WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center
ADMINISTRATIVE PANEL DECISION
Palumbo Services, Inc. v. Kyle Brink, Brink Roofing
Case No. D2018-1901
1. The Parties
The Complainant is Palumbo Services, Inc. of Forest Lake, Minnesota, United States of America (“United States”), represented by Westman, Champlin & Koehler, P.A., United States.
The Respondent is Kyle Brink, Brink Roofing of Erie, Pennsylvania, United States.
2. The Domain Name and Registrar
The disputed domain name <erieicedamremovalguys.com> (the “Disputed Domain Name”) is registered with GoDaddy.com, LLC (the “Registrar”).
3. Procedural History
The Complaint was filed with the WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center (the “Center”) on August 21, 2018. On August 22, 2018, the Center transmitted by email to the Registrar a request for registrar verification in connection with the Disputed Domain Name. On August 23, 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 September 4, 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 amendment to the Complaint on September 5, 2018.
The Center verified that the Complaint together with the amendment to 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 September 14, 2018. In accordance with the Rules, paragraph 5, the due date for Response was October 4, 2018. The Respondent did not submit a Response. Accordingly, the Center notified the Respondent’s default on October 5, 2018. On October 5, 2018, the Center received an email communication from the Respondent, in response to which the Center sent an email communication, inviting the parties to explore settlement negotiations and suspend the proceedings. No reply to the Center’s email communication was received.
The Center appointed Lynda M. Braun as the sole panelist in this matter on October 25, 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 provider of steam-based snow and ice removal services on roofs and other building structures. The Complainant provides these services in many parts of the United States, especially those that experience icy winters. Moreover, the Complainant has an Internet presence and maintains favorable ratings on review websites.
The Complainant is the owner of the United States service mark registrations ICE DAM REMOVAL GUYS, United States Registration No. 4,922,592, and ICE DAM GUYS, United States Registration No. 4,922,589 (both registered on March 22, 2016) (hereinafter referred to as the “ICE DAM Marks”). The ICE DAM Marks have been used continuously since November 2009 and February 2012, respectively, in International Class 37 in connection with services for snow and ice abatement from roofs and building structures.
The Complainant also owns the domain names <icedamremovalguys.com> and <icedamguys.com> that incorporate its ICE DAM Marks. The Complainant registered the <icedamremovalguys.com> domain name on January 23, 2010 and the <icedamguys.com> domain name on January 26, 2010. These domain names resolve to the Complainant’s official website, “www.icedamremovalguys.com”, which provides information about the Complainant’s ice removal services, and includes contact information for the Complainant.
The Respondent registered the Disputed Domain Name on May 30, 2018. The Disputed Domain Name initially resolved or was redirected to the Respondent’s social media postings on its Twitter account, “@erieroofers”, on which it advertised its snow and ice removal services. As of the writing of this Decision, the Disputed Domain Name no longer resolves to an active website.
5. Parties’ Contentions
The contentions made by the Complainant are as follows:
- The Disputed Domain Name is identical or confusingly similar to service marks in which the Complainant has rights.
- The Respondent has no rights or legitimate interests in respect of the Disputed Domain Name.
- The Respondent registered and is using the Disputed Domain Name in bad faith.
- The Complainant requests that <erieicedamremovalguys.com> be transferred in accordance with Paragraph 4(i) of the Policy.
The Respondent did not submit a substantive reply to the Complainant’s contentions. In its email communication of October 5, 2018, the Respondent stated “Hello, I don’t agree with their claim about the domain, but my attorney emailed them that I’ll unregister the domain but it seems that it is locked by you guys. It won’t let me delete it from my account”.
6. Discussion and Findings
Despite the Respondent’s apparent consent to remedy, the Complainant elected not to enter into settlement negotiations with the Respondent. For the sake of completeness, the Panel has determined it appropriate to proceed to a decision on the merits.
Pursuant to paragraph 4(a) of the Policy, the Complainant is required to prove each of the following three elements:
(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 by the Respondent in bad faith.
A. Identical or Confusingly Similar
This element consists of two parts: first, does the Complainant have rights in a relevant trademark or service mark and, second, is the Disputed Domain Name identical or confusingly similar to that mark.
First, Complainant is the owner of United States service mark registrations for its ICE DAM Marks. The general rule is that “registration of a mark is prima facie evidence of validity, which creates a rebuttable presumption that the mark is inherently distinctive”. See CWI, Inc. v. Domain Administrator c/o Dynadot, WIPO Case No. D2015-1734. The Respondent has not rebutted this presumption, and therefore the Panel finds that the Complainant has enforceable rights in its trademarks.
Second, the Disputed Domain Name <erieicedamremovalguys.com> consists of the ICE DAM REMOVAL GUYS mark in its entirety, with the addition of the geographic term “erie”, followed by the generic Top-Level Domain (“gTLD”) “.com”. It is well established that such elements have no effect on confusing similarity. The Respondent’s inclusion of the geographic term “erie” in combination with the ICE DAM Marks does not avoid confusing similarity. As stated in section 1.8 of the WIPO Overview of WIPO Panel Views on Selected UDRP Questions, Third Edition (“WIPO Overview 3.0”), “where the relevant trademark is recognizable within the disputed domain name, the addition of other terms (whether descriptive, geographical, pejorative, meaningless, or otherwise) would not prevent a finding of confusing similarity under the first element”. See Allianz Global Investors of America, L.P. and Pacific Investment Management Company (PIMCO) v. Bingo-Bongo, WIPO Case No. D2011-0795; Hoffmann-La Roche Inc. v. Wei-Chun Hsia, WIPO Case No. D2008-0923.
