WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center
ADMINISTRATIVE PANEL DECISION
HomeAway.com, Inc. v. Domain Administrator, See PrivacyGuardian.org / Shui Guan, Dong Hai Wang
Case No. D2021-3409
1. The Parties
The Complainant is HomeAway.com, Inc., United States of America (“United States”), represented by Kilpatrick Townsend & Stockton LLP, United States.
The Respondent is Domain Administrator, See PrivacyGuardian.org, United States / Shui Guan, Dong Hai Wang, United Arab Emirates.
2. The Domain Name and Registrar
The disputed domain name <lsvrbo.com> (the “Domain Name”) is registered with NameSilo, LLC (the “Registrar”).
3. Procedural History
The Complaint was filed with the WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center (the “Center”) on October 15, 2021. On October 15, 2021, the Center transmitted by email to the Registrar a request for registrar verification in connection with the Domain Name. On October 16, 2021, the Registrar transmitted by email to the Center its verification response disclosing registrant and contact information for the Domain Name which differed from the named Respondent and contact information in the Complaint. The Center sent an email communication to the Complainant on October 17, 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 October 19, 2021.
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 the Respondent of the Complaint, and the proceedings commenced on October 21, 2021. In accordance with the Rules, paragraph 5, the due date for Response was November 10, 2021. The Respondent did not submit any response. Accordingly, the Center notified the Respondent’s default on November 11, 2021.
The Center appointed Karen Fong as the sole panelist in this matter on November 23, 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, which is part of Expedia, Inc., is a global online marketplace for the vacation rental industry with sites currently representing over two million online bookable listings of vacation rental homes and apartments in over 190 countries. The Complainant’s services are offered under the brand VRBO. The VRBO brand was started more than 25 years ago in 1995 by VRBO.com, LLC and was acquired by the Complainant in 2010. The VRBO brand is extensively advertised through many different channels. It has also won several travel and hospitality awards.
The VRBO mark is registered in many jurisdictions including the Unites States, the European Union and China. These trade mark registrations include US Trade Mark Registration No.2820989 registered on March 9, 2004 (the “Trade Mark”). The Complainant’s website is found at “www.vrbo.com”.
The Respondent registered the Domain Name on July 7, 2021. The Domain Name resolves to a website with links to third party gambling websites, explicit adult images and pornographic content.
5. Parties’ Contentions
The Complainant contends that the Domain Name is confusingly similar to the Trade Mark, that the Respondent has no rights or legitimate interests with respect to the Domain Name, and that the Domain Name was registered and is being used in bad faith. The Complainant requests transfer of the Domain Name to the Complainant.
The Respondent did not reply to the Complainant’s contentions.
6. Discussion and Findings
According to paragraph 4(a) of the Policy, for this Complaint to succeed in relation to the Domain Name, the Complainant must prove each of the following, namely that:
(i) The Domain Name is identical or confusingly similar to a trade mark or service mark in which the Complainant has rights; and
(ii) The Respondent has no rights or legitimate interests in respect of the Domain Name; and
(iii) The Domain Name was registered and is being used in bad faith.
B. Identical or Confusingly Similar
The Panel is satisfied that the Complainant has established that it has rights to the Trade Mark.
The standing (or threshold) test for confusing similarity involves a reasoned but relatively straightforward comparison between the trade mark and the domain name to determine whether the domain name is confusingly similar to the trade mark. The test involves a side-by-side comparison of the domain name and the textual components of the relevant trade mark to assess whether the mark is recognizable within the domain name.
In this case, the Domain Name contains the Complainant’s Trade Mark in its entirety with the addition of two letters “LS” as a prefix. The addition of the two letters as a prefix does not prevent a finding of confusing similarity. For the purposes of assessing identity and confusing similarity under paragraph 4(a)(i) of the Policy, it is permissible for the Panel to ignore the generic Top-Level Domain (“gTLD”) which in this case is “.com”. It is viewed as a standard registration requirement (section 1.11 of the WIPO Overview of WIPO Panel Views on Selected UDRP Questions, Third Edition (“WIPO Overview 3.0”)).
The Panel finds that the Domain Name is identical to a trade mark in which the Complainant has rights and that the requirements of paragraph 4(a)(i) of the Policy therefore are fulfilled.
