WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center
ADMINISTRATIVE PANEL DECISION
Principal Financial Services, Inc. v. Frederik Schmid / MyPrivacy.net Ltd
Case No. D2013-2083
1. The Parties
The Complainant is Principal Financial Services, Inc. of Des Moines, Iowa, United States of America, represented by Neal & McDevitt, United States of America.
The Respondent is Frederik Schmid of Luleå, Sweden / MyPrivacy.net Ltd. of Toronto, Ontario Canada,
2. The Domain Name and Registrar
The disputed domain name <firstprincipalbank.com> is registered with EasyDNS Technologies Inc. (the “Registrar”).
3. Procedural History
The Complaint was filed with the WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center (the “Center”) on December 2, 2013. On December 3, 2013, the Center transmitted by email to the Registrar a request for registrar verification in connection with the disputed domain name. On December 6, 2013, the Registrar transmitted by email to the Center its verification response disclosing registrant and contact information for the disputed domain name which differed from the named Respondent and contact information in the Complaint. The Center sent an email communication to the Complainant on December 6, 2013 providing the registrant and contact information disclosed by the Registrar, and inviting the Complainant to submit an amendment to the Complaint. The Complainant filed an amended Complaint on December 9, 2013.
The Center verified that the amended 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 December 11, 2013. In accordance with the Rules, paragraph 5(a), the due date for Response was December 31, 2013. The Response was filed with the Center on December 23, 2013.
The Center appointed Alistair Payne as the sole panelist in this matter on January 14, 2014. 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 a substantial multinational financial services organization that provides a number of services including, financial, insurance, investment, banking, asset management, retirement, real estate, and healthcare fields, since at least as early as 1985 and in relation to brokerage and advisory and other services since the 1960’s. It owns a family of registered and unregistered trademarks, business names and domain names in the United States of America and elsewhere which are for or include its PRINCIPAL mark and in particular registered United States Trade Mark No. 2,843, 297 for PRINCIPAL BANK registered on May 18, 2004. The Complainant also owns the domain names <principal.com> and <principalbank.com>.
The Respondent registered the disputed domain name in July 26, 2013.
5. Parties’ Contentions
The Complainant submits that it has developed very significant goodwill and reputation attaching to its substantial PRINCIPAL family of trademarks, business names and domain names and that the PRINCIPAL name or mark is known throughout the world in conjunction with its financial services business. It says that the disputed domain name is confusingly similar to the marks and names in which it owns rights.
The Complainant asserts that the web site to which the disputed domain name resolves purports to offer investment and banking services, thus leading consumers to believe that the owner of said web site is somehow endorsed by, or affiliated with, the Complainant. The Complainant submits that it has not authorised, permitted or licensed such use of its PRINCIPAL mark and neither is the Respondent making a non-commercial, fair use of the disputed domain name. It says that there is no evidence that the Respondent is known by or commonly trades under the “First Principal Bank” name and therefore the Respondent has no rights or legitimate interests in the disputed domain name.
The Complainant says that its PRINCIPAL family of marks is well known worldwide in connection with its financial services operations and that it has expended very substantial amounts of money in promoting its marks and business throughout the United States and Canada and elsewhere. By registering and using the disputed domain name the Complainant submits that the Respondent has intentionally attempted to attract, for commercial gain, Internet users to Respondent’s bitcoin related web site by creating a likelihood of confusion with Complainant’s well-established family of PRINCIPAL marks as to the source, sponsorship, affiliation, and/or endorsement of the Respondent’s web site and/or of a product or service on Respondent’s website and has accordingly both registered and used the disputed domain name in bad faith.
The Respondent submits that it operates a virtual company dealing with virtual commodities and does not compete with the Complainant in legacy financial services markets.
It says that it has not infringed the Complainant’s trade mark rights and that “First Principal” refers to the manner in which it takes its customer’s principle as its “first principle” and that its use of the term “bank” refers to its storage facility for virtual commodities.
The Respondent further submits that the individual word elements of the disputed domain name are each common English words which form the distinct mark “First Principal Bank” and therefore it has a legitimate interest in the disputed domain name.
As far as registration and use in bad faith is concerned the Respondent says that there is no evidence that any customer has been deceived by its use of the disputed domain name and that it operates strictly in virtual commodities which is stated clearly on its site. The Complainant is an established player in legacy financial markets and therefore Internet users will not be confused.
