WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center

ADMINISTRATIVE PANEL DECISION

Government Employees Insurance Company v. Domain Admin, Whois protection, this company does not own this domain name s.r.o. / Hulmiho Ukolen

Case No. D2019-1924

1. The Parties

Complainant is Government Employees Insurance Company, United States of America (“United States”), represented by Burns & Levinson LLP, United States.

Respondent is Domain Admin, Whois protection, this company does not own this domain name s.r.o., Czech Republic / Hulmiho Ukolen, Finland. 1

2. The Domain Name and Registrar

The disputed domain name <gweico.com> is registered with Gransy, s.r.o. d/b/a subreg.cz (the “Registrar”).

3. Procedural History

The Complaint was filed with the WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center (the “Center”) on August 7, 2019. On August 8, 2019, the Center transmitted by email to the Registrar a request for registrar verification in connection with the disputed domain name. On August 13, 2019, the Registrar transmitted by email to the Center its verification response disclosing registrant and contact information for the disputed domain name which differed from named Respondent and contact information in the Complaint. The Center sent an email communication to Complainant on August 13, 2019, providing the registrant and contact information disclosed by the Registrar, and inviting Complainant to submit an amendment to the Complaint. Complainant filed an amended Complaint on August 19, 2019.

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 Respondent of the Complaint, and the proceedings commenced on August 20, 2019. In accordance with the Rules, paragraph 5, the due date for Response was September 9, 2019. Respondent did not submit any response. Subsequently, the Center noted that due to an administrative oversight, the Written Notice was not sent to Respondent by facsimile provided in the WhoIs information for the disputed domain name. Therefore, the Center granted Respondent a five-day period in which to indicate whether it wishes to participate in this proceeding. Respondent again did not submit any response. Accordingly, the Center again notified Respondent’s default on September 17, 2019.

The Center appointed Stephanie G. Hartung as the sole panelist in this matter on September 24, 2019. 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

Complainant is a company organized under the laws of the United States that is active in the insurance business, offering a variety of insurance services including automobile, motorcycle, homeowners, and rental insurances, among others.

Complainant has provided evidence that it is the registered owner of numerous trademarks relating to its brand GEICO, which by the same time is an abbreviation of Complainant’s company name, inter alia, the following trademarks which enjoy protection for the territory of the United States:

- Word mark GEICO, United States Patent and Trademark Office (“USPTO”), registration number: 763, 274, registration date: January 14, 1964, status: active;
- Word mark GEICO, USPTO, registration number: 2,601,179, registration date: July 30, 2002, status: active.

Moreover, Complainant has evidenced to own the domain name <geico.com> which resolves to Complainant’s official website at “www.geico.com” where Complainant promotes its insurance products and services.

Respondent, according to the Registrar’s confirmation appears to be a resident of Finland. The disputed domain name was registered on October 27, 2009. By the time of the rendering of this decision, the disputed domain name does not result to any valid content on the Internet. Complainant, however, has provided a screenshot according to which at some point before the filing of this Complaint, the disputed domain name redirected to a website which was purportedly related to information regarding back pain. According to the evidence provided by Complainant, for the disputed domain name, moreover, is available for sale at USD 9,002 on the website of Domain Tools.

Complainant requests that the disputed domain name be transferred to Complainant.

5. Parties’ Contentions

A. Complainant

Complainant contends that it has been trading under the GEICO trademark for nearly 80 years and that it owns exclusive rights in it. Due to its making extensive use of the GEICO trademark in connection with insurance services, the latter meanwhile is a powerful and recognizable symbol of Complainant’s goodwill and excellent reputation in the insurance business.

