WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center
ADMINISTRATIVE PANEL DECISION
LPL Financial LLC v. 杨智超 (Zhichao Yang)
Case No. D2021-3670
1. The Parties
The Complainant is LPL Financial LLC, United States of America (“U.S.”), represented by Hogan Lovells (Paris) LLP, France.
The Respondent is 杨智超 (Zhichao Yang), China.
2. The Domain Names and Registrar
The disputed domain names <lplfinanciall.com> and <lplfinanial.com> are registered with Alibaba Cloud Computing (Beijing) Co., Ltd. (the “Registrar”).
3. Procedural History
The Complaint in English was filed with the WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center (the “Center”) on November 3, 2021. On November 4, 2021, the Center transmitted by email to the Registrar a request for registrar verification in connection with the disputed domain names. On November 5, 2021, the Registrar transmitted by email to the Center its verification response disclosing registrant and contact information for the disputed domain names, which differed from the named Respondent and contact information in the Complaint. The Center sent an email communication to the Complainant on November 5, 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 in English on November 8, 2021.
On November 9, 2021, the Center sent an email in English and Chinese to the Parties regarding the language of the proceeding. The Complainant confirmed its request that English be the language of the proceeding on November 10, 2021. The Respondent did not comment on the language of the proceeding.
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 in English and Chinese, and the proceedings commenced on November 15, 2021. In accordance with the Rules, paragraph 5, the due date for Response was December 5, 2021. The Respondent did not submit any response. Accordingly, the Center notified the Respondent’s default in English and Chinese on December 6, 2021.
The Center appointed Francine Tan as the sole panelist in this matter on December 9, 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, LPL Financial LLC, states that it was founded in 1989 through the merger of two brokerage firms, Linsco and Private Ledger. It also states that it is a leader in the retail financial advice market and is considered the largest independent broker-dealer in the U.S. The Complainant provides independent financial advisors and financial institutions with technology, research, clearing, and compliance services, and practice management programs. The Complainant has been publicly traded on the NASDAQ under the sign “LPLA” since 2010. The Complainant provides an integrated platform of brokerage and investment advisory services to more than 19,100 financial professionals and 800 financial institutions, managing over USD1.1 trillion in advisory and brokerage assets. The Complainant has over 4,800 employees, with its primary U.S. offices in San Diego, California; Fort Mill, South Carolina; and Boston, Massachusetts. In 2020, the Complainant’s net revenue reached over USD 5.8 billion, with a gross profit of over USD 2.1 billion. The Complainant states that it has acquired considerable goodwill and reputation in the LPL brand in the context of the financial-services sector. The Complainant has made substantial investments to develop a strong online presence by being active on various social media platforms. Its official Facebook page has over 18,000 likes and it has over 23,000 followers on Twitter.
The Complainant owns numerous registrations for the trade marks LPL and LPL-formative marks (collectively, the “LPL marks”), including the following:
(i) U.S. Registration No. 1,801,076 for LPL, registered on October 26, 1993;
(ii) U.S. Registration No. 3,662,425 for registered on August 4, 2009; and
(iii) Chinese Trade Mark Registration No. 38031585 for LPL FINANCIAL, registered on February 21, 2020.
The Complainant is also the registrant of many domain names consisting of or containing the LPL marks, including <lpl.com>, from which it operates its main corporate website. The <lpl.com> domain name was registered on August 2, 1994. Other registered domain names include <lpl.net>, <lpl-financial.com>, and <lplaccountview.com>. The Complainant also states that its parent company, LPL Holdings, Inc., is the owner of the branded Top-Level Domains “.lpl” and “.lplfinancial”.
The disputed domain names were registered on March 17, 2021. The disputed domain names resolve to parking pages with pay-per-click (“PPC”) links to third-party goods and services which compete with those offered by the Complainant.
5. Parties’ Contentions
The disputed domain names are confusingly similar to the Complainant’s LPL marks in which it has rights. The disputed domain names reproduce misspellings of the Complainant’s LPL marks. This is a case of typosquatting due to the addition and omission of letters and the intentional misspelling of the LPL marks.
