WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center

ADMINISTRATIVE PANEL DECISION

Stripe, Inc. v. w smart, AG and 杨坤 (yang kun)

Case No. D2021-2459

1. The Parties

Complainant is Stripe, Inc., United States of America (“US”), represented by Taft Stettinius & Hollister, LLP, US.

Respondents are W Smart, AG, Hong Kong, China and 杨坤 (Yang Kun), China.

2. The Domain Names and Registrars

The disputed domain name <stirpe.info> is registered with GoDaddy.com, LLC, (the “First Registrar”).

The disputed domain name <stripe.fit> is registered with Alibaba Cloud Computing Ltd. d/b/a HiChina (www.net.cn), (the “Second Registrar”).

3. Procedural History

The Complaint was filed in English with the WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center (the “Center”) on July 28, 2021. On July 29, 2021, the Center transmitted by email to Registrars a request for registrar verification in connection with the disputed domain names. On July 29, 2021, the First Registrar transmitted by email to the Center its verification response disclosing registrant and contact information for the disputed domain name <stirpe.info>, which differed from the named Respondent and contact information in the Complaint. On July 30, 2021, the Second Registrar transmitted by email to the Center its verification response disclosing registrant and contact information for the disputed domain name <stripe.fit>, which differed from the named Respondent and contact information in the Complaint. The Center sent an email communication to Complainant on August 3, 2021, providing the registrant and contact information disclosed by Registrars, and inviting Complainant to submit an amendment to the Complaint. Complainant filed an amended Complaint in English on August 9, 2021. The Center sent a Consolidation email to Complainant on August 11, 2021.

On August 3, 2021, the Center transmitted an email communication to the Parties in English and Chinese regarding the language of the administrative proceeding. On August 6, 2021, Complainant confirmed its request that English be the language of the administrative proceeding. Respondent did not comment on the language of the administrative proceeding, except for an email on August 18, 2021 mentioning that he does not understand many of the instructions in English.

The Center verified that the Complaint together with 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 Respondent in English and Chinese of the Complaint, and the proceedings commenced on August 18, 2021. In accordance with the Rules, paragraph 5, the due date for Response was September 7, 2021. Respondents’ informal communications were received by the Center on August 3, 2021, August 18, 2021 and August 27, 2021 respectively. The Center sent a Commencement of Panel Appointment Process email to Parties on September 8, 2021.

The Center appointed Yijun Tian as the sole panelist in this matter on September 20, 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, Stripe, Inc., is a company incorporated in the US. It is a leading technology company that builds economic infrastructure for the Internet. Millions of businesses use Stripe’s software to accept payments and manage their businesses online. Stripe is available for businesses in over 40 countries, including the US.

Complainant has exclusive rights in the STRIPE and STRIPE related marks. Complainant is the exclusive owner of numerous STRIPE trademarks worldwide, including the US trademark registered on December 17, 2013 (the US Trademark registration number 4451679), and the Chinese trademark registered on August 14, 2012 (the Chinese Trademark registration number 9685655). Complainant has also registered the mark STRIPE (in simplified and traditional Chinese characters) in Hong Kong, China on April 25, 2018 (the HK Trademark registration number 304349566).

Complainant also own domain name <stripe.com>, and uses its website resolved by “www.stripe.com” to publish its documentation, libraries, and API resources (among other things).

B. Respondents

Respondents are W Smart, AG, Hong Kong, China and 杨坤 (Yang Kun), China. The disputed domain names <stirpe.info> and <stripe.fit> were registered on January 9, 2021, and on October 25, 2020, respectively. According to the Complaint and relevant evidence provided by Complainant, the disputed domain names both resolved to websites (which have similar webpage layouts and contents) purporting to be authorized online platforms for Complainant’s products and services, including the services helping Internet users to create and manage Stripe accounts.

5. Parties’ Contentions

A. Complainant

Complainant contends that the disputed domain names <stirpe.info> and <stripe.fit> are confusingly similar to the STRIPE trademark. The disputed domain names consist solely of the STRIPE Marks, or some form of typosquatting misspelling. Simply adding “.fit” and “.info” generic Top-Level Domains (“gTLDs”) as suffixes does not inhibit the finding of confusing similarity.

Complainant contends that Respondents have no rights or legitimate interests in respect of the disputed domain names.

