WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center
ADMINISTRATIVE PANEL DECISION
Ventas, Inc. v. Steven Jones, ventas-inc
Case No. D2014-0145
1. The Parties
The Complainant is Ventas, Inc. of Chicago, Illinois, United States of America (the “USA”), represented by Barack Ferrazzano Kirschbaum & Nagelberg, LLP, USA.
The Respondent is Steven Jones, ventas-inc. of Pinellas Park, Florida, USA.
2. The Domain Name and Registrar
The disputed domain name <ventas-inc.com> (the “Domain Name”) is registered with Melbourne IT Ltd (the “Registrar”).
3. Procedural History
The Complaint was filed with the WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center (the “Center”) on January 29, 2014. On January 30, 2014, the Center transmitted by email to the Registrar a request for registrar verification in connection with the Domain Name. On February 3, 2014, 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 February 4, 2014. In accordance with the Rules, paragraph 5(a), the due date for Response was February 24, 2014. The Respondent did not submit any response. Accordingly, the Center notified the Respondent’s default on February 25, 2014.
The Center appointed Michelle Brownlee as the sole panelist in this matter on March 3, 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 owns United States Trademark Registration Numbers 3,893,965 for the mark VENTAS and 2,896,951 and 4,124,800 for VENTAS and design in connection with real estate services in International Class 36.
The Respondent registered the Domain Name on or about November 18, 2013.
5. Parties’ Contentions
The Complainant is a leading healthcare real estate investment trust which has been in business for more than a decade. The Complainant owns a portfolio of more than 1400 real estate properties in 46 of the 50 United States.
The Complainant contends that its VENTAS marks are strong marks as VENTAS has no dictionary meaning, and, therefore the only significance of this term is its trademark significance to identify the Complainant’s services. The Complainant is the owner of the domain name <ventasreit.com> since 1998.
The Complainant alleges that the Respondent has been using the Domain Name in connection with a phishing scam by which the Respondent sent emails to prospective job applicants, inviting them to apply for a job at an entity called “Ventas” with the purpose of collecting their bank account information. The Complainant received emails from people who believed that they received offers of employment from the Complainant. The Respondent also operated a website that displayed the Complainant’s VENTAS trademark and invited prospective job applicants to provide personal information. On December 19, 2013, the Complainant complained to Yahoo, the Internet service provider that was hosting the Respondent’s site, and requested the removal of the website. Yahoo removed the site at the Complainant’s request. Because the Respondent still owns the Domain Name, the Respondent could resume its illegal activities.
The Complainant contends that the Domain Name is confusingly similar to the Complainant’s VENTAS mark, that the Respondent has no rights to or legitimate interests in respect of the Domain Name, and that the Respondent registered and is using the Domain Name in bad faith. Although the Respondent lists its name as “Ventas” in its contact information for the Domain Name and lists an address in Atlanta, Georgia, the Georgia Secretary of State does not have any business registration for an entity called “Ventas” at that address. The only entity named “Ventas, Inc.” that is registered with the Georgia Secretary of State is the Complainant. The address that the Respondent used is the address of Atlanta’s City Hall, and is therefore not a valid business address. The Complainant submits that the Respondent’s use of the Domain Name was in furtherance of a fraudulent phishing scheme, and is therefore a bad faith registration and use of the Domain Name.
The Respondent did not reply to the Complainant’s contentions.
6. Discussion and Findings
Paragraph 4(a) of the Policy provides that in order to be entitled to a transfer of a domain name, a complainant must prove the following three elements:
(1) the 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 domain name; and
(3) the domain name has been registered and is being used in bad faith.
A. Identical or Confusingly Similar
The Complainant has demonstrated that it owns rights in the VENTAS trademark. The addition of the corporation designation “Inc.” in the Domain Name does not serve to distinguish the Domain Name from the Complainant’s trademark. See, e.g., Solutia Inc. v. Whois Privacy Protection Service, Inc. / Patricia Gee, WIPO Case No. D2011-0285. In this case, the pairing of the Complainant’s VENTAS trademark with “Inc.” is likely to exacerbate confusion because “Ventas, Inc.” is the Complainant’s name. Under these circumstances, the Panel finds that the Domain Name is confusingly similar to the Complainant’s VENTAS mark.
B. Rights or Legitimate Interests
Paragraph 4(c) of the Policy provides that a respondent can demonstrate rights to or legitimate interests in a domain name by demonstrating one of the following facts:
(i) before receiving any notice of the dispute, the respondent used or made demonstrable preparations to use the domain name at issue in connection with a bona fide offering of goods or services; or
(ii) the respondent has been commonly known by the domain name; or
(iii) the respondent is 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 at issue.
In this case, the Respondent has not presented evidence that the Respondent used or made demonstrable preparations to use the Domain Name in connection with a bona fide offering of goods or services; that the Respondent is commonly known by the Domain Name; that the Respondent is making a legitimate noncommercial or fair use of the Domain Name; or in any other way refuted the Complainant’s prima facie case. Although the Respondent’s name is listed in the WhoIs record for the Domain Name as “Ventas-inc” the Complainant presented evidence that the Respondent provided false contact information and that there is no entity other than the Complainant doing business under the name “Ventas” in the state of Georgia.
The Complainant has presented evidence, which was not refuted by the Respondent, that the Respondent is using the Domain Name to pass itself off as related to the Complainant for the purposes of misleading Internet users into disclosing personal information. This activity cannot under the circumstances be considered a bona fide offering of goods or services. Accordingly, the Panel finds that the Respondent does not have any rights to or legitimate interests in the Domain Name.
C. Registered and Used in Bad Faith
Paragraph 4(b) of the Policy states that the following circumstances are evidence of registration and use of a domain name in bad faith:
(i) circumstances indicating that the respondent has registered or acquired the domain name at issue 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 documented out-of-pocket costs directly related to the domain name; or
(ii) the respondent 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 the respondent has engaged in a pattern of such conduct; or
(iii) the respondent has registered the domain name primarily for the purpose of disrupting the business of a competitor; or
(iv) by using the domain name, the respondent has intentionally attempted to attract, for commercial gain, Internet users to its website or other online location, by creating a likelihood of confusion with the complainant’s mark as to the source, sponsorship, affiliation, or endorsement of its website or location or of a product or service on its website or location.
The Complainant has established bad faith under paragraph 4(b)(iv) of the Policy. The Complainant provided evidence that the Respondent sent emails to people in which the Respondent misrepresented itself as the Complainant, and which were probably in furtherance of fraudulent collection of confidential personal information. The Respondent is using the Domain Name to attract Internet users to the Respondent’s site by creating confusion as to source and results in commercial gain to the Respondent since the Respondent is likely using personal information gathered from the visitors to the site for commercial gain.
For the foregoing reasons, in accordance with paragraphs 4(i) of the Policy and 15 of the Rules, the Panel orders that the Domain Name <ventas-inc.com> be transferred to the Complainant.
Date: March 15, 2014