WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center

ADMINISTRATIVE PANEL DECISION

Verizon Trademark Services LLC v. Keith Walker

Case No. D2020-0960

1. The Parties

The Complainant is Verizon Trademark Services LLC, United States of America (“United States”), internally represented.

The Respondent is Keith Walker, United States.

2. The Domain Names and Registrar

The disputed domain names <myverizonwirelesscovid19.com> and <verizonwireless-covid-19.net> (the “Disputed Domain Names”) are registered with eNom, Inc. (the “Registrar”).

3. Procedural History

The Complaint was filed with the WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center (the “Center”) on April 17, 2020. On April 20, 2020, the Center transmitted by email to the Registrar a request for registrar verification in connection with the Disputed Domain Names. On April 20, 2020, 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 the Complainant on April 21, 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 an amendment to the Complaint on April 21, 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 the Respondent of the Complaint, and the proceedings commenced on April 22, 2020. In accordance with the Rules, paragraph 5, the due date for Response was May 12, 2020. The Respondent did not submit any response. Accordingly, the Center notified the Respondent’s default on May 13, 2020.

The Center appointed Lynda M. Braun as the sole panelist in this matter on May 21, 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, a limited liability company organized and existing under the laws of Delaware, serves as an intellectual property holding company for the Verizon Companies (“Verizon”), including Verizon Wireless, a large wireless communications operator in the United States. The Complainant employs a diverse workforce of approximately 135,000 employees. Verizon owns and operates one of the most expansive end-to-end global IP networks serving more than 2,700 cities in 159 jurisdictions worldwide.

The Complainant owns registered trademarks for VERIZON and VERIZON WIRELESS, among others, in numerous jurisdictions worldwide. In particular, the Complainant owns many trademark registrations in the United States, including, but not limited to the following:

VERIZON, United States Registration No. 2,886,813, applied for September 10, 1999, and registered September 21, 2004, in international classes 9, 16, 35, 36, 37, 38, 41, and 42;

VERIZON, United States Registration No. 3,085,712, applied for September 10, 1999, and registered April 25, 2006, in international classes 9, 38, and 41;

VERIZON and design, United States Registration No. 2,879,802, applied for March 3, 2000, and registered August 31, 2004, in international classes 9, 16, 35, 36, 37, 38, 41, and 42,

VERIZON WIRELESS, United States Registration No. 3,077,271, applied for March 14, 2000, and registered April 4, 2006, in international classes 9, 16, 35, 36, and 38; and

VERIZON WIRELESS and design, United States Registration No. 3,660,522 applied for December 22, 2008, and registered July 28, 2009, in international class 35 (hereinafter collectively referred to as the “VERIZON and VERIZON WIRELESS Marks”).

The Disputed Domain Names were created on April 12, 2020. The Disputed Domain Name <myverizonwirelesscovid19.com> resolved to a phishing website designed to resemble the Complainant’s official website in an attempt to extract personal and financial information from unsuspecting Internet users. The Complainant provided a screenshot of the website associated with the Disputed Domain Name, taken on April 17, 2020, as an annex to its Complaint. The Disputed Domain Name <verizonwireless-covid-19.net> redirected Internet traffic to the Respondent’s website referenced above. A screenshot was also provided as an annex to the Complaint illustrating the resolving website.1

5. Parties’ Contentions

A. Complainant

The Complainant contends that numerous UDRP panels have acknowledged the Complainant’s rights in the VERIZON and VERIZON WIRELESS Marks and have awarded the transfer of disputed “Verizon”-formative domain names to the Complainant. Further, UDRP panels have concluded that the VERIZON and VERIZON WIRELESS Marks are distinctive and well known. See, e.g., Verizon Trademark Services LLC v. Mike Duffy, London Central Communications Ltd, WIPO Case No. D2014-1994 (“Complainant’s trade mark consists of an invented word which is well known”).

The following are also the Complainant’s contentions:

- the Disputed Domain Names are confusingly similar to the Complainant’s VERIZON and VERIZON WIRELESS Marks;

- the Respondent has no rights or legitimate interests in respect of the Disputed Domain Names;

- the Disputed Domain Names were registered and are being used in bad faith; and

- the Complainant seeks the transfer of the Disputed Domain Names from the Respondent to the Complainant in accordance with paragraph 4(i) of the Policy.

B. Respondent

The Respondent did not reply to the Complainant’s contentions.

6. Discussion and Findings

In order for the Complainant to prevail and have the Disputed Domain Names transferred to the Complainant, the Complainant must prove the following (Policy, paragraph 4(a)(i-iii)):

(i) the Disputed Domain Names are identical or confusingly similar to a trademark or service mark in which the Complainant has rights; and

(ii) the Respondent has no rights or legitimate interests in respect of the Disputed Domain Names; and

(iii) the Disputed Domain Names have been registered and are being used in bad faith.

A. Identical or Confusingly Similar

This element consists of two parts: first, does the Complainant have rights in a relevant trademark and, second, are the Disputed Domain Names identical or confusingly similar to that trademark. The Panel concludes that the Disputed Domain Names are confusingly similar to the VERIZON and VERIZON WIRELESS Marks.

It is uncontroverted that the Complainant has established rights in the VERIZON and VERIZON WIRELESS Marks based on its many years of use as well as its numerous registered trademarks that include or incorporate the VERIZON and VERIZON WIRELESS Marks. The general rule is that “registration of a mark is prima facie evidence of validity, which creates a rebuttable presumption that the mark is inherently distinctive”. See CWI, Inc. v. Domain Administrator c/o Dynadot, WIPO Case No. D2015-1734. The Respondent has not rebutted this presumption, and therefore the Panel finds that the Complainant has rights in the VERIZON and VERIZON WIRELESS Marks.

