WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center
ADMINISTRATIVE PANEL DECISION
Little Ceasar Enterprises, Inc. v. Aycan Ferik, Krea Direct Marketing Services Ltd. Co.
Case No. D2020-0197
1. The Parties
The Complainant is Little Ceasar Enterprises, Inc., United States of America (“United States”), represented by Davis & Gilbert LLP, United States.
The Respondent is Aycan Ferik, Krea Direct Marketing Services Ltd. Co., Turkey.
2. The Domain Name and Registrar
The disputed domain name <littlecaesars.email> is registered with Easyspace (the “Registrar”).
3. Procedural History
The Complaint was filed with the WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center (the “Center”) on January 27, 2020. On January 27, 2020, the Center transmitted by email to the Registrar a request for registrar verification in connection with the disputed domain name. On January 28, 2020, the Registrar transmitted by email to the Center its verification response confirming that the 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 the Respondent of the Complaint, and the proceedings commenced on January 29, 2020. In accordance with the Rules, paragraph 5, the due date for Response was February 18, 2020. The Respondent did not submit any response. Accordingly, the Center notified the Respondent’s default on February 19, 2020.
The Center appointed Kaya Köklü as the sole panelist in this matter on February 25, 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 a company incorporated in the United States. It has pizza restaurants in the United States since 1959 and currently operates a large franchise of pizza chains globally.
The Complainant is the owner of the LITTLE CAESARS trademark, which is registered in a large number of jurisdictions, e.g., as European Union Trade Mark Registration No. 003714565 (registered on January 30, 2007) and Turkish Trademark Registration No. 177832 (registered on October 27, 1997). The relevant trademarks particularly cover protection for food-related goods and services.
The Complainant further owns and operates its official website at “www.littlecaesars.com”.
The Respondent is an individual from Turkey, representing a marketing company.
The disputed domain name <littlecaesars.email> was registered on April 21, 2014.
The disputed domain name resolves to a website, which asks Internet users to submit personal data.
A request for a voluntary transfer of the disputed domain name sent by the counsel of the Complainant to the Respondent on January 9, 2020, remained unanswered.
5. Parties’ Contentions
The Complainant requests the transfer of the disputed domain name.
The Complainant is of the opinion that the disputed domain name is identical to its LITTLE CAESARS trademark.
Furthermore, the Complainant argues that the Respondent has no rights or legitimate interests in respect of the disputed domain name.
Finally, it is argued that the Respondent has registered and is using the disputed domain name in bad faith. The Complainant particularly argues that the Respondent must have been well aware of the Complainant’s LITTLE CAESARS trademark, when registering and taking control over the disputed domain name.
The Respondent did not reply to the Complainant’s contentions.
6. Discussion and Findings
According to paragraph 15(a) of the Rules, the Panel shall decide the Complaint in accordance with the Policy, the Rules and any rules and principles of law that it deems applicable.
In accordance with paragraph 4(a) of the Policy, the Complainant must prove that each of the three following elements is satisfied:
(i) the disputed domain name is identical or confusingly similar to a trademark in which the Complainant has rights; and
(ii) the Respondent has no rights or legitimate interests in respect of the disputed domain name; and
(iii) the disputed domain name has been registered and is being used in bad faith.
Paragraph 4(a) of the Policy states that the Complainant bears the burden of proving that all these requirements are fulfilled, even if the Respondent has not replied to the Complainant’s contentions. Stanworth Development Limited v. E Net Marketing Ltd., WIPO Case No. D2007-1228.
However, concerning the uncontested information provided by the Complainant, the Panel may, where relevant, accept the provided reasonable factual allegations in the Complaint as true. See section 4.3 of the WIPO Overview of WIPO Panel Views on Selected UDRP Questions, Third Edition (“WIPO Overview 3.0”).
It is further noted that the Panel has taken note of the WIPO Overview 3.0 and, where appropriate, will decide consistent with the consensus views stated therein.
