WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center
ADMINISTRATIVE PANEL DECISION
Reddit, Inc. v. Sebastian Anderson
Case No. D2019-2964
1. The Parties
Complainant is Reddit, Inc., United States of America (“United States” or “US”), internally represented.
Respondent is Sebastian Anderson, United States.
2. The Domain Names and Registrar
The disputed domain names <redditpromotion.com> and <redditshop.com> are registered with Google LLC (the “Registrar”).
3. Procedural History
The Complaint was filed with the WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center (the “Center”) on December 2, 2019. On December 3, 2019, the Center transmitted by email to the Registrar a request for registrar verification in connection with the disputed domain names. On December 4, 2019, the Registrar transmitted by email to the Center its verification response disclosing registrant and contact information for the disputed domain names which differed from the named Respondent and contact information in the Complaint. The Center sent an email communication to Complainant on December 5, 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 December 6, 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 December 9, 2019. In accordance with the Rules, paragraph 5, the due date for Response was December 29, 2019. The Center received two email communications from Respondent on December 20 and 23, 2019.
The Center appointed Brian J. Winterfeldt as the sole panelist in this matter on January 9, 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
Complainant Reddit, Inc. is a well-known social online platform that operates thousands of online communities with over 330 million monthly visitors. It is the owner of the well-known REDDIT trademark, which Complainant has been using since 2005 and registered since 2016 (US Reg. No. 5,053,433). Complainant owns and operates the domain name <reddit.com> in addition to dozens of other REDDIT domain names. According to evidence submitted by Complainant, <reddit.com> is the sixth most visited website in the United States, and the eighteenth most visited website globally as of November 16, 2019. Complainant is also the owner of the numerous other United States registrations for the REDDIT mark, including US registrations 5019343, 3786519, 3474493, and 5131742.
Respondent Sebastian Anderson is the registrant of both disputed domain names, <redditpromotion.com> and <redditshop.com>. The former was registered on November 25, 2015, and the latter on March 13, 2017. Both are currently suspended as of the drafting of this decision.
5. Parties’ Contentions
Complainant contends that the disputed domain names are confusingly similar to its REDDIT trademark and its <reddit.com> domain name because they reproduce identically and entirely the REDDIT mark. Complainant alleges that the addition of the terms “shop” and “promotion” to the REDDIT mark within the respective disputed domain name does very little to reduce the confusing similarity between Complainant’s well-known marks and the disputed domain names.
Complainant contends that Respondent has no rights or legitimate interests in or to the disputed domain names. According to Complainant, Respondent has never been commonly known by the disputed domain names and has never been authorized or licensed to use the REDDIT trademark, and that Respondent is not otherwise authorized to act on Complainant’s behalf. Complainant argues that the disputed domain names would most likely be understood to refer to Complainant or Complainant’s goods and services. Furthermore, Complainant contends that Respondent is not using the disputed domain names in connection with a bona fide offering of goods and services nor making a legitimate noncommercial or fair use of the disputed domain name under paragraphs 4(c)(i) or (iii) of the Policy.
According to Complainant, Respondent has registered and is using the disputed domain names in bad faith to benefit from the goodwill and fame associated with Complainant’s REDDIT marks. Complainant asserts that Respondent’s bad faith is established by the fact that the disputed domain names purposefully incorporate the well-known REDDIT mark, and were registered long after this mark became well known to consumers. According to Complainant, it is inconceivable that Respondent was unaware of Complainant’s rights in the REDDIT mark when it registered the disputed domain names fully incorporating Complainant’s famous federally registered REDDIT mark. According to Complainant, Respondent must have had actual and constructive notice of Complainant’s rights given the extensive advertising it engages in and the existence of its active federal registrations.
Complainant also contends that Respondent’s bad faith registration and use of the disputed domain names is further established by the fact they are being used to perpetrate illegal schemes. Complainant alleges that Respondent is using the <redditpromotion.com> domain name as part of an illegal scheme to sell “aged” Reddit user account to marketers, businesses, and anyone seeking to promote their brand on Complainant’s platform, which violates Complainant’s User Agreement. Complainant further alleges that Respondent is using the <redditshop.com> to engage in deceptive advertising practices in which Respondent posts or facilitates the distribution of hidden advertising on Complainant’s platform in violation of Section 5(a) of the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) Act, § 45(a), which prohibits “unfair or deceptive acts or practices in or affecting commerce.”
Accordingly, Complainant requests that the disputed domain names be transferred to Complainant.
Although Respondent sent email communications during the initial phase of this proceeding, Respondent did not reply to Complainant’s contentions.
6. Discussion and Findings
Paragraph 3(c) of the UDRP Rules allows a complaint to relate to more than one domain name provided that the domain names are registered by the same domain-name holder. Complainant has provided clear evidence that Respondent is the registrant for both disputed domains, thus justifying joining the disputed domain names in this sole proceeding.
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.
Furthermore, Section 4.3 of the WIPO Overview of WIPO Panel Views on Selected UDRP Questions, Third Edition (“WIPO Overview 3.0”) states:
“Does a respondent’s default/failure to respond to the complainant’s contentions automatically result in the complaint succeeding?
