WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center
ADMINISTRATIVE PANEL DECISION
Ameris Bancorp v. WhoisGuard Protected, WhoisGuard, Inc. / King Samson
Case No. D2018-0844
1. The Parties
The Complainant is Ameris Bancorp of Moultrie, Georgia, United States of America (“United States”), represented by SafeNames Ltd., United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland (“United Kingdom”).
The Respondent is WhoisGuard Protected, WhoisGuard, Inc. of Panama City, Panama / King Samson of Asaba, Nigeria.
2. The Domain Name and Registrar
The disputed domain name <amerisbankonline.com> is registered with NameCheap, Inc. (the “Registrar”).
3. Procedural History
The Complaint was filed with the WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center (the “Center”) on April 16, 2018. On April 17, 2018, the Center transmitted by email to the Registrar a request for registrar verification in connection with the disputed domain name. On April 17, 2018, the Registrar transmitted by email to the Center its verification response disclosing registrant and contact information for the disputed domain name which differed from the named Respondent and contact information in the Complaint. The Center sent an email communication to the Complainant on April 18, 2018 providing the registrant and contact information disclosed by the Registrar, and inviting the Complainant to submit an amendment to the Complaint. The Complainant filed an amended Complaint on April 18, 2018.
The Center verified that the Complaint together with the amended 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 19, 2018. In accordance with the Rules, paragraph 5, the due date for Response was May 9, 2018. The Respondent did not submit any response. Accordingly, the Center notified the Respondent’s default on May 11, 2018.
The Center appointed Jacob (Changjie) Chen as the sole panelist in this matter on May 29, 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 Ameris Bancorp, a financial holding company founded in 1971 and listed on NASDAQ since 1994. The Complainant is extensively known in the United States for offering a full range of banking services, and is the owner of trade mark AMERIS BANK, registered on November 13, 2007, Registration No. 3337456. Further, the Complainant registered domain name <amerisbank.com> in October 2005 and has been active since December 2005.
The Respondent, King Samson registered the disputed domain name on November 16, 2017. The disputed domain name does not resolve to an active website. The Complainant submitted evidence that the disputed domain name was used in relation with phishing activities and resolved to a banking services website containing the Complainant’s AMERIS BANK trade mark.
5. Parties’ Contentions
The Complainant contends that the disputed domain name is identical or confusingly similar to the trade mark or service mark in which the Complainant has rights.
The Complainant further contends that the Respondent has no rights or legitimate interests in respect of the disputed domain name.
The Complainant finally contends that the disputed domain name was registered and is being used in bad faith. The Complainant asserts that the Respondent registered the disputed domain name with the knowledge of the AMERIS BANK trade mark, which would constitute bad faith in the registration. Further, the Respondent has been illegitimately using the disputed domain name for personal gain.
The Respondent did not reply to the Complainant’s contentions.
6. Discussion and Findings
A. Identical or Confusingly Similar
The Complainant is the owner of the trade mark AMERIS BANK which was registered on November 13, 2007, ten years earlier than the registration date of the disputed domain name. The Complainant has successfully established its rights over the trade mark.
The disputed domain name <amerisbankonline.com> incorporates the Complainant’s trade mark AMERIS BANK in its entirety. Previous UDRP panels have established that incorporation of a complainant’s distinctive trade mark in its entirety into a domain name is sufficient to establish that the domain name is identical or confusingly similar to the complainant’s trade mark. The addition of the descriptive term “online” is not sufficient to avoid confusion between the Complainant’s mark and the disputed domain name. See Ally Financial, Ally Detroit Center Inc. v. Rick Wedel, WIPO Case No. D2018-0332.
As such, the Panel holds that the disputed domain name is confusingly similar to the Complainant’s trade mark.
B. Rights or Legitimate Interests
The Panel is satisfied that the Complainant has made out a prima facie case that the Respondent does not have rights or legitimate interests in the disputed domain name. The burden of production is hence shifted to the Respondent to rebut the Complainant’s contentions. In this case, the Respondent’s failure to submit a response to rebut the Complainant’s prima facie case is deemed to have satisfied paragraph 4(a)(ii) of the Policy according to the WIPO Overview of WIPO Panel Views on Selected UDRP Questions, Third Edition (“WIPO Overview”), section 4.3.
Therefore, the Panel concludes that the Respondent has no rights or legitimate interests in the disputed domain name.
C. Registered and Used in Bad Faith
The Panel notes that the disputed domain name was registered in November 2017, ten years after the registration date of the Complainant’s trade mark. Further, the disputed domain name does not resolve to an active website. The Complainant also evidenced that the disputed domain name resolved to a website offering banking service with the presence of the Complainant’s trade mark AMERIS BANK, used in relation with phishing activities. The use of a domain name for phishing activities can never confer rights or legitimate interests on a respondent. See WIPO Overview 3.0, section 2.13.1. Besides, given the reputation of the Complainant and the previous content website, the Panel holds that the Respondent must have been aware of the Complainant’s trade mark and/or services at the time of registering the disputed domain name. Without any rights or legitimate interests, the Respondent’s registration of the disputed domain name is indicative of bad faith.
The Panel further observes that the addition of the generic term “online” to the Complainant’s trade mark creates a likelihood of confusion between the disputed domain name and the Complainant’s offering of goods or services. By registering the disputed domain name, the Respondent has intentionally attempted to trade on the goodwill associated with the Complainant’s mark, to attract traffic to the website under the disputed domain name, and profit therefrom. Hence, the bad faith evident in the use of the disputed domain name can be established under paragraph 4(b)(iv) of the Policy.
For the reasons above, the Panel concludes that the Respondent has registered and is using the disputed domain name 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 <amerisbankonline.com> be transferred to the Complainant.
Jacob (Changjie) Chen
Date: June 7, 2018