WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center
ADMINISTRATIVE PANEL DECISION
Pinsent Masons LLP v. Contact Privacy Inc. Customer 1246646498 / Barry Quinn
Case No. D2020-0956
1. The Parties
The Complainant is Pinsent Masons LLP, United Kingdom, internally represented.
The Respondent is Contact Privacy Inc. Customer 1246646498, Canada / Barry Quinn, United States of America (“US”).
2. The Domain Name and Registrar
The disputed domain name <pinsentasons.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 April 17, 2020. On April 17, 2020, the Center transmitted by email to the Registrar a request for registrar verification in connection with the disputed domain name. On April 17, 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 the Complainant on April 23, 2020 providing the registrant and contact information disclosed by the Registrar, and inviting the Complainant to submit an amendment to the Complaint. The Complainant filed amended Complaints on April 27, 2020 and on April 30, 2020.
The Center verified that the Complaint together with the amended Complaints 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 May 8, 2020. In accordance with the Rules, paragraph 5, the due date for Response was May 28, 2020. The Respondent did not submit any response. Accordingly, the Center notified the Respondent’s default on June 8, 2020.
The Center appointed Reyes Campello Estebaranz as the sole panelist in this matter on June 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 a full service law firm providing legal services in a broad spectrum of practice areas including construction, dispute resolution, outsourcing, technology, corporate finance and intellectual property, and operating internationally with 25 offices, across the United Kingdom (“UK”), the European Union, the Gulf, Asia Pacific and Africa, over 400 partners, a total legal team of around 1,800, and more than 2,500 staff. The Complainant is a result of a number of mergers, trading under the name Pinsent Masons LLP since 2004.
The Complainant owns a substantial portfolio of trademark registrations for PINSENT MASONS alone or in combination to other word or figurative elements worldwide, including UK Trademark Registration No. 2377047 (registered on April 15, 2005 in classes 9, 16, 35, 36, 41 and 42); and International Registration No. 977347 (registered on April 30, 2008 in classes 9, 16, 35, 36, 41 and 45, designating among other jurisdictions the US) (collectively the “PINSENT MASONS mark”). The Complainant further owns various domain names that incorporate the PINSENT MASONS mark, which are linked to its corporate websites in connection with its products and services, including <pinsentmasons.com> (registered on June 1, 2004).
The disputed domain name was registered on March 10, 2020, and it is currently inactive resolving to a page with an Internet browser error message.
5. Parties’ Contentions
Key contentions of the Complaint may be summarized as follows:
The Complainant has used the PINSENT MASONS mark continuously, advertising its services both online through its websites and off-line in a variety of publications, building up substantial goodwill and reputation in its trademark.
The disputed domain name is confusingly similar to the PINSENT MASONS mark, only removing the letter “m” from the word “Masons”, which may be a common, obvious or intentional misspelling of the mark. The disputed domain name is a classic typosquatting case, showing the Respondent’s intention to confuse Internet users and misleadingly divert them to the Respondent’s website.
The Respondent has no rights or legitimate interests in the disputed domain name. The Respondent has not been authorized for the use of the Complainant’s trademark and is not making a legitimate noncommercial fair use of the disputed domain name. On April 16, 2020, the Complainant attempted to review the content linked to the disputed domain name, not been permitted its access, due to the website being determined by Web Reputation Filters to be a security threat.
The disputed domain name was registered and is being used in bad faith. Due to the reputation of the PINSENT MASONS mark, the Respondent must have been aware that in registering the disputed domain name he was misappropriating the Complainant’s rights. The Respondent’s motives for the registration of the disputed domain name are unclear, being the Complainant concerned that the Respondent may have the intention to sell it, generate revenue through pay-per-click websites, redirect Internet traffic to an alternative website or facilitate the creation of email addresses for illegitimate or fraudulent purposes. Due to the notoriety of the PINSENT MASONS mark, the Respondent will never be capable of using the disputed domain name for a legitimate purpose, as it misleads Internet users.
The Complainant has cited various decisions under the Policy that it considers supportive of its position, and requests the transfer of the disputed domain name.
The Respondent did not reply to the Complainant’s contentions.
6. Discussion and Findings
The Complainant has made the relevant assertions as required by the Policy and the dispute is properly within the scope of the Policy. The Panel has authority to decide the dispute examining the three elements in paragraph 4(a) of the Policy, taking into consideration all of the relevant evidence, annexed material and allegations, and performing some limited independent research under the general powers of the Panel articulated, inter alia, in paragraph 10 of the Rules.
A. Identical or Confusingly Similar
In cases where a domain name incorporates the entirety of a trademark, or where at least a dominant feature of the relevant mark is recognizable in the domain name, the domain name will normally be considered identical or confusingly similar to that mark for purposes of the Policy. In such cases, a domain name consisting of a common, obvious, or intentional misspelling of a trademark, containing sufficiently recognizable aspects of that mark, is considered confusingly similar to the relevant mark for the purposes of the first element, and employing a misspelling in this way normally signals an intention to confuse users seeking or expecting the complainant. See sections 1.7 and 1.9 of the WIPO Overview of WIPO Panel Views on Selected UDRP Questions, Third Edition (“WIPO Overview 3.0”).
