WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center

ADMINISTRATIVE PANEL DECISION

Azim Hasham Premji and Wipro Limited v. WhoisGuard Protected, WhoisGuard, Inc. / Samuel George

Case No. D2018-0879

1. The Parties

The Complainants are Azim Hasham Premji and Wipro Limited, of Bangalore, India, represented by K&S Partners, India.

The Respondent is WhoisGuard Protected, WhoisGuard, Inc. of Panama, Panama / Samuel George of Benin City, Nigeria.

2. The Domain Name and Registrar

The disputed domain name <azimhashimpremji.com> (the "disputed domain name") 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 19, 2018. On April 19, 2018, the Center transmitted by email to the Registrar a request for registrar verification in connection with the disputed domain name. On April 19, 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 27, 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 30, 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 May 2, 2018. In accordance with the Rules, paragraph 5, the due date for Response was May 22, 2018. The Respondent did not submit any response. Accordingly, the Center notified the Respondent's default on May 24, 2018.

The Center appointed William R. Towns as the sole panelist in this matter on June 3, 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.

The Panel on June 26, 2018, issued a procedural order inviting the Complainant to provide a supplemental submission on or before July 3, 2018, regarding the relationship between the Complainants and the Azim Premji Foundation, Azim Premji University, and the Azim Premji Foundation for Development. The Respondent was provided until July 10, 2018, to file a response to the Complainant's submission. The Complainants filed their supplemental submission with the Center on July 2, 2018, providing written authorization from these entities to use of their trademarks (referred below) in the context of the current proceeding. The Respondent, although afforded an opportunity to do so, did not offer a response.

4. Factual Background

The Complainant Azim Hasham Premji ("Complainant Premji" or "Premji") is a prominent and well-known Indian business tycoon, investor, and philanthropist. Premji is the Chairman of the Complainant Wipro Limited ("Complainant Wipro" of "Wipro"), has been referred to as the "India's Tech King," and generally is acknowledged to have been the driving force leading to Wipro's emergence over the past several decades as a global leader in the software industry. Premji also owns and operates a private equity fund, Premji Invest. His net worth has been reported to be as much as USD 18.6 billion.

As a businessman and entrepreneur, Premji has been the recipient of numerous awards and commendations. Premji has twice been recognized by Time Magazine 2004 and 2011. The Financial Times in October 2005 included Premji in a global list of 25 persons "dramatically reshaping the way people live, work or think." Premji has also been recognized in Fortune Magazine and Forbes Magazine for his leadership and "power to effect change."

Premji's philanthropical activities also are well known. He founded the non-profit Azim Premji Foundation in 2001, with a commitment to improving the quality of education in India, initially pledging USD 2.2 billion for improving school education. Premji also founded Azim Premji University in 2010 and serves as its Chancellor. Premji was named by Forbes India as the "Outstanding Philanthropist of the Year" in 2012, and received the Carnegie Medal of Philanthropy in 2017.

The Azim Premji Foundation is the owner of the Indian trademark registration for AZIM PREMJI FOUNDATION (Registration Number 2234618). The Azim Premji Foundation for Development is the owner of the Indian trademark registration for AZIM PREMJI FOUNDATION FOR DEVELOPMENT (Registration Number 2234620). The Azim Premji University is the owner of the Indian trademark registration for AZIM PREMJI UNIVERSITY (Registration Number 2234619). The trademarks are registered with an application date of November 16, 2011, and are collectively referred to hereafter as the "AZIM PREMJI-formative marks".

The Azim Premji Foundation, the Azim Premji Foundation for Development, and the Azim Premji University (collectively referred to as the "Azim Premji entities") have not been joined as complainants in this case. However, the Azim Premji entities were formed by Premji, and the Azim Premji Foundation funded by Premji through the transfer of his personal Wipro stock. Premji also is the Chancellor of the Azim Premji University. The domain name <azimpremji.com> is registered to Wipro, and both Premji and Wipro have been authorized by the Azim Premji entities to use the AZIM PREMJI-formative marks in order to protect the AZIM PREMJI name and mark from misuse by third parties.

The Respondent registered the disputed domain name <azimhashimpremji.com> on January 23, 2018, according to the Registrar's WhoIs records. The disputed domain name includes a slight misspelling of Premji's middle name, and currently resolves to a website entitled "I'm Azim Premji", on which the Respondent impersonates Premji and solicits personal and identifying information from Internet visitors by inviting comments or questions.

