WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center
ADMINISTRATIVE PANEL DECISION
priceline.com LLC v. Ryan Foster
Case No. D2020-2789
1. The Parties
Complainant is priceline.com LLC, United States of America (“United States” or “U.S.”), represented by Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner, LLP, United States.
Respondent is Ryan Foster, United States.
2. The Domain Name and Registrar
The disputed domain name <pricelinehotline.com> is registered with NameCheap, Inc. (“Registrar”).
3. Procedural History
The Complaint was filed with the WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center (“Center”) on October 22, 2020. On October 23, 2020, the Center transmitted by email to the Registrar a request for registrar verification in connection with the disputed domain name. On October 23, 2020, the Registrar transmitted by email to the Center its verification response disclosing registrant and contact information for the disputed domain name that differed from the named Respondent and contact information in the Complaint. The Center sent an email communication to Complainant on October 28, 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 the Complaint on October 30, 2020.
The Center verified that the Complaint together with the amended Complaint satisfied the formal requirements of the Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy (“Policy” or “UDRP”), the Rules for Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy (“Rules”), and the WIPO Supplemental Rules for Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy (“Supplemental Rules”).
In accordance with the Rules, paragraphs 2 and 4, the Center formally notified Respondent of the Complaint, and the proceedings commenced on November 9, 2020. In accordance with the Rules, paragraph 5, the due date for Response was November 29, 2020. Respondent did not submit any response. Accordingly, the Center notified Respondent’s default on December 7, 2020.
The Center appointed Debra J. Stanek as the sole panelist in this matter on December 18, 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 is an online travel booking company that has used the mark PRICELINE in connection with booking and other travel-related services. Complainant began using the PRICELINE mark and the <priceline.com> domain name more than 20 years ago. Complainant owns trademark registrations for PRICELINE marks in the United States, including U.S. Registration No. 2,272,659 for PRICELINE, registered in 1999 and U.S. Registration No. 4,111,968 for PRICELINE.COM, registered in 2000, each for travel agency services.
The disputed domain name was registered on April 11, 2017. Currently, the disputed domain name resolves to a page that states: “This Account has been suspended”. Prior to that time, it appears to have redirected visitors to a website offering adult content.
5. Parties’ Contentions
1) Identical or Confusingly Similar
The disputed domain name is confusingly similar to Complainant’s PRICELINE mark.
Complainant’s PRICELINE marks are well-known throughout the United States for its travel booking and travel-related services. Complainant owns trademark registrations for the mark PRICELINE and PRICELINE.COM. In addition, Complainant operates a website at <priceline.com>.
The disputed domain name includes the entirety of Complainant’s PRICELINE mark. The addition of the generic term “hotline” does not distinguish the disputed domain name from Complainant’s mark.
2) Rights or Legitimate Interests
Respondent is not associated with and has not been authorized by Complainant to use the disputed domain name in any manner.
Complainant’s marks are well-known throughout the United States and other countries.
Respondent cannot establish that he is known by the term “Priceline” or a variant. On information and belief, Respondent has not sought or secured any registrations for any tradenames, corporations, or trademarks with any governmental or business authority for “Priceline” or a variant. Respondent does not appear to have any legitimate trademark, service mark or other intellectual property rights in or to any PRICELINE or similar marks.
The disputed domain name wholly incorporates Complainant’s PRICELINE mark, adding the generic term “hotline.”
3) Registered and Used in Bad Faith
The disputed domain name is plainly designed to trade on the reputation and goodwill of Complainant and its PRICELINE marks for financial gain. Respondent is using the PRICELINE mark to divert users, generating web traffic to other sites.
Use of the disputed domain name in connection with online adult and pornographic content disrupts and harms Complainant’s business. The fact that the disputed domain name now resolves to a page stating that the account has been suspended supports an inference that Respondent’s use is illegitimate and in bad faith.
Respondent’s complete lack of intellectual property rights in the disputed domain name further demonstrates bad faith in adopting and using the disputed domain name. Because PRICELINE is an invented English term; a third party would not legitimately choose this name unless seeking to create an impression of an association with Complainant.
