WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center

ADMINISTRATIVE PANEL DECISION

International Business Machines Corporation v. Meng Cui, Cui Meng

Case No. D2021-0007

1. The Parties

Complainant is International Business Machines Corporation, United States of America, internally represented.

Respondent is Meng Cui, Cui Meng, China.

2. The Domain Name and Registrar

The disputed domain name <ibmbh.com> is registered with DropCatch.com 1454 LLC (the “Registrar”).

3. Procedural History

The Complaint was filed with the WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center (the “Center”) on January 4, 2021. On January 5, 2021, the Center transmitted by email to the Registrar a request for registrar verification in connection with the disputed domain name. On January 5, 2021, the Registrar transmitted by email to the Center its verification response confirming that Respondent is listed as the registrant and providing the contact details.

The Center verified that 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 Respondent of the Complaint, and the proceedings commenced on January 7, 2021. In accordance with the Rules, paragraph 5, the due date for Response was January 27, 2021. Respondent did not submit any response. Accordingly, the Center notified Respondent’s default on January 28, 2021.

The Center appointed Yijun Tian as the sole panelist in this matter on March 29, 2021. 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

A. Complainant

Complainant, International Business Machines Corporation, is a company incorporated in United States of America (hereinafter “USA” or “U.S.”). Tracing its roots to the 1880s, Complainant is and has been a leading innovator in the design and manufacture of a wide array of products that record, process, communicate, store and retrieve information, including computers and computer hardware, software, and accessories. In 2020, Complainant was ranked the 14th most valuable global brand by BrandZ, the 14th best global brand by Interbrand, the 38th largest company on the Fortune U.S. 500 list, and the 118th largest company on the Fortune Global 500 list (Annex 5 to the Complaint).

Complainant has exclusive rights in IBM and IBM related marks (hereinafter “IBM marks”). Complainant is the exclusive owner of several IBM marks worldwide, including a U.S. trademark registration for IBM registered on January 29, 1957 (the U.S. trademark registration number 640606) (Annex 4.8 to the Complaint); and a Chinese trademark registration for IBM registered on February 28, 1985 (Chinese trademark registration number 221319) (Annex 4.11 to the Complaint).

B. Respondent

Respondent is Meng Cui, Cui Meng, China. The disputed domain name <ibmbh.com> was registered on November 15, 2020. The disputed domain name resolves to a website with links to pornographic and gambling websites (Annexes 10 - 11 to the Complaint).

5. Parties’ Contentions

A. Complainant

Complainant contends that the disputed domain name is identical or confusingly similar to Complainant’s registered trademark. The disputed domain name includes Complainant’s IBM trademark in its entirety. The only difference is the addition of the letters “bh”, which could stand for the country Bahrain, whose country code is “BH”. The suffix “bh” and the generic Top-Level Domain (“gTLD”) “.com” in tandem with the IBM trademark do not inhibit the finding of confusing similarity.

Complainant contends that Respondent has no right or legitimate interests in the disputed domain name.

Complainant contends that Respondent has registered and is using the disputed domain name in bad faith.

Complainant requests that the disputed domain name be transferred to Complainant.

B. Respondent

Respondent did not reply to Complainant’s contentions.

6. Discussion and Findings

Paragraph 4(a) of the Policy requires that Complainant must prove each of the following three elements to obtain an order that the disputed domain name should be cancelled or transferred:

(i) the disputed domain name registered by Respondent is identical or confusingly similar to a trademark or service mark in which Complainant has rights; and

(ii) Respondent has no rights or legitimate interests in respect of the disputed domain name; and

(iii) the disputed domain name has been registered and is being used in bad faith.

On the basis of the evidence introduced by Complainant and in particular with regard to the content of the relevant provisions of the Policy (paragraphs 4(a)-(c)), the Panel concludes as follows:

A. Identical or Confusingly Similar

The Panel finds that Complainant has rights in the IBM marks. The disputed domain name comprises the IBM mark in its entirety. The disputed domain name only differs from Complainant’s IBM marks by adding the suffix “bh”, and the gTLD “.com” to the IBM marks. This does not compromise the recognizability of Complainant’s marks within the disputed domain name, nor eliminate the confusing similarity between Complainant’s registered trademarks and the disputed domain name (Decathlon v. Zheng Jianmeng, WIPO Case No. D2019-0234).

