WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center
ADMINISTRATIVE PANEL DECISION
Government Employees Insurance Company v. Mike Rummens, Caller DNA
Case No. D2016-2468
1. The Parties
Complainant is Government Employees Insurance Company (“GEICO”) of Maryland, United States of America (“United States” or “U.S.”), represented by Burns & Levinson LLP, United States.
Respondent is Mike Rummens, Caller DNA of Glendora, California, United States.
2. The Domain Name and Registrar
The disputed domain name <cheapneasy-geico.com> is registered with GoDaddy.com, LLC (the “Registrar”).
3. Procedural History
The Complaint was filed with the WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center (the “Center”) on December 6, 2016. On December 6, 2016, the Center transmitted by email to the Registrar a request for registrar verification in connection with the disputed domain name. On December 7, 2016, the Registrar transmitted by email to the Center its verification response confirming that Respondent is listed as the registrant and providing Respondent’s 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 Respondent of the Complaint, and the proceedings commenced on December 9, 2016. In accordance with the Rules, paragraph 5, the due date for Response was December 29, 2016. Respondent did not submit any response. Accordingly, the Center notified Respondent’s default on January 3, 2017.
The Center appointed R. Eric Gaum as the sole panelist in this matter on January 16, 2017. 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
Complainant owns numerous federally registered trademarks and service marks that wholly incorporate the mark GEICO, including, without limitation, the following registrations with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (“USPTO”):
GEICO – Registration No. 763,274, registered January 14, 1964;
GEICO – Registration No. 2,601,179, registered July 30, 2002;
GEICO DIRECT – Registration No. 1,442,076, registered June 9, 1987;
GEICO DIRECT – Registration No. 2,071,336, registered June 17, 1997;
GEICO AUTO REPAIR XPRESS – Registration No. 2,982,260, registered August 2, 2005;
GEICO MOTORCYCLE – Registration No. 3,262,263, registered July 10, 2007.
In connection with its insurance products and services, Complainant has established a website located at “www.geico.com”, which Complainant uses to promote and sell its motor vehicle insurance services. The “www.geico.com” website enables computer users to: access information regarding GEICO’s insurance services, manage their policies and claims, learn more about GEICO and obtain insurance quotes.
This dispute concerns the domain name <cheapneasy-geico.com> registered on November 4, 2016, which resolves, via redirection, to a website that purports to offer insurance agent services. The registrar with which the disputed domain name is registered is GoDaddy.com, LLC, located in Scottsdale, Arizona.
5. Parties’ Contentions
Complainant is a well-known insurance company that has provided insurance services since 1936. Complainant offers numerous types of insurance services including automobile, motorcycle, homeowners, rental, condominium, flood, mobile home, personal umbrella, and overseas insurance, among others. Complainant has been trading under the trademark GEICO for nearly 80 years and owns exclusive rights in such.
Complainant has made extensive use of its distinctive GEICO mark in connection with its services. The company invests large sums to promote and develop the GEICO mark through television, print media and the Internet. As a result of such efforts, the GEICO mark is a powerful, recognizable symbol of Complainant’s goodwill and excellent reputation.
Through extensive use and promotional activities using the GEICO mark, the mark has become uniquely associated with Complainant and its services. In fact, Complainant has over 13 million policies and insures more than 22 million vehicles. Complainant also has over 30,000 employees, and is one of the fastest-growing auto insurers in the U.S.
The disputed domain name is comprised entirely of Complainant’s registered mark, GEICO, adding only the common descriptive terms “cheap n easy” and a generic Top Level Domain (“gTLD”) “.com”.
Complainant has not authorized the use of its GEICO mark or the registration of the disputed domain name. Indeed, after becoming aware of the disputed domain name, counsel for Complainant contacted Respondent to request that Respondent cease its infringing use of the GEICO mark and transfer the disputed domain name to Complainant. Respondent has not responded to Complainant’s demand that Respondent transfer the disputed domain name to Complainant.
The disputed domain name currently resolves, via redirection, to a website that purports to offer insurance agent services. Complainant believes that Respondent is using and has used the disputed domain name to intentionally attempt to attract Internet users and consumers looking for legitimate GEICO services and/or authorized partners to Respondent’s own webpage by creating a likelihood of confusion with Complainant, all for commercial gain.
There is no evidence that Respondent has any legitimate claims to the disputed domain name and any current or conceivable future uses of the disputed domain name violate the Policy. This unauthorized use of the disputed domain name by Respondent severely harms Complainant by tarnishing and infringing its trademarks, reputation and goodwill in the U.S. and around the world.
Respondent did not reply to Complainant’s contentions.
6. Discussion and Findings
The Policy adopted by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (“ICANN”) on August 26, 1999, (with implementing documents approved on October 24, 1999), is addressed to resolving disputes concerning allegations of abusive domain name registration. The Panel will confine itself to making determinations necessary to resolve this administrative proceeding.