6. Discussion and Findings
A. Identical or Confusingly Similar
The Complainant has demonstrated that it owns a large family of registered trademarks, business names and domain names in the United States of America and in Canada which includes its core PRINCIPAL trade mark. In particular it owns United States Trade Mark No. 2,843, 297 for PRINCIPAL BANK dating from 2004.
The disputed domain name differs from this mark only by the prior inclusion of the word “first”. In the Panel’s view the inclusion of this element does not adequately distinguish the disputed domain name from the Complainant’s PRINCIPAL BANK mark. The Complainant’s mark is wholly contained within the disputed domain name and the essential concept of the mark and the disputed domain name is the same. Further in the circumstances of the Complainant’s very substantial family of PRINCIPAL marks and the Respondent’s operations in the financial services area also in North America there is a high likelihood of confusion. The Panel notes that a prior panel made an equivalent finding in Johnson Controls Inc. v. Hansen, WIPO Case No. D2011-1247 in which case the domain name <first-optima-bateries.com> was held to be confusingly similar to the complainant’s “Optima Batteries” trade mark.
Accordingly, the Panel finds that the disputed domain name is confusingly similar to the Complainant’s PRINCIPAL BANK and as a result the Complaint succeeds under the first limb of the Policy.
B. Rights or Legitimate Interests
The Complainant says that it has not authorised the Respondent’s use of its mark in the disputed domain name and that the Respondent is not making a bona fide use of the disputed domain name and neither is there any evidence that it is commonly known by or trades under that name.
The Respondent’s explanation for its choice of the “First Principal Bank” name and of the disputed domain name is far from convincing. Submitting that “First Principal” refers to the manner in which it takes its customer’s principle as its “first principle” does not in the Panel’s view assist the Respondent’s case. The fact that each individual element of the disputed domain name is a common English word is correct but together they form an expression which wholly incorporates the Complainant’s mark. Further the disputed domain name is so similar to the Complainant’s family of PRINCIPAL marks that in light of the reputation attaching to Complainant’s mark the disputed domain name could easily be considered by Internet users in North America to belong to or be associated with the Complainant.
Although the Respondent maintains that it is using the disputed domain name for the bona fide purpose of resolving to its website dealing in virtual commodities such as bitcoins the Panel is not persuaded of the legitimacy of the claim. On balance the Panel finds that the Respondent has failed to rebut the prima facie case made out under this head by the Complainant and as a result the Complaint succeeds under the second element of the Policy.
C. Registered and Used in Bad Faith
The disputed domain name was registered on July 26, 2013 many years after the Complainant started using its PRINCIPAL family of marks in the financial services area for its virtual bitcoin business and by which time the Complainant had developed a very substantial family of trademarks, trading names and domain names and had an established Internet presence for its on-line bank. The Respondent chose the disputed domain name for its business in the financial services area at a time when it must have been aware of the Complainant’s presence even based on a simple on-line search. The Panel therefore infers that the Respondent knowingly registered the disputed domain name in order to confuse Internet users into thinking that the disputed domain name was associated with the Complainant’s business when it was not.
It is apparent to the Panel, based on a review of the Respondent’s website to which the disputed domain name resolves, that any Internet user who arrived there may also very well be confused into thinking that the website had some association with the Complainant that it does not have. There is no disclaimer on the website and no obvious indicator that the financial services offered there are distinct from the Complainant’s offerings. This strongly suggests to the Panel that the Respondent has sought to use the disputed domain name expressly for the purpose of driving Internet traffic to the site.
In this light whether the Complainant only offers traditional financial services or not, as raised by the Respondent, is beside the point. The overwhelming inference on the balance of probabilities is that the Respondent has used the disputed domain name in order to intentionally attract, for commercial gain, Internet users to its bitcoin related web site by creating a likelihood of confusion with Complainant’s well-established family of PRINCIPAL marks as to the source or affiliation of the Respondent’s web site in terms of paragraph 4(b)(iv) of the Policy.
The Panel therefore finds that the Respondent both registered and used the disputed domain name in bad faith and the Complaint succeeds under this element 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 <firstprincipalbank.com> be transferred to the Complainant.
Date: January 28, 2014