WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center
ADMINISTRATIVE PANEL DECISION
CURO Group Holdings Corp. v. Privacy service provided by Withheld for Privacy ehf / sean willis, Go Global
Case No. D2021-3585
1. The Parties
The Complainant is CURO Group Holdings Corp., United States of America (“United States”), represented by Berkowitz Oliver LLP Law Firm, United States.
The Respondent is Privacy service provided by Withheld for Privacy ehf, Iceland / sean willis, Go Global, United States.
2. The Domain Name and Registrar
The disputed domain name <speedycash.loans> (the “Disputed Domain Name”) is registered with NameCheap, Inc. (the “Registrar”).
3. Procedural History
The Complaint was filed with the WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center (the “Center”) on October 27, 2021. On October 28, 2021, the Center transmitted by email to the Registrar a request for registrar verification in connection with the Disputed Domain Name. On October 28, 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, and informing the Center that the Disputed Domain Name had expired on September 28, 2021. The Center sent an email communication to the Complainant on November 2, 2021, requesting that the Complainant proceed with the renewal of the Disputed Domain Name. The Registrar confirmed that the Disputed Domain Name was renewed on November 18, 2021. The Center sent an email communication to the Complainant on November 24, 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 December 9, 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 December 28, 2021. In accordance with the Rules, paragraph 5, the due date for Response was January 17, 2022. The Respondent did not submit any response. Accordingly, the Center notified the Respondent’s default on January 18, 2021.
The Center appointed Lynda M. Braun as the sole panelist in this matter on January 28, 2022. 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 large, fast-growing provider of short-term loans and financial services in the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom. Founded in 1997, the Complainant has experienced a great deal of success during the past two decades.
The Complainant is the owner of several trademark registrations with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (“USPTO”) for the following marks, each of which has become incontestable: SPEEDY CASH (word mark), United States Reg. No. 3,563,682, registered on January 20, 2009, in international class 36; SC SPEEDY CA$H (stylized mark), United States Reg. No. 2,966,547, registered on July 12, 2005, in international class 36; and SPEEDY CA$H (stylized mark), United States Reg. No. 2,677,082, registered on January 21, 2003, in international class 36 (hereinafter collectively referred to as the “SPEEDY CASH Mark”).
The Complainant and its affiliates use the Speedy Cash Mark in connection with the classes of goods and services for which they have been registered, namely the provision of short-term loans and financial services to consumers.
The Complainant owns the domain name <speedycash.com> which resolves to its official website at “www.speedycash.com”, which provides information about the Complainant and the services it offers, as well as applications for the various loans it offers.
The Disputed Domain Name was registered on September 28, 2020. Initially, according to screenshots provided by the Complainant in an annex to the Complaint, the Disputed Domain Name resolved to the Respondent’s website that offered the same loan services as offered by the Complainant. That website used the Complainant’s SPEEDY CASH Mark prominently, and included a contact address in Illinois, which is the address associated with one of the Complainant’s competitors, ACE Cash Express. Subsequently, the Respondent changed its website to resolve to a pay-per-click landing page with hyperlinks related to various types of loans. As of the writing of the Decision, the Disputed Domain Name resolves to a landing page that states: “This site can’t be reached. speedycash.loans’s server IP address could not be found.”
The Complainant, through its counsel, sent cease-and-desist letters to the registrants of the Disputed Domain Name on August 20, 2021, October 22, 2021, and December 9, 2021, using the email address on the Respondent’s website, on the WhoIs record, and on the email address of the Registrar, to inform them that they had infringed the Complainant’s SPEEDY CASH Mark and to demand the transfer of the Disputed Domain Name from the Respondent to the Complainant. The Respondent did not reply to those letters.
5. Parties’ Contentions
The following are the Complainant’s contentions:
- the Disputed Domain Name is confusingly similar to the Complainant’s SPEEDY CASH Mark;
- 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.
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
Paragraph 4(a)(i) of the Policy requires a two-fold inquiry: a threshold investigation into whether a complainant has rights in a trademark, followed by an assessment of whether the domain name is identical or confusingly similar to that trademark. The Panel concludes that in the present case, the Disputed Domain Name is confusingly similar to the SPEEDY CASH Mark.
It is uncontroverted that the Complainant has established rights in the SPEEDY CASH Mark based on its years of use as well as its registered and incontestable trademarks for the SPEEDY CASH Mark. The general rule 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 SPEEDY CASH Mark.
