WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center
ADMINISTRATIVE PANEL DECISION
General Motors LLC v. Hent Online LLC
Case No. D2012-2291
1. The Parties
The Complainant is General Motors LLC of Detroit, Michigan, United States of America, represented by Abelman, Frayne & Schwab, United States of America.
The Respondent is Hent Online LLC of Sioux Falls, South Dakota, United States of America.
2. The Domain Name and Registrar
The disputed domain name <corvettec7.com> is registered with Network Solutions, LLC (the “Registrar”).
3. Procedural History
The Complaint was filed with the WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center (the ”Center”) on November 21, 2012. On November 21, 2012, the Center transmitted by email to the Registrar a request for registrar verification in connection with the disputed domain name. On November 22, 2012, 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. In response to a notification by the Center that the Complaint was administratively deficient, the Complainant filed an amendment to the Complaint on November 26, 2012.
The Center verified that the Complaint together with the amendment to 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 the Respondent of the Complaint, and the proceedings commenced on November 29, 2012. In accordance with the Rules, paragraph 5(a), the due date for Response was December 19, 2012. The Respondent did not submit any response. Accordingly, the Center notified the Respondent’s default on December 20, 2012.
The Center appointed Gregory N. Albright as the sole panelist in this matter on January 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
The Complainant is the owner of hundreds of registrations for the trademark CORVETTE in the United States and in countries around the world in connection with the “Corvette” sports cars that was first introduced late in the 1953 model year, and other products.
Apparently, the disputed domain name <corvettec7.com> was registered on July 29, 2004.
5. Parties’ Contentions
The Complainant, General Motors, is world-renowned as an automotive manufacturing company and is among the world’s largest automakers. General Motors is the successor in interest to all trademarks and related goodwill formally owned by General Motors Corporation which was founded in 1908. The Complainant today employs 209,000 people in major regions of the world, and sells and services vehicles in more than 120 countries. With global headquarters in Detroit, the Complainant manufactures cars and trucks in 31 countries. General Motors largest national market is the United States, followed by China, Brazil, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, Canada, the Russian Federation and Germany.
Throughout most of history, the trademark CORVETTE has been synonymous with style, performance and innovation in the automotive industry, and is one of the most well-known trademarks in the world.
The Complainant owns over 300 trademark registrations for the trademark CORVETTE, or trademarks containing CORVETTE, and the CORVETTE EMBLEM worldwide, including over 50 registrations and pending applications for the trademark CORVETTE, or marks containing the trademark CORVETTE, and the CORVETTE EMBLEM in the United States.
The “Corvette” is a sports car by the Chevrolet division of General Motors that has been produced in seven generations. The first model, a convertible, was designed by Harley Earl and introduced at the General Motors Motorama in 1953 as a concept show car. There have been seven generations of “Corvette” since 1953, designated “C1” through “C7”. The “Corvette-C7” was unveiled on January 13, 2013 at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit.
Over the years the “Corvette” has won numerous awards for its achievements and innovations, which earned CORVETTE the reputation of being one of the most famous trademarks in the world:
- In 1953, Chevrolet introduced the “Corvette,” featuring the industry’s first production fiberglass body.
- In 1958, Chevrolet introduced several new Chevrolet models, including El Camino Pick-up, rear-engine Corvair, the first “Corvette” Sting Ray, Chevelle and Caprice.
- Automobile Magazine ranked the 1963-1967 Sting Ray first on their “100 Coolest Cars” list.
- Sports Car International placed the “Corvette” at number 5 on their list of the "Top Sports Cars of the 1960s".
- Hot Rod magazine selected the 1973-1974 “Corvette” LS6 454 as one of the “10 Most Collectable Muscle Cars” in its March 1986 issue.
- Car and Driver readers selected the “Corvette” “Best all around car” nine of 11 years in Car and Driver's Reader's Choice Polls including 1971, 1972, 1973, 1974, and 1975.
- Car and Driver magazine selected the “Corvette” for its annual Ten Best list fifteen times. The C4 from 1985 through 1989, the C5 in 1998, 1999, and 2002 through 2004, and the C6 from 2005 through 2009.
- Motor Trend magazine named the “Corvette” Car of the Year in 1984 and 1998.
- In 1986, the “Corvette” introduced Bosch ABS II anti-lock brakes. “The heartbeat of America” debuted.
- In 1990, the “Corvette” shattered three world speed and endurance world records.