The Disputed Domain Name <myverizonwirelesscovid19.com> incorporates the Complainant’s VERIZON and VERIZON WIRELESS Marks in their entirety preceded by the dictionary term “my”, followed by the term “covid19” and then followed by the generic Top-Level Domain (“gTLD”) “.com”. The Disputed Domain Name <verizonwireless-covid-19.net> incorporates the Complainant’s VERIZON and VERIZON WIRELESS Marks in their entirety, followed by the term “covid-19”, which is offset from the Complainant’s VERIZON and VERIZON WIRELESS Marks by a hyphen, and then followed by the gTLD “.net”.

The Panel concludes that based on the above, the Disputed Domain Names are confusingly similar to the VERIZON and VERIZON WIRELESS Marks in which the Complainant has rights. Numerous UDRP Panels have stated that the addition of descriptive or dictionary term to a trademark is insufficient to avoid confusing similarity. See Allianz Global Investors of America, L.P. and Pacific Investment Management Company (PIMCO) v. Bingo-Bongo, WIPO Case No. D2011-0795; Hoffman-La Roche, Inc. v. Wei-Chun Hsia, WIPO Case No. D2008-0923; Nintendo of America, Inc. v. Fernando Sascha Gutierrez, WIPO Case No. D2009-0434.

Finally, the addition of a gTLD such as “.com” or “.net” in a domain name is technically required. Thus, it is well established that such element may typically be disregarded when assessing whether a domain name is identical or confusingly similar to a trademark. See Proactiva Medio Ambiente, S.A. v. Proactiva, WIPO Case No. D2012-0182.

Accordingly, the first element of paragraph 4(a) of the Policy has been met by the Complainant.

B. Rights or Legitimate Interests

Under the Policy, a complainant is required to make out a prima facie case that the respondent lacks rights or legitimate interests in the domain name. Once such a prima facie case is made, the respondent carries the burden of production of evidence demonstrating rights or legitimate interests in the disputed domain name. If the respondent fails to do so, the complainant is deemed to have satisfied paragraph 4(a)(ii) of the Policy. See WIPO Overview of WIPO Panel Views on Selected UDRP Questions, Third Edition (“WIPO Overview 3.0”), at section 2.1.

In this case, the Panel finds that the Complainant has made out a prima facie case. In particular, the Respondent has not submitted any arguments or evidence to rebut the Complainant’s prima facie case and there is no evidence in the record that the Respondent is in any way associated with the Complainant. Furthermore, the Complainant has not authorized, licensed or otherwise permitted the Respondent to use its VERIZON and VERIZON WIRELESS Marks. The Respondent does not operate any business under the name “verizon” or “verizon wireless” nor is the Respondent making a legitimate noncommercial or fair use of the Disputed Domain Names. Moreover, the Respondent has not made use of, or demonstrable preparations to use the Disputed Domain Names or a name corresponding to the Disputed Domain Names in connection with a bona fide offering of goods or services.

Accordingly, the second element of paragraph 4(a) of the Policy has been met by the Complainant.

C. Registered and Used in Bad Faith

This Panel finds that, based on the record, the Complainant has demonstrated the existence of the Respondent's bad faith pursuant to paragraph 4(b) of the Policy.

First, the Respondent attempted to attract, for commercial gain, Internet users to the Respondent’s websites by creating a likelihood of confusion with the Complainant’s VERIZON and VERIZON WIRELESS Marks. The Panel finds that the Respondent registered the Disputed Domain Names to attract customers to its websites by using domain names that are confusingly similar to the Complainant’s VERIZON and VERIZON WIRELESS Marks. The use of domain names to intentionally attempt to attract Internet users to a registrant’s website by creating a likelihood of confusion with a complainant’s mark as to the source, sponsorship, affiliation or endorsement of the registrant’s website for commercial gain demonstrates registration and use in bad faith.

Second, the Disputed Domain Names were registered after the Complainant first began using its VERIZON and VERIZON WIRELESS Marks. The Panel finds it likely that the Respondent had the Complainant’s VERIZON and VERIZON WIRELESS Marks in mind when registering the Disputed Domain Names.

Finally, the Respondent used the Disputed Domain Names to impersonate the Complainant and perpetrate a phishing scheme directed against the Complainant, a strong indication of bad faith. The Respondent’s phishing scheme to attempt to extract confidential information from unsuspecting Internet users evidences a clear intent to disrupt the Complainant’s business, deceive individuals, and trade off the Complainant’s goodwill by creating an unauthorized association between the Respondent, the Disputed Domain Names, and the Complainant’s VERIZON and VERIZON WIRELESS Marks. See Banco Bradesco S.A. v. Fernando Camacho Bohm, WIPO Case No. D2010-1552. Such conduct is emblematic of the Respondent’s bad faith registration and use of the Disputed Domain Names.

Accordingly, the third element of paragraph 4(a) of the Policy has been met by the Complainant.

7. Decision

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 <myverizonwirelesscovid19.com> and <verizonwireless-covid-19.net> be transferred to the Complainant.

Lynda M. Braun
Sole Panelist
Date: May 26, 2020


1 As of the writing of this Decision, the Disputed Domain Name <myverizonwirelesscovid19.com> resolves to an error page that states: “Sorry.<myverizonwirelesscovid19.com> could not be found. It may be unavailable or may not exist. Try using the suggestions or related links below, or search again using our web search”. The Disputed Domain Name <verizonwireless-covid-19.net> resolves to an error page that states: “This site can’t be reached”. It took too long to respond.