Previous UDRP panels have consistently held that a domain name is identical or confusingly similar to a trademark for purposes of the Policy “when the domain name includes the trademark, or a confusingly similar approximation, regardless of the other terms in the domain name”. (Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. v. Richard MacLeod d/b/a For Sale, WIPO Case No. D2000-0662).

Further, in relation to the gTLD, WIPO Overview of WIPO Panel Views on Selected UDRP Questions, Third Edition (“WIPO Overview 3.0”), section 1.11.1 states: “The applicable Top Level Domain (‘TLD’) in a domain name (e.g., ‘.com’, ‘.club’, ‘.nyc’) is viewed as a standard registration requirement and as such is disregarded under the first element confusing similarity test.”

The Panel therefore holds that the disputed domain name is confusingly similar to Complainant’s IBM marks, and the Complaint fulfils the first condition of paragraph 4(a) of the Policy.

B. Rights or Legitimate Interests

Paragraph 4(c) of the Policy provides a list of circumstances any of which is sufficient to demonstrate that Respondent has rights or legitimate interests in the disputed domain name:

(i) before any notice to Respondent of the dispute, the use by Respondent of, or demonstrable preparations to use, the disputed domain name or a name corresponding to the disputed domain name in connection with a bona fide offering of goods or services; or

(ii) Respondent has been commonly known by the disputed domain name, even if Respondent has acquired no trademark or service mark rights; or

(iii) Respondent is making a legitimate noncommercial or fair use of the disputed domain name, without intent for commercial gain to misleadingly divert consumers or to tarnish Complainant’s trademarks.

The overall burden of proof on this element rests with Complainant. However, it is well established by previous UDRP panel decisions that once a complainant establishes a prima facie case that a respondent lacks rights or legitimate interests in a domain name, the burden of production shifts to respondent to rebut complainant’s contentions. If respondent fails to do so, a complainant is deemed to have satisfied paragraph 4(a)(ii) of the Policy (Danzas Holding AG, DHL Operations B.V. v. Ma Shikai, WIPO Case No. D2008-0441; WIPO Overview 3.0, section 2.1 and cases cited therein).

According to the Complaint, Complainant is a leading innovator in the design and manufacture of a wide array of products that record, process, communicate, store and retrieve information. In 2020, Complainant was ranked the 14th most valuable global brand by BrandZ, and the 38th largest company on the Fortune U.S.500 list. Moreover, Respondent has no relationship with Complainant, and Complainant has not licensed, contracted, or otherwise permitted Respondent to use its IBM trademark in a domain name or otherwise.

Complainant has established a prima facie case that Respondent has no rights or legitimate interests in the disputed domain name and thereby shifted the burden to Respondent to produce evidence to rebut this presumption (The Argento Wine Company Limited v. Argento Beijing Trading Company, WIPO Case No. D2009-0610; Do The Hustle, LLC v. Tropic Web, WIPO Case No. D2000-0624; Croatia Airlines d.d. v. Modern Empire Internet Ltd., WIPO Case No. D2003‑0455).

Based on the following reasons the Panel finds that Respondent has no rights or legitimate interests in the disputed domain name:

(a) There has been no evidence adduced to show that Respondent is using the disputed domain name in connection with a bona fide offering of goods or services. Respondent has not provided evidence of a legitimate use of the disputed domain name or reasons to justify the choice of the term “ibm” in the disputed domain name and in his business operation. There has been no evidence to show that Complainant has licensed or otherwise permitted Respondent to use the IBM marks or to apply for or use any domain name incorporating the IBM marks.

(b) There has been no evidence adduced to show that Respondent has been commonly known by the disputed domain name. There has been no evidence adduced to show that Respondent has any registered trademark rights with respect to the disputed domain name. Respondent registered the disputed domain name in 2020, long after the IBM marks became internationally known. The disputed domain name is confusingly similar to the IBM marks.

(c) There has been no evidence adduced to show that Respondent is making a legitimate noncommercial or fair use of the disputed domain name. By contrast, the website, currently resolved by the disputed domain name, is a website with links to pornographic and gambling websites. It seems that Respondent is making profits through the Internet traffic attracted to the website under the disputed domain name. (See BKS Bank AG v. Jianwei Guo, WIPO Case No. D2017-1041; BASF SE v. Hong Fu Chen, Chen Hong Fu, WIPO Case No. D2017-2203.)

Accordingly, Complainant has established a prima facie case that Respondent has no rights or legitimate interests in the disputed domain name, which has not been rebutted by Respondent. The Panel therefore holds that the Complaint fulfils the second condition of paragraph 4(a) of the Policy.

