WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center
ADMINISTRATIVE PANEL DECISION
Government Employees Insurance Company (“GEICO”) v. Privacy Protection
Case No. D2021-2025
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 Privacy Protection, United States.
2. The Domain Name and Registrar
The disputed domain name <geicocoin.com> (the “Disputed Domain Name”) is registered with Hosting Concepts B.V. d/b/a Openprovider (the “Registrar”).
3. Procedural History
The Complaint was filed with the WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center (the “Center”) on June 25, 2021. On June 28, 2021, the Center transmitted by email to the Registrar a request for registrar verification in connection with the Disputed Domain Name. On June 29, 2021, 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. The Center sent an email communication to the Complainant on July 12, 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 July 12, 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 July 14, 2021. In accordance with the Rules, paragraph 5, the due date for Response was August 3, 2021. The Center received an email communication from a third party on July 19, 2021. The Center invited the Respondent to clarify her/his relationship (if any) with the sender of the third-party email communication in the context of the current proceedings and requested the sender of the third-party email communication to identify himself, clarifying his relationship (if any) to the Respondent, and to provide information sufficient to verify such relationship. The Center did not receive any further communications. Accordingly, on August 17, 2021, the Center informed the Parties that it would proceed with the panel appointment process.
The Center appointed Lynda M. Braun as the sole panelist in this matter on October 12, 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 is a well-known insurance company that has provided insurance services since 1936. The Complainant offers numerous types of insurance services including automobile, motorcycle, homeowners, rental, condominium, flood, mobile home, personal umbrella, and overseas insurance, among others. With over 40,000 employees, the Complainant has over 17 million policies and insures more than 28 million vehicles.
The Complainant has been trading under the GEICO trademark for approximately 80 years. The Complainant owns numerous registered trademarks in the United States Patent and Trademark Office, including, but not limited to, GEICO, United States Registration No. 763,274, registered on January 14, 1964, in International Class 36; and GEICO, United States Registration No. 2,601,179, registered on July 30, 2002, in International Class 36 (hereinafter collectively referred to as the “GEICO Mark”).
In addition, the Complainant owns the domain name <geico.com>, which resolves to its official website at “www.geico.com”, and which is used to promote and sell the Complainant’s motor vehicle insurance services, and to provide customers with the ability to manage their policies and claims, and obtain insurance quotes.
The Disputed Domain Name was registered on May 1, 2021, and resolves to a landing page advertising the sale of the Disputed Domain Name for USD 280. The Complainant’s attorney contacted the Respondent through a form on the Registrar’s website to request that the Respondent cease its use of the GEICO Mark but received no reply.
5. Parties’ Contentions
The following are the Complainant’s contentions:
- the Disputed Domain Name is confusingly similar to the Complainant’s trademark;
- the Respondent has no rights or legitimate interests in respect of the Disputed Domain Name;
- the Disputed Domain Name was registered and is being used in bad faith; and
- the Complainant seeks the transfer of the Disputed Domain Name from the Respondent to the Complainant in accordance with paragraph 4(i) of the Policy.
The Respondent did not reply to the Complainant’s contentions. On July 19, 2021, the Center received a third party communication offering to transfer the Disputed Domain Name. The Center requested clarification regarding the identity of the third party; however, no further communications were received.
6. Discussion and Findings
In order for the Complainant to prevail and have the Disputed Domain Name transferred to the Complainant, the Complainant must prove the following (Policy, paragraph 4(a)):
(i) the Disputed Domain Name is identical or confusingly similar to a trademark or service mark in which the Complainant has rights; and
(ii) the 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.
A. Identical or Confusingly Similar
This element consists of two parts: first, does the Complainant have rights in a relevant trademark and, second, is the Disputed Domain Name identical or confusingly similar to that trademark. The Panel concludes that the Disputed Domain Name is confusingly similar to the GEICO Mark.
It is uncontroverted that the Complainant has established rights in the GEICO Mark based on its decades of use as well as its many registered trademarks for the GEICO Mark in the United States. The general consensus is that “registration of a mark is prima facie evidence of validity, which creates a rebuttable presumption that the mark is inherently distinctive”. See CWI, Inc. v. Domain Administrator c/o Dynadot, WIPO Case No. D2015-1734. The Respondent has not rebutted this presumption, and therefore the Panel finds that the Complainant has rights in the GEICO Mark.
The Disputed Domain Name consists of the GEICO Mark in its entirety followed by the dictionary term “coin”, and then followed by the generic Top-Level Domain (“gTLD”) “.com”. It is well established that a domain name that wholly incorporates a trademark may be deemed confusingly similar to that trademark for purposes of the Policy despite the addition of other terms. As stated in section 1.8 of the WIPO Overview of WIPO Panel Views on Selected UDRP Questions, Third Edition (“WIPO Overview 3.0”), “where the relevant trademark is recognizable within the disputed domain name, the addition of other terms (whether descriptive, geographical, pejorative, meaningless, or otherwise) would not prevent a finding of confusing similarity under the first element”. For example, numerous UDRP decisions have reiterated that the addition of a dictionary or descriptive term to a trademark does not prevent a finding of confusing similarity. See Allianz Global Investors of America, L.P. and Pacific Investment Management Company (PIMCO) v. Bingo-Bongo, WIPO Case No. D2011-0795; Hoffmann-La Roche Inc. v. Wei-Chun Hsia, WIPO Case No. D2008-0923.
