WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center
ADMINISTRATIVE PANEL DECISION
Philip Morris USA Inc. v. Barry Groover
Case No. D2016-0533
1. The Parties
The Complainant is Philip Morris USA Inc. of Richmond, Virginia, United States of America, represented by Arnold & Porter, United States of America.
The Respondent is Barry Groover of Charlotte, North Carolina, United States of America.
2. The Domain Names and Registrar
The Disputed Domain Names <newmarlboroman.com>, <nomarlboroman.com> and
<smarterthanamarlboro.com> are registered with Domain.com, LLC.
3. Procedural History
The Complaint was filed with the WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center (the “Center”) on March 17, 2016. On March 18, 2016, the Center transmitted by email to the Registrar a request for registrar verification in connection with the Disputed Domain Names. On March 18, 2016, 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 and 4, the Center formally notified the Respondent of the Complaint, and the proceedings commenced on April 1, 2016. In accordance with the Rules, paragraph 5, the due date for Response was April 21, 2016. The Respondent did not submit any response. Accordingly, the Center notified the Respondent’s default on April 22, 2016.
The Center appointed Andrew Mansfield as the sole panelist in this matter on May 18, 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 manufactures markets and sells cigarettes in the United States of America, including cigarettes under its famous MARLBORO trademark, which have been made and sold since 1883, with the modern history of the brand beginning in 1995. The Complainant is the holder of many MARLBORO trademarks, among others, on the Principal Register of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, MARLBORO trademark, registration No. 68,502, registered on April 14, 1908, for cigarettes; MARLBORO and Red Roof design, registration No. 938,510, registered on July 25, 1972, for cigarettes.
The Disputed Domain Names <smarterthanamarlboro.com> and <nomarlboroman.com> were registered on September 4, 2015; and the Disputed Domain Name <newmarlboroman.com> was registered on September 5, 2015.
5. Parties’ Contentions
On November 24, 2015, the Complainant indicates it sent a letter to the Respondent, demanding that the Respondent transfer the Disputed Domain Names to the Complainant. At the time the Complainant sent its November 24, 2015 letter, the <nomarlboro.com> and <newmarlboroman> Disputed Domain Names resolved to inactive websites displaying “Under Construction.” The Disputed Domain Name <smarterthanamarlboro.com> resolved to a site advertising a smoking cessation product. That site also contained a defaced version of Marlboro trade dress.
The Complainant claims that it sent a second letter to the Respondent demanding transfer of the Disputed Domain Names. The Complainant indicates that it sent this second letter on January 26, 2016 and, at that time, all three Disputes Domain Names resolved to a message that the websites were “Under Construction.” The Complainant received no response to either correspondence.
Complainant alleges that the Disputed Domain Names are identical or confusingly similar to trademarks in which it has rights. In particular, the words in the Disputed Domain Name and the content that it resolved to for some time at “www.nsmarterthamamarlboro.com” infringe United States Registered Trademarks 68,502 and 938,510. The Complainant alleges that the Marlboro trademarks, including the two references, are famous. The Complainant indicates it uses many domain names to market its products but its primary domain name is <marlboro.com>. The Complainant indicates it has rights in the marks that are incorporated into the Disputed Domain Names and the use of the marks in the Disputed Domain Names is confusingly similar to the Complainant’s marks.
The Complainant argues that the Respondent has no rights or legitimate interests in the Disputed Domain Names or the trademarks incorporated in them. The Respondent has no connection or affiliation with the Complainant, has never been known by any name or trade name that incorporates the word “Marlboro,” and does not appear to have sought trademark rights in the term “Marlboro.” Finally, the Complainant states that it does not appear the Respondent ever made preparations to use the mark MARLBORO.
The Complainant next argues that the Respondent has registered and is using each of the Disputed Domain Names in bad faith. The MARLBORO marks have been used extensively and for many years. A simple Internet search would take an unsuspecting web user to many examples of the marks. The Respondent should be deemed to have constructive notice of the marks. Current bad faith use was demonstrated by the direction of Internet users to a website selling a smoking cessation product.
It is for all of these reasons that the Complainant requests that the Disputed Domain Names be transferred to it.
The Respondent did not reply to the Complainant’s contentions.
6. Discussion and Findings
Paragraph 4(a) of the Policy lists three elements which a complainant must satisfy in order to succeed. The Complainant must satisfy that:
(i) the domain name is identical or confusingly similar to a trademark or service mark in which the Complainant has rights; and
(ii) the Respondent has no rights or legitimate interests in respect of such domain name; and
(iii) the domain name has been registered and is being used in bad faith.
A. Identical or Confusingly Similar
The Panel finds that the Complainant has established its trademark rights in MARLBORO and related words and images as evidenced by the trademark registrations submitted with the Complaint.
The Panel also finds that the Disputed Domain Names are confusingly similar to the Complainant’s trademark MARLBORO. The Panel finds that the Disputed Domain Names, incorporating the whole of the MARLBORO trademarks, with only the addition of common words before or after the trademarks, are confusingly similar to the Complainant’s marks. In coming to this conclusion the Panel has disregarded the effect of the generic Top-Level Domain signifier “.com.”
Therefore, the Panel finds that the Complainant has satisfied the first requirement of paragraph 4(a) of the Policy.
B. Rights or Legitimate Interests
Paragraph 4(c) of the Policy provides a list of circumstances any of which is sufficient to demonstrate that the Respondent has rights or legitimate interests in the disputed domain name:
(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.
The Panel accepts the evidence of the Complainant that there is no known use or registration for the term “Marlboro” by the Respondent and further, that the pre-existing rights of the Complainant in the MARLBORO trademarks would preclude it. The Complainant has established a prima facie case that the Respondent lacks rights or legitimate interests in the Disputed Domain Names. Under the Policy, this being established, the burden shifts to the Respondent to establish that it has some rights or legitimate interests in the Disputed Domain Names which it has failed to do. The Complainant has satisfied its burden of proof under the second element of the Policy.
The Panel finds that the Complainant has satisfied the second requirement of paragraph 4(a) of the Policy.
C. Registered and Used in Bad Faith
Paragraph 4(b) of the Policy sets forth four criteria that are to be considered as evidence of the registration and use of a domain name in 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 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 your website or location or of a product.”
These criteria are not exclusive and the Panel may conclude that the Respondent acted in bad faith where other circumstances reveal the bad faith nature of the registration and use of the disputed domain name.
The Panel agrees that the fame of the MARLBORO trademarks makes it inconceivable that the Respondent registered or has used the Disputed Domain Names without knowledge of the Complainant’s rights and further that this leads to the necessary inference of bad faith. It further finds the use made of one of the Disputed Domain Names to direct users to at least one commercial website for some time which also establishes bad faith use under the Policy. The circumstance that the three disputed domain names are not currently resolving to active websites does not preclude a finding of bad faith (see WIPO Case No. D2016-0003, Telstra Corporation Limited v. Nuclear Marshmallows).
In light of the above, this Panel finds that the Complainant has satisfied the third requirement of paragraph 4(a) 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 names <newmarlboroman.com>, <nomarlboroman.com> and <smarterthanamarlboro.com> be transferred to the Complainant.
Date: June 7, 2016