Complainant contends that Respondents have registered and used the disputed domain names in bad faith.

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

B. Respondents

Respondents did not formally reply to Complainant’s contentions, and replied in several emails dated August 3, 2021, August 18, 2021 and August 27, 2021, stating, inter alia, that they did not understand what rule they have breached, and they have used the disputed domain name legitimately.

6. Discussion and Findings

6.1. Language of the Proceeding

The language of the Registration Agreement for the disputed domain name <stripe.fit> is Chinese, while the language of the Registration Agreement for the disputed domain name <stripe.info> is English. Pursuant to the Rules, paragraph 11(a), in the absence of an agreement between the Parties, or specified otherwise in the Registration Agreement, the language of the administrative proceeding shall be the language of the Registration Agreement. From the evidence presented on the record, no agreement appears to have been entered into between Complainant and Respondents to the effect that the language of the proceeding should be English. Complainant filed initially its Complaint in English, and has requested that English be the language of the proceeding for the following main reasons:

a) Respondent is fully capable of proceeding in English.

b) The disputed domain names in English evidence Respondent’s ability to communicate in English.

c) Translation of the Complaint would only unduly burden the Complainant and unnecessarily delay this proceeding.

Respondents did not make any submissions with respect to the language of the proceeding. Respondent 杨坤 (Yang Kun) mentioned that he does not understand many of the instructions in English but he did not object as such to the use of English as the language of the proceeding.

Paragraph 11(a) of the Rules allows the panel to determine the language of the proceeding having regard to all the circumstances. In particular, it is established practice to take paragraphs 10(b) and (c) of the Rules into consideration for the purpose of determining the language of the proceeding. In other words, it is important to ensure fairness to the parties and the maintenance of an inexpensive and expeditious avenue for resolving domain name disputes (Whirlpool Corporation, Whirlpool Properties, Inc. v. Hui’erpu (HK) electrical appliance co. ltd., WIPO Case No. D2008-0293; Solvay S.A. v. Hyun-Jun Shin, WIPO Case No. D2006-0593). The language finally decided by the panel for the proceeding should not be prejudicial to either one of the parties in its abilities to articulate the arguments for the case (Groupe Auchan v. xmxzl, WIPO Case No. DCC2006-0004). WIPO Overview of WIPO Panel Views on Selected UDRP Questions, Third Edition (“WIPO Overview 3.0”), section 4.5.1, further states:

“Noting the aim of conducting the proceedings with due expedition, paragraph 10 of the UDRP Rules vests a panel with authority to conduct the proceedings in a manner it considers appropriate while also ensuring both that the parties are treated with equality, and that each party is given a fair opportunity to present its case.

Against this background, panels have found that certain scenarios may warrant proceeding in a language other than that of the registration agreement. Such scenarios include (i) evidence showing that Respondent can understand the language of the complaint, (ii) the language/script of the domain name particularly where the same as that of Complainant’s mark, (iii) any content on the webpage under the disputed domain name, (iv) prior cases involving Respondent in a particular language, (v) prior correspondence between the parties, (vi) potential unfairness or unwarranted delay in ordering Complainant to translate the complaint, (vii) evidence of other respondent-controlled domain names registered, used, or corresponding to a particular language, (viii) in cases involving multiple domain names, the use of a particular language agreement for some (but not all) of the disputed domain names, (ix) currencies accepted on the webpage under the disputed domain name, or (x) other indicia tending to show that it would not be unfair to proceed in a language other than that of the registration agreement.” (See also L’Oreal S.A. v. MUNHYUNJA, WIPO Case No. D2003-0585).

The Panel has taken into consideration the facts that Complainant is a company from the US, and Complainant will be spared the burden of working in Chinese as the language of the proceeding. The Panel has also taken into consideration the fact that the disputed domain names <stirpe.info> and <stripe.fit> include Latin characters (“stirpe” and English word “stripe”), and are registered in the gTLD space comprising of the Latin characters and English words “.info” (abbreviation of “information”) and “.fit” (Compagnie Gervais Danone v. Xiaole Zhang, WIPO Case No. D2008-1047).

