WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center
ADMINISTRATIVE PANEL DECISION
Stripe, Inc. v. Privacy Service Provided by Withheld for Privacy ehf / Joy Okoro
Case No. D2021-2288
1. The Parties
The Complainant is Stripe, Inc., United States of America, represented by Taft, Stettinius & Hollister, LLP, United States of America.
The Respondent is Privacy Service Provided by Withheld for Privacy ehf, Iceland / Joy Okoro, Nigeria.
2. The Domain Name and Registrar
The disputed domain name <buyastripeaccount.com> is registered with NameCheap, Inc. (the “Registrar”).
3. Procedural History
The Complaint was filed with the WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center (the “Center”) on July 14, 2021. On July 15, 2021, the Center transmitted by email to the Registrar a request for registrar verification in connection with the disputed domain name. On the same day, 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 16, 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 Amended Complaint on July 19, 2021.
The Center verified that the Complaint and the Amended 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 21, 2021. In accordance with the Rules, paragraph 5, the due date for Response was August 10, 2021. The Respondent did not submit any response. Accordingly, the Center notified the Respondent’s default on August 12, 2021.
The Center appointed Dr. Clive N.A. Trotman as the sole panelist in this matter on August 24, 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 company that offers other companies the infrastructure required in order to accept and manage payments through their own websites, together with comprehensive analytical software. The Complainant’s technology is used by millions of businesses ranging in size in 40 countries.
The Complainant owns a number of registered trademarks, of which the following are representative:
STRIPE, word mark, United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), principal register, registered December 17, 2013, registration number 4451679, in class 36;
STRIPE, word mark, USPTO, principal register, registered April 13, 2021, registration number 6318008, in class 42;
STRIPE, word mark, Icelandic Intellectual Property Office, registered June 30, 2017, registration number V0103319, in classes 9, 35, 36, 41, 42, and 45.
The Complainant also uses the domain name <stripe.com> to direct visitors to its main website hosting documentation, libraries, and API (Application Programming Interface) resources.
The Respondent (hereafter referring to Joy Okoro) has not provided any background information. According to the Registrar, the Respondent, who had registered the disputed domain name with a privacy service based in Iceland, had given an address and contact details in Nigeria. The Respondent had been named in a previous WIPO case brought by the same Complainant. The disputed domain name was registered on November 22, 2020, and has resolved to a website offering financial services similar to those of the Complainant.
5. Parties’ Contentions
The Complainant states and has produced documentation to the effect that it is the owner of the trademarks listed in section 4 above.
The Complainant contends that the disputed domain name is confusingly similar to the Complainant’s trademark. The disputed domain name contains the Complainant’s trademark in its entirety, which the Complainant submits should be sufficient for a finding of confusing similarity. The additional words “buy”, “a”, and “account” should not prevent a finding of confusing similarity, and nor should the generic Top-Level Domain (“gTLD”) “.com”. The terms “buy,” “a,” and “account”, in combination with the disputed domain name, make confusion more likely by suggesting some connection with the Complainant.
The Complainant contends that the Respondent has no rights or legitimate interests in the disputed domain name. The Complainant has not granted the Respondent any authorisation to register any domain name containing the Complainant’s trademark. The Respondent is not making a bona fide offering of goods or services through the disputed domain name, which also is not in any legitimate noncommercial or fair use, and the Respondent has never been commonly known by the Complainant’s trademark or similar. The Complainant believes the disputed domain name could be used for phishing or other fraudulent purposes that cannot constitute a bona fide use.
The Complainant further contends that the disputed domain name was registered and is being used in bad faith. Some of the contentions expressed in the Complaint under the heading of Rights and Legitimate Interests are appropriately included here.
The Complainant says the Respondent was recently the subject of a complaint brought by the present Complainant that resulted in the transfer of the domain name <verifiedstripe.com> (Stripe, Inc. v. Domain Administrator, See PrivacyGuardian.org / Joy Okoro, WIPO Case No. D2021-0896). The Respondent therefore had actual prior knowledge of the Complainant’s trademark at the time of registration of the disputed domain name. If the Respondent had not known of the Complainant’s trademark it could have conducted a trademark search or a browser search and would have found it. The Respondent is in the business of registering domain names that would block a legitimate trademark owner from reflecting the trademark in a corresponding domain name, showing that registration of the disputed domain name was in bad faith.
