WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center
ADMINISTRATIVE PANEL DECISION
Philip Morris USA Inc. v. David Delman and Lori Wagner
Case No. D2013-2182
1. The Parties
Complainant is Philip Morris USA Inc. of Richmond, Virginia, United States of America (“United States”), represented by Arnold & Porter LLP, United States.
Respondents are David Delman and Lori Wagner of Los Angeles, California, United States.
2. The Domain Names and Registrar
The disputed domain names, registered with GoDaddy and Name.com (the “Registrars”), are:
3. Procedural History
The Complaint was filed with the WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center (the “Center”) on December 16, 2013. A Request for Consolidation of Proceedings against the seven disputed domain names was also submitted with the Center on December 16, 2013. On December 17, 2013, the Center transmitted by email to the Registrars a request for registrar verification in connection with the disputed domain names. On December 17, 2013, the Registrars transmitted by email to the Center their verification responses confirming that Respondents were listed as the registrants and provided the contact details. On January 3, 2014 the Center notified Complainant of deficiencies within the Complaint and requested Complainant submit an amended Complaint. On January 8, 2014, Complainant transmitted by email an amended Complaint to the Center.
The Center verified that the Complaint together with Request for Consolidation, and 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 Respondents of the Complaint, and the proceedings commenced on January 17, 2014. In accordance with the Rules, paragraph 5(a), the due date for Response was February 6, 2014. Respondents transmitted a Response on February 6, 2014.
The Center appointed Mark Partridge as panelist in this matter on February 11, 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.
The Panel notes that both Complainant and Respondent have submitted Supplemental Filings. Pursuant to its powers under paragraph 10 of the Rules, the Panel declines to consider these filings.
4. Factual Background
Complainant, Philip Morris USA Inc., has been in operation for over a century and is a nationally recognized manufacturer of tobacco products. Complainant is best known for its cigarette brands and products. Complainant owns and operates the following domain names:
<philipmorrisusa.com>, registered on June 9, 1999;
<philipmorris.com>, registered on August 8, 1995;
<philipmorris.info>, registered on August 3, 2001;
<philipmorris.org>, registered on February 21, 2002; and
<philipmorris.net>, registered on December 27, 2001.
Respondents are David Delman and Lori Wagner. Mr. Delman is the current registrant of <philipmorrisusa.us> and <philipmorrisusa.info>. Both of these domain names resolve to a website titled “TobaccoFree.org”, an educational anti-smoking site that informs users of the harms caused by cigarette smoking. These domain names also allow users to donate to Smoke Free America.
Respondents registered the disputed domain names on these dates:
<philipmorrisinc.info>, registered on July 3, 2013;
<philipmorrisinc.com>, registered on June 26, 2009;
<philipmorris.ws>, registered on September 27, 2013;
<philipmorris.tv>, registered on September 27, 2013;
<philipmorrisintl.com>, registered on October 1, 2013;
<philipmorrisintl.co>, registered on October 2, 2013; and
<philipmorrisintl.info>, registered on October 2, 2013.
On September 27, 2013, Complainant sent Respondents a cease and desist letter, requesting that Respondents take down the disputed domain names because Respondents were infringing on Complainant’s trademark. Complainant also asserted that Respondents were in violation of the Anti-Cybersquatting Consumer Protection Act (ACPA). Respondents replied to the cease and desist letter on October 13, 2013, refusing Complainant’s request.
Subsequently, Complainant filed this Complaint seeking transfer of the seven disputed domain names from Respondents.
5. Parties’ Contentions
Complainant contends: (1) that it is the exclusive owner of the trademark rights to the “Philip Morris” trade name in the United States; (2) that the disputed domain names are identical or confusingly similar to Complainant’s trade name “Philip Morris”; (3) that Respondents have no right or legitimate interest in the disputed domain names because they do not have permission from Complainant or any of its affiliates to use the mark, nor have they ever been known by the trade name “Philip Morris” or connected to it in any way; and, (4) that Respondents have registered and used the disputed domain names in bad faith because they are not using the websites for any purpose and have merely stated an intention to use the websites as anti-smoking educational resources for the public.