On the record, Respondents W Smart, AG, China and 杨坤 (Yang Kun) appear to be Chinese residents (in the Hong Kong, China, and mainland China respectively) and are thus presumably not native English speakers. However, considering the following, the Panel has decided that English should be the language of the proceeding: (a) the disputed domain names include Latin characters or English word, rather than mere Chinese scripts; (b) the gTLDs of the disputed domain names “.info” and “.fit” are English words; (c) the replied email from Respondents to the Centre, dated on August 3, 2021, was written in English; (d) the Registration Agreement for the disputed domain name <stripe.info> is English (and there are arguments supporting the consolidation of Respondents); (e) the Center has notified Respondents of the proceeding in both Chinese and English; and (f) the Center informed the Parties, in English and Chinese, that it would accept a Response in either English or Chinese. The Panel would have accepted a response in either English or Chinese but none was filed.

Accordingly, the Panel finds the choice of English as the language of the present proceeding is fair to both Parties and is not prejudicial to either one of the Parties in its ability to articulate the arguments for this case. Having considered all the matters above, the Panel determines under paragraph 11(a) of the Rules that English shall be the language of the proceeding, and the decision will be rendered in English.

6.2. Consolidation of Respondents

The Panel notes that the present Complaint has been filed against multiple Respondents and Complainant has submitted a request for consolidation. On this subject, section 4.11 of the WIPO Overview 3.0 provides inter alia as follows:

“The WIPO Center may accept, on a preliminary basis, a consolidated complaint where the criteria described below are prima facie met. Any final determination on consolidation would be made by the appointed panel, which may apply its discretion in certain circumstances to order the separation of a filed complaint”.

The Panel finds that Complainant has provided sufficient evidence to establish that the disputed domain names or corresponding websites are subject to common control, such as the disputed domain names have been used to host identical website content (Annex 4 of the Compliant), and that the connection between the disputed domain names is reinforced by the similarity in their composition – “stripe” and “stirpe” (misspelling of “stripe”).

In all of these circumstances, the Panel considers that it is procedurally efficient to allow Complainant to proceed with the single Complaint as filed and is content that such consolidation is fair and equitable to all of the Parties.

6.3. Substantive Issues

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 names should be cancelled or transferred:

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

(ii) Respondents have no rights or legitimate interests in respect of the disputed domain names; and

(iii) the disputed domain names have been registered and are 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 STRIPE marks. In relation to the disputed domain name <stripe.fit>, the Panel finds that the disputed domain name comprises the STRIPE mark in its entirety. It only differ from Complainant’s trademarks by the gTLD suffix “.fit” to the STRIPE marks. This does not compromise the recognizability of Complainant’s marks within the disputed domain name, nor eliminates the identity between Complainant’s registered trademarks and the disputed domain name (Decathlon v. Zheng Jianmeng, WIPO Case No. D2019-0234).

In relation to the disputed domain name <stirpe.info>, the Panel finds that the essential part of disputed domain name (“stirpe”) is a merely misspelling of Complainant’s trademark STRIPE by reversing the order of the “r” and the “i”. This does not eliminate the confusing similarity between Complainant’s registered trademarks and the disputed domain name either (Walgreen Co. v. Lin yanxiao / Linyanxiao, WIPO Case No. D2016-1605).

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).

Moreover, as to “typosquatting”, section 1.9 of WIPO Overview 3.0 states: “A domain name which consists of a common, obvious, or intentional misspelling of a trademark is considered by panels to be confusingly similar to the relevant mark for purposes of the first element.”

As the essential part of the disputed domain name <stirpe.info> (“stirpe”) is a merely misspelling of Complainant’s STRIPE marks – by reversing the order of the “r” and the “i”, the Panel finds the disputed domain name must be considered a prototypical example of typosquatting and it is not sufficient to negate the confusing similarity between the disputed domain name <stirpe.info> and the STRIPE marks.

Further, in relation to the gTLD suffix, WIPO Overview 3.0 further 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.” (WIPO Overview 3.0, section 1.11.1.)

The Panel therefore holds that 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 technology company that builds economic infrastructure for the Internet. Its Stripe’s software has attracted millions of business users in over 40 countries. Its STRIPE marks have been registered internationally, including in the US since 2013, in mainland China since 2012, and in Hong Kong, China (STRIPE marks in simplified and traditional Chinese characters) since 2018, which precede Respondents’ registration of the disputed domain names (in 2021 and 2020).

