WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center
ADMINISTRATIVE PANEL DECISION
Facebook, Inc. v. Naresh Bali
Case No. D2017-2510
1. The Parties
The Complainant is Facebook, Inc., of Menlo Park, California, United States of America (“United States”), represented by Hogan Lovells (Paris) LLP, France.
The Respondent is Naresh Bali, of Delhi, India.
2. The Domain Names and Registrar
The disputed domain names <facebook-customerservice.com>, <facebookcustomerservice.net>, <facebook‑phonenumber.com> and <facebookphonenumber.net> are 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 18, 2017. On December 19, 2017, the Center transmitted by email to the Registrar a request for registrar verification in connection with the disputed domain names. On January 3, 2018, 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 January 3, 2018. In accordance with the Rules, paragraph 5, the due date for Response was January 23, 2018. The Respondent did not submit any response. Accordingly, the Center notified the Respondent’s default on January 25, 2018.
The Center appointed Tobias Zuberbühler as the sole panelist in this matter on February 7, 2018. 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, Facebook, Inc. is a leading provider of online social networking services. Through its main website, “www.facebook.com”, and the associated app, Facebook allows Internet users to stay connected with and share information with friends and family. Since its launch in 2004, Facebook experienced exponential growth and rapidly gained considerable popularity and recognition worldwide. According to the Complainant, today, Facebook has over 1.94 billion monthly active users and 1.28 billion daily active users all around the world. The Complainant’s main website is the world’s third most visited website, and its mobile app is one of the most frequently downloaded apps on the market.
The Complainant is the proprietor of trademark registrations consisting of the term FACEBOOK in several jurisdictions throughout the world, including in India, where the Respondent is based. Such trademark registrations include Indian trademark no. 1622925, registered on November 9, 2011; United States trademark no. 3041791, registered on January 10, 2006; United States trademark no. 3122052, registered on July 25, 2006; European Union trade mark no. 004535381, registered on June 22, 2011; International Trademark no. 1075094, registered on July 16, 2010. Details of these trademarks were annexed to the Complaint. The Complainant also owns numerous domain names consisting of or including the term “facebook”. The worldwide renown of the Complainant’s FACEBOOK trademark has been confirmed by previous UDRP panels (e.g., Facebook, Inc. v. Mirza Azim, WIPO Case No. D2016-0950; Facebook, Inc. v. Sleek Names, SL Names, VSAUDHA, WIPO Case No. D2015-0547; Facebook, Inc. v. He Wenming, WIPO Case No. DCC2013-0004).
The Respondent is a private person based in India.
All four disputed domain names were registered on March 17, 2017. The disputed domain names are active and resolve to websites that purportedly offer technical support services for Facebook users via a telephone hotline. All four websites contain similar disclaimers at the bottom of the page, underlining that they are run by an independent service provider “with no affiliation with any of the third-party services available in the market” and that the logos, trademarks, brands and services of third-parties available on the website are for referential purposes only.
5. Parties’ Contentions
In summary, the Complainant contends the following:
The four disputed domain names are identical or confusingly similar to the Complainant’s FACEBOOK trademark, as they incorporate this trademark in its entirety with the addition of the generic terms “customer service” and “phone number”, respectively.
The Respondent has no rights or legitimate interests in respect of the disputed domain names, as the Respondent is not a licensee of the Complainant, nor has he been otherwise authorized to make any use of the Complainant’s FACEBOOK trademark, in a domain name or otherwise. Given that the disputed domain names falsely suggest association with the Complainant, the Respondent can neither invoke a bona fide offering of goods and services nor a legitimate noncommercial or fair use in the sense of the Policy. Furthermore, the fact that the websites have a similar look and feel as the Complainant’s official help webpages may lead Internet users to believe that they have reached one of the Complainant’s official customer care portals. This is especially so in the case of Internet users who neglect or fail to understand the disclaimer at the bottom of the pages.
The Respondent is using the disputed domain names as part of a scam to perpetrate illegitimate activities, including hacking Facebook users’ accounts or installing malware. The following are viewed by the Complainant as strong indications of fraudulent activity in connection with the disputed domain names: The toll-free telephone number displayed on the websites associated with the disputed domain names has been reported as a scam number targeting Microsoft users. The Complainant has never endorsed any third-party customer services provided through a toll-free number and has even published a notice on its official help forum warning users that any phone number for Facebook support is most likely a scam. LinkedIn has suspended a slideshow related to the same toll-free telephone number from its presentation channel for its illegitimate nature and violation of LinkedIn’s policies. Although all four websites associated with the disputed domain names are apparently operated by the same entity, they display widely different logos, which are probably fake and intended to mislead Internet users.
Given the Complainant’s notoriety and the fact that the FACEBOOK trademark is exclusively associated with the Complainant, the Respondent cannot credibly claim that it is commonly known by the disputed domain names.