Respondents acknowledge that Complainant is the owner of the PHILLIP MORRIS trademark and that Complainant has the exclusive rights in the United States to use the trade name. Respondents further acknowledge that Complainant has used the “Philip Morris” trade name for over a century.
Respondents argue that Complainant has failed to meet the requirements under paragraph 4(a) of the Policy because: (1) Respondents have legitimate interests with respect to the disputed domain names based on their right to free speech; and (2) Complainant has not proven the disputed domain names were registered in bad faith because Respondents merely intend to use the websites as noncommercial, educational websites.
Respondents stated an intent to donate the disputed domain names to other anti-smoking non-profit organizations to develop websites similar to those at Respondents’ current domain names <philipmorrisusa.us> and <philipmorrisusa.info>.
6. Discussion and Findings
Under paragraph 4(a) of the UDRP Complainant must show grounds for this administrative proceeding by proving the following about Respondents’ disputed domain names:
(i) Respondents’ domain names are identical or confusingly similar to a trademark or service mark in which Complainant has rights; and
(ii) Respondents have no rights or legitimate interests in respect of the disputed domain names; and
(iii) Respondents’ disputed domain names have been registered and are being used in bad faith.
A. Identical or Confusingly Similar
The confusing similarity test sets a low threshold for the Panel to find whether a complainant has sufficient rights to bring a complaint. See Research in Motion Limited v. One Star Global LLC, WIPO Case No. D2009-0227.
Complainant’s “Philip Morris” trade name has been in use for over a century, and Complainant has sufficiently established rights in the term “Philip Morris.” Although each disputed domain name incorporates other terms around “Philip Morris,” the dominant part of each domain name is “Philip Morris.” Because the disputed domain names incorporate the trademark in its entirety, they are de facto confusingly similar. See Id.
The only differences between Respondents’ disputed domain names and Complainant’s trademark are the surrounding letters including, inter alia, “inc” and “intl,” which are irrelevant in distinguishing the marks. See Univ. City Studios, Inc. v. G.A.B. Ents., WIPO Case No. D2000-0416. The Panel finds that Complainant has proven that the disputed domain names are confusingly similar to the PHILIP MORRIS trademark and has satisfied the first element of the Policy.
B. Rights or Legitimate Interests
Pursuant to paragraph 4(c) of the Policy, Complainant must show that Respondents have no rights or legitimate interests in the disputed domain names. Under paragraph 4(c) of the Policy, Respondents may demonstrate rights or legitimate interests if:
(i) before any notice to you of the dispute, your use of, or demonstrable preparations to use, the domain name or a name corresponding to the domain name in connection with a bona fide offering of goods or services; or
(ii) you (as an individual, business, or other organization) have been commonly known by the domain name, even if you have acquired no trademark or service mark rights; or
(iii) you are making a legitimate noncommercial or fair use of the domain name, without intent for commercial gain to misleadingly divert consumers or to tarnish the trademark or service mark at issue.
Complainant asserts that Respondents have no legitimate interests or rights in the disputed domain names because they have no connection or affiliation with the PHILLIP MORRIS mark, its parent company or affiliates. Respondents have not been affiliated with any of the Complainant’s products, nor have they ever sought or obtained any trademark registrations for “Philip Morris” or any variation thereof. Further, Respondents have not received permission from Complainant to use the trade name “Philip Morris” and have not propounded any evidence to support their stated intention to use the disputed domain names as educational anti-smoking sites.
Respondent Delman is the current registrant of two other domain names using Complainant’s trademark. Respondents’ other sites direct Internet users to an anti-smoking educational website, which is used to empower and inform those quitting smoking and to accept donations for Smoke Free America.
Respondents assert their rights to free speech, using the disputed domain names to promote anti-smoking laws and related information. Respondents argue that they are protected by the First Amendment because they intend to use the disputed domain names as noncommercial anti-smoking websites.
Respondents’ argument is ultimately unsuccessful because Respondents have not actually exercised their free speech rights. Respondents have asserted the intent to develop or transfer the disputed domain names for anti-smoking campaigns, but at present no such campaigns exist at websites corresponding to the disputed domain names. Instead, Respondents appear to be passively holding the disputed domain names or using them for pay per click sites.
