WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center

ADMINISTRATIVE PANEL DECISION

Government Employees Insurance Company (“GEICO”) v. James Snyder

Case No. D2021-0243

1. The Parties

The Complainant is Government Employees Insurance Company (“GEICO”), United States of America (“United States”), represented by Burns & Levinson LLP, United States.

The Respondent is James Snyder, United States.

2. The Domain Names and Registrar

The disputed domain names <geicoannuity.com>, <geicofinancial.com> and <geicoincomeannuity.com> are registered with GoDaddy.com, LLC (the “Registrar”).

3. Procedural History

The Complaint was filed with the WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center (the “Center”) on January 27, 2021. On January 27, 2021, the Center transmitted by email to the Registrar a request for registrar verification in connection with the disputed domain name. On January 27, 2021, 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 February 1, 2021 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 February 2, 2021.

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 February 12, 2021. In accordance with the Rules, paragraph 5, the due date for Response was March 4, 2021. The Respondent sent informal email communications to the Center on February 1, 2021; February 3, 2021; February 10, 2021; February 12, 2021; March 15, 2021; and March 30, 2021.

The Center appointed Lynda J. Zadra-Symes as the sole panelist in this matter on March 30, 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

Complainant is a well-known insurance company that has provided insurance services since 1936. Complainant offers numerous types of insurance services including automobile, motorcycle, homeowners, rental, condominium, flood, mobile home, personal umbrella, life insurance and overseas insurance, among others.

Complainant has been trading under the trademark GEICO (the “GEICO mark”) for nearly 80 years and has developed strong rights in the mark. Complainant’s trademark rights are further evidenced by its numerous federally registered trademarks and service marks that wholly incorporate the GEICO mark, including the following registrations with the United States Patent and Trademark Office:

GEICO Registration No. 763,274 Registered on January 14, 1964
GEICO Registration No. 2,601,179 Registered on July 30, 2002.

Complainant has over 17 million policies and insures more than 28 million vehicles. Complainant also has over 40,000 employees and is one of the fastest growing auto insurers in the United States.

Complainant operates a website at “www.geico.com”, which Complainant uses to promote and sell its motor vehicle insurance services. The website enables computer users to: access information regarding Complainant’s insurance service, manage their policies and claims, learn more about Complainant and obtain insurance quotes.

The disputed domain names <geicoannuity.com>, <geicofinancial.com> and <geicoincomeannuity.com>, were all registered on January 4, 2021.

The disputed domain names currently resolve to websites containing a list of apparent pay-per-click links to unrelated third party websites, including to websites of Complainant’s competitors.

5. Parties’ Contentions

A. Complainant

Complainant contends that the disputed domain names are identical or confusingly similar to Complainant’s mark, that Respondent has no rights or legitimate interests in respect of the disputed domain names and that the disputed domain names have been registered and are being used in bad faith.

B. Respondent

The Respondent sent several email communications to the Center. On March 30, 2021, Respondent submitted an email to the Center, which reiterates some of the previous communications, and serves to reflect his position in this dispute, stating the following:

“All of this is the craziest thing I have ever seen. Once again, I bought domain names that were available, unused, and in a line of businesses this particular company is not engaged in. I won them, they can buy them versus stealing them from me. I never dreamed in a million years since they were not in these particular lines of business that any of this would happen. Tell them to make an offer. I have not used the domain names to point anywhere so I have not violated any rules. They could have bought these domains, but didn’t. They could have parked them and didn’t. They have never contacted me every regarding the domain except to threaten me that I may have done something wrong, and then went to you guys as arbitrators. So basically they are trying to steal something that if they want should be purchased.”

6. Discussion and Findings

In order to succeed in its claim, Complainant must demonstrate that all of the elements enumerated in paragraph 4(a) of the Policy have been satisfied:

(i) the disputed domain name is identical or confusingly similar to a trademark or service mark in which Complainants have rights; and

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

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

Paragraph 15(a) of the Rules instructs the Panel to decide a complaint “on the basis of the statements and documents submitted and in accordance with the Policy, these Rules and any rules and principles of law that it deems applicable”.

