WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center
ADMINISTRATIVE PANEL DECISION
Virgin Enterprises Limited v. Simon Thompson
Case No. D2014-0266
1. The Parties
The Complainant is Virgin Enterprises Limited of London, United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland (“UK”), represented by Stobbs IP Limited, UK.
The Respondent is Simon Thompson of Reddish, UK.
2. The Domain Name and Registrar
The disputed domain name <virginentrepreneurs.com> (the “Domain Name”) is registered with eNom (the “Registrar”).
3. Procedural History
The Complaint was filed with the WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center (the “Center”) on February 20, 2014. The Center transmitted its request for registrar verification to the Registrar the same day. The Registrar replied, also on the same day, providing the information on its WhoIs database relating to the Domain Name, and stating that the Domain Name had been placed on locked status to prevent any transfers or changes during the proceedings, and that its registration agreement was in English and required the Respondent to consent to the jurisdiction of the Federal and State courts in King County, Washington.
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 paragraphs 2(a) and 4(a) of the Rules, the Center formally notified the Respondent of the Complaint, and the proceedings commenced on February 27, 2014. In accordance with paragraph 5(a) of the Rules, the due date for Response was March 19, 2014. The Respondent submitted a Response on March 18, 2014.
The Center appointed Jonathan Turner as the sole panelist in this matter on March 31, 2014. The Panel has submitted the Statement of Acceptance and Declaration of Impartiality and Independence, as required by the Center to ensure compliance with paragraph 7 of the Rules. The Panel is satisfied that the Complaint complied with applicable formal requirements, was duly notified to the Respondent, and has been submitted to a properly constituted Panel in accordance with the Policy, the Rules and the Supplemental Rules.
4. Factual Background
The Complainant is the brand owning company in the Virgin group of companies founded by Sir Richard Branson. The Complainant owns very extensive rights in the mark VIRGIN, including registrations in many countries around the world. It has carried on and/or licensed numerous businesses in a wide variety of commercial sectors under this mark and under marks comprising VIRGIN followed by a word descriptive of the business, such as VIRGIN TRAINS, VIRGIN ATLANTIC, VIRGIN HOLIDAYS, VIRGIN WINES, VIRGIN MEDIA, VIRGIN MOBILE, VIRGIN MONEY, VIRGIN ACTIVE, VIRGIN GAMES, etc.
The Complainant has also been involved in projects to promote entrepreneurs called VIRGIN UNITE and VIRGIN STARTUP.
The Respondent registered the Domain Name in 2011. The Domain Name is currently directed to a standard holding page of the Internet service provider, UK2.net. The Respondent carries on a number of businesses using a variety of descriptive domain names, including a venue finding agency through a website at “www.conferencesgroup.com”, a student accommodation website at “www.accommodationforstudents.com”, and a student dating website at “www.datingforstudents.com”. The Respondent also registered the domain name <virginentrepreneurs.co.uk> and a large number of other domain names.
The Complainant wrote to the Respondent on July 12, 2013, objecting to his registration of the Domain Name and the corresponding domain name <virginentrepreneurs.co.uk>. The Respondent replied on August 14, 2013, offering to sell both domain names to the Complainant for the nominal price which he paid for them, but on condition that he got to meet Richard Branson for 30 minutes to pitch his business ideas exclusively to him when he was next in London. This offer was rejected by the Complainant.
5. Parties’ Contentions
The Complainant contends that the Domain Name is confusingly similar to the mark VIRGIN in which it has very extensive rights. The Complainant draws attention to use of this mark followed by various descriptive words and submits that the Domain Name would be understood as referring to another business or activity connected with it.
The Complainant claims that the Respondent has no rights or legitimate interests in respect of the Domain Name. The Complainant states that the Respondent has not made any use of the Domain Name and that there could be no good reason for the Respondent to register it having regard to the Complainant’s reputation.