Respondent did not reply to Complainant’s contentions.
6. Discussion and Findings
6.1. Procedural Matters
When this proceeding was initiated, the holder of the domain name registration was not identified. Thereafter, the Registrar disclosed the underlying registrant. Consistent with paragraph 4.4.5 of the WIPO Overview of WIPO Panel Views on Selected UDRP Questions, Third Edition (“WIPO Overview 3.0”), the Panel finds that the underlying registrant is the appropriate Respondent.
6.2. Substantive Matters
To prevail, a complainant must prove, as to the disputed domain name, that:
(i) It is identical or confusingly similar to a mark in which the complainant has rights.
(ii) The respondent has no rights or legitimate interests in respect to it.
(iii) It has been registered and is being used in bad faith.
A respondent’s failure to respond to a complaint does not automatically result in a finding for the complainant. See WIPO Overview 3.0, paragraph 4.3. A complainant has the burden of establishing the required elements. The Panel may, however, draw inferences from a respondent’s default as it considers appropriate. See Rules, paragraph 14(b).
A. Identical or Confusingly Similar
Complainant has established its rights in the PRICELINE and PRICELINE.COM marks by virtue of the evidence of the United States federal trademark registrations.
The disputed domain name is not identical to Complainant’s mark. However, based on a straightforward comparison of the textual components of the mark, the Panel finds that the mark is recognizable in the disputed domain name (excluding the generic Top-Level Domain “.com” which is viewed as a standard registration requirement and as such is disregarded under the first element). The addition of “hotline” does not differentiate or distinguish the disputed domain name from Complainant’s mark. See WIPO Overview 3.0, sections 1.7, 1.8, and 1.11.
The Panel finds that the disputed domain name is confusingly similar to a mark in which Complainant has rights.
B. Rights or Legitimate Interests
The Panel shares the consensus view that a complainant may establish that a respondent has no rights or legitimate interests in respect of a domain name by making a prima facie showing. See WIPO Overview 3.0, section 2.1 (once complainant makes a prima facie case, burden of showing rights or legitimate interests in the domain name shifts to respondent). The Panel finds that Complainant has made a prima facie showing under this element.
There is no indication or reason to believe that Respondent is commonly known by the disputed domain name, which, as Complainant notes, is an invented term.
It does not appear that Respondent is making any use of the disputed domain name in connection with any bona fide offering. The disputed domain name appears to have been used to redirect visitors to another, seemingly unrelated site offering adult content. That use does not, under these circumstances, constitute evidence of prior use or demonstrable preparations to use the disputed domain name. Compare WIPO Overview 3.0, section 2.5.3 (use of complainant’s mark to redirect users does not support a claim of rights or legitimate interests in the domain name) with WIPO Overview 3.0, section 2.2 (examples of use or preparations to use include evidence of, among other things, forming a business, investing in website development or promotional materials, creating and implementing a business plan, etc.).
It does not appear that Respondent’s use is either noncommercial or otherwise a fair use.
Respondent has not rebutted Complainant’s prima facie showing. The Panel concludes that Complainant has established that Respondent lacks any rights or legitimate interests in the domain name.
C. Registered and Used in Bad Faith
Complainant must establish that the disputed domain name was registered and is being used in bad faith.
Complainant’s evidence suggests that Respondent registered and used the disputed domain name to attract and then redirect visitors to another, unrelated website. This use supports an inference that Respondent actually knew of Complainant’s mark and registered and used the disputed domain name with Complainant’s mark in mind.
The fact that there is a clear absence of rights or legitimate interests coupled with no explanation for Respondent’s choice of the disputed domain name is also a significant factor to consider (as stated in section 3.2.1 of WIPO Overview 3.0).
In light of these facts and the adverse inferences that arise from Respondent’s failure to respond to the Complaint, the Panel finds that Complainant has established that Respondent has registered and is using the disputed domain name 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, <pricelinehotline.com> be transferred to Complainant.
Debra J. Stanek
Date: December 22, 2020