported cases have found that the same Respondent registered and used domain names in bad faith and ordered the transfer of these domain names to the owners of legitimate marks.
The Respondent did not reply to the Complainant’s contentions.
6. Discussion and Findings
Pursuant to paragraph 4(a) of the Policy the Complainant has the burden, on the balance of probabilities, to submit evidence in order to convince the Panel of three elements in order to have the Domain Name transferred. It is incumbent upon the Complainant to cumulatively prove that:
(i) the domain name is identical or confusingly similar to a trademark or service mark in which the complainant has rights; and
(ii) the respondent has no rights or legitimate interests in respect of such domain name; and
(iii) the domain name has been registered in bad faith and is being used in bad faith.
A. Identical or Confusingly Similar
The Complainant is the owner of trademark registrations for the trade mark SALLIE MAE in the United States of America. Said mark is well known and distinctive, and any others use of the same is likely to cause confusion.
As shown in several previous panel decisions under the UDRP, the absence of an interval in a domain name is without significance to the assessment of identity between a trade mark and a domain name. Thus, the only difference between the two is an extra letter ‘l’ in the contested domain name.
An extra consonant placed together with already double consonants in a word, is easy to overlook. There is also a possibility of mistyping. Hence, the Panel finds that there is confusing similarity between the Complainant’s trade mark and the domain name at issue.
B. Rights or Legitimate Interests
As the Respondent has failed to give any response under the present proceeding, he has not provided evidence of any circumstance giving rise to a right or legitimate interest in the domain name. On the contrary, a short glance at the list of previous domain name disputes decided by the National Arbitration Forum that the Respondent has been involved in, strongly suggests that the Respondent is speculating in registering domain names referring to well known entities or marks in which he has no right or legitimate interest, see for instance ChevronTexaco Corporation v. Ling Shun Shing, NAF 146570.
C. Registered and Used in Bad Faith
The Panel accepts the Complainant’s assertion that the Respondent’s registration of a domain name nearly identical to the trade mark of the Complainant is an attempt to intentionally divert customers to its web site for financial gain.
The Panel also sees the Respondent’s history of registering domain names confusingly similar to well-known trademarks, without having any rights or legitimate interests to do so, as an indication of his bad faith.
Hence, the Panel finds that the contested domain name has been registered and used by the Respondent 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, <salllimae.com>, be transferred to the Complainant.
Peter G. Nitter
Dated: August 7, 2003