WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center
ADMINISTRATIVE PANEL DECISION
Ally Financial, Ally Detroit Center Inc. v. Rick Wedel
Case No. D2018-0332
1. The Parties
The Complainant is Ally Financial Inc., Ally Detroit Center of Detroit, Michigan, United States of America (“United States”), represented by CSC Digital Brand Services AB, Sweden.
The Respondent is Rick Wedel of Evansville, Indiana, United States.
2. The Domain Names and Registrar
The disputed domain names <allybankonline.com>, <allyinvestments.com>, and <allysecurities.com> are registered with GoDaddy.com, LLC
3. Procedural History
The Complaint was filed with the WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center (the “Center”) on February 14, 2018. On February 14, 2018, the Center transmitted by email to the Registrar a request for registrar verification in connection with the disputed domain names. On February 15, 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 February 16, 2018. In accordance with the Rules, paragraph 5, the due date for Response was March 8, 2018. The Respondent did not submit any response. Accordingly, the Center notified the Respondent’s default on March 9, 2018.
The Center appointed Nicolas Ulmer as the sole panelist in this matter on March 15, 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 is a diversified financial services company, active in automobile loans, insurance and investment management. According to the Complaint and its Annexes, the Complainant has more than USD 71 billion in customer deposits, and its auto subsidiary serves some 18,000 auto dealers with millions of customers. The Complainant holds both ALLY and ALLY BANK trademarks in Class 36 (financial, insurance, monetary and real estate services) registered internationally and in the United States. These trademarks were filed and registered between September 2008 and March 2011.
The three disputed domain names appear to have all been created on May 15, 2009 and fail to resolve to active pages.
5. Parties’ Contentions
The Complainant alleges that it is a major provider of financial services, originally founded in 1919 by General Motors Corporation to provide financing to its automobile purchasers. The Complainant was known as General Motors Acceptance Corporation, or GMAC, until it rebranded itself as Ally in May of 2009; it later became a public company in its own right. The Complainant asserts that that the ALLY name and trademark are very well know and has a strong Internet presence, owning such domain names as <ally.com> and <allyfinancial.com>.
Against this background the Complainant alleges: that the disputed domain names contain the entirety of and are deliberately confusing similar to its trademarks; and that the Respondent has no rights or legitimate interest in the disputed domain names, which were, inter alia, registered on the very day that GMAC launched its public relations and marketing campaign to rebrand itself as Ally. Further the Complainant contends that the disputed domain names were registered in bad faith with knowledge of the Complainant’s and have thereafter been subject to at least passive bad faith use by the Respondent.
The Complainant requests that the disputed domain names be transferred to it.
The Respondent did not reply to the Complainant’s contentions.
6. Discussion and Findings
A. Identical or Confusingly Similar
Each of the three disputed domain names begins with a recitation of one of the Complainant’s trademarks (ALLY or ALLY BANK) following by a generic word (“online”, “investment” or “securities”). The addition of these words as suffixes does not diminish the confusing similarity with the Complainant’s trademarks.
It follows that the three disputed domain names are confusingly similar to the Complainant’s trademarks within the meaning of paragraph 4(a)(i) of the Rules.
B. Rights or Legitimate Interests
The Complainant here needs to establish at least a prima facie case showing that the Respondent has no rights or legitimate interests in respect of the disputed domain names. See Croatia Airlines d.d. v. Modern Empire Internet Ltd., WIPO Case No. D2003-0455. Once such a prima facie case is made, the burden shifts to the Respondent to demonstrate that it has such rights or legitimate interests. See also, Meizu Technology Co., Ltd v. “osama bin laden”, WIPO Case No. DCO2014-002; H & M Hennes & Mauritz AB v. Simon Maufe, Akinsaya Odunayo Emmanuel and Nelson Rivaldo, WIPO Case No. D2014-0225.
In the present case the Complainant has affirmed that it vigorously protects its ALLY and ALLY BANK trademarks and has confirmed and that it has not authorized the Respondent to use such trademarks in a domain name or in any other manner. In addition the Respondent did not reply to the cease and desist letters of the Complainant that asserted that the Respondent had no right to the disputed domain names.
There is furthermore no evidence before the Panel to suggest that the Respondent, who appears to be an individual called Rick Wedel, is also commonly known as “Ally” or “Allybank”, or any other evidence or indicia suggesting that the Respondent has any rights or legitimate interests in the disputed domain names.
The Respondent having failed to answer the Complaint, the Complainant has accordingly met its burden under paragraph 4(a)(ii) of the Policy.
C. Registered and Used in Bad Faith
The Respondent registered the three of the disputed domain names after most of the Complainant’s trademarks were in place and, most pertinently, the very day that the Complainant launched its new corporate “Ally” brand. As noted above all three disputed domain names contain one of the Complainant’s trademarks followed by a suffix that suggests the Complainant’s business. Under these circumstances the Respondent’s registration of the three disputed domain names can hardly have been serendipitous; it is rather clear that the disputed domain names were registered with knowledge of the Complainant’s business interests and prior rights, and with a bad faith motive of infringing on them.
As the disputed domain names currently resolve to inactive sites their bad faith use is less obvious. The Complainant cites Telstra Corporation Limited v. Nuclear Marshmallows, WIPO Case No. D2000-0003 and its progeny and argues that, in the circumstances of this case a “passive” bad faith use is a sufficient finding for transfer under the Policy. Bad faith holding and use of the disputed domain names is also suggested by the Respondent’s failure to reply or act on three cease and desist letters that were sent in April 2016.
The totality of the circumstances in this case does, the Panel rules, demonstrate a motive of bad faith registration and use, even if the latter is presently only passive use and holding. Conversely, there is here no indicia or factor which suggests any past or prospective good faith or legitimate use of the disputed domain names.
For all these reasons the Panel rules that the disputed domain names have been registered and used in bad faith within the meaning of 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 <allybankonline.com>, <allyinvestments.com>, and <allysecurities.com> be transferred to the Complainant.
Date: March 29, 2018