5. Parties' Contentions

A. Complainants

The Complainants submit that the disputed domain name <azimhashimpremji.com> is identical to the Premji's well-known personal name AZIM PREMJI, in which Premji has established common law rights. The Complainants also assert that the Premji's personal name is the dominant element of the AZIM PREMJI−formative marks, and that the Azim Premji name has come to be exclusively associated as an indicator of source for the educational services provided under the AZIM PREMJI-formative marks.

The Complainants further contend that after more than five decades as the Chairman of Wipro and the immense success and global reputation of Wipro under Premji's leadership, the public has come to associate the Azim Premji name exclusively as an indicator of source for the products and services of Wipro. According to the Complainants, this is the result of Premji's substantial ownership of Wipro and the long association of his family name with the company. The Complainants submit that the names Azim Premji and Azim Hasham Premji both serve as trademarks, and further emphasize that the domain name <azimpremji.com> is registered to the Complainant Wipro.

The Complainants maintain that the Respondent has no rights or legitimate interests in respect of the disputed domain name. The Complainants aver that the Respondent has not been licensed or otherwise authorized to use the Complainants' trademarks and has not been commonly known by the disputed domain name. According to the Complainants, the Respondent chose to register the disputed domain name in order to create confusion to divert Internet traffic to a website where the Respondent impersonates Azim Premji. The Complainants submit that the Respondent is not using the disputed domain name in connection with a bona fide offering of goods or services, and is not making a legitimate noncommercial or other fair use of the disputed domain name.

The Complainants assert that the Respondent registered and is using the disputed domain name in bad faith. According to the Complainants, the Respondent was well aware of the Complainants' rights and when registering the disputed domain name, and is using the disputed domain name to divert Internet users to a website where the Respondent intentionally is impersonating the Complainant Premji. The Complainants further submit that the Respondent's bad faith registration and use of the disputed domain name is evident from the "Contact Me" section of the website, where the Respondent has MX email sending capability with a canonical email address potentially allowing the disputed domain name to be used for phishing. According to the Complainants, the very use of the disputed domain name constitutes bad faith, and was intended by the Respondent to falsely create the impression of an authorized association with the Complainants.

The Complainants further contends that the Respondent has engaged in the bad faith practice of typosquatting, as the disputed domain name differs from the Complainant Premji's name only by the substitution of the letter "i" for the second letter "a" in the Complainant Premji's middle name "Hasham." According to the Complainants, this underscores the Respondent's intent to create confusion as to source, sponsorship, affiliation or endorsement of the Respondent's website. The Complainants further assert that the Respondent's registration of the disputed domain name prevents the Complainant Premji from reflecting his name in corresponding domain names.

B. Respondent

The Respondent did not reply to the Complainants' contentions.

6. Discussion and Findings

A. Scope of the Policy

The Policy is addressed to resolving disputes concerning allegations of abusive domain name registration and use. Milwaukee Electric Tool Corporation v. Bay Verte Machinery, Inc. d/b/a The Power Tool Store, WIPO Case No. D2002-0774. Accordingly, the jurisdiction of this Panel is limited to providing a remedy in cases of "the abusive registration of domain names", also known as "cybersquatting". Weber-Stephen Products Co. v. Armitage Hardware, WIPO Case No. D2000-0187. See Final Report of the First WIPO Internet Domain Name Process, April 30, 1999, paragraphs 169-177. The term "cybersquatting" is most frequently used to describe the deliberate, bad faith abusive registration of a domain name in violation of rights in trademarks or service marks. Id. at paragraph 170. Paragraph 15(a) of the Rules provides that the panel shall decide a complaint on the basis of statements and documents submitted and in accordance with the Policy, the Rules and any other rules or principles of law that the panel deems applicable.

Paragraph 4(a) of the Policy requires that the complainant prove each of the following three elements to obtain a decision that a domain name should be either cancelled or transferred:

(i) the 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 with respect to the domain name; and

(iii) the domain name has been registered and is being used in bad faith.

Cancellation or transfer of the domain name is the sole remedy provided to the complainant under the Policy, as set forth in paragraph 4(i).

Paragraph 4(b) of the Policy sets forth four situations under which the registration and use of a domain name is deemed to be in bad faith, but does not limit a finding of bad faith to only these situations.