The Complainant alleges that the Respondent registered and is using the Domain Name in bad faith. The Complainant says that it is impossible to envisage any legitimate purpose for registering the Domain Name, other than to gain from the Complainant’s reputation under the VIRGIN mark or to prevent the Complainant from registering the Domain Name itself. The Complainant also refers to its correspondence with the Respondent (described in section 4 of this Decision) as evidence of the Respondent’s bad faith.
The Complainant seeks a decision that the Domain Name be transferred to it.
The Respondent does not dispute that the Complainant has very extensive rights in the mark VIRGIN, but points out that VIRGIN is also a commonly used word in the English language. In these circumstances, the Respondent denies that the Domain Name is similar to the Complainant’s VIRGIN trademark.
The Respondent states that it was his long term ambition to launch an academy to nurture the virgin talent of young people who want to start a business, as a social enterprise on a non-profit basis, and that he registered the Domain Name as part of this plan. He claims a legitimate interest in the Domain Name and denies that he registered or is using it in bad faith. He points out that he offered to transfer the Domain Name to the Complainant for the price at which he purchased it. He denies any intention to cause confusion and submits that to assume such an intention would create a dangerous precedent.
6. Discussion and Findings
In accordance with paragraph 4(a) of the Policy, in order to succeed in this proceeding, the Complainant must prove; (i) that the Domain Name is identical or confusingly similar to a mark in which it has rights; (ii) that the Respondent has no rights or legitimate interests in respect of the Domain Name; and (iii) that the Domain Name has been registered and is being used in bad faith. It is appropriate to consider each of these requirements in turn.
A. Identical or Confusingly Similar
It is not disputed that the Complainant has extensive rights in the mark VIRGIN.
The Panel is in no doubt that the Domain Name is confusingly similar to this mark, having regard to the extensive reputation of the Complainant under a series of marks comprising VIRGIN followed by a word descriptive of a business or venture. Members of the public would naturally assume that the Domain Name locates a website connected with the Complainant’s group for or relating in some way to entrepreneurs.
The first requirement of the UDRP is satisfied.
B. Rights or Legitimate Interests
It is clear that the Respondent has not so far used or made demonstrable preparations to use the Domain Name or any corresponding name for a bona fide offering of goods or services. Nor is the Respondent commonly known by the Domain Name. Nor is the Respondent currently making any legitimate non commercial or fair use of the Domain Name.
On the evidence in the file, the Panel is satisfied that there is no other basis on which the Respondent can claim to have any rights or legitimate interests in respect of the Domain Name. The Panel finds that the second requirement of the UDRP is satisfied.
C. Registered and Used in Bad Faith
The Panel first notes that the explanation given by the Respondent in his Response of his intention in registering the Domain Name - namely for an academy to nurture the virgin talent of young people who want to start a business, as a social enterprise on a non-profit basis - was not raised in his letter to the Complainant of August 14, 2013. To the contrary, that letter confirmed the Respondent’s great interest in Sir Richard Branson’s enterprise and that he has previously sought to pitch his ideas to the Virgin group of companies, and sought an opportunity to pitch his business ideas directly to Sir Richard Branson.
Secondly, the explanation in the Response is inherently implausible. Thirdly, it is further undermined by the absence of any action to progress the project since the Domain Name was registered in 2011.
On the evidence as a whole, the Panel finds that the Domain Name was registered primarily for the purpose of selling, renting or otherwise transferring the registration to the Complainant in return for some form of commercial benefit, such as the opportunity to pitch his business ideas as described in his letter.
In accordance with paragraph 4(b)(i) of the UDRP, these circumstances constitute evidence of registration and use of the Domain Name in bad faith. The “valuable consideration” to which this provision refers need not be monetary, but can include the potentially very valuable opportunity to pitch a business idea directly to a leading businessman.
In all the circumstances, the Panel concludes that the Domain Name was registered and is being used in bad faith. The third requirement of the UDRP is satisfied.
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 <virginentrepreneurs.com> be transferred to the Complainant.
Date: April 14, 2014