WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center
ADMINISTRATIVE PANEL DECISION
CenterPoint Energy, Inc. v. 杨智超 (Zhichao Yang)
Case No. D2021-1319
1. The Parties
The Complainant is CenterPoint Energy, Inc., United States of America, represented by Fibbe Lightner, LLP, United States of America (“U.S.”).
The Respondent is 杨智超 (Zhichao Yang), China.
2. The Domain Names and Registrar
The disputed domain names <centerpointtenergy.com> and <cernterpointenergy.com> are registered with Alibaba Cloud Computing (Beijing) Co., Ltd. (the “Registrar”).
3. Procedural History
The Complaint was filed in English with the WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center (the “Center”) on April 29, 2021. On April 29, 2021, the Center transmitted by email to the Registrar a request for registrar verification in connection with the disputed domain names. On April 30, 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 April 30, 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 in English on May 5, 2021.
On April 30, 2021, the Center transmitted an email communication to the Parties in English and Chinese regarding the language of the proceeding. On May 4, 2021, the Complainant submitted a request that English be the language of the proceeding. The Respondent did not comment on the language of the proceeding.
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 in English and Chinese of the Complaint, and the proceedings commenced on May 6, 2021. In accordance with the Rules, paragraph 5, the due date for Response was May 26, 2021. The Respondent did not submit any response. Accordingly, the Center notified the Respondent’s default on June 5, 2021.
The Center appointed Francine Tan as the sole panelist in this matter on June 13, 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
The Complainant operates in the field of energy delivery, including electric transmission and distribution, natural gas distribution and energy services operations. The Complainant provides electricity and clean natural gas for millions of homes, factories and business in the U.S. It states that it is a well-known company in the U.S. with over a billion dollars in net income. The Complainant adopted the name “CenterPoint Energy” on February 2, 2001 and operates a website at “www.centerpointenergy.com”. The domain name <centerpointenergy.com> was registered on December 12, 2000. Through its website, the Complainant’s customers may review their bills and make payments, monitor their electricity and gas usage, and request service calls.
The Complainant owns numerous registrations for CENTERPOINT ENERGY, including:
(i) U.S. Trade Mark Registration No. 2863036, which was registered on July 13, 2004;
(ii) U.S. Trade Mark Registration No. 2863037, which was registered on July 13, 2004;
(iii) U.S. Trade Mark Registration No. 2823759, which was registered on March 16, 2004;
(iv) U.S. Trade Mark Registration No. 5291106, which was registered on September 19, 2017; and
(v) U.S. Trade Mark Registration No. 5291107, which was registered on September 19, 2017.
The disputed domain names <centerpointtenergy.com> and <cernterpointenergy.com> were registered on April 2, 2021 and May 26, 2020, respectively. They both resolve to virtually identical landing pages featuring pay-per-click links related to services that a consumer may expect from an energy provider e.g. “Payment processing”, “Start service”, “Online gas bill payment”, “Choose Power”, and the like. They even feature “Centerpointenergy” as one of the links.
5. Parties’ Contentions
The disputed domain names are confusingly similar to the CENTERPOINT ENERGY trade mark in which the Complainant has rights. The disputed domain names incorporate the Complainant’s CENTERPOINT ENERGY trade mark in their entirety, with typographical misspellings, namely the addition of a letter “t” in <centerpointtenergy.com> and the addition of a letter “r” in <cernterpointenergy.com>. The addition of these letters does not prevent a finding of confusing similarity to the Complainant’s CENTERPOINT ENERGY trade mark.
The Respondent has no rights or legitimate interests in respect of the disputed domain names. The Respondent is a typosquatter. The Respondent is not affiliated with or licensed by the Complainant to use the CENTERPOINT ENERGY trade mark. The Respondent is not and has never been known by the disputed domain names. The Respondent is not using the disputed domain names in connection with a bona fide offering of goods and services. Instead, they are used with a view to generate pay-per-click revenue in the hope of consumers mistyping the Complainant’s domain name <centerpointenergy.com>.
The disputed domain names were registered and are being used in bad faith. The Respondent registered the disputed domain names around 20 years after the Complainant’s first use of its CENTERPOINT ENERGY trade mark, by which time the CENTERPOINT ENERGY mark was already well-known, with millions of customer in the U.S. The Respondent’s use of the disputed domain names to resolve to landing pages which contain links to websites of third parties for, inter alia, payment processing, bill paying, solar energy, financial services, etc. is further evidence of bad faith. The Respondent is thereby intentionally using the disputed domain names for commercial purposes to mislead consumers searching for the Complainant’s website and earning revenue through the pay-per-click links.
The Respondent did not reply to the Complainant’s contentions.