- Society of Automotive Engineers publication Automotive Engineering International selected the 1999 “Corvette” Convertible "Best Engineered Car of the 20th century".
- In 2009, Inside Line named Chevrolet “Corvette” ZR1 the Inside Line “Editor's Most Wanted.”
- U.S. News & World Report selected the 2010 “Corvette” the “Best Luxury Sports Car for the Money.”
- The “Corvette” has been selected as the pace car at the Indianapolis 500 ten times.
The Complainant conducts business on the Internet, and the trademark CORVETTE has a strong Internet presence. For example, General Motors operates a website at “www.chevrolet.com” featuring new models for the “Corvette” and other Chevrolet models, dealer information, current offers, photo galleries, Chevrolet media, History, Awards & Accolades and Events. The Complainant also owns numerous domain names that incorporate the CORVETTE mark.
General Motors advertises its “Corvette” videos on YOUTUBE, displays “Corvette” photos on FLICKR, and posts “Corvette” news updates and events on its website ‘’www.chevrolet.com’’. In addition, consumers can become a fan of “Corvette” on FACEBOOK.
The Complainant has capitalized on the strength of its CORVETTE mark and uses the trademark CORVETTE on a wide variety of products in addition to automobiles, including but not limited to personal accessories, hats, clothes, car accessories, Die Cast & Collectibles, furniture, posters, tool boxes, watches and clocks and neon signs.
The Complainant has sold and continues to sell an extensive number of “Corvette” vehicles in the United States and worldwide.
A tribute to the popularity and renown of the CORVETTE mark is its use in popular culture. The names of Chevrolet vehicles, including the “Corvette,” are featured in a number of songs, such as “Bye Bye Miss American Pie” by Don McLean, “Chevrolet” by Zz Top, “409” by The Beach Boys, “SS 396” by Paul Revere and the Raiders, “Little Red Corvette” by Prince, “Shut Down” by the Beach Boys, and “Stingray” by Static-X.
As a result of long, continuous and extensive use, advertising, and promotion of the CORVETTE trademark, and the commercial success of “Corvette” automobiles and products, the CORVETTE trademark has developed an enviable cachet, image and reputation and is a well-known trademark in the automotive industry and to consumers throughout the world. The goodwill associated with the CORVETTE trademark is of inestimable value to General Motors.
Identical or Confusingly Similar
The disputed domain name <corvettec7.com> is confusingly similar to the trademark CORVETTE. The first and dominant element of the disputed domain name incorporates the trademark CORVETTE. The disputed domain name includes the Complainant’s trademark CORVETTE in its entirety and the letter “c” and number “7”, combined “c”, which means Corvette 7th generation. The only difference between the former and the latter is the addition of the generic top-level domain (gTLD) “.com” to the disputed domain name, which is without legal significance. See CBS Broadcasting Inc. v. Worldwide Webs, Inc., WIPO Case No. D2000-0834; Societe Anonyme des Eaux Minerales d’Evian v. Vivi Bui and Evian Dayspa, WIPO Case No. D2008-1869.
The trademark CORVETTE is so well-known to consumers that consumers will assume that a domain name containing the word “corvette” is that of or associated with the Complainant. See Amazon.com, Inc. v Sung Hee Cho, WIPO Case No. D2001-1276 (concerning the domain names <amazoncar.com> and <amazonecar.com>).
In view of the above, it may be inferred that the disputed domain name <corvettec7.com> is calculated to confuse or deceive, as it falsely suggests an association with the Complainant.
Rights or Legitimate Interests
The Respondent has not received any license or consent, express or implied, to use the trademark CORVETTE in a domain name or in any other manner from the Complainant, nor has the Complainant acquiesced in any way to such use or application of the trademark CORVETTE by the Respondent. Indeed, at no time did the Respondent have authorization from the Complainant to register the disputed domain name <corvettec7.com>. To the best knowledge of the Complainant, the Respondent has no rights or legitimate interests in the disputed domain name <corvettec7.com>.
The Complainant is informed and believes that, prior to the registration of the disputed domain name <corvettec7.com>, the Respondent did not use CORVETTE or any other marks containing CORVETTE as a trademark, company name, business or trade name, and the Respondent is not otherwise commonly known in reference to “corvette” and/or “corvette c7”. See Compagnie de Saint Gobain v. Com-Union Corp, WIPO Case No. D2000-0020.