Paragraph 4(c) of the Policy in turn identifies three means through which a respondent may establish rights or legitimate interests in a domain name. Although the complainant bears the ultimate burden of establishing all three elements of paragraph 4(a) of the Policy, UDRP panels have recognized that this could result in the often impossible task of proving a negative, requiring information that is primarily, if not exclusively, within the knowledge of the respondent. Thus, the view is that the burden of production shifts to the respondent to come forward with evidence of a right or legitimate interest in the domain name, once the complainant has made a prima facie showing. See, e.g., Document Technologies, Inc. v. International Electronic Communications Inc., WIPO Case No. D2000-0270.

B. Identical or Confusingly Similar

The Panel initially addresses whether the Complainants Premji and Wipro may assert standing based on the AZIM PREMJI-formative marks registered to the AZIM PREMJI entities. As noted earlier, the AZIM PREMJI entities have authorized the Complainants Premji and Wipro to use the AZIM PREMJI-formative marks. In view of such authorization from the trademark owners, the Panel concludes in the attendant circumstances of this case that the Complainant's Premji and Wipro have standing to file this UDRP complaint relying upon the AZIM PREMJI-formative marks. See WIPO Overview of WIPO Panel Views on Selected UDRP Questions, Third Edition ("WIPO Overview 3.0"), section 1.4.1 and relevant cases cited therein. In view of the foregoing, it is unnecessary for the Panel to consider Wipro's assertion that Premji's personal name has become an exclusive indicator of source for Wipro's products and services.

The Panel next considers whether Premji has established common law trademark or service mark rights in his personal name. The UDRP does not explicitly provide standing for personal names that are not registered or otherwise protected as trademarks. In situations where a personal name is being used as a trademark-like identifier in trade or commerce, however, a complainant may be able to establish unregistered or common law rights in that name for purposes of standing to file a UDRP case, provided the name in question is used in commerce as a distinctive identifier of the complainant's goods or services. Merely having a famous name (such as a businessperson or cultural leader who has not demonstrated use of their personal name in a trademark/source-identifying sense), or making broad unsupported assertions regarding the use of such name in trade or commerce, generally will not serve to demonstrate unregistered or common law rights for purposes of standing to file a UDRP complaint. See WIPO Overview 3.0, section 1.5.2 and cases cited therein.

On the basis of the probative evidence presented in this case, the Panel concludes that the Complainant Premji has established common law trademark or service mark rights in his personal name. The AZIM PREMJI name clearly is the dominant element of the AZIM PREMJI-formative marks. The record before the Panel is convincing that Premji's personal name has come to be recognized by a relevant segment of the consuming public as an indicator of source for educational services offered by the institutions that bear Premji's name, were founded by Premji, and have been substantially funded by Premji. Accordingly, the Panel finds that the Complainant Premji has established common law trademark rights in his personal name AZIM PREMJI and accordingly has standing to file this UDRP Complaint.

Turning to the issue of identity or confusing similarity, the Panel finds that the disputed domain name <azimhashimpremji.com> is confusingly similar to the AZIM PREMJI mark and to the AZIM PREMJI-formative marks. In considering identity and confusing similarity, the first element of the Policy serves essentially as a standing requirement.1 The threshold inquiry under the first element of the Policy involves a relatively straightforward comparison between the complainant's trademark and the disputed domain name.

The Complainants' AZIM PREMJI and AZIM PREMJI-formative marks are clearly recognizable in the disputed domain name.2 The mispellng of the Complainant Premji's middle name ("hashim" instead of "hasham") in the disputed domain name does not dispel the confusing similarity of the disputed domain name to the Complainants' marks, and is evocative of typosquatting. TLDs generally are disregarded in determining identity or confusing similarity under paragraph 4(a)(i) of the Policy.3

Accordingly, the Panel finds the Complainants have satisfied the requirements of paragraph 4(a)(i) of the Policy.

C. Rights or Legitimate Interests

As noted above, once the complainant makes a prima facie showing under paragraph 4(a)(ii) of the Policy, the burden of production shifts to the respondent to come forward with evidence of rights or legitimate interests in a domain name. The Panel is persuaded from the record of this case that a prima facie showing under paragraph 4(a)(ii) of the Policy has been made. It is undisputed that the Respondent has not been authorized to use the AZIM PREMJI and AZIM PREMJI-formative marks. The record reflects that the Respondent registered and is using the disputed domain name, which resolves to a website that impersonates the Complainant Premji, and possibly is intended for fraudulent purposes.

Pursuant to paragraph 4(c) of the Policy, a respondent may establish rights or legitimate interests in a 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 disputed domain name in connection with a bona fide offering of goods or services; or

(ii) 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.