Moreover, the gTLD suffix “.com” that the Respondent attaches to the Disputed Domain Name containing the ICE DAM Marks is irrelevant in assessing confusing similarity. See Comerica Incorporated v. Domains By Proxy, LLC / G Design, WIPO Case No. D2012-1374. Since the addition of such a suffix to a domain name is technically required, it is well established that such element may generally be disregarded when assessing whether a domain name is identical or confusingly similar to a trademark. See Proactiva Medio Ambiente, S.A. v. Proactiva, WIPO Case No. D2012-0182.
Accordingly, the Panel finds that the Complainant has satisfied paragraph 4(a)(i) of the Policy.
B. Rights or Legitimate Interests
As stated in section 2.1 of the WIPO Overview 3.0, once a complainant establishes a prima facie case in respect of the lack of rights or legitimate interests of a respondent, the respondent then carries the burden of demonstrating that it has rights or legitimate interests in the disputed domain name. Where the respondent fails to do so, a complainant is deemed to have satisfied paragraph 4(a)(ii) of the Policy.
According to paragraph 4(c) of the Policy, a respondent may establish its rights or legitimate interests by demonstrating that (i) the respondent’s use of the disputed domain name is in connection with a bona fide offering of goods or services; (ii) the respondent has been commonly known by the disputed domain name; or (iii) the respondent is making “a legitimate noncommercial or fair use of the disputed domain name, without intent for commercial gain to misleadingly divert consumers or to tarnish the trademark or service mark at issue”. See Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. v. Walter Gerbert, WIPO Case No. D2016-1346.
In this case, the Panel finds that the Complainant has made out a prima facie case. The Respondent has not submitted any arguments or evidence to rebut the Complainant's prima facie case. The Complainant has not authorized, associated with or otherwise permitted the Respondent to use its ICE DAM Marks or any mark confusingly similar thereto. Furthermore, the Respondent’s registration and use of the Disputed Domain Name initially directed to social media postings that are no longer active, although prior to the posts’ deletion, the Disputed Domain Name misleadingly diverted consumers to the Respondent’s ice removal services.
Accordingly, the Panel finds that the Complainant has satisfied paragraph 4(a)(ii) of the Policy.
C. Registered and Used in Bad Faith
This Panel finds that, based on the record, the Complainant has demonstrated the existence of the Respondent's bad faith pursuant to paragraph 4(b) of the Policy.
First, the registration of a domain name that is identical or confusingly similar to a trademark by an entity that has no relationship to that mark may be sufficient evidence of bad faith. See Ebay Inc. v. Wangming, WIPO Case No. D2006-1107; Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin, Maison Fondée en 1772 v. The Polygenix Group Co., WIPO Case No. D2000-0163. Moreover, the use of a domain name to intentionally attempt to attract Internet users to a respondent’s website or online location by creating a likelihood of confusion with a complainant’s mark as to the source, sponsorship, affiliation or endorsement of the registrant’s website or online location for commercial gain demonstrates registration and use in bad faith. This was the case when the Complainant drafted the Complaint, since at that time the Disputed Domain Name resolved to the Respondent’s social media account which offered ice and snow removal services similar to those offered by the Complainant. The Complainant submitted screenshots of the Respondent’s postings demonstrating such prior use. Based on the circumstances here, the Respondent registered and used the Disputed Domain Name in bad faith to target the Complainant’s ICE DAM Marks and to drive Internet traffic seeking the Complainant’s services to the Respondent’s social media account for commercial gain. See paragraph 4(b)(iv) of the Policy.
Second, the Panel finds that the Respondent knew or should have known of the Complainant’s rights in its ICE DAM Marks when registering the Disputed Domain Name. As noted above, the Complainant’s ICE DAM Marks are well known in the industry and the Respondent registered the Disputed Domain Name several years after the Complainant first used and obtained its trademark registrations for the ICE DAM Marks. It therefore strains credulity to believe that the Respondent had not known of the Complainant or its ICE DAM Marks when registering the Disputed Domain Name. See Myer Stores Limited v. Mr. David John Singh, WIPO Case No. D2001-0763.
Third, the Panel notes that the Disputed Domain Name is no longer redirected to the Respondent’s social media account, but instead is now inactive since it resolves to a Twitter error page with no content. See Advance Magazine Publishers Inc. and Les Publications Condé Nast S.A. v. ChinaVogue.com, WIPO Case No. D2005-0615; Société pour l’Oeuvre et la Mémoire d’Antoine de Saint Exupéry – Succession Saint Exupéry – D’Agay v. Perlegos Properties, WIPO Case No. D2005-1085. It has long been held in UDRP decisions that the passive or inactive holding of a domain name that incorporates registered trademarks without a legitimate Internet purpose may indicate that the domain name is being used in bad faith under paragraph 4(a)(iii) of the Policy. See Telstra Corporation Limited v. Nuclear Marshmallows, WIPO Case No. D2000-0003; Jupiters Limited v. Aaron Hall, WIPO Case No. D2000-0574. Here, the Panel considers the Respondent’s current passive holding of the Disputed Domain Name to be a further indication of bad faith.
Accordingly, the Panel finds that the Complainant has 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 Name, <erieicedamremovalguys.com>, be cancelled.
Lynda M. Braun
Date: November 4, 2018