WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center

ADMINISTRATIVE PANEL DECISION

Metropolitan Life Insurance Company v. River of Faith International Harvest, Inc.

Case No. D2013-0993

1. The Parties

Complainant is Metropolitan Life Insurance Company of New York, New York, United States of America, represented by Melbourne IT Digital Brand Services, United States of America.

Respondent is River of Faith International Harvest, Inc. of New Richmond, Ohio, United States of America.

2. The Domain Name and Registrar

The disputed domain name <metlifereversemortgagenews.com> is registered with GoDaddy.com, LLC (the “Registrar”).

3. Procedural History

The Complaint was filed with the WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center (the “Center”) on June 3, 2013. On June 4, 2013, the Center transmitted by email to the Registrar a request for registrar verification in connection with the disputed domain name. On June 5, 2013, the Registrar 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 11, 2013. In accordance with the Rules, paragraph 5(a), the due date for Response was July 1, 2013. Respondent did not submit any response. Accordingly, the Center notified Respondent’s default on July 2, 2013.

The Center appointed Sandra J. Franklin as the sole panelist in this matter on July 9, 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

Complainant has widely used its METLIFE mark in the insurance and financial services industry since 1968. Complainant owns registrations for its family of METLIFE marks, including a registration for METLIFE with the US Patent and Trademark Office (“USPTO”) (Registration Number 1, 541, 862, registered May 30, 1989, with a first use date of December 31, 1968.)

Respondent registered the <metlifereversemortgagenews.com> domain name on October 15, 2011, and uses it to link to competitors of Complainant in the financial services industry.

5. Parties’ Contentions

A. Complainant Contentions:

1. Respondent’s <metlifereversemortgagenews.com> domain name is confusingly similar to Complainant’s METLIFE mark.

2. Respondent does not have any rights or legitimate interests in the <metlifereversemortgagenews.com> domain name.

3. Respondent registered and used the <metlifereversemortgagenews.com> domain name in bad faith.

B. Respondent

Respondent did not reply to Complainant’s contentions.

6. Discussion and Findings

Paragraph 15(a) of the Rules instructs this Panel to “decide a complaint on the basis of the statements and documents submitted in accordance with the Policy, these Rules and any rules and principles of law that it deems applicable.”

Paragraph 4(a) of the Policy requires that Complainant must prove each of the following three elements to obtain an order that a domain name should be cancelled or transferred:

(1) the domain name registered by Respondent is identical or confusingly similar to a trademark or service mark in which Complainant has rights; and

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

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

In view of Respondent’s failure to submit a response, the Panel shall decide this administrative proceeding on the basis of Complainant’s undisputed representations pursuant to paragraphs 5(e), 14(a) and 15(a) of the Rules and draw such inferences it considers appropriate pursuant to paragraph 14(b) of the Rules. The Panel is entitled to accept all reasonable allegations and inferences set forth in the Complaint as true unless the evidence is clearly contradictory. See Vertical Solutions Management, Inc. v. webnet-marketing, inc., NAF Claim No. 0095095 (holding that the respondent’s failure to respond allows all reasonable inferences of fact in the allegations of the complaint to be deemed true); see also Talk City, Inc. v. Michael Robertson, WIPO Case No. D2000-0009 (“In the absence of a response, it is appropriate to accept as true all allegations of the Complaint.”).

A. Identical or Confusingly Similar

The Panel finds that Complainant’s registration of its METLIFE mark with the USPTO sufficiently proves its rights in the marks pursuant to Policy, paragraph 4(a)(i). See Metropolitan Life Insurance Company v Robert Bonds, NAF Claim No. 0873143 (finding that a USPTO trademark registration adequately demonstrates a complainant’s rights in a mark under Policy 4(a)(i)).

