WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center
ADMINISTRATIVE PANEL DECISION
Citigroup Inc. v. WhoisGuard Protected, WhoisGuard, Inc. / Rita Dennis
Case No. D2020-0010
1. The Parties
Complainant is Citigroup Inc., United States of America (“United States”), represented by Frankfurt Kurnit Klein & Selz, PC, United States.
Respondent is WhoisGuard Protected, WhoisGuard, Inc., Panama / Rita Dennis, United States.
2. The Domain Name and Registrar
The disputed domain name <citifinangrp.info> (the “Domain Name”) is registered with NameCheap, Inc. (the “Registrar”).
3. Procedural History
The Complaint was filed with the WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center (the “Center”) on January 3, 2020. On January 3, 2020, the Center transmitted by email to the Registrar a request for registrar verification in connection with the Domain Name. On January 3, 2020, the Registrar transmitted by email to the Center its verification response disclosing registrant and contact information for the Domain Name which differed from the named Respondent and contact information in the Complaint. The Center sent an email communication to Complainant on January 6, 2020 providing the registrant and contact information disclosed by the Registrar, and inviting Complainant to submit an amendment to the Complaint. Complainant filed an amendment to the Complaint on January 6, 2020.
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 Respondent of the Complaint, and the proceedings commenced on January 10, 2020. In accordance with the Rules, paragraph 5, the due date for Response was January 30, 2020. Respondent did not submit any response. Accordingly, the Center notified Respondent’s default on January 31, 2020.
The Center appointed Robert A. Badgley as the sole panelist in this matter on February 7, 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 is one of the largest financial services companies in the world, and is the 30th largest corporation in the United States. Its net income in 2018 was USD 18 billion.
Complainant has used the trademark CITI since 1979 in connection with financial services. The mark CITI is registered with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (“USPTO”) under Reg. No. 1,181,467, registered on December 8, 1981. Complainant also holds numerous trademark registrations with the USPTO and with numerous jurisdictions worldwide for the mark CITI and for other CITI-formative marks, such as CITIGROUP and CITIFINANCIAL.
The Domain Name was registered on September 12, 2019. At present, the Domain Name resolves to a blank website. For a time, however, the Domain Name resolved to a website that mimics the content of Complainant’s own commercial banking website. Respondent’s site included content describing itself in terms identical to Complainant (including identifying Complainant’s CEO, describing Complainant’s corporate history, and so forth).
5. Parties’ Contentions
Complainant contends that it has satisfied all three elements required under the Policy for a transfer of the Domain Name.
Respondent did not reply to Complainant’s contentions.
6. Discussion and Findings
Paragraph 4(a) of the Policy lists the three elements which Complainant must satisfy with respect to the Domain Name:
(i) the Domain Name is identical or confusingly similar to a trademark or service mark in which Complainant has rights; and
(ii) Respondent has no rights or legitimate interests in respect of the Domain Name; and
(iii) the Domain Name has been registered and is being used in bad faith.
A. Identical or Confusingly Similar
The Panel concludes that Complainant has rights in the mark CITI through registration demonstrated in the record. The Panel also finds that the Domain Name is confusingly similar to that mark. The Domain Name fully incorporates the CITI mark and adds the characters “finangrp”, which would strike most English speakers as an abbreviation of “financial group”. Because Complainant’s CITI mark is clearly recognizable within the Domain Name, the additional characters do not prevent a finding of confusing similarity between the CITI mark and the Domain Name.
Complainant has established Policy, paragraph 4(a)(i).
B. Rights or Legitimate Interests
Pursuant to paragraph 4(c) of the Policy, Respondent may establish its rights or legitimate interests in the Domain Name, among other circumstances, by showing any of the following elements:
(i) before any notice to you [Respondent] of the dispute, your use of, or demonstrable preparations to use, the Domain Name or a name corresponding to the Domain Name in connection with a bona fide offering of goods or services; or
(ii) you [Respondent] (as an individual, business, or other organization) have been commonly known by the Domain Name, even if you have acquired no trademark or service mark rights; or
(iii) you [Respondent] are making a legitimate noncommercial or fair use of the Domain Name, without intent for commercial gain to misleadingly divert consumers or to tarnish the trademark or service mark at issue.
The Panel concludes that Respondent lacks rights or legitimate interests in respect of the Domain Name. Respondent has not come forward in this proceeding to advance any legitimate basis for registering the Domain Name. It is undisputed that Complainant’s CITI mark is well known and that Respondent was not authorized to use that mark in a Domain Name or otherwise. The undisputed record also reflects that Respondent has constructed a website that seeks to mimic Complainant’s commercial website and thereby mislead consumers seeking Complainant’s site.
Complainant has established Policy, paragraph 4(a)(ii).
C. Registered and Used in Bad Faith
Paragraph 4(b) of the Policy provides that the following circumstances, “in particular but without limitation”, are evidence of the registration and use of the Domain Name in “bad faith”:
(i) circumstances indicating that Respondent has registered or has acquired the Domain Name primarily for the purpose of selling, renting, or otherwise transferring the Domain Name registration to Complainant who is the owner of the trademark or service mark or to a competitor of that Complainant, for valuable consideration in excess of its documented out of pocket costs directly related to the Domain Name; or
(ii) that Respondent has registered the Domain Name in order to prevent the owner of the trademark or service mark from reflecting the mark in a corresponding domain name, provided that Respondent has engaged in a pattern of such conduct; or
(iii) that Respondent has registered the Domain Name primarily for the purpose of disrupting the business of a competitor; or
(iv) that by using the Domain Name, Respondent has intentionally attempted to attract, for commercial gain, Internet users to Respondent’s website or other online location, by creating a likelihood of confusion with Complainant’s mark as to the source, sponsorship, affiliation, or endorsement of Respondent’s website or location or of a product or service on Respondent’s website or location.
The Panel concludes that Respondent registered and used the Domain Name in bad faith. Given the fame of Complainant’s CITI mark and the fact that Respondent created a fake website that obviously attempted to pass Respondent off as Complainant (or at a minimum an entity affiliated with or endorsed by Complainant), it is clear that Respondent had Complainant’s mark in mind when registering the Domain Name.
Respondent’s conduct plainly constitutes bad faith within the meaning of the above-quoted Policy paragraph 4(b)(iv).
Complainant has established Policy, paragraph 4(a)(iii).
For the foregoing reasons, in accordance with paragraphs 4(i) of the Policy and 15 of the Rules, the Panel orders that the Domain Name <citifinangrp.info> be transferred to Complainant.
Robert A. Badgley
Date: February 20, 2020