C. Rights or Legitimate Interests
Pursuant to paragraph 4(c) of the Policy, a respondent may establish rights or legitimate interests in the disputed domain name by demonstrating any of the following:
(i) before any notice to it of the dispute, the respondent’s 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) the respondent has been commonly known by the domain name, even if it has acquired no trade mark or service mark rights; or
(iii) the respondent is making a legitimate non-commercial or fair use of the domain name, without intent for commercial gain, to misleadingly divert consumers, or to tarnish the trade mark or service mark at issue.
Although the Policy addresses ways in which a respondent may demonstrate rights or legitimate interests in a disputed domain name, it is well established that, as it is put in section 2.1 of the WIPO Overview 3.0, that a complainant is required to make out a prima facie case that the respondent lacks rights or legitimate interests. Once such prima facie case is made, the burden of production shifts to the respondent to come forward with appropriate allegations or evidence demonstrating rights or legitimate interests in the domain name. If the respondent does come forward with some allegations of evidence of relevant rights or legitimate interests, the panel weighs all the evidence, with the burden of proof always remaining on the complainant.
The Complainant contends that there is no evidence that the Respondent is commonly known by the Domain Name nor has any trade mark rights to the Trade Mark. Further, it has not authorised, licensed, sponsored or otherwise permitted the Respondent to use the Trade Mark in the Domain Name or for any other purpose. The Respondent’s unauthorised use of the Trade Mark in the Domain Name in relation to gambling and pornography is not bona fide or legitimate noncommercial or fair use of the Domain Name.
The Panel finds that the Complainant has made out a prima facie case, a case calling for an answer from the Respondent. The Respondent has not in its response provided any explanation of its rights or legitimate interests in relation to the Domain Name and the Panel is unable to conceive of any basis upon which the Respondent could sensibly be said to have any rights or legitimate interests in respect of the Domain Name.
The Panel finds that the Respondent has no rights or legitimate interests in respect of the Domain Name.
D. Registered and Used in Bad Faith
To succeed under the Policy, the Complainant must show that the Domain Name has been registered and is being used in bad faith.
The Panel is satisfied that the Respondent was aware of the Trade Mark when it registered the Domain Name given the reputation of the Trade Mark and the fact that it has no common dictionary significance other than that of the name of the Complainant’s brand. It is therefore implausible that the Respondent was unaware of the Complainant when it registered the Domain Name.
In the WIPO Overview 3.0, section 3.2.2 states as follows:
“Noting the near instantaneous and global reach of the Internet and search engines, and particularly in circumstances where the complainant’s mark is widely known (including in its sector) or highly specific and a respondent cannot credibly claim to have been unaware of the mark (particularly in the case of domainers), panels have been prepared to infer that the respondent knew, or have found that the respondent should have known, that its registration would be identical or confusingly similar to a complainant’s mark. Further factors including the nature of the domain name, the chosen top-level domain, any use of the domain name, or any respondent pattern, may obviate a respondent’s claim not to have been aware of the complainant’s mark.”
The fact that there is a clear absence of rights or legitimate interests coupled with the Respondent’s choice of the Domain Name is also a significant factor to consider (as stated in section 3.2.1 of the WIPO Overview 3.0). The Domain Name falls into the category stated above and the Panel finds that registration is in bad faith.
The Panel also finds that the actual use of the Domain Name is in bad faith. The Website is a gambling and pornographic site. These services have been set up for the commercial benefit of the Respondent. It is highly likely that web users when typing the Domain Name into their browser or finding it through a search engine would have been looking for a site operated by the Complainant rather than the Respondent.
The Domain Name is likely to confuse Internet users trying to find the Complainant’s official website. Such confusion will inevitably result due to the complete incorporation of the Trade Mark in the Domain Name. The Respondent employs the reputation of the Trade Mark to mislead users into visiting the website connected to the Domain Name instead of the Complainant’s. From the above, the Panel concludes that the Respondent intentionally attempted to attract for commercial gain, by misleading Internet users into believing that the Respondent’s website is authorised or somehow connected to the Complainant.
The Panel therefore concludes that the Domain Name was registered and is being used in bad faith both under paragraph 4(b)(iv) of the Policy.
For the foregoing reasons, in accordance with paragraphs 4(i) of the Policy and 15 of the Rules, the Panel orders that the Domain Name <lsvrbo.com> be transferred to the Complainant.
Date: December 14, 2021