It is essential to dispute resolution proceedings that fundamental due process requirements be met. Such requirements include that a respondent have notice of proceedings that may substantially affect its rights. The Policy, and the Rules, establish procedures intended to assure that respondents are given adequate notice of proceedings commenced against them, and a reasonable opportunity to respond (see, e.g., paragraph 2(a) of the Rules).
The Center forwarded notification of the Complaint to Respondent via email and the written notice of the proceeding via courier in accordance with the contact details found in the Complaint and in the appropriate WhoIs database confirmed by the Registrar. The Center also forwarded notification of default to Respondent via email.
Based on the methods employed to provide Respondent with notice of the Complaint and default the Panel is satisfied that the Center took all steps reasonably necessary to notify Respondent of the filing of the Complaint and initiation of this proceeding. The Panel also finds that the failure of Respondent to furnish a reply is not due to any omission by the Center.
Paragraph 4(a) of the Policy sets forth three elements that must be established by a complainant to merit a finding that a respondent has engaged in abusive domain name registration, and to obtain relief. These elements are that:
(i) the respondent’s domain name is identical or confusingly similar to a trademark or service mark in which the complainant has rights;
(ii) the respondent has no rights or legitimate interests in respect of the domain name; and
(iii) the respondent’s domain name has been registered and is being used in bad faith.
In the administrative proceeding, the complainant must prove that each of these three elements are present. As Respondent has failed to submit a response to the Complaint, the Panel may accept as true all of the allegations of the Complaint (see, Talk City, Inc. v. Michael Robertson, WIPO Case No. D2000-0009).
A. Identical or Confusingly Similar
Based upon the registered trademarks and service marks for GEICO and the continuous use of the mark, Complainant clearly has rights in the mark. The Panel agrees with Complainant that <cheapneasy‑geico.com> is comprised entirely of Complainant’s registered GEICO mark with the common descriptive terms “cheap n easy”. The GEICO mark is set off from “cheapneasy” with a hyphen, making the dominant portion of the disputed domain name Complainant’s GEICO mark. The fact that the disputed domain name starts with “cheapneasy” does nothing to diminish confusion as <cheapneasy-geico.com> remains confusingly similar to the GEICO mark. Complainant asserts, and the Panel agrees, that the disputed domain name <cheapneasy-geico.com> is confusingly similar to Complainant’s trademark GEICO.
The Panel finds that the disputed domain name <cheapneasy-geico.com> is confusingly similar to the trademark GEICO owned by Complainant pursuant to paragraph 4(a)(i) of the Policy.
B. Rights or Legitimate Interests
Paragraph 4(c) of the Policy lists several circumstances, without limitation, that if found by the Panel shall demonstrate the respondent’s rights or legitimate interests to a domain name for purposes of paragraph 4(a)(ii). In particular, paragraph 4(c) states:
(i) before any notice to you [respondent] 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 has not licensed or authorized Respondent to use its trademarks or service marks in any manner and there has never been any relationship between them.
There is no evidence in the record that would indicate that Respondent has any rights or legitimate interests in respect of the disputed domain name <cheapneasy-geico.com>.
The Panel finds that Respondent has no rights or legitimate interests in respect of the disputed domain name <cheapneasy-geico.com> pursuant to paragraph 4(a)(ii) of the Policy.
C. Registered and Used in Bad Faith
Paragraph 4(b) of the Policy lists several circumstances, without limitation, that if found by the Panel to be present, shall be evidence of the registration and use of a domain name in bad faith.
(i) circumstances indicating that you [respondent] 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 online 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 website or location.
Respondent is clearly attempting to attract Internet users to its website for commercial gain by creating a likelihood of confusion with Complainant’s marks as to the source, sponsorship, affiliation, or endorsement of Respondent’s website. Long after Complainant established its rights in its well-known trademark, Respondent acquired and began commercially using the <cheapneasy-geico.com> domain name to divert Internet traffic intended for Complainant. It can be inferred that Respondent was aware of Complainant’s rights in its GEICO mark when Respondent acquired the disputed domain name, which incorporates the well-known GEICO mark. At a minimum, Respondent had constructive knowledge of Complainant’s marks due to its various trademark and service mark registrations.
The <cheapneasy-geico.com> domain name has been used to deceptively attract Internet users to Respondent’s website, which resolves, via redirection, to a website that purports to offer insurance agent services. Respondent is clearly using the <cheapneasy-geico.com> domain name to intentionally attract Internet users and consumers looking for legitimate GEICO services and/or authorized partners, by creating a likelihood of confusion with Complainant, all for commercial gain.
The Panel finds that Respondent’s registration and use of the disputed domain name, with actual or constructive knowledge of Complainant’s trademark rights, establishes Respondent’s registration and use of the disputed domain name in bad faith pursuant to paragraph 4(a)(iii) 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 name <cheapneasy-geico.com> be transferred to Complainant.
R. Eric Gaum
Date: January 24, 2017