WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center
ADMINISTRATIVE PANEL DECISION
Littelfuse, Inc. v. Michael Yao, littel-fuse
Case No. D2017-0649
1. The Parties
The Complainant is Littelfuse, Inc. of Chicago, Illinois, United States of America (“United States”), represented by Kacvinsky, Daisak Bluni, PLLC, United States.
The Respondent is Michael Yao, littel-fuse of San Diego, California, United States.
2. The Domain Name and Registrar
The disputed domain name <littel-fuse.com> is registered with Wild West Domains, LLC (the “Registrar”).
3. Procedural History
The Complaint was filed with the WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center (the “Center”) on March 30, 2017. On March 31, 2017, the Center transmitted by email to the Registrar a request for registrar verification in connection with the disputed domain name. On April 3, 2017, 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 20, 2017. In accordance with the Rules, paragraph 5, the due date for Response was May 10, 2017. The Respondent did not submit any response. Accordingly, the Center notified the Respondent’s default on May 11, 2017.
The Center appointed Richard G. Lyon as the sole panelist in this matter on May 16, 2017. The Panel finds that it was properly constituted and has jurisdiction to decide this administrative proceeding. The Panel has submitted his 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 is a United States-based manufacturer of circuit protection and other electronic products. The Complainant sells these products in many countries, directly and through distributors. The Complainant holds trademarks for LITTELFUSE, duly registered with the appropriate trademark authorities, in the United States, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, China, and internationally. Its United States trademark was registered in 1976. The Complainant’s principal website is “www.littelfuse.com”.
The Respondent registered the disputed domain name in March 2017. At no time has the disputed domain name resolved to an active website; when the Panel entered it into his browser he was directed to a parked page entitled “Do more with your website.” Use of the disputed domain name for email communications is discussed in Sections 5.A and 6.
5. Parties’ Contentions
The Complainant contends as follows:
1. The disputed domain name is confusingly similar to the Complainant’s registered trademarks, differing only by the addition of a hyphen between “littel” and “fuse.”
2. The Respondent lacks rights or a legitimate interest in the disputed domain name. Nothing suggests that the Respondent has been known in any manner by the phrase “littelfuse” and the Complainant has not authorized the Respondent to use its LITTELFUSE marks. The Respondent has never used the disputed domain name for any bona fide offering of goods or services, using it instead only to impersonate the Complainant, as the address for emails sent under the name of one of the Complainant’s officers.
3. The Respondent’s use of the disputed domain name for fraudulent emails indicates that the Respondent registered and used the disputed domain name in bad faith.
The Respondent did not reply to the Complainant’s contentions.
6. Discussion and Findings
The addition of a hyphen into the Complainant’s registered LITTELFUSE marks obviously does not obviate the disputed domain name’s confusing similarity with those marks. The Complainant has made its prima facie case that the Respondent lacks rights or legitimate interests in the disputed domain name, and nothing in the record and nothing the Panel can find so much as suggests the contrary.1 The Complainant has carried its burden of proof under clauses (i) and (ii) of paragraph 4(a) of the Policy.
The allegations in the Complaint, if proven, would suffice to establish bad faith in registration and use. Use of a domain name for email involving phishing, false employment offers, or similar actionable misrepresentation constitutes bad faith; stated differently, nothing in the Policy requires website use to demonstrate bad faith.2 The Panel finds that the Complainant has proven these allegations, although upon grounds somewhat different than argued in the Complaint.
The Complainant asserts that its LITTELFUSE marks are “well known, unique and distinctive”, at least in their market niche, and that accordingly “the Respondent clearly had knowledge or reasonably should have had knowledge of the Complainant’s prior use and registration of the LITTELFUSE trademark.” There is no proof, however, to support the predicate for this reasoning. The only support for the claim of a well-known trademark is counsel’s statement in the Complaint to that effect, with no evidence. Policy, paragraph 4(a) (“the complainant must prove that each of these three elements are present”; emphasis supplied); Rules, paragraph 3(b)(xv). Proof is required. Nor does the failure of the Respondent to submit a response constitute an admission of the Complainant’s unsupported allegations. See WIPO Overview of WIPO Panel Views on Selected UDRP Questions, Third Edition (“WIPO Overview 3.0”), paragraph 4.3.
The Complainant has submitted samples of emails sent from the address incorporating the disputed domain name, purportedly sent by an officer of the Complainant, soliciting bids for products and services. On their face these appear genuine, as might be expected in an impersonation scam. To some extent the charges that these are fraudulent evince the unsupported allegation of a well-known mark. But there is an additional fact that reveals the Respondent’s prior knowledge of the Complainant and its marks and an intent to target them. The Complainant’s marks use a variant spelling of “little”, adding a distinctive feature to what might be deemed an arguably descriptive phrase (“little fuse”). Just as typosquatting – an intentional misspelling of a complainant’s mark – almost per se demonstrates prior knowledge and targeting (see WIPO Overview 3.0, paragraph 1.9), so too does copying the mark’s distinctive feature (the misspelling, if you will) verbatim. Choosing “little fuse” might have been innocent or coincidental; not so “littel fuse.” Taken together with the emails from an address incorporating the disputed domain name, with this fact the Complainant has established registration and use 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 name <littel-fuse.com> be transferred to the Complainant.
Richard G. Lyon
Date: May 24, 2017
1 Obviously the Respondent’s using the mark, hyphenated, in its registration contact details does not qualify as being “commonly known by” the phrase “littel-fuse”. The defense in paragraph 4(c)(ii) of the Policy requires being commonly known independently of the disputed domain name.
2 E.g., Valero Energy Corporation and Valero Marketing and Supply Company v. Rodney Ballard, WIPO Case No. D2017-0086 (“Nothing in the Policy requires that bad faith use be done on a website and this Panel sees no reason to impose such a limitation”); Terex Corporation v. Williams Sid, Partners Associate, WIPO Case No. D2014-1742.