Further, “Respondent's right to exercise freedom of speech does not extend to an entitlement to disseminate its views by deliberately and misleadingly cloaking itself in the name of the Complainant.” Anastasia Int’l Inc. v. Domains by Proxy Inc./rumen kadiev, WIPO Case No. D2009-1416; see also Fundación Calvin Ayre Foundation v. Erik Deutsch, WIPO Case No. D2007-1947. Respondents cannot masquerade as Complainant in order to exercise their right to free speech. Respondents concede that Complainant owns and has exclusive rights to use the trade name “Philip Morris” and that Complainant has used the mark for over a century and a half; and as a result, the trademark is distinctive to the products it sells and not related to Respondents’ intentions or interest in the mark. Respondents clearly chose Complainant’s “Philip Morris” name to maximize Internet traffic to the disputed domain names, which is inherently deceptive. The Panel finds that Respondents lack rights or legitimate interests in the disputed domain names.
Accordingly, the Panel finds that Complainant has satisfied its burden that Respondents do not have any rights or legitimate interests in the disputed domain names.
C. Registered and Used in Bad Faith
Lastly, paragraph 4(b) of the Policy requires that Complainant show Respondents registered and are using the disputed domain names in bad faith. The following circumstances, among other indicia, evidence such bad faith:
(i) circumstances indicating that you have registered or you have acquired the domain name primarily for the purpose of selling, renting, or otherwise transferring the domain name registration to the complainant who is the owner of the trademark or service mark or to a competitor of that complainant, for valuable consideration in excess of your documented out-of-pocket costs directly related to the domain name; or
(ii) you have registered the domain name in order to prevent the owner of the trademark or service mark from reflecting the mark in a corresponding domain name, provided that you have engaged in a pattern of such conduct; or
(iii) you have registered the domain name primarily for the purpose of disrupting the business of a competitor; or
(iv) by using the domain name, you have intentionally attempted to attract, for commercial gain, Internet users to your web site or other on-line location, by creating a likelihood of confusion with the complainant's mark as to the source, sponsorship, affiliation, or endorsement of your web site or location or of a product or service on your web site or location.
Complainant argues that its business is being interrupted by the constant diversion of Internet users to Respondents’ passively held websites. Complainant asserts that, despite Respondents’ noncommercial use of the disputed domain names, its business has been disrupted by Respondents’ registrations.
Respondents argue that the registration and use of the disputed domain names was not in bad faith because Respondents had no intention of selling products through the disputed domain names, and no intention to transfer the domain names to Complainant or any of Complainant’s competitors. Respondents further argue that the disputed domain names were not registered to disrupt Complainant’s business in any way. Respondents urge the Panel to dismiss any bad faith claim against the registration of the disputed domain names because they have not intentionally attracted or created a likelihood of confusion for a commercial gain.
Notwithstanding Respondents’ argument, there is nevertheless a pattern of registered domain names incorporating Complainant’s PHILLIP MORRIS mark that exhibits Respondent’s intent to capitalize on the “Philip Morris” brand.
Previous UDRP panels have found that the registration of multiple domain names incorporating a third party trademark is sufficient to establish a pattern of bad faith conduct. See, e.g., Chicago Pneumatic Tool Company LLC v. Tool Gopher, WIPO Case No. D2007-0330.
Respondents’ explanation for their registration of the disputed domain names (use as anti-smoking websites) is not verified by objective evidence, as Respondents have made no actual use of the disputed domain names in that manner. Instead, the evidence suggests that Respondents have amassed a number of domain names incorporating Complainant’s “Philip Morris” mark to disrupt Complainant’s business and potentially confuse Internet users.
On balance, the Panel finds that Complainant has satisfied its burden of proving that Respondents have registered and used the disputed domain names in bad faith.
For the foregoing reasons, in accordance with paragraph 4 of the Policy, the Panel orders that the disputed domain names <philipmorrisinc.info>, <philipmorrisinc.com>, <philipmorris.ws>, <philipmorris.tv>, <philipmorrisintl.com>, <philipmorrisintl.co> and <philipmorrisintl.info> be transferred to Complainant.
Date: March 25, 2014