The Respondent has not submitted a response to the Complaint, in the absence of which the Panel may accept all reasonable inferences and allegations in the Complaint as true. See Talk City, Inc. v. Michael Robertson, WIPO Case No. D2000-0009. The Panel has carefully reviewed the record in this case, and finds nothing therein that would bring the Respondent's registration and use of the disputed domain name within any of the "safe harbors" of paragraph 4(c) of the Policy.

It is quite evident that the Respondent was aware of the Complainants and had the AZIM PREMJI and AZIM PREMJI-formative marks in mind when registering the disputed domain name. In the absence of any explanation by the Respondent, the Panel considers in all likelihood that the Respondent registered the disputed domain name with the aim of exploiting and profiting from the Complainants' marks, through the impersonation of the Complainant Premji, and potentially in furtherance of a fraudulent phishing scheme.

Having regard to all of the relevant circumstances in this case, and in the absence of any explanation by the Respondent, the Panel concludes that the Respondent has not used or demonstrated preparations to use the disputed domain name in connection with a bona fide offering of goods or services, and that the Respondent is not making a legitimate noncommercial or fair use of the disputed domain name. Further, there is no indication that the Respondent has been commonly known by the disputed domain name within the meaning of paragraph 4(c)(ii) of the Policy. In short, nothing in the record before the Panel supports a finding of the Respondent's rights or legitimate interests in the disputed domain name.

Accordingly, the Panel finds the Complainants have satisfied the requirements of paragraph 4(a)(ii) of the Policy.

D. Registered and Used in Bad Faith

Paragraph 4(b) of the Policy states that any of the following circumstances, in particular but without limitation, shall be considered evidence of the registration and use of a domain name in bad faith:

(i) circumstances indicating that the respondent registered or acquired the domain name primarily for the purpose of selling, renting, or otherwise transferring the domain name registration to the complainant (the owner of the trademark or service mark) or to a competitor of that complainant, for valuable consideration in excess of the respondent's documented out-of-pocket costs directly related to the domain name; or

(ii) circumstances indicating that the respondent registered the domain name in order to prevent the owner of the trademark or service mark from reflecting the mark in a corresponding domain name, provided that the respondent has engaged in a pattern of such conduct; or

(iii) circumstances indicating that the respondent registered the domain name primarily for the purpose of disrupting the business of a competitor; or

(iv) circumstances indicating that the respondent is using the domain name to intentionally attempt to attract, for commercial gain, Internet users to its website or other online location, by creating a likelihood of confusion with the complainant's mark as to the source, sponsorship, affiliation, or endorsement of the respondent's website or location or of a product or service on its website or location.

The examples of bad faith registration and use set forth in paragraph 4(b) of the Policy are not meant to be exhaustive of all circumstances from which such bad faith may be found. See Telstra Corporation Limited v. Nuclear Marshmallows, WIPO Case No. D2000-0003. The overriding objective of the Policy is to curb the abusive registration of domain names in circumstances where the registrant seeks to profit from and exploit the trademark of another. Match.com, LP v. Bill Zag and NWLAWS.ORG, WIPO Case No. D2004-0230.

For the reasons discussed under this and the preceding heading, the Panel considers that the Respondent's conduct in this case constitutes bad faith registration and use of the disputed domain name within the meaning of paragraph 4(a)(iii) of the Policy. The Panel concludes that the Respondent in all likelihood was aware of the Complainants and had the AZIM PREMJI and AZIM PREMJI-formative marks in mind when registering the disputed domain name. The record evinces that the Respondent's motive in relation to the registration and use of the disputed domain name was to capitalize on the Complainants' trademark rights by creating a likelihood of confusion with the Complainants marks, with the ultimate aim to profit illicitly therefrom. In light of the attendant circumstances, the Respondent's registration of the disputed domain name (including typosquatting) and its use to divert Internet users to a website impersonating the Complainant Premji smacks of opportunistic bad faith.

Accordingly, the Panel finds that the Complainants have satisfied the requirements of paragraph 4(a)(iii) of the Policy.

7. Decision

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 <azimhashimpremji.com> be transferred to the Complainant Azim Hasham Premji.

William R. Towns
Sole Panelist
Date: July 13, 2018


1 See WIPO Overview 3.0, section 1.7.

2 Id. When the relevant trademark is recognizable in the disputed domain name, the domain name normally will be considered confusingly similar to the mark for purposes of paragraph 4(a)(i) of the Policy.

3 See WIPO Overview 3.0, section 1.11.2 and cases cited therein.