WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center


Valero Energy Corporation v. Contact Privacy Inc. Customer 1245909290 / Martha Bradford

Case No. D2019-2884

1. The Parties

The Complainant is Valero Energy Corporation, United States of America, represented by Fasthoff Law Firm PLLC, United States of America (“United States”).

The Respondent is Contact Privacy Inc. Customer 1245909290, Canada / Martha Bradford, United States of America.

2. The Domain Name and Registrar

The disputed domain name <valerom.com> is registered with Google LLC (the “Registrar”).

3. Procedural History

The Complaint was filed with the WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center (the “Center”) on November 24, 2019. On November 25, 2019, the Center transmitted by email to the Registrar a request for registrar verification in connection with the disputed domain name. On November 25, 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 the named Respondent and contact information in the Complaint. The Center sent an email communication to the Complainant on November 26, 2019 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 November 26, 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 the Respondent of the Complaint, and the proceedings commenced on December 9, 2019. In accordance with the Rules, paragraph 5, the due date for Response was December 29, 2019. The Respondent did not submit any response. Accordingly, the Center notified the Respondent’s default on January 7, 2020.

The Center appointed Nicolas Ulmer as the sole panelist in this matter on January 16, 2020. 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 part of a large United States-based corporate group active in the energy field and other sectors. The Complaint and its attachments demonstrate that the Complainant holds numerous United States trademarks, in various classes, for VALERO, with the first such registration being in January 1985. The Complainant has also for many years operated a website under the domain name <valero.com>, which is used, inter alia, for communicating with customers, vendors and the public in general.

The disputed domain name was registered on November 19, 2019.

Little is known about the Respondent, who operates behind a privacy screen. The Respondent appears to have registered the disputed domain name under the name Martha Bradford, and this name is listed as a Respondent in the amended Complaint. The evidence submitted by the Complainant indicates that this is not the Respondent’s real name, but rather a name adopted to attempt a fraud against the Complainant.

5. Parties’ Contentions

A. Complainant

The Complainant maintains that the disputed domain name is confusingly similar to its well-known trademarks, and that the Respondent has no rights or legitimate interests in the disputed domain name, which is manifestly not being used or prepared for any legitimate non-commercial or fair use.

To the contrary the Complainant alleges and submits evidence that the Respondent has used the disputed domain name in a criminal scheme whereby it contacted an airline customer of the Complainant under the email address “[name]@valerom.com” in an attempt to cause the airline to pay a five million USD updated invoice of the Complainant to an account apparently related to the Respondent. Martha Bradford, it should be noted, is a senior accounting coordinator of the Complainant.

Thereupon the Complainant asserts that the disputed domain name can only have been registered, and has been used, in bad faith, and this notwithstanding the fact that the disputed domain name is currently passively held.

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

B. Respondent

The Respondent did not reply to the Complainant’s contentions.

6. Discussion and Findings

A. Identical or Confusingly Similar

The disputed domain name begins with and contains the entirety of the Complainant’s long-registered and well-known trademark with the addition of the letter “m” at the end (i.e. Valerom in lieu of Valero). It is long- established in UDRP case law that a slight misspelling or additional letter resulting in a confusingly similar approximation of a trademark can readily be found to be confusingly similar within the meaning of the Policy. See, e.g., Estée Lauder Inc. v. estelauder.com, estelauder.net and Jeff Hanna, WIPO Case No. D2000-0869. In the instant case the disputed domain name’s addition of an “m” does not prevent the confusing similarity to the Complainant’s trademark VALERO.

Paragraph 4(a)(i) of the Policy is accordingly proven by the Complainant.

B. Rights or Legitimate Interests

The Complainant has affirmed that it has no knowledge of any right of the Respondent to use its trademark in the disputed domain name, or otherwise. There is, moreover, no reason to believe that the Respondent is not known by the name “Valerom” or some variation thereof. Indeed, far from any legitimate use, the Complainant submits that the Respondent is making use of the disputed domain name for criminal conduct.

It is in any event clear in UDRP case law and jurisprudence that a complainant needs to establish at least a prima facie case that the respondent has no rights or legitimate interests in respect of the disputed domain name. See Section 2.1 of WIPO Overview of WIPO Panel Views on Selected UDRP Questions, Third Edition (“WIPO Overview 3.0”); Croatia Airlines d.d. v. Modern Empire Internet Ltd., WIPO Case No. D2003-0455. Where such a prima facie case is made, the burden shifts to the respondent to demonstrate its rights or legitimate interests in the disputed domain name. If the respondent fails to do so, the complainant is generally deemed to have satisfied paragraph 4(a)(ii) of the Policy. See also, Meizu Technology Co., Ltd. v. “osama bin laden”, WIPO Case No. DCO2014-0002; H & M Hennes & Mauritz AB v. Simon Maufe, Akinsaya Odunayo Emmanuel and Nelson Rivaldo, WIPO Case No. D2014-0225.

The Complainant has here established at least such a prima facie case, and the Respondent has failed to answer the Complaint. Further, there is here nothing in the case file that would rebut or contradict the Complainant’s assertions as to the Respondent’s absence of any rights or legitimate interests in the disputed domain name. It can therefore be affirmed that the Complainant has met its burden under paragraph 4 (a)(ii) of the Policy

C. Registered and Used in Bad Faith

The Complainant has submitted evidence that it is a large and well-known company that has continually used its VALERO trademarks in commerce for more than 30 years before the Respondent registered the disputed domain name. The unexplained registration of a domain name confusingly similar to the Complainant’s trademarks should, in such circumstance be presumed to be a bad faith registration for commercial gain, or other improper purpose.

Furthermore, the deliberate registration of a domain name comprised a well-known trademarked commercial company name with a slight, and apparently deliberate, misspelling is itself indicia of bad faith.

A bad faith use is here demonstrated by the illegal fraud that was attempted using the disputed domain name as an email address. The Respondent’s, apparent use of a false name and concealment behind a privacy screen is also indicia of bad faith use and registration. It is, moreover, difficult to see to what good faith use the disputed domain name could be used, and this notwithstanding the fact that the disputed domain name is currently in “passive use”.

The Complainant has therefore met its burden under 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 <valerom.com> be transferred to the Complainant.

Nicolas Ulmer
Sole Panelist
Date: January 28, 2020