Moreover, Respondents, while not affiliated with Complainant, are offering purported STRIPE branded products and services through the websites resolved by the disputed domain names, using STRIPE trademark on their websites, and claiming that they would help Internet users to create Stripe accounts. (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; Philip Morris Products S.A. v. Lin Cheng, Han Ming, WIPO Case No. D2018-2688).

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

(a) There has been no evidence adduced to show that Respondents are using the disputed domain names in connection with a bona fide offering of goods or services. Respondents have not provided evidence of a legitimate use of the disputed domain names or reasons to justify the choice of the term “stripe” in the disputed domain names and in their business operations. There has been no evidence to show that Complainant has licensed or otherwise permitted Respondents to use the STRIPE marks or to apply for or use any domain names incorporating the STRIPE marks, and Respondents have, through the use of a confusingly similar domain names and their webpage contents, created a likelihood of confusion with the STRIPE marks.

(b) There has been no evidence adduced to show that Respondents have been commonly known by the disputed domain names. There has been no evidence adduced to show that Respondents have any registered trademark rights with respect to the disputed domain names. Respondents registered the disputed domain names in 2021 and 2020, after the STRIPE marks became internationally known. The disputed domain names are confusingly similar to the STRIPE marks.

(c) There has been no evidence adduced to show that Respondents are making a legitimate noncommercial or fair use of the disputed domain names. By contrast, the Panel finds that the disputed domain names resolved to websites offering purported STRIPE products and services, including services helping to open Stripe account. It seems that Respondents made profits through the Internet traffic attracted to the websites under the disputed domain names. (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.)

The Panel notes that Respondents have not produced any evidence to establish their rights or legitimate interests in the disputed domain names.

Accordingly, Complainant has established that Respondents have no rights or legitimate interests in the disputed domain names. 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 Respondents have registered and are using the disputed domain names in bad faith.

(a) Registration in Bad Faith

The Panel finds that Complainant has a widespread reputation in the STRIPE marks with regard to its products and services. As mentioned above, Complainant is a leading technology company that builds economic infrastructure for the Internet, and its Stripe’s software has attracted millions of business users in over 40 countries. STRIPE marks are registered internationally, including in the US since 2013, in mainland China since 2012, and in Hong Kong, China (STRIPE marks in simplified and traditional Chinese characters) since 2018. It is not conceivable that Respondents would not have had actual notice of the STRIPE marks at the time of the registration of the disputed domain names (in 2021 and 2020) particularly given that Respondents are selling purported STRIPE products and services, including the services helping Internet users to create Stripe accounts. The Panel therefore finds that under these circumstances the STRIPE 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, Respondents have chosen not to formally 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 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 names were registered in bad faith.

(b) Use in Bad Faith

Respondents are using the websites resolved by the disputed domain names to offer purported STRIPE products and services, including services in helping business to create and manage Stripe accounts. Thus, the Panel concludes that Respondents are currently using the identical or confusingly similar disputed domain names with the intention to attract, for commercial gain, Internet users to Respondents’ websites.

Given the reputation of the STRIPE marks, the Panel finds that the public is likely to be confused into thinking that the disputed domain names have 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 websites to which the disputed domain names resolve. In other words, Respondents have through the use of an identical or confusingly similar disputed domain names created a likelihood of confusion with the STRIPE marks. Moreover, as mentioned above, Respondents are offering purported STRIPE products and services (including the services for Strip account creation and management) via the websites to which the disputed domain names resolve, presumably for commercial gain.

The Panel therefore concludes that the disputed domain names were registered and are being used by Respondents in bad faith. Such use of the disputed domain names is also disruptive in relation to the interests of Complainant.

In summary, Respondents, by choosing to register and use the disputed domain names, which are identical or confusingly similar to the STRIPE marks, intended to ride on the goodwill of this trademark in an attempt to exploit, for commercial gain, Internet users destined for Complainant. In the absence of evidence to the contrary and rebuttal from Respondents, the choice of the disputed domain names and the conducts of Respondents as far as the websites to which the disputed domain names resolve are indicative of registration and use of the disputed domain names 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 names <stirpe.info> and <stripe.fit> be transferred to Complainant.

Yijun Tian
Sole Panelist
Dated: October 12, 2021