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WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center


Hartford Fire Insurance Company v. yangzhichao / Information Privacy Protection Services Limited, c/o Domain Admin

Case No. D2015-2193

1. The Parties

The Complainant is Hartford Fire Insurance Company of Hartford, Connecticut, United States of America, represented by Fross Zelnick Lehrman & Zissu, PC, United States of America.

The Respondent is yangzhichao of Hefei, Anhui, China / Information Privacy Protection Services Limited, c/o Domain Admin of Hangzhou, Zhejiang, China.

2. The Domain Name and Registrar

The disputed domain name <theaarphartford.com> is registered with Hangzhou AiMing Network Co., LTD (the “Registrar”).

3. Procedural History

The Complaint was filed with the WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center (the “Center”) on December 2, 2015. On December 3, 2015, the Center transmitted by email to the Registrar a request for registrar verification in connection with the disputed domain name. On December 4, 2015, the Registrar transmitted by email to the Center its verification response 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 9, 2015 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 11, 2015.

On December 9, 2015, the Center sent an email communication to the parties in both Chinese and English regarding the language of the proceeding. On December 11, 2015, the Complainant submitted the amended Complaint which included its request that English be the language of the proceeding. The Respondent did not comment on the language of the proceeding by the specified due date.

The Center verified that the Complaint together with 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 and 4, the Center formally notified the Respondent of the Complaint in English and Chinese, and the proceeding commenced on December 18, 2015. In accordance with the Rules, paragraph 5, the due date for Response was January 7, 2016. The Respondent did not submit any response. Accordingly, the Center notified the Respondent’s default on January 8, 2016.

The Center appointed Francine Tan as the sole panelist in this matter on January 19, 2016. 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 and its related entities (“the Complainant”) operate one of the largest insurance and financial services businesses in the United States. The business was founded in 1810 and operates under the trade name THE HARTFORD. The Complainant has received numerous awards and honors and has been listed by Fortune magazine as one of America’s “most admired companies”.

The Complainant has provided insurance and financial services and products under the trade marks THE HARTFORD, HARTFORD, and other HARTFORD-inclusive marks. The Complainant has U.S. trade mark registrations for these marks as well as in China for THE HARTFORD.

The Complainant states it spends tens of millions of dollars annually in advertising and promoting the HARTFORD marks including via television, radio, print media and the Internet. The Complainant also sponsors collegiate and professional sports. It is the exclusive business insurance, homeowner insurance and employee benefits partner of Major League Baseball through the 2018 season. It has been featured during television broadcasts of the most recent World Series, watched by millions of viewers worldwide. The HARTFORD marks have come to be identified exclusively with the products and services of the Complainant.

For the past 30 years, the Complainant has tailored an insurance program especially for members of AARP, Inc. (formerly, the American Association of Retired Persons). AARP is a leading non-profit membership organization for people aged 50 and above. It has a membership of more than 37 million people. The Complainant markets its AARP programs extensively online, on television and in print advertisements.

The disputed domain name was registered on November 16, 2013 and resolves to an inactive, parking page.

A cease-and-desist letter was sent by the Complainant’s representative to the Respondent in October 2015. No response was received by the Complainant.

5. Parties’ Contentions

A. Complainant

1. The Respondent is a “serial cybersquatter”, with several UDRP decisions against it. Several of them involve other insurance companies such as Blue Cross, John Hancock and investment firms such as Fidelity. (See John Hancock Insurance Company (U.S.A.) v. Zhichao Yang et al, WIPO Case No. D2014-1178; FIL Limited v. Yangzhichao et al, WIPO Case No. D2014-1106.)

2. The disputed domain name is confusingly similar to the Complainant’s HARTFORD marks. It incorporates the THE HARTFORD mark in its entirety, merely adding “aarp” between “the” and “hartford”. The addition of “aarp” exacerbates the false association with the Complainant and is an attempt to take advantage of the well-known connection between AARP and the Complainant.

3. The Respondent has no rights or legitimate interest in the disputed domain name. There is no relationship between the Complainant and the Respondent that would give rise to any licence, permission, or other right to use or own any domain name incorporating the Complainant’s well-known HARTFORD marks. There is no evidence that the Respondent is commonly known by the disputed domain name.

4. The Respondent registered and is using the disputed domain name in bad faith. The HARTFORD marks have been used for many years, are extensively advertised and enjoy widespread recognition. It is inconceivable that the Respondent was unaware of the marks when it registered the disputed domain name, given the widespread advertising for the Complainant’s AARP-sponsored insurance products. The Respondent’s failure to respond to the Complainant’s cease-and-desist letter is further evidence of bad faith. The Respondent’s mere holding of the disputed domain name is, itself, bad faith use in view of the renown of the HARTFORD marks. The Respondent’s pattern of registering domain names in bad faith and employing a domain privacy service are other factors showing its bad faith.