The Complainant says the use of the disputed domain name by the Respondent would be likely to confuse Internet users into an erroneous association of the Respondent with the Complainant and would be disruptive to the Complainant’s business. The Respondent’s website further facilitates confusion by, for example, featuring quotations it attributes to the “Founder of Stripe” or the “Co-Founder, Stripe”.
The Complainant says it believes the Respondent also apparently intends to use the disputed domain name for the purposes of phishing and fraud, which would be evidence of bad faith.
The Complainant says the registration of the disputed domain name, so obviously connected with the Complainant, by the Respondent who has no connection with the Complainant, amounts to opportunistic bad faith by the Respondent.
The Complainant says that, in the circumstances, the Respondent’s use of a privacy service is supportive evidence of the Respondent’s bad faith.
The Complainant has cited a number of previous decisions under the Policy that it considers relevant.
The Complainant requests the transfer of the disputed domain name.
The Respondent did not reply to the Complainant’s contentions.
6. Discussion and Findings
Paragraph 4(a) of the Policy states that the Respondent is required to submit to a mandatory administrative proceeding in the event that the Complainant asserts to the applicable dispute-resolution provider, in compliance with the Rules, that:
“(i) your domain name is identical or confusingly similar to a trademark or service mark in which the complainant has rights; and
(ii) you have no rights or legitimate interests in respect of the domain name; and
(iii) your domain name has been registered and is being used in bad faith”.
The Complainant has made the relevant assertions as required by the Policy. The dispute is properly within the scope of the Policy and the Panel has jurisdiction to decide the dispute.
A. Identical or Confusingly Similar
The Panel is satisfied as to the Complainant’s rights in those trademarks for which it has produced copies of the registration documents, as listed in section 4 above.
The Complainant’s trademark STRIPE is found to be clearly recognisable in the disputed domain name. The gTLD “.com” may be disregarded in the determination of confusing similarity. The additional words present in the disputed domain name, such that it reads “buy a stripe account”, are found not to prevent a finding of confusing similarity. Accordingly the Panel finds for the Complainant under paragraph 4(a)(i) of the Policy.
B. Rights or Legitimate Interests
The Complainant has stated a prima facie case to the effect that the Respondent has not been granted any right or permission to use the Complainant’s trademark and cannot have any rights or legitimate interests in the disputed domain name in the terms of paragraph 4(a)(ii) of the Policy.
Paragraph 4(c) of the Policy provides for the Respondent to contest the Complainant’s prima facie case under paragraph 4(a)(ii) of the Policy and to establish rights or legitimate interests in a disputed domain name by demonstrating, without limitation:
“(i) before any notice to you of the dispute, your use of, or demonstrable preparations to use, the domain name or a name corresponding to the domain name in connection with a bona fide offering of goods or services; or
(ii) you (as an individual, business, or other organization) have been commonly known by the domain name, even if you have acquired no trademark or service mark rights; or
(iii) you are making a legitimate noncommercial or fair use of the domain name, without intent for commercial gain to misleadingly divert consumers or to tarnish the trademark or service mark at issue”.
On the evidence, the disputed domain name resolves to a website which might be seen as representing itself as the Complainant, necessarily falsely for the reasons discussed in the matter of Bad Faith below, and therefore is found not to be in use for a bona fide offering of goods or services. There is no evidence of any legitimate noncommercial or fair use of the disputed domain name, or that the Respondent is or has been commonly known by the Complainant’s trademark. The Respondent has not responded formally or made any assertion to the contrary.
The Panel finds that the Respondent does not have rights or legitimate interests in the disputed domain name and finds for the Complainant under paragraph 4(a)(ii) of the Policy.
