WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center
ADMINISTRATIVE PANEL DECISION
Metta World Peace v. Vishnu M
Case No. D2020-0961
1. The Parties
The Complainant is Metta World Peace, United States of America (“United States”), represented by Meitus Gelbert Rose LLP, United States.
The Respondent is Vishnu M, India, self-represented.
2. The Domain Name and Registrar
The disputed domain name <mettaworldpeace.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 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 name. On April 21, 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. In response to a notification by the Center that the Complaint was administratively deficient, the Complainant filed an amended Complaint on April 23, 2020. The Respondent sent email communications to the Center on May 3, 2020, and May 11, 2020. The Complainant filed an amendment to the Complaint on May 5, 2020.
The Center verified that the Complaint together with the amended Complaint and 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 May 18, 2020. In accordance with the Rules, paragraph 5, the due date for Response was June 7, 2020. The Respondent did not submit a formal response. Accordingly, the Center notified the Parties that it would proceed to panel appointment on June 23, 2020.
The Center appointed Adam Taylor as the sole panelist in this matter on July 9, 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 basketball player who changed his name to “Metta World Peace”.
The Complainant owns United States Trademark No. 4,463,129, for METTA WORLD PEACE, filed September 19, 2011, registered January 7, 2014, in class 25.
The Complainant registered the disputed domain name on June 23, 2011, and used it for a website including merchandising, but the Complainant’s agent inadvertently allowed the disputed domain name to lapse at some point between June and August 2019, following which it was acquired by the Respondent.
On September 11, 2019, in response to an enquiry made on behalf of the Complainant, a GoDaddy domain broker stated that the owner of the disputed domain name had put forward an asking price of USD 5,500 for the disputed domain name, and that the total price payable including GoDaddy’s brokerage commission would be USD 6,600.
As of March 27, 2020, the Respondent used the disputed domain name for a website headed “MWP Geeks”, which included reviews and information about various third party TV-related and other services including a free trial offer for “Sling TV”, which claimed to provide live TV services over the Internet.
5. Parties’ Contentions
The following is a summary of the Complainant’s contentions:
The Complainant is known worldwide for his celebrity status as a famous basketball player.
The disputed domain name is identical to the Complainant’s mark.
The Respondent lacks rights or legitimate interests in the disputed domain name.
The Respondent is not making legitimate noncommercial or fair use of the disputed domain name but rather is using it to divert customers. The Respondent is making a commercial use of the disputed domain name by trading on the fame of the Complainant’s trade mark and celebrity name recognition to divert customers to the Respondent’s site, which offers links to other sites. Commercial gain can be inferred in these circumstances.
The Complainant is not aware of the Respondent’s use or preparations to use the disputed domain name for a bona fide offering of goods or services but, in any case, the disputed domain name was used continuously by the Complainant for several years before the Respondent acquired it.
The Respondent has not been commonly known by the disputed domain name.
The disputed domain name was registered and is being used in bad faith.
By using the disputed domain name, which reflects the name of a famous celebrity, the Respondent has intentionally attempted to attract Internet users for commercial gain by creating a likelihood of confusion with the Complainant’s marks.
Apart from the heading “MWP Geeks, there is no possible connection between the name “Metta World Peace” and the Respondent’s website”. There is therefore no discernible reason to use a disputed domain name comprising the Complainant’s name other than to capitalise on the Complainant’s popularity and celebrity status.
Registration of a domain name that it identical or confusingly similar to a famous trade mark is of itself evidence of bad registration and use. Based on the content of the Respondent’s website, it cannot reasonably be argued that the Respondent was unaware of the Complainant’s famous name when it registered the disputed domain name.
Opportunistic registration of a domain name shortly after it lapses is further evidence of bad faith.
The Respondent’s offer to sell the disputed domain name to the Complainant for USD 5,500 conclusively establishes registration in bad faith. The Respondent’s second offer of USD 10,000 constitutes additional evidence of bad faith.
The Respondent’s use of the disputed domain name constitutes “initial interest confusion”, which justifies a finding of registration and use in bad faith.
The following is a summary of the Respondent’s contentions:
The Respondent has not registered or used the disputed domain name in bad faith.
The Respondent bought the disputed domain name in an auction.
The Respondent is prepared to sell the disputed domain name for USD 10,000. The Respondent previously rejected a third party offer to buy the disputed domain name for USD 5,000.
The Respondent has used the following disclaimer in the footer on every page of its website: “‘mettaworldpeace.com’ is not related, linked or interconnected in whatsoever manner or nature, to the Celebrity ‘Metta World Peace’ / ‘Ronald William Artest, Jr.’ who is a[n] American professional basketball coach former player.”