The Disputed Domain Name consists of the SPEEDY CASH Mark in its entirety, followed by the generic Top-Level Domain (“gTLD”) “.loans”. The addition of a gTLD such as “.loans” in a domain name is technically required. Thus, it is well established that such element may typically be disregarded when assessing whether a 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 of WIPO Panel Views on Selected UDRP Questions, Third Edition (“WIPO Overview 3.0”), section 1.11. Thus, the Disputed Domain Name is identical to the Complainant’s SPEEDY CASH 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 SPEEDY CASH Mark. Nor does the Complainant have any type of business relationship with the Respondent. The name of the Respondent has no apparent connection to the Disputed Domain Name that would suggest that it is related to a trademark or trade name in which the Respondent has rights. There is also no evidence that the Respondent is commonly known by the Disputed Domain Name or by any name similar to it nor has the Respondent made any demonstrable preparations to use the Disputed Domain Name in connection with a bona fide offering of goods or services. Based on the initial use made of the Disputed Domain Name to resolve to a fraudulent website offering loan services with the Complainant’s trademark, and the later use of the Disputed Domain Name to resolve to a pay-per-click landing page with links related to loan services, 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. On the contrary, the Respondent used the SPEEDY Mark for commercial gain.
Finally, the composition of the Disputed Domain Name, comprising the entirety of the SPEEDY CASH Mark, carries a high 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. The implied affiliation is reinforced given the particular gTLD at use, “.loans”, considering the Complainant’s financial services.
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 registration and use of the Disputed Domain Name pursuant to paragraph 4(a)(iii) of the Policy for the reasons set forth below.
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 SPEEDY CASH 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 SPEEDY CASH 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 is confusingly similar to a trademark by an entity that has no relationship to that mark may be sufficient evidence 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. Here, the Disputed Domain Name is identical to the Complainant’s SPEEDY CASH Mark, save for the gTLD in the Disputed Domain Name.
Third, the Panel finds that the Respondent knew that the Complainant had rights in the SPEEDY CASH Mark when registering the Disputed Domain Name. The Respondent registered the Disputed Domain Name over a decade after the Complainant first used and obtained its trademark registrations for the SPEEDY CASH Mark, and at first, the Respondent used the Complainant’s SPEEDY CASH Mark to promote its competing loan services on its resolving website while using the Complainant’s SPEEDY CASH Mark on that website, making clear that the Respondent was well aware of the Complainant and its SPEEDY CASH Mark, and thus, demonstrating bad faith. The choice of the “.loans” gTLD seems far from coincidental, but further reinforces the Panel’s belief that Respondent had specifically the Complainant in mind when registering the Disputed Domain Name and intentionally chose the “.loans” gTLD to target the Complainant given its activity in the financial services sector. Therefore, it strains credulity to believe that the Respondent had not known of the Complainant or its SPEEDY CASH Mark when registering the Disputed Domain Name. See Myer Stores Limited v. Mr. David John Singh, WIPO Case No. D2001-0763 (respondent’s knowledge of the registration and use of a trademark prior to registering the domain name constitutes bad faith). In sum, the Panel finds it likely that the Respondent had actual knowledge of the Complainant’s SPEEDY CASH Mark when registering the Disputed Domain Name.
Fourth, the Respondent attracts users for commercial gain by displaying third party pay-per-click links on the landing page to which the Disputed Domain Name eventually resolved. The use of a confusingly similar domain name to display third party hyperlinks and allegedly collect click-through fees is evidence of bad faith under Policy ¶4(b)(iv). As such, the Respondent was not only trading on consumer interest in the Complainant in order to generate Internet traffic and to commercially benefit from the links that appeared on the landing page, but the Respondent also purportedly derived commercial advantage in the form of referral fees. In the Panel’s view, this constitutes bad faith. See Fox News Network, LLC v. Warren Reid, WIPO Case No. D2002-1085; Volvo Trademark Holding AB v. Unasi, Inc., WIPO Case No. D2005-0556; Lewis Black v. Burke Advertising, LLC, WIPO Case No. D2006-1128. Further, when the links on pay-per-click pages are based on the trademark value of a domain name, the trend in UDRP decisions is to recognize that such practice constitutes bad faith. See Champagne Lanson v. Development Services/MailPlanet.com, Inc., WIPO Case No. D2006-0006 (pay-per-click landing page not legitimate where ads are keyed to the trademark value of the domain name).
Finally, the lack of response by the Respondent to the cease-and-desist letters sent by the Complainant’s counsel supports a finding of bad faith. Past UDRP panels have held that failure to respond to a
cease-and-desist letter may be considered a factor in finding bad faith registration and use of a domain name. See Encyclopaedia Britannica, Inc. v. John Zuccarini and The Cupcake Patrol a/ka Country Walk a/k/a Cupcake Party, WIPO Case No. D2000-0330.
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 <speedycash.loans> be transferred to the Complainant.
Lynda M. Braun
Date: February 10, 2022