WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center
ADMINISTRATIVE PANEL DECISION
T. Rowe Price Group, Inc. v. Privacy.co.com, Inc Privacy ID# 1087284
Case No. D2018-1547
1. The Parties
The Complainant is T. Rowe Price Group, Inc. of Baltimore, Maryland, United States of America ("USA" or "US"), represented by Winterfeldt IP Group PLLC, USA.
The Respondent is Privacy.co.com, Inc Privacy ID# 1087284 of Cheyenne, Wyoming, USA.
2. The Domain Name and Registrar
The disputed domain name <trroweprice.com> (the "Domain Name") is registered with Sea Wasp, LLC (the "Registrar").
3. Procedural History
The Complaint was filed with the WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center (the "Center") on July 10, 2018. On July 11, 2018, the Center transmitted by email to the Registrar a request for registrar verification in connection with the Domain Name. On July 11, 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 Complainant filed an amended Complaint on July 24, 2018 to address an administrative formality.
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 July 25, 2018. In accordance with the Rules, paragraph 5, the due date for Response was August 14, 2018. The Respondent did not submit any response. Accordingly, the Center notified the Respondent's default on August 15, 2018.
The Center appointed W. Scott Blackmer as the sole panelist in this matter on August 21, 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 corporation organized under the laws of the US State of Maryland and headquartered in Baltimore, Maryland, USA. Since 1937, the Complainant and its affiliates have offered investment management services including mutual funds, advisory services, and retirement plans. The record shows that as of June 2018, the Complainant was ranked as the 15th largest asset management firm in the world, with just over USD one trillion in total assets under management. Since 1995, the Complainant has operated a website at "www.troweprice.com" (the "Complainant's website"), and the Complainant currently holds at least five other domain names based on variations of its corporate name and trademark.
The Complainant claims use of T. ROWE PRICE as a service mark in the US since 1937. The Complainant also holds relevant trademark registrations in the US and other countries, including a US registration for T. ROWE PRICE as a standard-character trademark, US Registration Number 1493517, registered on June 21, 1988. The record shows that the Complainant promotes the T. ROWE PRICE mark in the US and globally and that it is well known and frequently mentioned in publications and media. The Complaint highlights, for example, a 2018 Fortunearticle ranking the Complainant third in its industry among the "World's Most Admired Companies".
According to the Registrar, the Domain Name was created on January 18, 2005 and is currently registered in the name of the Respondent domain privacy service, which has neither identified the owner nor filed a Response in this proceeding. The Complaint includes historical WhoIs data indicating that the Domain Name has changed hands several times.
A screenshot attached to the Complaint shows that the Domain Name resolved for a time to a <parkingcrew.net> parking page with pay-per-click ("PPC") third-party advertising links monetized through Google AdSense.
The Domain Name was also used in an email phishing attempt. On April 12, 2018, one week after the Respondent acquired the Domain Name, an email request for a wire transfer was sent to an employee of the Complainant, purporting to come from the Complainant's CEO. The email used the Domain Name as the email domain.
At the time of this Decision, the Domain Name redirects visitors to a page that appears to be the login screen for investors who have an account with the Complainant and asks for the investor's user name.
The Complaint attaches a July 24, 2018 email from an individual named Gary Schepps, who contacted the Complainant directly and referred to the docket number in the current UDRP proceeding. Mr. Schepps stated in the email that he represents "Domain Protection, the owner" of the Domain Name. He claimed, without citation or further explanation, that a United States District Court approved the registration of the Domain Name. Mr. Schepps went on to say that his client offered to "waive its rights in the domain name in return for the reimbursement of the out-of-pocket costs incurred in purchasing and maintaining the domain." The record includes no further communications to or from Mr. Schepps, who is not otherwise identified and who did not use an email address associated with a law firm or other business. Thus, this obscure communication casts no additional light on the Respondent's identity or motives.
5. Parties' Contentions
The Complainant asserts that the Domain Name is confusingly similar to its T. ROWE PRICE marks, which the Respondent does not have permission to use in the Domain Name and in which it otherwise has no rights or legitimate interests. The Complainant contends that the Domain Name was registered and used in bad faith, to misdirect Internet users for commercial gain and in connection with fraud and phishing attempts and otherwise for passive holding of a domain name based on a well-known and long-established mark. The Complainant cites the use of a domain proxy service and refusal to identify the owner as further evidence of bad faith.
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 a registered trademark for T. ROWE PRICE. The Domain Name incorporates this mark in its entirety, omitting the period and spaces that cannot be included in the DNS system for technical reasons, and adding a superfluous letter "r" in a classic instance of "typosquatting" that makes the Domain Name differ by one letter from the Complainant's mark and domain name. The Panel does not find that this slight misspelling avoids confusing similarity with the mark. As in most cases, the generic Top-Level Domain ("gTLD") ".com" is disregarded under the first element confusing similarity test. See WIPO Overview of WIPO Panel Views on Selected UDRP Questions, Third Edition ("WIPO Overview 3.0"), section 1.11.
The first element of a UDRP complaint "functions primarily as a standing requirement" and entails "a straightforward comparison between the complainant's trademark and the disputed domain name". See WIPO Overview 3.0, section 1.7. The Panel concludes under this test that the Domain Name is confusingly similar 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, as the Complainant has here, the burden of production on this element shifts to the respondent to come forward with relevant evidence of its rights or legitimate interests in the domain name. See WIPO Overview 3.0, section 2.1. The Respondent has not come forward to claim any rights or legitimate interests, and none are apparent. The Panel finds for the Complainant on the second element of the Complaint.
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 web site or other online location, by creating a likelihood of confusion with the complainant's mark as to the source, sponsorship, affiliation, or endorsement of your web site or location or of a product or service on your web site or location".
The Respondent's conduct is consistent with paragraph 4(b)(iv), in allowing the Domain Name, which is clearly based on a slight misspelling of a distinctive and well-established trademark, to be used for PPC advertising. Moreover, the evidence shows that the Respondent used the Domain Name, within days after acquiring it, in an attempt to defraud the Complaint through a phishing scheme. This is most likely the reason for registering a domain name with an almost identical appearance to the domain name used for the Complainant's own email accounts. The examples of bad faith listed in the Policy, paragraph 4(b) are explicitly non-exhaustive, and the registration and use of a domain name for fraudulent purposes must surely be considered bad faith within the meaning of the Policy. Whether or not the current redirection of the Domain Name to what appears to be a logon screen for the Complainant is similarly fraudulent, the evidence of this prior conduct is decisive in supporting a conclusion of bad faith. The Respondent's persistent efforts to obscure its identity and its failure to respond to the Complaint also support the conclusion that its motivations in targeting a well-known trademark were illegitimate.
The Panel concludes that the third element of the Complaint, bad faith, has 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, <trroweprice.com>, be transferred to the Complainant.
W. Scott Blackmer
Date: September 5, 2018