Finally, the addition of a gTLD such as “.com” in a domain name is technically required. Thus, it is well established that such element may typically be disregarded when assessing whether a disputed domain name is identical or confusingly similar to a trademark. See Proactiva Medio Ambiente, S.A. v. Proactiva, WIPO Case No. D2012-0182 and WIPO Overview 3.0, section 1.11. Thus, the Disputed Domain Name is confusingly similar to the Complainant’s GEICO Mark.
Accordingly, the Panel finds that the first element of paragraph 4(a) of the Policy has been met by the Complainant.
B. Rights or Legitimate Interests
Under the Policy, a complainant has to make out a prima facie case that the respondent lacks rights or legitimate interests in the disputed domain name. Once such a prima facie case is made, the respondent carries the burden of production of evidence that demonstrates rights or legitimate interests in the disputed domain name. If the respondent fails to do so, the complainant may be deemed to have satisfied paragraph 4(a)(ii) of the Policy. See WIPO Overview 3.0, section 2.1.
In this case, the Panel finds that the Complainant has made out a prima facie case. The Respondent has not submitted any arguments or evidence to rebut the Complainant’s prima facie case. Furthermore, the Complainant has not authorized, licensed or otherwise permitted the Respondent to use its GEICO Mark. Nor does the Complainant have any type of business relationship with the Respondent. Based on the use made of the Disputed Domain Name to resolve to a landing page that offers the Disputed Domain Name for sale, the Panel finds that the Respondent was not making a bona fide offering of goods or services nor making a legitimate noncommercial or fair use of the Disputed Domain Name. Offering the Disputed Domain Name for sale likely in excess of the Respondent’s documented out-of-pocket costs does not constitute a legitimate noncommercial or fair use. See Turner Network Television, Inc. v. Expired Domain Resource****Maybe For Sale on Dynadot Marketplace**** c/o Dynadot, WIPO Case No. D2018-1036 (“The offering of the Domain Name for sale does not constitute a bona fide sale of goods or services or a legitimate noncommercial or fair use”).
Finally, the composition of the Disputed Domain Name, comprising the entirety of the GEICO Mark, carries a risk of implied affiliation and cannot constitute fair use here, as it effectively suggests sponsorship or endorsement by the Complainant. See WIPO Overview 3.0, section 2.5.1.
Accordingly, the Panel finds that the second element of paragraph 4(a) of the Policy has been met by the Complainant.
C. Registered and Used in Bad Faith
The Panel finds that based on the record, the Complainant has demonstrated the existence of the Respondent’s bad faith pursuant to paragraph 4(b) of the Policy.
First, based on the circumstances here, the Panel concludes that the Respondent registered and is using the Disputed Domain Name in bad faith in an attempt to attract Internet users to the Respondent’s website by creating a likelihood of confusion with the Complainant’s GEICO Mark as to the source, sponsorship, affiliation or endorsement of the Disputed Domain Name’s resolving webpage. The Respondent’s registration and use of the Disputed Domain Name indicate that such registration and use have been done for the specific purpose of trading on the name and reputation of the Complainant and its GEICO Mark. See Madonna Ciccone, p/k/a Madonna v. Dan Parisi and “Madonna.com”, WIPO Case No. D2000-0847 (“[t]he only plausible explanation for Respondent’s actions appears to be an intentional effort to trade upon the fame of Complainant’s name and mark for commercial gain”).
Second, the registration of a domain name that reproduces a trademark in its entirety (being identical or confusingly similar to such trademark) by an individual or entity that has no relationship to that mark, without any reasonable explanation on the motives for the registration, may be suggestive of opportunistic bad faith. See Ebay Inc. v. Wangming, WIPO Case No. D2006-1107; Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin, Maison Fondée en 1772 v. The Polygenix Group Co., WIPO Case No. D2000-0163.
Third, the Respondent’s offer to sell the Disputed Domain Name for valuable consideration likely in excess of its documented out-of-pocket costs directly related to the Disputed Domain Name is also evidence of the Respondent’s bad faith registration and use under paragraph 4(b) of the Policy.
Finally, the Respondent’s registration of the Disputed Domain Name was an attempt to disrupt the Complainant’s business by diverting Internet users who were searching for the Complainant’s products and services at its official website as well as to prevent the Complainant from registering the Disputed Domain Name. See Banco Bradesco S.A. v. Fernando Camacho Bohm, WIPO Case No. D2010-1552. The Panel thus concludes that the Respondent has registered and is using the Disputed Domain Name in bad faith.
Accordingly, the Panel finds that the third element of paragraph 4(a) of the Policy has been met by the Complainant.
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 <geicocoin.com> be transferred to the Complainant.
Lynda M. Braun
Date: October 26, 2021