Complainant’s METLIFE mark is the distinctive element in Respondent’s disputed domain name. Respondent merely adds the descriptive or generic words “reverse,” “mortgage,” and “news” to Complainant’s mark. The Panel finds that adding descriptive words, some of which directly pertain to Complainant’s business, along with the generic top-level domain “.com,” to Complainant’s mark, does not sufficiently differentiate the disputed domain name under Policy, paragraph 4(a)(i). See The Gillette Company v RFK Associates, NAF Claim No. 0492867 (finding that the additions of the term “batteries,” which described the complainant’s products, and the generic top-level domain “.com” were insufficient to distinguish the respondent’s <duracellbatteries.com> from the complainant’s DURACELL mark); see also American Express Company v. Buy Now, NAF Claim No. 0318783 (“In the view of the Panel, the disputed domain names are confusingly similar to Complainant’s AMERICAN EXPRESS and AMEX marks. Each disputed domain name contains the AMERICAN EXPRESS or AMEX marks in its entirety and merely adds nondistinctive, descriptive and generic terms, some of which describe Complainant’s business.”). Consequently, the Panel finds that Respondent’s <metlifereversemortgagenews.com> domain name is confusingly similar to Complainant’s METLIFE mark.

The Panel finds that Complainant has satisfied paragraph 4(a)(i) of the Policy.

B. Rights or Legitimate Interests

Once Complainant makes a prima facie case that Respondent lacks rights or legitimate interests in the disputed domain name under paragraph 4(a)(ii) of the Policy, the burden shifts to Respondent to show it does have rights or legitimate interests. See Hanna-Barbera Productions, Inc. v Entertainment Commentaries, NAF Claim No. 0741828 (holding that the complainant must first make a prima facie case that the respondent lacks rights and legitimate interests in the disputed domain name under UDRP paragraph 4(a)(ii) before the burden shifts to the respondent to show that it does have rights or legitimate interests in a domain name); see also AOL LLC v. Jordan Gerberg, NAF Claim No. 0780200 (“Complainant must first make a prima facie showing that Respondent does not have rights or legitimate interest in the subject domain names, which burden is light. If Complainant satisfies its burden, then the burden shifts to Respondent to show that it does have rights or legitimate interests in the subject domain names.”).

Complainant states that it has no relationship with Respondent and has not given Respondent permission to use its mark. Complainant argues that, given the notoriety and long-standing use of its METLIFE mark, there can be no legitimate use of it by Respondent. The Panel agrees and finds that Respondent has not met its burden to show any rights or legitimate interests in the disputed domain name. See Nike Inc. v. B.B. de Boer, WIPO Case No. D2000-1397, where the panel concluded that the respondent had no legitimate rights, noting that it was difficult to see how the respondent could not have known about the trademark NIKE.

The Panel also notes that Respondent uses the <metlifereversemortgagenews.com> domain name to provide a link that competes with Complainant, shown as “Complete Our FREE – NO Obligation Reverse Mortgage Comparison Request, tailored to meet your specific retirement goals and delivered to your email within 24 hours or less.” Prior UDRP panels have determined that a respondent’s use of a disputed domain name to provide competing hyperlinks is not a bona fide use of goods and services or a legitimate noncommercial or fair use. See United Services Automobile Association v Oleg Savchenko d/b/a Software Rocket Ltd., NAF Claim No. 1105728 (“The disputed domain name, <usaa-insurance.net>, currently resolves to a website displaying Complainant’s marks and contains links to Complainant’s competitors”). Thus, the Panel finds that Respondent’s use of the disputed domain name is not a bona fide offering of goods or services under the Policy, paragraph 4(c)(i) or a legitimate noncommercial or fair use under the Policy, paragraph 4(c)(iii).

The Panel finds that Complainant has satisfied paragraph 4(a)(ii) of the Policy.

C. Registered and Used in Bad Faith

Complainant has demonstrated that Respondent uses Complainant’s mark in its <metlifereversemortgagenews.com> domain name to provide a competing link, from which Respondent presumably derives financial gain. The Panel again notes the link entitled “Complete Our FREE - NO Obligation Reverse Mortgage Comparison Request, tailored to meet your specific retirement goals and delivered to your email within 24 hours or less” on the website resolving from the disputed domain name. The Panel finds that this is evidence of bad faith under Policy, paragraph 4(b)(iv).

Complainant states that Respondent also tried to sell the disputed domain name to Complainant, which is further evidence of bad faith. See Bank of America Corporation v Northwest Free Community Access, NAF 0180704 (“Respondent’s general offer of the disputed domain name registration for sale establishes that the domain name was registered in bad faith under Policy ¶ 4(b)(i).”).

The Panel finds that Complainant has satisfied paragraph 4(a)(iii) of the Policy.

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 <metlifereversemortgagenews.com> be transferred to Complainant.

Sandra J. Franklin
Sole Panelist
Date: July 12, 2013