Complainant submits that the disputed domain name is confusingly similar to Complainant’s GEICO trademark as it fully incorporates such trademark with the only addition of the letter “w” constituting a common or obvious misspelling. Moreover, Complainant asserts that Respondent has no rights or legitimate interests in respect of the disputed domain name since (1) Respondent has no connection or affiliation with the GEICO trademark and has not received any license or consent to use the latter in a domain name or in any other manner, (2) Respondent has never been known by the disputed domain name, (3) given the fame of Complainant’s GEICO trademark, it is obvious that Respondent choose the disputed domain name to create an impression of an association with Complainant, (4) the use of the disputed domain name to redirect to a third-party website is not a legitimate interest, and finally (5) the term “Geico” is not a name that Respondent would have legitimately and randomly chosen to use. Finally, Complainant argues that Respondent registered and is using the disputed domain name in bad faith since (1) given that the disputed domain name incorporates an obvious misspelling of Complainant’s famous GEICO trademark, it is simply inconceivable that Respondent was unaware of Complainant’s GEICO trademark and rights therein when registering the disputed domain name, (2) even a basic Internet search, domain name search or other search of the USPTO records would have revealed Complainant’s rights in the GEICO trademark, (3) advertising the disputed domain name for sale at $9,002, thus far in excess of Respondent’s out-of-pocket expenses directly related to the disputed domain name, strongly suggests that Respondent was aware of Complainant’s trademark and business when registering the disputed domain name and that Respondent’s intention in doing so was for financial gain, and finally (4) Respondent provided a false address and phone number in the WhoIs information for the disputed domain name which supports the finding of bad faith.

B. Respondent

Respondent did not reply to Complainant’s contentions.

6. Discussion and Findings

Under paragraph 4(a) of the Policy, Complainant carries the burden of proving:

(i) That the disputed domain name is identical or confusingly similar to a trademark or service mark in which Complainant has rights; and

(ii) That Respondent has no rights or legitimate interests in respect of the disputed domain name; and

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

Respondent’s default in the case at hand does not automatically result in a decision in favor of Complainant, however, paragraph 5(f) of the Rules provides that if Respondent does not submit a response, in the absence of exceptional circumstances, the Panel shall decide the dispute solely based upon the Complaint. Further, the Panel may draw such inferences as are appropriate from Respondent’s failure to submit a Response.

A. Identical or Confusingly Similar

The Panel concludes that the disputed domain name <gweico.com> is confusingly similar to the GEICO trademark in which Complainant has rights.

The disputed domain name <gweico.com> incorporates the GEICO trademark in its entirety with a simple misspelling caused by adding the letter “w”. Numerous UDRP panels have recognized that incorporating a trademark in its entirety can be sufficient to establish that the disputed domain name is at least confusingly similar to a registered trademark (see e.g., PepsiCo, Inc. v. PEPSI, SRL (a/k/a P.E.P.S.I.) and EMS Computer Industry (a/k/a EMS), WIPO Case No. D2003-0696). The fact that the disputed domain name also includes the letter “w” which leads to a misspelling of Complainant’s GEICO trademark is not at all inconsistent with such finding of confusing similarity. Misspelled or typo-squatted domain names are, on the contrary, intended to be confusing so that Internet users, who unwittingly make common type errors, will enter the typo-squatted domain name instead of the correct spelled trademark (see e.g., National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues, Inc, d/b/a Minor League Baseball v. John Zuccarini, WIPO Case No. D2002-1011).

Therefore, Complainant has established the first element under the Policy as set forth by paragraph 4(a)(i).

B. Rights or Legitimate Interests

The Panel is further convinced on the basis of Complainant’s undisputed contentions that Respondent has not made use of the disputed domain name in connection with a bona fide offering of goods or services, nor has Respondent been commonly known by the disputed domain name, nor can it be found that Respondent has made a legitimate noncommercial or fair use thereof without intent for commercial gain.