The Respondent is prepared to update this message if it is not clear enough.
The Respondent uses its website only for the purpose of writing product reviews and it posts no reviews or articles relating to basketball.
6. Discussion and Findings
Under the Policy, the Complainant is required to prove on the balance of probabilities that:
- the disputed domain name is identical or confusingly similar to a trade mark in which the Complainant has rights;
- the Respondent has no rights or legitimate interests in respect of the disputed domain name; and
- the disputed domain name has been registered and is being used in bad faith.
A. Informal Response
The Respondent has not filed a formal Response. Instead it has set out its position in a number of emails to the Center, which do not comply with the formal requirements set out in paragraph 5 of the Rules. For example, there is no statement of truth.
The Panel has nonetheless decided to treat these emails as a Response in accordance with its powers under paragraph 10(d) of the Rules but to bear in mind the Response’s non-compliance with the Rules, including in particular the absence of a statement of truth, when weighing up the Respondent’s assertions in this case.
B. Identical or Confusingly Similar
The Complainant has established rights in the mark METTA WORLD PEACE by virtue of his registered trade mark .
Disregarding the suffix, the disputed domain name is identical to the Complainant’s trade mark.
The Panel therefore finds that the Complainant has established the first element of paragraph 4(a) of the Policy.
C. Rights or Legitimate Interests
As explained in section 2.1 of the WIPO Overview of WIPO Panel Views on Selected UDRP Questions, Third Edition (“WIPO Overview 3.0”), the consensus view is that, where a complainant makes out a prima facie case that the respondent lacks rights or legitimate interests, the burden of production shifts to the respondent to come forward with relevant evidence demonstrating rights or legitimate interests in the domain name. If not, the complainant is deemed to have satisfied the second element.
Here, the Complainant has not licensed or otherwise authorised the Respondent to use his trade mark.
Paragraph 4(c) of the Policy gives examples of circumstances, which, if proved, suffice to demonstrate that a respondent possesses rights or legitimate interests in the disputed domain name.
As to paragraph 4(c)(i) of the Policy, the Panel has concluded below that the Respondent has used the disputed domain name to intentionally attempt to attract, confuse and profit from Internet users seeking the Complainant’s products or services. Such use of the disputed domain name could not be said to be bona fide.
Nor is there any evidence that paragraphs 4(c)(ii) or (iii) of the Policy apply in the circumstances of this case.
The Panel concludes that the Respondent has no rights or legitimate interests in the disputed domain name and that the Complainant has therefore established the second element of paragraph 4(a) of the Policy.
D. Registered and Used in Bad Faith
The Respondent has not denied that it registered the disputed domain name with the Complainant’s highly distinctive name and trade mark in mind. Nor has it put forward any alternative explanation for its selection of the disputed domain name or clarified the meaning of the “MWP Geeks” heading on its website.
The gist of the Respondent’s position is that Internet users visiting the Respondent’s website will not be confused into thinking that there is a connection with the Complainant because the website contains no basketball-related content and there is a disclaimer in the footer of the site.
The Panel disagrees. Even if the Respondent is correct to say that the site has never included basketball-related content, the Panel considers it likely that Internet users will nonetheless assume that the Respondent’s website is associated with the Complainant because it is located at a domain name that comprises the Complainant’s highly distinctive trade mark.
The disclaimer in the footer of the site is hardly in a prominent position and is unlikely to be seen by many visitors to the site.
But, even if the disclaimer were more prominent, or if Internet users arriving at the site might at some point realise for some other reason that it is unconnected with the Complainant, in the Panel’s view there is still a likelihood of confusion for the purposes of paragraph 4(b)(iv) of the Policy, which is concerned with the intentional attracting of Internet users. As mentioned above, the disputed domain name of itself creates an implied risk of affiliation with the Complainant, and the Respondent, profits from at least some of the Internet traffic intended for the Complainant (see section 2.5.1 of the WIPO Overview 3.0 ).
The Panel concludes from the foregoing that the Respondent has registered and used the disputed domain name in bad faith in accordance with paragraph 4(b)(iv) of the Policy. The Respondent has intentionally attempted to attract Internet users to its website for commercial gain by creating a likelihood of confusion with the Complainant’s trade mark.
The Panel therefore finds that the Complainant has established the third element of paragraph 4(a) 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 <mettaworldpeace.com> be transferred to the Complainant.
Date: July 23, 2020