6. Discussion and Findings
6.1 Preliminary Issue: Language of the Proceeding
The language of the Registration Agreements in relation to the disputed domain names is Chinese. The Complainant requested that the language of the proceeding be English. The reasons are that:
(i) the disputed domain names are typographical misspellings from common English spellings which indicates the Respondent’s familiarity and understanding of the English language;
(ii) all of the businesses to which the content on the disputed domain names link to are based in the U.S. and business is conducted in English;
(iii) the landing pages to which the disputed domain names resolve are in English;
(iv) all references to currency found on the said landing pages are in U.S. dollars; and
(v) the Complainant has no business or customers in China and would incur significant expense and delay if all communications were to be translated into Chinese.
The Respondent did not comment on the issue of the language of the proceeding.
Paragraph 10(c) of the Rules states that “[t]he Panel shall ensure that the administrative proceeding takes place with due expedition”. Paragraph 11 of the Rules provides that:
“(a) Unless otherwise agreed by the Parties, or specified otherwise in the Registration Agreement, the language of the administrative proceeding shall be the language of the Registration Agreement, subject to the authority of the Panel to determine otherwise, having regard to the circumstances of the administrative proceeding.”
The Panel notes that the Center’s communications with the Respondent were sent in both English and Chinese. Taking into consideration the language of the disputed domain names and that the Respondent did not respond on the issue of the language of the proceeding, the Panel determines it appropriate and procedurally efficient that English apply as the language of the proceeding. Bearing in mind the mandate of paragraph 10(c) of the Rules, there is no merit in burdening the Complainant and delaying the proceeding with a requirement for Chinese translations to be prepared and filed where on the face of the circumstances, the Respondent is familiar with the English language.
6.2 Substantive Issues
A. Identical or Confusingly Similar
The Complainant has established it has rights, both by virtue of its trade mark registrations and as a result of its use for over 20 years use, in the CENTERPOINT ENERGY trade mark. The CENTERPOINT ENERGY trade mark is reproduced in its entirety, albeit with minor typographical misspellings. The addition of the letter “t” in <centerpointtenergy.com> and the addition of the letter “r” in <cernterpointenergy.com> do not serve to avoid confusing similarity with the Complainant’s CENTERPOINT ENERGY trade mark. The generic Top-Level Domain “.com” is a technical requirement for domain name registrations and not relevant to the issue of the identity or confusing similarity between the disputed domain names and the Complainant’s trade mark.
The Panel accordingly finds that the first element of paragraph 4(a) of the Policy has been satisfied.
B. Rights or Legitimate Interests
The Panel finds that the Complainant has established a prima facie case that the Respondent has no rights or legitimate interests in the disputed domain names. The Complainant’s registrations of the CENTERPOINT ENERGY trade mark long predate the registration date of the disputed domain names. The Complainant did not license or authorize the Respondent to use the words “Centerpoint Energy” as a trade mark or in a domain name. There is no evidence that the Respondent is commonly known by the disputed domain names. The Respondent’s use of the disputed domain names containing the Complainant’s CENTERPOINT ENERGY mark to derive revenue from pay-per-click links directing Internet users to third-party websites offering related or competing services does not constitute a bona fide offering of goods or services.
The Respondent has failed to rebut the Complainant’s assertions and to produce evidence that it has rights or legitimate interests in the disputed domain names. In the circumstances, the Panel concludes that the Respondent has no rights or legitimate interests in the disputed domain names.
The Panel therefore finds that the second element of paragraph 4(a) of the Policy has been satisfied.
C. Registered and Used in Bad Faith
The Panel is persuaded that the Respondent could not by pure coincidence and without prior knowledge of the Complainant and its CENTERPOINT ENERGY mark have selected the disputed domain names without the Complainant and/or its CENTERPOINT ENERGY trade mark in mind. The misspelling of the Complainant’s said trade mark is a tell-tale sign that the Respondent was aware of the Complainant’s mark. The Panel refers in this regard to section 3.1.4 the WIPO Overview of WIPO Panel Views on Selected UDRP Questions, Third Edition which documents the consensus position of UDRP panelists that the “mere registration of a domain name that is identical or confusingly similar (particularly domain names comprising typos or incorporating the mark plus a descriptive term) to a famous or widely-known trade mark by an unaffiliated entity can by itself create a presumption of bad faith”.
There is indeed no conceivable reason why the Respondent should have chosen the combination of words “centerpoint” and “energy” for his domain name registrations other than for the reason of conveying an association or affiliation with the Complainant and profiting off the clerical mistakes of Internet users. The Panel finds that the Respondent has targeted the Complainant and registered the disputed domain names in bad faith, intentionally attempting to attract, for commercial gain, Internet users to his website or other on-line location, by creating a likelihood of confusion with the Complainant’s mark as to the source, sponsorship, affiliation, or endorsement of the Respondent’s website or location or of a product or service on the Respondent’s website or location (per paragraph 4(b)(iv) of the Policy).
The Panel therefore finds that the third element of paragraph 4(a) of the Policy has been satisfied.
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 <centerpointtenergy.com> and <cernterpointenergy.com> be transferred to the Complainant.
Date: June 18, 2021