C. Registered and Used in Bad Faith

Paragraph 4(b) of the Policy sets out four circumstances, which, without limitation, shall be evidence of the registration and use of the disputed domain name in bad faith, namely:

(i) circumstances indicating that Respondent has registered or acquired the disputed domain name primarily for the purpose of selling, renting, or otherwise transferring the disputed domain name registration to Complainant who is the owner of the trademark or service mark or to a competitor of Complainant, for valuable consideration in excess of Respondent’s documented out-of-pocket costs directly related to the disputed domain name; or

(ii) Respondent has registered the disputed domain name in order to prevent the owner of the trademark or service mark from reflecting the mark in a corresponding domain name, provided that Respondent has engaged in a pattern of such conduct; or

(iii) Respondent has registered the disputed domain name primarily for the purpose of disrupting the business of a competitor; or

(iv) by using the disputed domain name, Respondent has intentionally attempted to attract, for commercial gain, Internet users to Respondent’s website or other online location, by creating a likelihood of confusion with Complainant’s mark as to the source, sponsorship, affiliation, or endorsement of Respondent’s website or location or of a product or service on the website or location.

The Panel concludes that the circumstances referred to in paragraph 4(b)(iv) of the Policy are applicable to the present case and upon the evidence of these circumstances and other relevant circumstances, it is adequate to conclude that Respondent has registered and is using the disputed domain name in bad faith.

(a) Registration in Bad Faith

The Panel finds that Complainant has a widespread reputation in the IBM marks with regard to its products and services. As mentioned above, the IBM marks are registered internationally, including IBM marks registered in China (since 1985). Complainant is a world leading innovator in the design and manufacture of a wide array of products that record, process, communicate, store and retrieve information. In 2020, it was ranked the 14th most valuable global brand by BrandZ, the 14th best global brand by Interbrand, and the 118th largest company on the Fortune Global 500 list.

It is inconceivable that Respondent would not have had actual notice of the IBM marks at the time of the registration of the disputed domain name (in 2020). The Panel therefore finds that the IBM mark is not one that a trader could legitimately adopt other than for the purpose of creating an impression of an association with Complainant (The Argento Wine Company Limited v. Argento Beijing Trading Company, supra).

Moreover, Respondent has chosen not to respond to Complainant’s allegations. According to the UDRP decision in The Argento Wine Company Limited v. Argento Beijing Trading Company, supra, “the failure of the Respondent to respond to the Complaint further supports an inference of bad faith”. See also Bayerische Motoren Werke AG v. (This Domain is For Sale) Joshuathan Investments, Inc., WIPO Case No. D2002-0787.

Thus, the Panel concludes that the disputed domain name was registered in bad faith.

(b) Use in Bad Faith

Respondent is using the website resolved by the disputed domain name to provide links to pornographic and gambling websites. Thus, the Panel concludes that Respondent is currently using the confusingly similar disputed domain name with the intention to attract, for commercial gain, Internet users to Respondent’s website.

Given the reputation of the IBM marks, the Panel finds that the public is likely to be confused into thinking that the disputed domain name has a connection with Complainant, contrary to the fact. There is a strong likelihood of confusion as to the source, sponsorship, affiliation or endorsement of the website to which the disputed domain name resolves. In other words, Respondent has through the use of a confusingly similar disputed domain name created a likelihood of confusion with the IBM marks. Moreover, as mentioned above, Respondent offered links to pornographic and gambling websites via the website to which the disputed domain name resolves, presumably for commercial gain. The Panel therefore concludes that the disputed domain name was registered and is being used by Respondent in bad faith. Such use of the disputed domain name is also disruptive in relation to the interests of Complainant.

In summary, Respondent, by choosing to register and use the disputed domain name, which is confusingly similar to the IBM marks, intended to ride on the goodwill of these trademarks in an attempt to exploit, for commercial gain, Internet users destined for Complainant. In the absence of evidence to the contrary or rebuttal from Respondent, the choice of the disputed domain name and the conduct of Respondent as far as the website to which the disputed domain name resolves is indicative of registration and use of the disputed domain name in bad faith.

The Panel therefore holds that the Complaint fulfils the third condition of paragraph 4(a) of the Policy.

7. Decision

For all 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 <ibmbh.com> be transferred to Complainant.

Yijun Tian
Sole Panelist
Date: April 13, 2021