A. Identical or Confusingly Similar
The Panel finds that the Complainant has registered trademark rights in the mark LITTLE CAESARS by virtue of a large number of trademark registrations, including in Turkey, where the Respondent is located (cf. Annex 6).
The disputed domain name is, in view of the Panel, identical to the Complainant’s LITTLE CAESARS trademark as it incorporates the Complainant’s trademark in its entirety without any additions or amendments.
In the Panel’s view, the mere addition of the generic Top-Level Domain (“gTLD”) “.email” may, as a general principle, be disregarded when assessing identity or confusing similarity between a domain name and a trademark (in line with prior UDRP panels concerning the use of a gTLD within a domain name, cf. V&S Vin & Sprit AB v. Ooar Supplies, WIPO Case No. D2004-0962; Google Inc. v. Nijat Hassanov, WIPO Case No. D2011-1054).
In view of the above, the Panel is satisfied that the Complainant has met the requirements under paragraph 4(a)(i) of the Policy.
B. Rights or Legitimate Interests
The Panel further finds that the Respondent has failed to demonstrate any rights or legitimate interests in the disputed domain name.
While the burden of proof on this element remains with the Complainant, previous UDRP panels have recognized that this would result in the often impossible task of proving a negative, in particular as the evidence in this regard is often primarily within the knowledge of the Respondent. Therefore, the Panel agrees with prior UDRP panels that the Complainant is required to make out a prima facie case before the burden of production shifts to the Respondent to show that it has rights or legitimate interests in the disputed domain name in order to meet the requirements of paragraph 4(a)(ii) of the Policy. See, Croatia Airlines d.d. v. Modern Empire Internet Ltd., WIPO Case No. D2003-0455.
The Panel finds that the Complainant has satisfied this requirement, while the Respondent has failed to file any evidence or make any convincing argument to demonstrate rights or legitimate interests in the disputed domain name according to the Policy, paragraphs 4(a)(ii) and 4(c).
In its Complaint, the Complainant has provided uncontested prima facie evidence that the Respondent has no rights or legitimate interests to use the Complainant’s trademark LITTLE CAESARS, especially as the disputed domain name is identical to the Complainant’s trademark (see section 2.5.1 of the WIPO Overview 3.0).
There is also no indication in the current record that the Respondent is commonly known by the disputed domain name. In the absence of a Response, the Respondent has also failed to demonstrate any of the other non-exclusive circumstances evidencing rights or legitimate interests under the Policy, paragraph 4(c) or other evidence of rights or legitimate interests in the disputed domain name.
As a conclusion, the Panel finds that the Complainant has also satisfied the requirements of paragraph 4(a)(ii) of the Policy.
C. Registered and Used in Bad Faith
The Panel is convinced that the Respondent must have had the Complainant’s trademark in mind when it registered the disputed domain name. At the date of registration of the disputed domain name, the Complainant’s LITTLE CAESARS trademark was already registered in a large number of jurisdictions (including Turkey) and widely used for many years. The assessment of bad faith registration is further supported by the fact that the disputed domain name is identical to the trademark of the Complainant.
In view of the Panel, it is also obvious that the Respondent has used the disputed domain name in bad faith, particularly as the disputed domain name is linked to a website asking misled Internet users for the submission of personal data. In fact, the Panel cannot conceive of any plausible and legitimate use of the disputed domain name that would be in good faith, except with an authorization of the Complainant. In view of the Panel, the Respondent rather intentionally tries to cause the false impression that the website linked to the disputed domain name is operated or at least endorsed or authorized by the Complainant.
Furthermore, the Panel accepts the failure of the Respondent to submit a substantive response to the Complainant’s contentions and its previous email of January 9, 2020 as an additional indication for bad faith use.
Taking all facts of the case into consideration, the Panel believes that this is a typical cybersquatting case, which the UDRP was designed to stop.
Consequently, the Panel is convinced that the disputed domain name was registered and is being used in bad faith and that the Complainant consequently has satisfied the third element of the Policy, namely, paragraph 4(a)(iii) 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 name <littlecaesars.email> be transferred to the Complainant.
Date: March 10, 2020