WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center
ADMINISTRATIVE PANEL DECISION
Ladbrokes Betting & Gaming Limited v. Givorg Fonseka
Case No. D2020-0705
1. The Parties
The Complainant is Ladbrokes Betting & Gaming Limited, United Kingdom (hereinafter “Complainant”), represented by Stobbs IP Limited, United Kingdom.
The Respondent is Givorg Fonseka, Italy (hereinafter “Respondent”).
2. The Domain Name and Registrar
The disputed domain name <ladbrokes-coral.com> is registered with GoDaddy.com, LLC (the “Registrar”).
3. Procedural History
The Complaint was filed with the WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center (the “Center”) on March 24, 2020. On March 24, 2020, the Center transmitted by email to the Registrar a request for registrar verification in connection with the disputed domain name. On March 25, 2020, 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 Complainant on March 30, 2020 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 April 3, 2020.
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 April 6, 2020. In accordance with the Rules, paragraph 5, the due date for Response was April 26, 2020. Respondent did not submit any response. Accordingly, the Center notified Respondent’s default on April 27, 2020.
The Center appointed M. Scott Donahey as the sole panelist in this matter on April 30, 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 operates licensed betting offices active in the sports betting and gaming operations. Complainant was formed in 1886. In 2015, Ladbrokes merged with Coral brands, another company involved in sports betting and gaming. The merger deal was valued at 2.3 billion GBP. As of 2018, Complainant controlled 41% of the United Kingdom market share and operated over 3,600 betting offices. Complainant’s 2018 annual report reported gross profits of 400,200,000 GBP. The brands operated by Complainant on an online basis under the domain names <ladbrokes.com> and <coral.co.uk> have been active as websites since as early as September 2005 and October 2006 and were registered since February 1998 and August 1996. Complaint, Annexes 6 and 7.
Complainant’s businesses have received significant media exposure over the years in publications with international reach. Complaint, Annex 8. Complainant sponsors and advertises extensively various sporting events and global sporting competitions, including the Scottish Professional Football League, and major horseracing events. Complainant registered the trademarks LADBROKES with the European Union at least as early as September 27, 2000, and the trademarks CORAL with Australia at least as early as June 11, 1998. Complaint, Annex 4.
Respondent registered the disputed domain name <ladbrokes-coral.com> on May 23, 2019. In the registration of the disputed domain name, Respondent, who purports to be a resident of Turin, Italy, gave an address which corresponds to that of the Allianz Stadium in Turin, which is the stadium in which the famous Juventus Football Club plays its home matches. The disputed domain name has at times resolved to a website on which pornography is displayed and at other times has failed to resolve to any website.
5. Parties’ Contentions
Complainant contends that the disputed domain name, which consists of Complainant’s LADBROKES trademark and Complainant’s CORAL trademark separated by a hyphen, is confusingly similar to those marks. Complainant asserts that Respondent is not using the disputed domain name in a bona fide offering of goods or services, nor does Respondent disclose that he has no relationship with Complainant. Therefore, Respondent has no rights or legitimate interests in respect of the disputed domain name. Finally, Respondent has registered and is using the disputed domain name in bad faith in that he is using the combination of Complainant’s registered trademarks to resolve to a website which contains pornographic content or which fails to resolve to any website at all. Moreover, Respondent deliberately gave a false address to the Registrar. Complainant alleges that all of these factors establish that Respondent has registered and is using the disputed domain name in bad faith.
Respondent did not reply to Complainant’s contentions.
6. Discussion and Findings
A Panel shall decide a complaint on the basis of the statements and documents submitted and in accordance with the Policy, the Rules and any rules and principles of law that it deems applicable.
Paragraph 4(a) of the Policy directs that the complainant must prove each of the following:
(i) that the domain name registered by the respondent is identical or confusingly similar to a trademark or service mark in which the complainant has rights; and,
(ii) that the respondent has no rights or legitimate interests in respect of the domain name; and,
(iii) that the domain name has been registered and is being used in bad faith.
A. Identical or Confusingly Similar
The disputed domain name consists of Complainant’s well-known LADBROKES trademark and Complainant’s well-known CORAL trademark separated by a hyphen and followed by the generic Top-Level Domain (“gTLD”) “.com”. Accordingly, the Panel finds that the disputed domain name is confusingly similar to Complainant’s trademarks.
B. Rights or Legitimate Interests
While the overall burden of proof in UDRP proceedings is on the complainant, UDRP panels have recognized that proving a respondent lacks rights or legitimate interests in a domain name may result in the often impossible task of “proving a negative”, requiring information that is often primarily within the knowledge or control of the respondent. As such, where a complainant makes out a prima facie case that the respondent lacks rights or legitimate interests, the burden of production on this element shifts to the respondent to come forward with relevant evidence demonstrating rights or legitimate interests in the domain name. If the respondent fails to come forward with such relevant evidence, the complainant is deemed to have satisfied the second element. WIPO Overview of WIPO Panel Views on Selected UDRP Questions, Third Edition (“WIPO Overview 3.0”), section 2.1.
In the present case, Complainant alleges that Respondent has no rights or legitimate interests in respect of the disputed domain name and Respondent has failed to assert any such rights. Accordingly, the Panel finds that Respondent has no rights or legitimate interests in respect of the disputed domain name.
C. Registered and Used in Bad Faith
The disputed domain name either fails to resolve to any website or resolves to a website on which pornography is displayed. Moreover, Respondent gave his address as that of the stadium in Turin at which sporting events are held, including football, which was apparently developed originally in the United Kingdom, the place in which Complainant is headquartered, and which sporting events are directly related to Complainant’s sports betting business, a good deal of which is conducted online. This in and of itself is confusing to a user who sees a domain name which consists of trademarks which are suggestive of this business. Therefore, the Panel finds that the disputed domain name has been registered and is being used in bad faith.
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 <ladbrokes-coral.com> be transferred to Complainant.
M. Scott Donahey
Date: May 4, 2020