WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center
ADMINISTRATIVE PANEL DECISION
The Commissioners for HM Revenue and Customs v. Name Redacted
Case No. D2017-0501
1. The Parties
Complainant is The Commissioners for HM Revenue and Customs of London, United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland (“United Kingdom” or “UK”), represented by Demys Limited, United Kingdom.
Respondent is Name Redacted of East Sussex, United Kingdom.
2. The Domain Names and Registrar
The disputed domain names <hmrc-taxerefund.com>, <hmrevenuecustom.com>, <hmrevenuecustomes.com> and <hmrevenuecustomstaxrefund.com> are registered with eNom, Inc. (the “Registrar”).
3. Procedural History
The Complaint was filed with the WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center (the “Center”) on March 10, 2017. On March 10, 2017, the Center transmitted by email to the Registrar a request for registrar verification in connection with the disputed domain names. On March 10, 2017, the Registrar transmitted by email to the Center its verification response confirming that 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 Respondent of the Complaint, and the proceedings commenced on March 31, 2017. In accordance with the Rules, paragraph 5, the due date for Response was April 20, 2017. Respondent did not submit any response. Accordingly, the Center notified Respondent’s default on April 21, 2017.
The Center appointed Lynda J. Zadra-Symes as the sole panelist in this matter on April 28, 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 is a non-ministerial department of the United Kingdom Government, responsible for the collection of taxes, the payment of some forms of state support and the administration of other regulatory regimes. Complainant is accountable for safeguarding the flow of money to the Exchequer through its collection, compliance and enforcement activities and ensures that money is available to fund the UK’s public services. Complainant also administers staturoy payments within the UK, such as statutory sick pay and statutory maternity pay and it helps families and individuals with targeted financial support through the payment of tax credits. Almost every UK individual and business is a direct customer of Complainant.
Complainant in its present form was created by the merger of the Inland Revenue and HM Customs and Excise in April 2005 and has used HM REVENUE & CUSTOMS mark in relation to the above services since its creation. Complainant owns a UK trademark registration for HMRC, registered on March 28, 2008.
Complainant operates a website under the United Kingdom Government’s “gov.uk” portal at “www.gov.uk/government/organisations/hm-revenue-customs”, which can also be accessed through the domain name <hmrc.gov.uk>.
Complainant notes that, as with other tax authorities, it and its customers are frequently targeted by phishing and other online scams. Complainant submitted several articles discussing the characteristics of online scams which target the Complainant and demonstrate the scale of the problem.
On January 9, 2017, Complainant’s agent wrote to Respondent notifying Respondent that the disputed domain names <hmrevenuecustomstaxrefund.com> and <hmrc-taxerefund.com> are identical or confusingly similar to Complainant’s marks and requesting transfer of the disputed domain names to Complainant. On January 12, 2017, Respondent emailed Complainant’s agent and claimed he never created or used the disputed domain names <hmrevenuecustomstaxrefund.com> and <hmrc-taxerefund.com>, and that this was a case of identify theft.
Complainant notes that little is known about Respondent’s true identity. The email address in the WhoIs record differs from the email address that Respondent used for his correspondence.
In light of Respondent’s statements, at Complainant’s suggestion, the Panel has redacted Respondent’s details from this decision.
The disputed domain names were all registered in March 2016. The disputed domain names <hmrevenuecustomstaxrefund.com>, <hmrc-taxerefund.com> and <hmrevenuecustomes.com> resolve to a website indicating that the respective hosting provider has taken action to take down the original sites. Each now displays the notice:
“This site is being used for fraudulent purposes and violates the hosting provider’s terms of service.”
The disputed domain name <hmrevenuecustom.com> does not resolve to an active website.
5. Parties’ Contentions
Complainant contends that the disputed domain names are identical or confusingly similar to Complainant’s trade names and trademarks, that Respondent is not known by those domain names or marks and has no rights or legitimate interests in respect of the disputed domain names and that the disputed domain names were registered and are being used in bad faith.
Respondent did not reply to Complainant’s contentions.