A. Identical or Confusingly Similar

Complainant has demonstrated that it has trademark rights in the mark GEICO. The disputed domain names each fully incorporate Complainant’s GEICO mark in its entirety, combined with the financial terms “annuity,” “financial,” and “income annuity” along with a generic Top-Level Domain (“gTLD”), “.com.”

The added terms and the gTLD “.com” do not add any distinguishing element. Accordingly, the panel finds that the disputed domain names are confusingly similar to Complainant’s trademark.

The Panel finds that Complainant has satisfied the requirement of paragraph 4(a)(i) of the Policy.

B. Rights or Legitimate Interests

Complainant contends that Respondent is not affiliated with or connected to Complainant in any way. Respondent has not received any license or consent, express or implied, to use the GEICO mark in a domain name or in any other manner. There is no evidence in the record that Respondent has been known by any of the disputed domain names. The record is devoid of any facts that establish any rights or legitimate interests of Respondent in the disputed domain names.

Respondent has not made, and is not making, a legitimate noncommercial or fair use of the disputed domain names. Respondent has not used the disputed domain names in connection with the bona fide offering of goods or services. The use of the disputed domain names to redirect to a parked page that links to third-party websites is not a legitimate interest.

Respondent states in his email dated March 30, 2021, that “I have not used the domain names to point anywhere.” However, the disputed domain names resolve to a parked page that links to third party competitor websites. Respondent also claims that Complainant is not in the annuity or financial services business. However, even if that were to be the case, the disputed domain names reproduce the GEICO mark in its entirety without any reasonable explanation for the inclusion of the GEICO mark within the disputed domain names. The record indicates that Respondent is not using the disputed domain names in connection with a bona fide offering of services and registered the disputed domain names with full knowledge of Complainant’s trademark rights.

The Panel finds that Complainant has satisfied the requirement of paragraph 4(a)(ii) of the Policy.

C. Registered and Used in Bad Faith

Complainant believes that Respondent has used and is using the disputed domain names to intentionally attract Internet users and consumers looking for Complainant’s services and/or authorized partners to Respondent’s own webpages by creating a likelihood of confusion with the Complainant, all for commercial gain.

The record indicates that Respondent was aware of Complainant’s GEICO mark when registering the disputed domain names. The GEICO mark is well-known. See Government Employees Insurance Company (“GEICO”) v. Jun Yin, WIPO Case No. DCO2020-0037 (August 29, 2020) (finding the GEICO mark so well-known that when a “disputed domain name entirely reproduces the distinctive GEICO mark, … [it is] highly unlikely without knowledge of the Complainant or its marks.”) There is no conceivable way that Respondent could use the disputed domain names in a manner that would not cause a likelihood of confusion or association with Complainant’s GEICO mark.

Additionally, the fact that the disputed domain names resolve to a website containing apparent “pay-per-click” hyperlinks to third party websites featuring services provided by Complainant’s competitors, is also evidence that Respondent is using Complainant’s GEICO trademark in the disputed domain names for commercial gain.

Moreover, in view of Respondent’s email dated March 30, 2021, the Panel finds probable that he acquired the disputed domain names for the purpose of selling them to Complainant.

“I won them, they can buy them versus stealing them from me. [...] Tell them to make an offer. [...] They could have bought these domains, but didn’t. They could have parked them and didn’t. – […] So basically they are trying to steal something that if they want should be purchased.”

Accordingly, the Panel finds that the disputed domain names have been registered and are being used in bad faith; thus, Complainant has satisfied the requirement of paragraph 4(a)(iii) of the Policy.

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, <geicoannuity.com>, <geicofinancial.com> and <geicoincomeannuity.com> be transferred to the Complainant.

Lynda J. Zadra-Symes
Sole Panelist
Date: April 13, 2021