Prior to commencing this UDRP proceeding, on November 1, 2012, the Complainant’s attorney sent a letter to the Administrative contact concerning the disputed domain name <corvettec7.com>. The letter was sent to the email address as provided in the WhoIs record for the disputed domain name <corvettec7.com>. The Respondent did not respond to the letter.
The Respondent does not use the disputed domain name <corvettec7.com> in connection with a bona fide offering of goods and services. The website to which the disputed domain name <corvettec7.com> resolves is currently inactive. This gives rise to the presumption that the Respondent does not have any rights or legitimate interests in the disputed domain name <corvettec7.com>. The use of a domain name that incorporates a well-known trademark to direct visitors to a website unconnected with the trademark owner cannot constitute use in connection with a bona fide offering of goods and services or otherwise be considered a legitimate interest in a domain name. See Adobe Systems Incorporated v. Domain OZ, WIPO Case No. D2000-0057.
In view of the above, it may be inferred that the Respondent deliberately seeks to capitalize on the identity and close similarity of the disputed domain name to the Complainant’s trademark and to gain revenue therefrom. See AltaVista Company v. Andrew Krotov, WIPO Case No. D2000-1091. This gives rise to the presumption that the Respondent does not have any rights or legitimate interests in the disputed domain name <corvettec7.com>. See Tia Carrere v. Steven Baxt, WIPO Case No. D2005-1072.
The Respondent registered the disputed domain name <corvettec7.com> on December 2, 2003. At that time, the trademark CORVETTE was well-known among the automotive industry and consumers throughout the world. The trademark CORVETTE has been used in the United States since 1953 and was registered as a United States trademark on September 1, 1953. In the view of the above, it may be inferred that at the time the Respondent registered the disputed domain name <corvettec7.com>, the Respondent was aware of the Complainant’s trademark rights. Moreover, the Respondent has owned the disputed domain name <corvettec7.com> for over seven years and has not used the disputed domain name for a bona fide offering of goods and services. This gives rise to the presumption that the Respondent does not have any rights or legitimate interests in the disputed domain name <corvettec7.com>.
Based upon the hundreds of trademark registrations for the mark CORVETTE and the variations thereof, as well as the fame, goodwill and notoriety associated with the Complainant, it is impossible to conceive of a circumstance in which the Respondent could legitimately use the disputed domain name without creating a false impression of association with the Complainant. See Sony Kabushiki Kaisha also trading as Sony Corporation v. Sin, Eonmok, WIPO Case No. D2000-1007.
The Complainant’s predecessor General Motors Corporation adopted and has used the trademark CORVETTE for over 50 years. Such adoption and use of this trademark precedes the registration date of the disputed domain name <corvettec7.com>. It can be inferred that the Respondent had notice of the CORVETTE trademark at the time when it registered the disputed domain name <corvettec7.com>. See Telstra Corporation Limited v. Nuclear Marshmallows, WIPO Case No. D2000-0003.
Registered and Used in Bad Faith
Respondent registered and is using the disputed domain name in bad faith for each of the following reasons.
Respondent makes no bona fide use of the disputed domain name. See Nike, Inc. v. Farrukh Zia, WIPO Case No. D2000-0167.
The registration of a domain name containing a well-known trademark by a person and/or company with no connection to that trademark amounts to opportunistic bad faith. See Expedia, Inc. v. European Travel Network, WIPO Case No. D2000-0137.
Because of the famous and distinctive nature of the CORVETTE trademark, the Respondent is likely to have had constructive notice as to the existence of the Complainant’s trademark CORVETTE at the time the Respondent registered the disputed domain name. Such constructive notice suggests that the Respondent acted with opportunistic bad faith in registering the disputed domain name. See Sony Kabushiki Kaisha also trading as Sony Corporation v. Sin, Eonmok, WIPO Case No. D2000-1007. It may therefore be inferred that the Respondent intentionally registered the disputed domain name <corvettec7.com> to trade-off the goodwill and reputation of the Complainant. See BellSouth Intellectual Property Corporation v. Michele Dinoia, WIPO Case No. D2004-0486.
The Respondent did not reply to the Complainant’s contentions.
6. Discussion and Findings
Paragraph 4(a) of the Policy requires that the 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 is identical or confusingly similar to a trademark or service mark in which the Complainant has rights; (2) the 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.
