WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center
ADMINISTRATIVE PANEL DECISION
Allstate Insurance Company v. Gabriel Sosa
Case No. D2019-2381
1. The Parties
Complainant is Allstate Insurance Company, United States of America (the “United States”), represented by SILKA Law AB, Sweden.
Respondent is Gabriel Sosa, United States, self-represented.
2. The Domain Names and Registrar
The disputed domain names <allstateclaims.co> and <allstate-claims.com> are registered with GoDaddy.com, LLC (the “Registrar”).
3. Procedural History
The Complaint was filed with the WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center (the “Center”) on September 30, 2019. On October 1, 2019, the Center transmitted by email to the Registrar a request for registrar verification in connection with the disputed domain name. On October 1, 2019, the Registrar transmitted by email to the Center its verification response confirming that Respondent is listed as the registrant and providing the contact details.
The Center verified that 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 Respondent of the Complaint, and the proceedings commenced on October 3, 2019. In accordance with the Rules, paragraph 5, the due date for Response was October 23, 2019. The Response was filed with the Center on October 23, 2019.
The Center appointed Georges Nahitchevansky as the sole panelist in this matter on October 31, 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, Allstate Insurance Company, is an insurance company based in the United States. Complainant provides a broad array of insurance related products and services under the name and mark ALLSTATE. Complainant owns a number of trademark registrations for the ALLSTATE mark in the United States in connection with its insurance services, the earliest of which issued to registration on June 27, 1961 (Registration No. 0717683). Complainant also owns and uses the domain name <allstate.claims> to provide information regarding Complainant’s insurance claims process.
Respondent registered the disputed domain names on September 19, 2019. Respondent has used the disputed domain names in connection with a website that appears to offer a claims assistance service. The website featured, at one point, the ALLSTATE mark along with a logo owned by Complainant. These uses were removed by Respondent and the current website associated with the disputed domain names offers a claims assistance service that consists of links to websites for attorneys and medical providers.
5. Parties’ Contentions
Complainant asserts that it is the owner of all rights in the ALLSTATE mark in connection with its insurance products and services, and that it secured rights in the ALLSTATE mark well before Respondent registered the disputed domain names. Complainant also asserts that the ALLSTATE mark is famous and well known in the auto insurance industry.
Complainant argues that the disputed domain names are confusingly similar to Complainant’s ALLSTATE mark as they each fully incorporate the ALLSTATE mark in its entirety with the non-distinguishing term “claims”.
Complainant contends that Respondent has no rights or legitimate interests in the disputed domain names as Respondent (i) is not known by the name ALLSTATE and owns no rights in the ALLSTATE mark, and (ii) has used the disputed domain names with a website that features the ALLSTATE mark and logo and which has sought to obtain email addresses and telephone numbers from consumers.
Lastly, Complainant argues that Respondent has registered and used the disputed domain names in bad faith given that Respondent has no rights in the ALLSTATE mark and has used the disputed domain names that are based on the ALLSTATE mark for a website that purports to be connected to Complainant and is likely being used as part of a fraudulent scheme. Complainant also contends that Respondent has a pattern of bad faith conducts as Respondent has targeted other well-known insurance company brands for similar schemes, such as GEICO, STATE FARM and PROGRESSIVE.
Respondent rejects Complainant’s contentions. Respondent maintains that it registered and is using the disputed domain names for informational purposes, and not for a commercial purpose, by linking lawyers and medical services available to individuals going through an Allstate insurance claim. Respondent denies collecting any email, telephone or other personal information from consumers and maintains that it is not engaged in any fraudulent scheme. Respondent asserts that it creates informational websites for the general public to educate themselves on the options they have during an insurance claim. Lastly, Respondent contends that the previous website at the disputed domain names that featured Complainant’s ALLSTATE mark and logo was published by accident by a developer working for Respondent and that the website design was not approved by Respondent.
Respondent asks that the Panel deny the remedies requested by Complainant and make a finding of Reverse Domain Name Hijacking.
6. Discussion and Findings
Under paragraph 4(a) of the Policy, to succeed Complainant must satisfy the Panel that:
(i) the disputed domain names are identical or confusingly similar to a trademark or service mark in which Complainant has rights;
(ii) Respondent has no rights or legitimate interests in respect of the disputed domain names; and
(iii) the disputed domain names were registered and are being used in bad faith.
A. Identical or Confusingly Similar
Ownership of a trademark registration is generally sufficient evidence that a complainant has the requisite rights in a mark for purposes of paragraph 4(a)(i) of the Policy. See section 1.2.1 of the WIPO Overview of WIPO Panel Views on Selected UDRP Questions, Third Edition (“WIPO Overview 3.0”). Complainant has provided evidence that it owns and uses the ALLSTATE mark in connection with Complainant’s insurance products and services. Complainant has also provided evidence that the ALLSTATE mark has been registered in the United States, where Respondent is located, well before Respondent registered the disputed domain names.
With Complainant’s rights in the ALLSTATE mark established, the remaining question under the first element of the Policy is whether the disputed domain names (typically disregarding the Top-Level Domain such as “.com”) are identical or confusingly similar with Complainant’s mark. See B & H Foto & Electronics Corp. v. Domains by Proxy, Inc. / Joseph Gross, WIPO Case No. D2010-0842. The threshold for satisfying this first element is low and generally UDRP panels have found that fully incorporating the identical mark in a disputed domain name is sufficient to meet the threshold.
