Complainant is Verizon Trademark Services LLC of Arlington, Virginia, United States of America, represented internally.
Respondent is Private Registrations Aktien Gesellschaft Domain Admin (firstname.lastname@example.org) of Kingstown, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines.
The disputed domain names <verion.com>; <verixonwireless.com>; and <vwrizonwireless.com> (“Domain Names”) are registered with Answerable.com (I) Pvt Ltd.
The Complaint was filed with the WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center (the “Center”) on May 27, 2010. On May 28, 2010, the Center transmitted by email to Answerable.com (I) Pvt Ltd a request for registrar verification in connection with the Domain Names. On May 31, 2010, Answerable.com (I) Pvt Ltd 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 June 3, 2010. In accordance with the Rules, paragraph 5(a), the due date for Response was June 23, 2010. Respondent did not submit any response. Accordingly, the Center notified Respondent's default on June 24, 2010.
The Center appointed Clive L. Elliott as the sole panelist in this matter on July 2, 2010. 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.
The decision due date was subsequently extended to July 30, 2010.
Complainant is an intellectual property holding company with its principal place of business in Arlington, Virginia, United States of America (“United States” or “USA”). It is the owner of a number of trademark and service mark registrations for the VERIZON mark.
According to WhoIs, the Domain Names were registered between September 26, 2004 and December 27, 2007.
Complainant asserts that its group of companies (the “Verizon Companies”) are among the world's leading providers of communications and entertainment products and services. Complainant states that Verizon Communications is a publicly traded company on the New York Stock Exchange and that in 2009 it generated annual consolidated operating revenues of more than USD 107 billion. Complainant states that the Verizon Companies employ a diverse workforce of more than 222,900 employees and that one of its subsidiaries, Verizon Wireless, owns and operates the USA's largest wireless carrier, serving 92.8 million voice and data customers.
Complainant asserts that it has granted its affiliate Verizon Licensing Company an exclusive license to sublicense the use of the VERIZON marks in connection with various products and services, including communications and entertainment products and services to Verizon's affiliates and to third parties. In turn Verizon Licensing Company has granted such licenses to various Verizon companies, including Verizon Communications Inc and Verizon Wireless.
Complainant asserts that the Verizon Companies have offered and provided a full array of communications and entertainment products and services under the trademark and trade name VERIZON since 2000 in the United States and throughout the world. It also asserts that the Verizon Companies own and operate one of the most expansive end-to-end global IP networks in the world and provide a full range of communications and entertainment products and services, which were identified in the Complaint.
Complainant states that the Verizon Companies' main websites, featuring information on many of the products and services of the Verizon Companies can be accessed via the domain names:
- <verizon.com>, which has been used since at least as early as June 2000,
- <verizonwireless.com>, which has been used since at least as early as April 2000, and
- <verizonbusiness.com>, which has been used since at least as early as January 2006.
Complainant contends that Verizon's affiliates have spent many billions of dollars since 2000 to advertise and promote VERIZON and VERIZON WIRELESS branded products and services in the United States and throughout the world.
Complainant asserts that its rights in the VERIZON mark have been recognised throughout Europe and the United States as evidenced by various panel decisions whereby other domain names incorporating the word Verizon in its name have been transferred to Complainant.
Complainant submits that its VERIZON trademark is an inherently distinctive and commercially strong mark entitled to broad protection and that the VERIZON trademark has acquired clear fame.
Complainant submits that the Domain Names are confusingly similar to the VERIZON marks and that Respondent has deliberately misspelt words to cause confusion, as shown in the Domain Names, namely:
(a) <verion.com>, where Respondent has omitted the letter “z” in “Verizon”;
(b) <verixonwireless.com>, where Respondent has replaced the letter “z” with “x” in “Verizon”; and
(c) <vwrizonwireless.com>, where Respondent has replaced the letter “e” with the letter “w” in “Verizon”.