6. Discussion and Findings
Complainant has the burden of proving each of the following three elements under paragraph 4(a) of the Policy in order to be entitled to a transfer of the disputed domain names:
(i) That the disputed domain names are identical or confusingly similar to a trademark or service mark in which Complainant has rights; and
(ii) That Respondent has no rights or legitimate interests in respect of the disputed domain names; and
(iii) That the disputed domain names have been registered and are being used in bad faith.
A. Identical or Confusingly Similar
Complainant asserts unregistered rights in the term HM REVENUE & CUSTOMS and registered rights in the term HMRC. Complainant contends that it is very well known in the United Kingdom and beyond as HMRC, as evidenced by search engine results from “www.google.co.uk” for the term “HMRC,” and by several articles Complainant submitted which refer to the Complainant by the term HMRC. Complainant is also well known by its fuller title “HM Revenue & Customs” as indicated by the use of this name on its website, its recognition as noted in numerous articles and legislation which created the Complainant, and in search results from “www.google.co.uk” for the term “HM Revenue & Customs” which all relate to Complainant.
The Panel is satisfied that Complainant has unregistered rights in HM REVENUE & CUSTOMS as well as registered rights in HMRC and finds that the disputed domain names are confusingly similar to Complainant’s trademarks.
B. Rights or Legitimate Interests
Based on previous UDRP decisions, “a complainant is required to make out a prima facie case that the respondent lacks rights or legitimate interests. Once such a prima facie case is made, the burden of production shifts to the respondent to come forward with appropriate allegations or evidence demonstrating rights or legitimate interests in the domain name. If the respondent fails to come forward with such appropriate allegations or evidence, a complainant is generally deemed to have satisfied paragraph 4(a)(ii) of the UDRP”. See WIPO Overview 2.0 of WIPO Panel Views on Selected UDRP Questions, Second Edition (“WIPO Overview 2.0”), paragraph 2.1.
Complainant’s allegations in the Complaint and evidence submitted on this issue are sufficient to make out a prima facie case that Respondent has no rights or legitimate interests in the disputed domain names.
Respondent has not made use of the disputed domain names in connection with a bona fide offering of goods or services. Three of the disputed domain names resolve to a web page stating that the disputed domain names have been used for fraudulent purposes. The remaining disputed domain name, <hmrevenuecustom.com>, does not resolve to any website and is being passively held.
Respondent has not submitted any evidence showing that he has any rights or legitimate interests in the disputed domain names. To the contrary, it appears that Respondent has used the name and contact details of a third party to register the disputed domain names to evade or frustrate the proceeding.
The Panel finds that Respondent has no rights or legitimate interests in respect of the disputed domain names.
C. Registered and Used in Bad Faith
Paragraph 4(b) of the Policy lists a number of circumstances that, without limitation, are deemed to be evidence of registration and use of a domain name in bad faith. Circumstances that “shall be evidence” of bad faith include facts indicating an intentional attempt to attract for commercial gain Internet users to a website by creating a likelihood of confusion with another’s mark as to the source, sponsorship, affiliation, or endorsement of the website.
Complainant contends that Respondent registered the disputed domain name <hmrevenuecustom.com> in bad faith and that its continuing passive holding of the disputed domain name constitutes bad faith. Complainant’s trade names and marks are widely known and therefore it is highly unlikely that Respondent was unaware of Complainant’s trademark when registering the disputed domain name. The evidence indicates that Respondent has registered the disputed domain name for the purpose of attracting Internet users to Respondent’s website by creating a likelihood of confusion with Complainant’s trademark as to the source, sponsorship, affiliation or endorsement of Respondent’s website.
In addition, the disputed domain names <hmrevenuecustomstaxrefund.com>, <hmrc-taxerefund.com> and <hmrevenuecustomes.com> have had their web hosting suspended as a result of fraudulent activities. This is evidence of bad faith registration and use of the disputed domain names. Furthermore, the named registrant’s allegations of identity theft are entirely consistent with the disputed domain names being registered and used for fraudulent purposes, and there is no conceivable good faith reason for an entity to register the disputed domain names in the name of an unwitting third party.
The Panel finds that the disputed domain names have been registered and are being used in bad faith.
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 <hmrc-taxerefund.com>, <hmrevenuecustom.com>, <hmrevenuecustomes.com> and <hmrevenuecustomstaxrefund.com> be transferred to the Complainant.
Lynda J. Zadra-Symes
Date: May 12, 2017