The disputed domain names were registered and are being used in bad faith. Since the Complainant’s FACEBOOK trademark is highly distinctive and famous throughout the world, and also considering the nature of the Respondent’s websites, which purportedly provide Facebook customer services and imitate the look and feel of the Complainant’s official help pages, it stands to reason that the Respondent registered the disputed domain names in full knowledge of the Complainant’s rights and therefore in bad faith. By registering four domain names that incorporate the Complainant’s FACEBOOK trademark, the Respondent has engaged in a pattern of conduct intended to prevent the Complainant from reflecting its trademark in a corresponding domain name.
By imitating the look and feel of the Complainant’s official help pages and even featuring the Complainant’s FACEBOOK and “f” logos (particularly on the website associated with the disputed domain name
<facebook-phonenumber.com>), the Respondent has deliberately designed its websites to attract Internet users who are looking for the Complainant’s support services and divert them to its own websites for financial gain. The likelihood that the Respondent is using the disputed domain names as part of a scam to access Facebook users’ personal information shows its bad faith.
The Respondent did not reply to the Complainant’s contentions.
6. Discussion and Findings
A. Identical or Confusingly Similar
In light of the evidence on file, the Panel has no hesitation in finding that the Complainant has rights in the FACEBOOK trademark.
The disputed domain names consist of the Complainant’s FACEBOOK trademark with the addition of the terms “customer service” and “phone number”, with and without a hyphen. The generic Top-Level Domains (“gTLD”s) “.com” and “.net”, as standard registration requirements, may be disregarded under the first element of the Policy (see, in this context, the WIPO Overview of WIPO Panel Views on Selected UDRP Questions, Third Edition, “WIPO Overview 3.0”, section 1.11). The Complainant’s distinctive trademark is fully recognizable in all four disputed domain names. The additional terms “customer service” and “phone number”, respectively, do not serve to distinguish the disputed domain names from the Complainant’s trademark. Moreover, since the Complainant itself offers customer support services on its official website, the addition of these terms may reinforce the confusing similarity. Accordingly, the Panel finds that the disputed domain names are identical or confusingly similar to the Complainant’s trademark.
The Complainant has thus satisfied the requirement under paragraph 4(a)(i) of the Policy.
B. Rights or Legitimate Interests
There are no indications before the Panel of any right or legitimate interest of the Respondent in respect of the disputed domain names. The Respondent is using the disputed domain names to resolve to websites which make unauthorized use of the Complainant’s FACEBOOK trademark as well as the Complainant’s logo, and which allegedly offer customer support with Facebook privacy and security issues. On all four websites associated with the disputed domain names, there are countless mentions of the Complainant and its services. Overall, these websites create the false impression for Internet users that they are somehow connected with the Complainant and its services. The Respondent’s disclaimer, placed at the bottom of the screen, does little to dissipate this impression. An Internet user visiting the Respondent’s websites will immediately have her attention drawn by the hotline number in large print and (at least in the case of the disputed domain name <facebook-phonenumber.com>) also by the Complainant’s logo, which are very prominently displayed in the top section of the page. Users may even overlook the disclaimer entirely, if they do not scroll all the way down to the bottom of the page.
Based on the Complainant’s credible contentions, the Panel finds that the Complainant, having made out a prima facie case which remains unrebutted by the Respondent, has fulfilled the requirements of paragraph 4(a)(ii) of the Policy.
C. Registered and Used in Bad Faith
Given the fame and worldwide recognition of the Complainant’s FACEBOOK trademark, the fact that the Complainant’s trademark registrations predate the registration of the disputed domain names, as well as the fact that the Respondent specifically refers to the Complainant’s social networking services on its websites, it is clear that the Respondent had knowledge of the Complainant and its rights in the FACEBOOK trademark when registering the disputed domain names.
Furthermore, the fact that the Respondent has simultaneously registered four domain names, all incorporating the Complainant’s FACEBOOK trademark, is indicative of a pattern of abusive registration within the meaning of paragraph 4(b)(ii) of the Policy.
It also appears plausible that the Respondent is using the disputed domain names in an attempt to attract Internet users to its websites – most probably with a view to commercial gain – by creating a likelihood of confusion with the Complainant’s trademark and services. The likelihood that the Respondent is using the disputed domain names as part of an illegitimate operation aimed at obtaining the personal information of Facebook users poses a safety risk and is damaging to the Complainant’s reputation. This constitutes bad faith use in accordance with paragraph 4(b)(iv) of the Policy.
The Respondent’s bad faith cannot be cured by the existence of a disclaimer displayed on the bottom of its websites. Reference is made, in this context, to the WIPO Overview 3.0, section 3.7, emphasizing that, where the overall circumstances point to a respondent’s bad faith, the use of a disclaimer may even be viewed as an admission by the respondent that users may be confused. Such is the case here.
The Panel finds that the Complainant has also satisfied 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 names <facebook-customerservice.com>, <facebookcustomerservice.net>, <facebook-phonenumber.com> and <facebookphonenumber.net> be transferred to the Complainant.
Date: February 20, 2018