WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center
ADMINISTRATIVE PANEL DECISION
Credit Karma, Inc. v. David Autry
Case No. D2017-1819
1. The Parties
The Complainant is Credit Karma, Inc. of San Francisco, California, United States of America ("United States"), represented by Reed Smith LLP, United States.
The Respondent is David Autry of Bronx, New York, United States.
2. The Domain Name and Registrar
The disputed domain name <karmacreditscore.com> is registered with Tucows Inc. (the "Registrar").
3. Procedural History
The Complaint was filed with the WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center (the "Center") on September 20, 2017. On September 21, 2017, the Center transmitted by email to the Registrar a request for registrar verification in connection with the Domain Name. On September 21, 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 September 26, 2017. In accordance with the Rules, paragraph 5, the due date for Response was October 16, 2017. The Respondent did not submit any response. Accordingly, the Center notified the Respondent's default on October 17, 2017.
The Center appointed W. Scott Blackmer as the sole panelist in this matter on October 26, 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
The Complainant is a business corporation organized under the laws of the State of Delaware, United States and headquartered in San Francisco, California, United States. Established in 2007, the Complainant offers online free credit reports (including an individual's numerical credit score as reported by major credit reporting agencies) and a variety of personal financial management services to members in the United States and Canada. The company's services are heavily advertised online and in broadcast, cable, outdoor, and print media, and the company currently claims more than 75 million members and annual revenues of some USD 350 million.
The Complainant holds U.S. trademark registrations for CREDIT KARMA as a standard character mark (Registration Number 4014356, registered August 23, 2011) and as the dominant feature of a design mark (Registration Number 5057486, registered October 11, 2016), claiming first use in commerce since February 2008. The record includes substantial evidence of the use of the mark in sales and advertising, as well as media references and public recognition in the form of awards highlighting the company's innovation, rapid growth, consumer benefits, and workplace advantages.
The Complainant operates a website at "www.creditkarma.com" and owns more than 350 domain names incorporating the CREDIT KARMA mark, including derivatives similar to the Domain Name such as <creditkarmascores.com>, <freescoreceditkarma.com>, and <creditkarmareviews.com>.
According to the Registrar, the Domain Name was created on August 29, 2008 and is currently registered in the name of the Respondent, who is apparently an individual residing in the State of New York, United States. The Domain Name resolves to a website headed, "Karma Credit Score", with the tag line, "Your Karma Footprint", accompanied by a photograph of a young girl. The website appears to be incomplete or under development. The second page merely displays random animal photographs, graphic designs, and Latin phrases.
5. Parties' Contentions
The Complainant asserts that the Domain Name is confusingly similar to its CREDIT KARMA trademark and that the Respondent has no rights or legitimate interests in the Domain Name.
The Complainant argues that the Respondent must have had actual or constructive knowledge of the Complainant's famous mark and infers that the Respondent acted in bad faith to create a false impression of association with the Complainant and mislead Internet users, presumably for ultimate commercial gain.
The Respondent did not reply to the Complainant's contentions.
6. Discussion and Findings
Paragraph 4(a) of the Policy provides that in order to divest a respondent of a disputed domain name, a complainant must demonstrate each of the following:
(i) the disputed 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 the disputed domain name; and
(iii) the disputed domain name has been registered and is being used in bad faith.
Under paragraph 15(a) of the Rules, "A Panel shall decide a complaint on the basis of the statements and documents submitted and in accordance with the Policy, these Rules and any rules and principles of law that it deems applicable."
A. Identical or Confusingly Similar
The Complainant indisputably holds registered CREDIT KARMA trademarks. The Domain Name inverts the words of this well-known and adds the dictionary word "score", which does not avoid confusion, particularly as the mark is associated with credit scores as a principal offering.
The first element of a UDRP complaint "serves essentially as a standing requirement" and entails "a straightforward visual or aural comparison of the trademark with the alphanumeric string in the domain name". See WIPO Overview of WIPO Panel Views on Selected UDRP Questions, Third Edition ("WIPO Overview 3.0"), section 1.7. The Panel concludes under this test that the Domain Name is confusingly similar to the Complainant's mark for purposes of the first element of the Policy.
B. Rights or Legitimate Interests
Paragraph 4(c) of the Policy gives non-exclusive examples of instances in which the Respondent may establish rights or legitimate interests in the Domain Name, by demonstrating any of the following:
(i) before any notice to it of the dispute, the Respondent's 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) that the Respondent has been commonly known by the Domain Name, even if it has acquired no trademark or service mark rights; or
(iii) the Respondent is 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.
Since a respondent in a UDRP proceeding is in the best position to assert rights or legitimate interests in a disputed domain name, it is well established that after a complainant makes a prima facie case, the burden of production to show rights or legitimate interests in the disputed domain name shifts to the respondent. See WIPO Overview 3.0, section 2.1.
Here, the Complainant has demonstrated trademark rights and confusing similarity, and the Complainant denies any association with the Respondent. The Respondent has not come forward to assert any rights or legitimate interests in the Domain Name, and none are evident from the Domain Name itself or from any use of the Domain Name. There is no indication of a company or offering with a related name, and the associated website does not actually provide information or services concerning credit, nor does it publish a discussion of the Complainant. The Panel concludes, therefore, that the second element of the Policy has been established.
C. Registered and Used in Bad Faith
The Policy, paragraph 4(b), furnishes a non-exhaustive list of circumstances that "shall be evidence of the registration and use of a domain name in bad faith", including the following (in which "you" refers to the registrant of the domain name):
"(iv) by using the domain name, you have intentionally attempted to attract, for commercial gain, Internet users to your website or other on-line 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 or service on your website or location."
The record includes strong evidence on which the Complainant bases a claim for common law rights in CREDIT KARMA from 2007 or early 2008, before its trademark was registered and before the Domain Name was created. Even assuming that this Respondent was the original registrant of the Domain Name in August 2008, it is likely that the Respondent was aware of the Complainant's well-advertised mark at that time, given the publicity surrounding the Complainant's "free credit score" offerings. The mark is distinctive and fanciful, and the record shows that the Complainant quickly established a broad reputation with the mark in the United States and Canada. The Respondent has not come forward to offer any explanation for selecting a confusingly similar Domain Name other than as a reference to the Complainant's mark. Hence, although the Respondent has done little to date to develop the website associated with the Domain Name and the website is today "under development", the Panel concludes that it is more probable than not that the Domain Name was selected with an intent to mislead Internet users as to source or affiliation with the Complainant. The Panel finds that this amounts to bad faith for Policy purposes, even if the Respondent has not yet monetized the Domain Name. See WIPO Overview 3.0, section 3.3 (summarizing such "passive holding" cases). It is possible to hypothesize an arguably fair use of the Domain Name, perhaps even as a parody of the Complainant's mark for a noncommercial website exploring the philosophical concept of karma. But the Internet Archive does not reveal a developed website making such use of the Domain Name in more than nine years since the Domain Name was registered, and the Respondent has not claimed intentions or plans for such use.
The Panel concludes on this record that the third elements of the Policy, bad faith registration and use, have been established.
For the foregoing reasons, in accordance with paragraphs 4(i) of the Policy and 15 of the Rules, the Panel orders that the Domain Name <karmacreditscore.com> be transferred to the Complainant.
W. Scott Blackmer
Date: November 8, 2017