Respondent has not been authorized to use Complainant’s GEICO trademark, either as a domain name or in any other way. Also, there is no reason to believe that Respondent’s name somehow corresponds with the disputed domain name and Respondent does not appear to have any trademark rights associated with the term “Geico”. Such finding is supported by the fact that the Panel has undertaken limited research within its general powers set forth by paragraphs 10 and 12 of the Rules according to which the term “Gweico” as it is reflected in the disputed domain name apparently has no specific meaning of its own, but that a Google research undertaken for this term rather delivers search results which predominantly point to the term “Geico” instead and, thus, to Complainant. Against this background, the Panel is willing to follow Complainant’s line of argumentation that the disputed domain name indeed includes a typo-squatted version of Complainant’s GEICO trademark which undisputedly enjoys considerable recognition in the United States and beyond. Moreover, Complainant has provided evidence according to which at some point before the filing of this Complaint the disputed domain name redirected to a website the content of which was related to back pain. However, such making use of the disputed domain name does not demonstrate as to why Respondent needed to rely specifically on the term “Gweico” in order to run a website relating to back pain, if not to commercially profit somehow from the recognition of Complainant’s GEICO trademark as it is reflected in the disputed domain name in a typo-squatted version. Finally, the disputed domain name is offered for a sales price at USD 9,002 on the website of Domain Tools. Such making use of the disputed domain name, therefore, obviously neither qualifies as bona fide nor as legitimate noncommercial or fair.

Accordingly, Complainant has established a prima facie case that Respondent has no rights or legitimate interests in respect of the disputed domain name. Now, the burden of production shifts to Respondent to come forward with appropriate allegations or evidence demonstrating to the contrary (see WIPO Overview of WIPO Panel Views on Selected UDRP Questions, Third Edition (“WIPO Overview 3.0”), section 2.1). Given that Respondent has not submitted a Response, it has not met that burden.

Therefore, the Panel finds that Complainant has also satisfied paragraph 4(a)(ii) and, thus, the second element of the Policy.

C. Registered and Used in Bad Faith

The Panel finally holds that the disputed domain name was registered and is being used by Respondent in bad faith.

It has been demonstrated (see Section 6,B above) that the disputed domain name indeed includes a typo-squatted version of Complainant’s GEICO trademark which, in turn, undisputedly enjoys considerable recognition in the United States and beyond since quite some time. In this context, the Panel has recognized that the disputed domain name was registered already back in 2009, but also that Complainant’s rights in the GEICO trademark obviously accrued well before that time, e.g. in 1964 and 2002, respectively. In the absence of any circumstances explaining as to why Respondent needed to rely on the term “Gweico” in order to run a website e.g. relating to back pain, the Panel accepts and follows Complainant’s line of argumentation that Respondent obviously was fully aware of Complainant’s rights in the GEICO trademark at the time of registering the disputed domain name back in 2009 and that using the disputed domain name which constitutes a typo-squatted version of Complainant’s GEICO trademark indicates that Respondent intended to somehow profit from Complainant’s trademark’s recognition, thus taking unfair advantage thereof. Such behavior qualifies as bad faith within the larger meaning of paragraph 4(b) of the Policy (see WIPO Overview 3.0, section 3.1). Moreover, Complainant has demonstrated that the disputed domain name is offered for sale at a price of USD 9,002 on the website Domain Tools which presumably is in excess of Respondent’s out-of-pocket costs related to the disputed domain name; such circumstances as well qualify as bad faith registration and use of the disputed domain name within the specific meaning of paragraph 4(b)(i) of the Policy. Finally, the Panel has also noted that Respondent not only made use of a privacy protection service in order to conceal its true identity, but also provided fault or incomplete contact information in the WhoIs when registering the disputed domain name since the Written Notice on the Notification of Complaint dated August 20, 2019 could not be delivered by courier. These facts at least throw a light on Respondent’s behavior which supports the Panel’s bad faith finding.

Therefore, the Panel holds that Complainant has also satisfied the third element under the Policy as set forth by paragraph 4(a)(iii).

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 <gweico.com> be transferred to Complainant.

Stephanie G. Hartung
Sole Panelist
Date: October 1, 2019


1 It is evident from the case file that Domain Admin, Whois protection, this company does not own this domain name s.r.o., Czech Republic, is a privacy protection service and that Hulmiho Ukolen, Finland, is the underlying registrant of the disputed domain name. Therefore, unless otherwise indicated, the term “Respondent” is used by the Panel in the case at hand to refer to the latter underlying registrant only.