Noting the burden of proof on the complainant, a respondent’s default (i.e., failure to submit a formal response) would not by itself mean that the complainant is deemed to have prevailed; a respondent’s default is not necessarily an admission that the complainant’s claims are true.” Thus, even though Respondent has failed to address Complainant’s contentions, the burden remains with Complainant to establish the three elements of paragraph 4(a) of the Policy by a preponderance of the evidence. See, e.g., The Knot, Inc. v. In Knot We Trust LTD, WIPO Case No. D2006-0340.
A. Identical or Confusingly Similar
Ownership of a nationally registered trademark constitutes prima facie evidence that the complainant has the requisite rights in a mark for purposes of paragraph 4(a)(i) of the Policy. WIPO Overview 3.0, section 1.2.1. Complainant has provided evidence that it has rights in the REDDIT trademark through its United States registrations.
With Complainant’s rights in the REDDIT mark established, the remaining question under the first element of the Policy is whether the disputed domain names (typically disregarding the Top Level Domain (“TLD”) in which each domain name is registered) are identical or confusingly similar to Complainant’s marks. It is well accepted that the first element functions primarily as a standing requirement and that the threshold test for confusing similarity involves a “reasoned but relatively straightforward comparison between the complainant’s trademark and the disputed domain name.” WIPO Overview 3.0, section 1.7. 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. WIPO Overview 3.0, section 1.7; see also, e.g., Stefani Germanotta and Ate My Heart Inc. v. Deborah Allen, WIPOCase No. D2015-2353 (transferring <ladygagafoundation.com> to the Complainant); Stefani Germanotta and Ate My Heart Inc. v. Rola Dowens, WIPO Case No. D2013-1506 (transferring<ladygagadress.com> to the Complainant).
Here, Complainant’s REDDIT mark is fully incorporated in both of the disputed domain names. Furthermore the inclusion of the descriptive terms “promotion” and “shop” does nothing to prevent a finding of confusing similarity under the first element. The Panel therefore finds that Complainant has satisfied the requirements of paragraph 4(a)(i) of the Policy in establishing its trademark rights and showing that the disputed domain names are confusingly similar to Complainant’s REDDIT 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. See, e.g., 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.
Paragraph 4(c) of the Policy lists the ways that the respondent may demonstrate rights or legitimate interests in the disputed domain name:
(i) before any notice of the dispute, respondent’s use of, or demonstrable preparations to use, the disputed domain name or a name corresponding to the disputed domain name in connection with a bona fide offering of goods or services; or
(ii) the respondent (as an individual, business or other organization) has been commonly known by the disputed domain name, even if it has acquired no trade mark or service mark rights; 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 trade mark or service mark at issue.
Complainant has also asserted that Respondent has no authorization to use the REDDIT mark, and Respondent is not commonly known by this name. Respondent has failed to rebut Complainant’s allegations and evidence, and therefore, the Panel concludes that Respondent does not have rights or legitimate interests in the disputed domain names within the meaning of Policy paragraph 4(a)(ii).
C. Registered and Used in Bad Faith
The Policy indicates in paragraph 4(b)(iv) that bad faith registration and use of a domain name can be found when, by using the domain name, a respondent has intentionally attempted to attract, for commercial gain, Internet users to its website or other online location, by creating a likelihood of confusion with a complainant’s mark as to the source, sponsorship, affiliation, or endorsement of the website or location or of a product or service on the website or location.
In this case, bad faith can be found in the registration and use of the disputed domain names. Complainant provided ample evidence to show the widespread use and numerous registrations of the REDDIT mark that long predates Respondent’s registration of the disputed domain names. Therefore, Respondent was likely aware of the REDDIT trademark when it registered the disputed domain names, or knew or should have known that they were identical or confusingly similar to Complainant’s marks. See WIPO Overview 3.0, section 3.2.1; see also TTT Moneycorp Limited v. Privacy Gods / Privacy Gods Limited, WIPO Case No. D2016-1973.
Complainant has also provided evidence that Respondent, through use of the disputed domain names, is conducting what appears to be schemes to sell mature Reddit user accounts as well as post and/or facilitate the distribution of hidden advertising on Complainant’s platform. Complainant has provided evidence that such activities violate Complainant’s User Agreement and may run afoul of applicable laws, which supports a finding of bad faith. See, e.g., Supercell Oy v. WhoisGuard Protected, WhoisGuard, Inc. / Giacinto Napolitani, WIPO Case No. D2017-2064 (<clashoflightsapp.com>, transferred); Supercell Oy v. Ali Negahban Fard, WIPOCase No. D2017-0342 (finding bad faith where “the website at the disputed domain nameappears to be targeted quite blatantly at selling CLASH OF CLANS user accounts without theComplainant’s authority”).
For these reasons, this Panel finds that Respondent’s registration and use of the disputed domain names were in bad faith, within the meaning of paragraph 4(b)(iv) 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 names <redditpromotion.com> and <redditshop.com> be transferred to Complainant.
Brian J. Winterfeldt
Date: January 29, 2020