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WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center


Virgin Enterprises Limited v. Larino Enterprices

Case No. D2013-0791

1. The Parties

The Complainant is Virgin Enterprises Limited of London, United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and Geneva, Switzerland, represented by Ipulse, United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

The Respondent is Larino Enterprices of Wyoming, United States of America.

2. The Domain Name and Registrar

The disputed domain name <richardbransoninvestment.com> is registered with eNom (the “Registrar”).

3. Procedural History

The Complaint was filed with the WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center (the “Center”) on May 3, 2013. On May 3, 2013, the Center transmitted by email to the Registrar a request for registrar verification in connection with the disputed domain name. On May 3, 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 the Respondent of the Complaint, and the proceedings commenced on May 10, 2013. In accordance with the Rules, paragraph 5(a), the due date for Response was May 30, 2013. The Respondent did not submit any response. Accordingly, the Center notified the Respondent’s default on May 31, 2013.

The Center appointed Fleur Hinton as the sole panelist in this matter on June 10, 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 the trade mark RICHARD BRANSON, the founder of the Complainant and of the Virgin Group as a whole. Its owner Richard Branson founded the Virgin Group in the 1970s with the record label, Virgin Records. The announcement of his knighthood was made in the 2000 Honours List. He is one of the most famous business people in the world, and for that reason, his name RICHARD BRANSON, registered as a trade mark, is a famous trade mark.

The disputed domain name was registered on April 9, 2013.

The Respondent has not lodged a response.

5. Parties’ Contentions

A. Complainant

The Complainant claims that the disputed domain name is confusingly similar to a trade mark in which the Complainant has rights. The Complainant has provided details of its registrations of RICHARD BRANSON. Apart from the trade mark registrations, the name “Richard Branson” is a famous one and the Complainant enjoys a very substantial reputation and goodwill in that name.

The Complainant claims that, because the name and trade mark RICHARD BRANSON is so well known, the Respondent could have no right to the disputed domain name unless he were himself Richard Branson. The Complainant says that it has asked him and the Respondent has indicated that he has not.

The Complainant also claims that the disputed domain name was registered and is being used in bad faith. The Complainant has lodged evidence of email scams in which the Respondent has had dealings with people who were confused and who may have believed genuinely that they are dealing with Richard Branson. There have been attempts, in at least one case successful, to extort money out of people who believed that they were involved in a business dealing with Richard Branson. The Complainant states that this conduct is clear evidence of bad faith since there can be no reason for pretending to be Richard Branson other than to profit out of it. This conduct, says the Complainant may be criminal conduct as well as being contrary to the UDRP.

B. Respondent

The Respondent did not reply to the Complainant’s contentions.

6. Discussion and Findings

In order to obtain the remedy requested, the Complainant must satisfy the Panel that the criteria required by the UDRP have been met. These criteria are that:

(i) the disputed domain name is identical or confusingly similar to a trade mark or service mark in which the Complainant has rights;

(ii) the Respondent has no rights or legitimate interests in respect of the disputed domain name; and

(iii) the disputed domain name has been registered and is being used in bad faith.

A. Identical or Confusingly Similar

The disputed domain name <richardbransoninvestment.com> is clearly confusingly similar to the trade mark RICHARD BRANSON. This confusing similarity is not lessened by the addition of the generic term “investment”. Many panels have held that the addition of a generic term to a domain name incorporating a trade mark will not suffice to make it distinguishable from that trade mark. Indeed, in many instances such an addition makes it even more likely that the disputed domain name will cause confusion since the generic term is something which people are likely to connect with the trade mark part of the domain name.

That is the case in the present situation: Sir Richard Branson is a world famous businessman. That fame has come about because he started a business which has become successful throughout the world and now consists of a group of 200 companies. For that reason people see him as person likely to know a lot about investments and to be very knowledgeable about it.

The Panel finds that the Complainant has established that the disputed domain name is confusingly similar to the Complainant’s trade mark.

B. Rights or Legitimate Interests

In the Panel’s view, and given the circumstances of this case, there are only two situations in which the Respondent could have rights or legitimate interests in the disputed domain name: first that the Respondent is himself Richard Branson; second that he has been licensed or otherwise authorized by the Complainant to use the trade mark RICHARD BRANSON. The Complainant knows that the Respondent is not Richard Branson because they have asked him. The Complainant, the company in the Virgin Group which manages the Group’s intellectual property rights, has not licensed or otherwise authorized this use by the Respondent.

In the Panel’s view, due to the very extensive worldwide reputation enjoyed by the Virgin Group and Richard Branson, there is no other possible reason for the Respondent to have adopted the disputed domain name. The Panel finds that the Respondent has no rights or legitimate interests in the disputed domain name.

C. Registered and Used in Bad Faith

The Complainant claims that the disputed domain name has been registered and is being used in bad faith. The Panel is of the view that by using the disputed domain name, the Registrant is intentionally attempting to attract, for commercial gain, Internet users to the website or other online location by creating a likelihood of confusion with the Complainant’s mark as to the source of the offering being made. The Complainant has annexed examples of the use which is being made by the Respondent. The Respondent, pretending to be Richard Branson, has displayed interest in a number of businesses which are looking for investment from a third party to develop these businesses. By pretending interest in these businesses the Respondent has attempted to extort money from these businesses.

As the Complainant says, in view of the fame of the Virgin Group and Sir Richard Branson, it is virtually impossible to imagine any legitimate reason for the Respondent who is not associated with the Virgin Group would adopting the disputed domain name, and using it as described above.

Further, the examples of the correspondence with would-be business partners demonstrates that the disputed domain name is being used in bad faith as a scam to extort money from people on false pretences. As the Complainant says, this may well be criminal behaviour. It is certainly a bad faith use of the disputed within the meaning of the Policy.

Therefore, the Panel finds that he disputed domain name has been registered in bad faith and is being used in bad faith.

7. Decision

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 <richardbransoninvestment.com> be transferred to the Complainant.

Fleur Hinton
Sole Panelist
Date: July 1, 2013