Complainant asserts that Respondent has intentionally attempted to divert, for commercial gain, Internet users to its websites, by creating a likelihood of confusion with the VERIZON marks as to the source, sponsorship, affiliation and endorsement of its websites located at the Domain Names. Complainant indicates that the Domain Names are not currently active.
Complainant contends that Respondent has no rights or legitimate interests in the Domain Names and has no connection or affiliation with Verizon, the Verizon Companies or any of the many products and services provided by the Verizon Companies in association with the VERIZON trademarks. Complainant suggests that Respondent chose to register multiple variations of the VERIZON marks to capitalize on consumer recognition of the famous VERIZON marks and draw Internet users to its own websites and has acted in bad faith.
Respondent has failed to reply to Complainant's contentions.
Complainant is the owner of the trademark and trade name VERIZON (hereinafter “the Trademark”). Complainant has provided a range of communications and entertainment products and services under the Trademark.
There is merit in Complainant's submission that Respondent has deliberately misspelt words to cause confusion. The fact that the misspellings are similar and consistent lends weight to this argument. Equally, there is a no basis for suggesting that because the Domain Names contain misspellings of the VERIZON Trademark or descriptive terminology associated or likely to be associated with the Trademark that they are thereby rendered sufficiently different or distinguishable from the Trademark.
It is amply clear that the Domain Names include the Trademark VERIZON and that the Trademark is clearly identifiable within the Domain Names. Respondent has had the opportunity to do so but has declined to explain why it registered such a large number of domain names comprising or containing the word “verizon”. As a result, the Panel has no difficulty in finding that the Domain Names are confusingly similar to the Trademark.
It is therefore found that Complainant has rights in the Trademark, that the Trademark comprises a dominant and confusing part of the Domain Names, and that the requirements of paragraph 4(a)(i) of the Policy are met.
Respondent is not apparently affiliated with Complainant in any way and has not been authorized by Complainant to use and register its Trademark or to seek the registration of any domain name incorporating the Trademark.
The registration and use of the Trademark preceded the registration of the Domain Names. The Domain Names make an obvious and direct reference to the Trademark and communications and entertainment products and services provided by Complainant or otherwise associated with Complainant or other Verizon Companies.
Complainant indicates that the Domain Names are not currently active. It is unclear to the Panel whether they were previously active or whether they have always been inactive. Nevertheless, Complainant asserts that Respondent has intentionally attempted to divert, for commercial gain, Internet users to its websites, by creating a likelihood of confusion with the Trademark.
The passive holding of domain names may amount to or lead to an inference of inappropriate conduct in breach of the UDRP. In the present situation, while the position is less than clear, there is sufficient material for the Panel to draw the inference that Respondent intentionally attempted to divert, for commercial gain, Internet users to its websites.
This assertion is not disputed. The Panel finds that this constitutes an improper use of the Domain Names for the purpose of diverting customers to the offerings of third parties' businesses, either now or in the future. The Panel concludes that such activity is not consistent with any rights or legitimate interests on Respondent's part.
It is therefore established that Respondent has no rights or legitimate interests in respect of the Domain Names under paragraph 4(a)(ii) of the Policy.
Paragraph 4(a)(iii) of the Policy requires that Respondent has registered and uses the Domain Names in bad faith.
It is not difficult, in the absence of any evidence to the contrary, to infer that Respondent knew or must have known of Complainant's Trademark at the time it registered the Domain Names. VERIZON is a well-known trademark with a well-established and widespread international reputation.
The allegation that Respondent is involved in typo squatting and improper diversion of business is plausible and further supports a finding of bad faith. It also stands uncontradicted.
This enables the Panel to conclude, without difficulty, that the Domain Names were both registered and used in bad faith in accordance with paragraph 4(a)(iii) of the Policy.
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 Names: <verion.com>; <verixonwireless.com>; and <vwrizonwireless.com> be transferred to Complainant.
Clive L. Elliott
Dated: July 26, 2010