Further, the applicable generic Top-Level Domain (“gTLD”) in a domain name is considered a standard technical registration requirement and, as such, it is generally disregarded under the first element confusing similarity test. See section 1.11, WIPO Overview 3.0.
The Complainant indisputably has rights in the registered trademark PINSENT MASONS. The disputed domain name incorporates the PINSENT MASONS mark almost in its entirety removing the letter “m” from the second word “Masons”, which may be considered a common misspelling not avoiding the direct perception of the mark. Furthermore, due to the position of the removed letter (“m”), placed in the middle of the disputed domain name, this misspelling may easily go unnoticed. The PINSENT MASONS mark is recognizable in the disputed domain name, and the gTLD “.com” is a technical requirement, generally disregarded for the purpose of the analysis of the confusing similarity. Accordingly, this Panel finds that the disputed domain name is confusingly similar to the Complainant’s mark, and the first element of the Policy under paragraph 4(a)(i) has been satisfied.
B. Rights or Legitimate Interests
Although the Complainant bears the ultimate burden of establishing all three elements of paragraph 4(a) of the Policy, 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 primarily if not exclusively within the respondent’s knowledge. Thus, the consensus view is that paragraph 4(c) of the Policy shifts to the respondent the burden of production to come forward with relevant evidence of rights or legitimate interests in the disputed domain name, once the complainant has made a prima facie case that the respondent lacks rights or legitimate interests.
The Complainant’s assertions and evidence in this case effectively shift the burden to the Respondent of producing evidence of rights or legitimate interests in the disputed domain name, providing the circumstances of paragraph 4(c) of the Policy, without limitation, that may establish rights or legitimate interests in the disputed domain name in order to rebut the Complainant’s prima facie case. However, the Respondent has not replied to the Complainant’s contentions, not providing any explanation and evidence of rights or legitimate interests in the disputed domain name.
A core factor in assessing fair use of a domain name is that it does not falsely suggest affiliation with the Complainant’s trademark. See section 2.5, WIPO Overview 3.0. The disputed domain name incorporates the Complainant’s trademark almost in its entirety with a sole common misspelling (removing the letter “m” from the word “Masons”). The Panel considers that this common misspelling points to an intention to confuse Internet users seeking for or expecting the Complainant, existing a high risk of implied affiliation and confusion.
The Panel further notes the extensive presence over the Internet of the PINSENT MASONS mark, its use internationally and its notoriety in the legal sector. The Panel has verified that the Complainant provides services in various jurisdictions around the globe, supporting international clients working throughout the US (where the Respondent is located according to the Registrar verification). The Panel, in use of the general powers articulated in the Policy, has consulted the Complainant’s corporate website (under “www.pinsentmasons.com”), and has corroborated through various searches over the Internet the use of the Complainant’s trademark.
It is further remarkable the Respondent has deliberately chosen not to reply the Complaint, not providing any explanation connected to any of the circumstances included in paragraph 4(c) of the Policy or any other circumstance that may be considered as a right or legitimate interest in the disputed domain name.
All the above-mentioned circumstances lead the Panel to conclude that the Respondent has not rebutted the Complainant’s prima facie case, and all the cumulative facts and circumstances indicate the Respondent lacks any rights or legitimate interests in the disputed domain name. Therefore, the second element of the Policy under paragraph 4(a)(ii) has been established.
C. Registered and Used in Bad Faith
The Policy, paragraph 4(a)(iii), requires that the Complainant establish that the disputed domain name has been registered and is being used in bad faith.
The applicable standard of proof in UDRP cases is the “balance of probabilities” or “preponderance of the evidence”, being the Panel prepared to draw certain inferences in light of the particular facts and circumstances of the case. See section 4.2, WIPO Overview 3.0.
The Panel considers that all cumulative circumstances of this case point to bad faith registration and use of the disputed domain name: (i) the disputed domain name incorporates the Complainant’s trademark PINSENT MASONS almost in its entirety, introducing a common misspelling (removing letter “m” from the word “Masons”), which intrinsically creates a likelihood of confusion and affiliation; (ii) the Complainant’s trademark is notorious in its sector, and the Complainant operates internationally; (iii) the disputed domain name is inactive; (iv) the Respondent used a privacy service to avoid revealing his identity in the disputed domain name’s registration; and (iv) the Respondent has not offered any explanation of any rights or legitimate interests in the disputed domain name and has not come forward to deny the Complainant’s assertions of bad faith, choosing not to reply to the Complaint.
Therefore, on the balance of probabilities, taking into consideration all cumulative circumstances of this case, the Panel considers that the disputed domain name was very likely registered targeting the PINSENT MASONS mark with the intention of obtaining a free ride on the established reputation of the Complainant, as well as to probably intentionally attract Internet users to believe that there is a connection between the disputed domain name and the Complainant, which constitutes bad faith. As the Complainant is a well-known legal firm, it is further possible the disputed domain name was registered with the intention to create email addresses for illegitimate or fraudulent purposes in a phishing scam or any other type of fraud.
All of the above-mentioned circumstances leads the Panel to conclude that the disputed domain name was registered and is being used in bad faith. Accordingly, the Panel concludes that the Complainant has met its burden of establishing that the Respondent registered and is using the disputed domain name in bad faith under the third element 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 <pinsentasons.com> be transferred to the Complainant.
Reyes Campello Estebaranz
Date: June 29, 2020