C. Registered and Used in Bad Faith
The Complainant must prove under paragraph 4(a)(iii) of the Policy that the disputed domain name has been registered and is being used in bad faith. Paragraph 4(b) of the Policy lists four alternative circumstances that shall be evidence of the registration and use of a domain name in bad faith by a respondent, namely:
“(i) circumstances indicating that you have registered or you have acquired the domain name primarily for the purpose of selling, renting, or otherwise transferring the domain name registration to the complainant who is the owner of the trademark or service mark or to a competitor of that complainant, for valuable consideration in excess of your documented out-of-pocket costs directly related to the domain name; or
(ii) you have registered the 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 you have engaged in a pattern of such conduct; or
(iii) you have registered the domain name primarily for the purpose of disrupting the business of a competitor; or
(iv) by using the domain name, you have intentionally attempted to attract, for commercial gain, Internet users to your web site 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 your website or location or of a product or service on your website or location”.
The provisions of paragraph 4(b) of the Policy are without limitation and bad faith may be found alternatively by the Panel.
The Panel has scrutinised the screen capture of the website to which the disputed domain name resolved on July 14, 2021. The main heading is “Buy a Verified Stripe Account Today” with surrounding exhortations such as “Launch your business”, a “SEE MORE” button, a “BUY NOW” button, and “Order For a Stripe Account. Delivered in 72 Hours”. Another heading states “BASA can help you get a stripe account”, in which “BASA” may be assumed to be the initial letters of the disputed domain name, i.e., “buy a stripe account”.
The Respondent’s website goes on to appear to offer financial services to potential clients for their own websites, including “2-Days Rolling Payouts” and “Accept Online Payments and withdraw your money every 2 days from your stripe account”. A 7-day payout option is also offered. A quotation, “Our idea with starting Stripe was to build payments technology for people building things [on] the web”, is attributed to the “CO-FOUNDER, Stripe” by name with a photograph. Different types of account, offering 2-day or 7-day payout frequencies, are priced with “BUY NOW” buttons that require payment in cryptocurrencies.
On the evidence, the Panel finds that the website of the disputed domain name, among other things, purports to offer a service conceptually similar to that of the Complainant, uses the Complainant’s trademark repeatedly in connection with services for which the trademark is registered, and by use of the statement “Quotes From Founder of Stripe” together with the name of a co-founder and a photograph (which may or may not be authentic), has intended to masquerade as being an online presence of the Complainant. There is little room for doubt that the Respondent, by quoting the co-founder of the Complainant, and having recently been ordered to transfer another infringing domain name to the same Complainant, was aware of the Complainant, its business and its trademark at the time of registration of the disputed domain name.
The Respondent’s website offers opportunities for visitors to buy the services claimed to be offered. The Panel finds, on the evidence and on the balance of probabilities, that the primary intended use of the disputed domain name is for commercial gain with intent to confuse visitors into believing, at least initially, that the website and the services offered therein are endorsed by the Complainant, constituting use in bad faith under paragraph 4(b)(iv) of the Policy. The Panel further finds, on the balance of probabilities, that the disputed domain name was registered for the purpose for which it is being used. Registration and use of the disputed domain name are found therefore in the terms of paragraph 4(a)(iii) of the Policy.
The Complainant has raised additional grounds under which registration and use of the disputed domain name may have been found to be in bad faith, including as a blocking registration, the disruptive consequences, and the Respondent’s possible intention to conduct phishing or fraud through the website, which need not be pursued. The Panel also acknowledges that the registration of such a domain name containing a well-known trademark for which a respondent can have no conceivable legitimate use is commonly considered to be sufficient evidence of bad faith.
Whilst the use of a privacy service by a domain name registrant can be entirely legitimate, the Panel finds that in this instance, having regard to all the evidence, the use of a privacy service by the Respondent has been, more probably than not, with the intention of frustrating or delaying service of the Complaint or the receipt of any communication from the Complainant, being further evidence of the Respondent’s registration and use of 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 <buyastripeaccount.com> be transferred to the Complainant.
Dr. Clive N.A. Trotman
Date: September 7, 2021