B. Respondent

The Respondent did not reply to the Complainant’s contentions.

6. Discussion and Findings

A. Language of the Proceeding

The Registration Agreement in this case is Chinese whereas the Complaint was filed in English. The Rules provide that “[u]nless otherwise agreed by the Parties, or specified otherwise in the Registration Agreement, the language of the administrative proceeding shall be the language of the Registration Agreement, subject to the authority of the Panel to determine otherwise, having regard to the circumstances of the administrative proceeding” (paragraph 11(a)).

Paragraph 10(b) and (c) of the Rules stipulate, respectively, that:

“(b) In all cases, the Panel shall ensure that the Parties are treated with equality and that each Party is given a fair opportunity to present its case.

(c) The Panel shall ensure that the administrative proceeding takes place with due expedition. It may, at the request of a Party or on its own motion, extend, in exceptional cases, a period of time fixed by these Rules or by the Panel.”

The Complainant requested that English be the language of the proceeding. It submitted that the disputed domain name itself is in the English language; AARP is a well-known abbreviation for American Association of Retired Persons; and the website associated with the disputed domain name is entirely in English.

The Panel is mindful of the language requirement provided for in the Rules, but also, at the same time, bears in mind its mandate to ensure that the proceeding takes place with due expedition. The Respondent has been given a fair opportunity to respond on the issue of the language of the proceeding since all communications from the Center have been sent in Chinese as well as in English. The Panel believes that the Respondent would not be prejudiced if English were adopted as the language of the proceeding. The Panel is of the view that it would be appropriate for English to be the language of the proceeding since the disputed domain name comprises English words and letters, and the webpage associated with the disputed domain name is entirely in English. The Respondent has not at any time indicated it is not able to understand English. To require the Complainant to translate the Complainant and evidence into Chinese would delay the proceeding, and it does not at all seem merited in this case.

The Panel therefore determines that English should be the language of the proceeding in this case.

B. Identical or Confusingly Similar

The Complainant has established it has rights in the trade marks THEHARTFORD and HARTFORD, by virtue of its trademark registrations and common law use.

The question then turns on whether the addition of the letters “aarp” serves to remove the confusing similarity to the Complainant’s THEHARTFORD and HARTFORD trade marks. The Panel is of the view that it does not. The Panel finds that THE HARTFORD/HARTFORD marks are recognizable within the disputed domain name (see paragraph 1.2 of the WIPO Overview of WIPO Panel Views on Selected UDRP Questions, Second Edition (“the WIPO Overview 2.0”)). Further, the addition of “aarp” in the disputed domain name makes it all the more confusingly similar since the Complainant tailored the insurance program for members of the formerly-known AARP. In the context of this case, the letters “aarp” are not distinctive but, in effect, descriptive of the Complainant’s insurance program.

Accordingly, the Panel finds that the disputed domain name is confusingly similar to the Complainant’s trade marks HARTFORD/THE HARTFORD and that the requirements of paragraph 4(a)(i) of the Policy have been satisfied.

C. Rights or Legitimate Interests

The Panel finds that the Complainant has established a prima facie casethat the Respondent has no rights or legitimate interests in respect of the disputed domain name. The Respondent had the opportunity to refute the Complainant’s case with evidence but failed to, from which the Panel draws a negative inference. Further, the Panel notes that after receipt of the Complainant’s attorney’s cease-and-desist letter, the Respondent did not claim to be unaware of the Complainant and its rights in the marks HARTFORD/THE HARTFORD and has remained silent throughout the proceeding. Bearing in mind the long prior use of the Complainant’s trade marks and the specific combination of the words “the” and “hartford” with the abbreviation “aarp”, it is highly unlikely that the Respondent independently and by pure chance chose to register the disputed domain name.

The Panel concludes, in the circumstances, that the Respondent has no rights or legitimate interests in respect of the disputed domain name, and finds that the Complainant has satisfied the requirement under paragraph 4(a)(ii) of the Policy.

D. Registered and Used in Bad Faith

For the reasons mentioned in the preceding paragraphs, the Panel also finds that the Respondent registered and has used the disputed domain name in bad faith. The Respondent must have been aware of the Complainant and its trademark rights in THE HARTFORD/HARTFORD and its association with AARP. The Panel infers that the Respondent registered the disputed domain name with the intention to exploit the goodwill and reputation of the Complainant and of its marks for monetary gain. The registration of a domain name that is identical or confusingly similar to a well-known trade mark constitutes bad faith registration and use such as here where the Respondent has pointed the disputed domain name to a pay-per-click website.

The requirements of paragraph 4(a)(iii) of the Policy have been satisfied.

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 <theaarphartford.com> be transferred to the Complainant.

Francine Tan
Sole Panelist
Date: January 25, 2016