In the instant proceeding, the disputed domain names are confusingly similar to Complainant’s ALLSTATE mark as they each incorporate the ALLSTATE mark in its entirety at the head of each of the disputed domain names. The addition of the term “claims” does not distinguish the disputed domain names from Complainant’s ALLSTATE mark (section 1.8 of the WIPO Overview 3.0). Indeed, Respondent does not contest Complainant’s contention that the disputed domain names are confusingly similar to Complainant’s ALLSTATE mark.
The Panel therefore finds that Complainant has satisfied the requirements of paragraph 4(a)(i) of the Policy in establishing its rights in Complainant’s ALLSTATE mark and in showing that the disputed domain names are identical or confusingly similar to that trademark.
B. Rights or Legitimate Interests
Under paragraph 4(a)(ii) of the Policy, the complainant must make at least a prima facie showing that the respondent possesses no rights or legitimate interests in a disputed domain name. Malayan Banking Berhad v. Beauty, Success & Truth International, WIPO Case No. D2008-1393. Once the complainant makes such a prima facie showing, the burden of production shifts to the respondent, though the burden of proof always remains on the complainant. If the respondent fails to come forward with evidence showing rights or legitimate interests, the complainant will have sustained its burden under the second element of the UDRP.
The evidence submitted in this proceeding shows that Respondent has used the disputed domain names with a website that purports to offer a claims assistance service to consumers who have filed insurance claims with Complainant. The Panel has in its discretion under its general powers pursuant to paragraphs 10 and 12 of the UDRP Rules reviewed Respondent’s current website at the disputed domain names and notes that the website features the name “allstateclaims” in a banner at the top of the home page and advertises that it provides assistance with claims. The website offers a consumer the ability to search for lawyers and medical providers in different regions and has a frequently asked questions section that contains information related to personal injury court cases and claims. Most of the regions that can be searched on the website provide no results, and what does appear are promotional blurbs about personal injury law firms and medical providers with links to their websites.
Although offering information about personal injury lawsuits, lawyers and medical providers in the context of insurance claims could under certain circumstances be seen as being a legitimate interest or use, Respondent here has taken the extra step of registering disputed domain names that suggest a connection to Complainant and then using such with a website that calls itself “allstateclaims” in order to provide links to the websites of third parties. While it is not altogether clear whether Respondent receives revenue from the blurbs and links that appear on Respondent’s website, the Panel notes that the blurbs on Respondent’s website are mostly promotional in nature and advertise the services of the lawyers and medical providers referenced, and are not related to Allstate insurance claims or the providing of assistance with such claims, as Respondent contends. Simply put, what appears at the website that the disputed domain names resolves to is commercial in nature and meant to promote the services of others. Given that the disputed domain names on their face are likely to be seen as connected to Complainant, and that Respondent specifically and prominently references “allstateclaims” on its website, which further suggests a connection to Complainant, it appears more likely than not that Respondent is attempting to piggy back on the reputation of Complainant to provide an essentially commercial website promoting third party services.
The Panel also notes that a prior version of a website appearing at the disputed domain names not only featured Complainant’s ALLSTATE mark and logo, but included statements such as “Allstate claims assistance service,” “Allstate Claims,” “Start Claim Online,” “Schedule and Appointment Now,” and “Collision Estimate Center,” which in the aggregate make the website appear to be connected to Complainant and its ALLSTATE services. Respondent claims that the website was accidentally posted by an unidentified developer working for Respondent and that the website was allegedly not approved by Respondent. Such unsubstantiated assertions by Respondent ring hollow and appear to the Panel to be self-serving. Respondent is ultimately responsible for what appears on a website posted at domain names owned by Respondent and the fact that Respondent posted a website that clearly sought to impersonate Complainant puts into question Respondent’s motivations. Whether Respondent had a fraudulent motive as opposed to a commercial intent, as Complainant claims, is questionable. Complainant has not provided any evidence that supports the contention that Respondent is in fact attempting to defraud consumers as opposed to simply attempting to profit from Complainant’s ALLSTATE mark.
In total, based on the evidence submitted, it appears to the Panel that Respondent sought to trade off of the disputed domain names for Respondent’s profit. Given that Complainant has established with sufficient evidence that it owns rights in the ALLSTATE mark, and given Respondent’s above noted actions, the Panel concludes that Respondent does not have rights or legitimate interests in the disputed domain names and that none of the circumstances of paragraph 4(c) of the Policy are evident in this case.
The Panel therefore finds that Complainant has satisfied the requirement of paragraph 4(a)(ii) of the Policy.
C. Registered and Used in Bad Faith
Given Respondent’s actions as noted above, the Panel concludes that Respondent’s registration and use of the disputed domain names which consist of Complainant’s ALLSTATE mark to attract and redirect consumers to a website that promotes the services of unrelated third parties is being done opportunistically and in bad faith. The Panel also notes that Respondent’s use of the disputed domain names with a prior website that essentially passed itself off as connected to Complainant further underscores Respondent’s bad faith actions and attempt to profit from the reputation Complainant enjoys in its ALLSTATE mark. This is altogether made clearer by Respondent’s registration of several other domain names based on the marks of other insurance companies for presumably a similar scheme.
Accordingly, the Panel finds that Complainant succeeds under the third element of the Policy.
D. Reverse Domain Name Hijacking
Respondent has requested that the Panel make a finding of Reverse Domain Name Hijacking in this proceeding. As Complainant prevails in this matter, there is no basis for this request and such is denied.
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 names <allstateclaims.co> and <allstate-claims.com> be transferred to the Complainant.
Date: November 8, 2019