A. Identical or Confusingly Similar
The Complainant has shown that it owns trademark rights in the CORVETTE trademark. Among other things, the Complainant has submitted evidence that it obtained hundreds of registrations of the mark throughout the world, including in the United States (where the Respondent is located), that pre-date the Respondent’s registration of the disputed domain name.
The disputed domain name <corvettec7.com> is confusingly similar to the Complainant’s CORVETTE trademark. The disputed domain name incorporates the entirety of the CORVETTE mark. “Numerous ICANN UDRP decisions have recognized that incorporating a trademark in its entirety can be sufficient to establish that a domain name is identical or confusingly similar to a registered trademark”. PepsiCo, Inc. v. PEPSI, SRL (a/k/a P.E.P.S.I.) and EMS COMPUTER INDUSTRY (a/k/a EMS), WIPO Case No. D2003-0696.
Furthermore, “a user of a mark may not avoid likely confusion by appropriating another’s entire mark and adding descriptive or non-distinctive matter to it”. Lilly ICOS LLC v. John Hopking / Neo net Ltd., WIPO Case No. D2005-0694. Thus, the disputed domain name’s confusing similarity with the CORVETTE trademark in this case is not eliminated by the Respondent’s addition of “c7”. To the contrary, the use of “c7” appears clearly to relate to the seventh-generation “Corvette” sports car. Thus, the Respondent’s addition of “c7” does not dispel confusion, but rather contributes to confusing similarity because it tends to reinforce the impression that the disputed domain name is associated with the Complainant, and its seventh-generation “Corvette” sports car.
Nor does the addition of the gTLD “.com” dispel confusion or have legal significance.
The Panel finds that the Complainant has established the first element under paragraph 4(a) of the Policy.
B. Rights or Legitimate Interests
The Complainant has also made an adequate prima facie showing that the Respondent does not have rights or legitimate interests in respect of the disputed domain name <corvettec7.com>. The Complainant has asserted that it has not licensed or otherwise granted the Respondent permission to use the CORVETTE mark.
The Complainant has also shown that it attempted to send the Respondent a letter regarding the disputed domain name, but the Respondent did not respond. The Complainant has also shown that the Respondent is not making any use of the website to which the disputed domain name resolves, for a bona fide offering of goods or services, or otherwise. Nor is there any evidence that the Respondent has been commonly known as “corvette” or “corvettec7”.
The Respondent did not come forward to rebut the Complainant’s evidence, or to adduce any other evidence that might show that it has any rights or legitimate interests in respect of the disputed domain name.
All of the foregoing gives rise to an inference that the Respondent has no rights or legitimate interests in respect of the disputed domain name.
The Panel finds that the Complainant has established the second element under paragraph 4(a) of the Policy.
C. Registered and Used in Bad Faith
The Complainant acquired trademark rights in the very well-known CORVETTE mark, and obtained many trademark registrations throughout the world, long before the Respondent registered the disputed domain name. In the absence of any countervailing evidence presented by the Respondent (who did not respond to the Complaint), the conclusion is inescapable that the Respondent registered the disputed domain name <corvettec7.com> with knowledge of the Complainant’s trademark rights, and with the intention of trading on the CORVETTE mark which was fully incorporated in the disputed domain name.
The Complainant has not shown that the Respondent has been making any active use of the disputed domain name since it was registered, and the Respondent neither responded to the Complainant’s letter nor responded to the Complaint in this proceeding. However, the Panel agrees with other UDRP decisions that have found that “[t]he incorporation of a well-known trademark into a domain name by a registrant having no plausible explanation for doing so may be, in and of itself, an indication of bad faith”. See Intel Corporation v. the Pentium Group, WIPO Case No. D2009-273 (and cases cited therein). Here, the CORVETTE mark is extremely well-known, and it is difficult to imagine (and the Respondent has not come forward to identify) any good faith reason for the Respondent to incorporate that famous mark into the disputed domain name.
The Respondent also failed to make any response to the Complainant’s demand letter, and failed to respond to the Complaint in this proceeding, both of which undermine any conclusion that the Respondent is acting in good faith.
Under all of the circumstances, the Panel finds that Respondent’s registration and use of the disputed domain name falls within the meaning of paragraph 4(b)(iv) of the Policy.
The Panel finds that the Complainant has established the third element under paragraph 4(a) of the Policy.
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 <corvettec7.com> be transferred to the Complainant.
Gregory N. Albright
Date: January 24, 2013