The Respondent has no rights or legitimate interests in the disputed domain names. The Respondent has not been authorized or licensed by the Complainant to use the LPL marks in any manner. There has been no bona fide offering of goods or services by the Respondent in its manner of use of the disputed domain names, namely for PPC links to competing goods and services. There is no evidence to suggest that the Respondent is commonly known by either of the disputed domain names, nor acquired any trade mark rights in the LPL marks.
The disputed domain names were registered and are being used in bad faith. There is evidence that the Respondent has been named as respondent in a substantial number of earlier UDRP cases, having registered domain names which target third-party trade marks, including another case involving the Complainant’s LPL mark (see LPL Financial LLC v. 杨智超(Yang Zhi Chao), WIPO Case No. D2021-0058. The Respondent has therefore engaged in a pattern of abusive domain name registrations. The Respondent would have been well aware of the Complainant’s LPL marks at the time the disputed domain names were registered as the LPL marks have been continuously and extensively used for well over 20 years, and substantial reputation and goodwill have been acquired. The Respondent has also established mail exchanger (“MX”) records for the disputed domain name <lplfinanial.com>, which gives rise to the strong possibility that the Respondent intended or intends to use the disputed domain names to send fraudulent or phishing emails.
The Respondent did not reply to the Complainant’s contentions.
6. Discussion and Findings
6.1 Preliminary Issue: Language of the Proceeding
Paragraph 11(a) of the Rules provides that “[u]nless otherwise agreed by the Parties, or specified otherwise in the Registration Agreement, the language of the administrative proceeding shall be the language of the Registration Agreement, subject to the authority of the Panel to determine otherwise, having regard to the circumstances of the administrative proceeding.”
The language of the Registration Agreements applicable to the disputed domain names is Chinese. The Complainant requested that the language of the proceeding be English as the following circumstances show that the Respondent has sufficient knowledge of the English language:
(i) the disputed domain names comprise English-language terms in Latin script; and
(ii) the disputed domain names resolve to parking pages displaying PPC links, the contents of which are entirely in English; and
The Complainant is a U.S. corporation whose main operating language is English. Requiring a translation of the Complaint and supporting annexes into Chinese would cause the Complainant to incur substantial costs.
The Respondent did not respond on issue of the language of the proceeding.
The Panel determines that it is appropriate for English to apply as the language of the proceeding. The Panel make its determination in the spirit of fairness and justice to the Parties, being mindful of the need to ensure that the proceeding takes place expeditiously and in a cost-effective manner. The Panel is persuaded that the Respondent is more likely than not be familiar with the English language. Moreover, the Panel notes that the Respondent has chosen not to participate in this proceeding and that communications regarding the language of the proceeding and notification of the Complaint have been sent to the Parties in both English and Chinese. On a balance of the competing interests, the Panel does not find it procedurally efficient to have the Complainant translate the Complaint and evidence into Chinese. The Respondent has not objected nor shown that it would be prejudiced by a determination that English would be adopted as the language of the proceeding.
6.2 Substantive Issues
A. Identical or Confusingly Similar
The Complainant has established it has rights in the LPL marks. The marks LPL and LPL FINANCIAL have been, respectively, reproduced in the disputed domain names, albeit the term “financial” has been misspelt in the disputed domain names. What is of essence is that the LPL marks are recognizable therein and the disputed domain names correspond to the Complainant’s name. The Panel agrees that the addition and omission of letters in the disputed domain names do not avoid a finding of confusing similarity with the Complainant’s LPL marks. (See sections 1.7, 1.8, and 1.9 of the WIPO Overview of WIPO Panel Views on Selected UDRP Questions, Third Edition.)
The Panel accordingly finds that the first element of paragraph 4(a) of the Policy has been satisfied.
B. Rights or Legitimate Interests
The Panel finds that the Complainant has established a prima facie case that the Respondent has no rights or legitimate interests in the disputed domain names. The Complainant’s use and registrations of the LPL marks long predate the registration dates of the disputed domain names. The Complainant did not license or authorize the Respondent to use the LPL marks in any way. Neither is there evidence that the Respondent is commonly known by the names “lplfinanciall” or “lplfinanial”. The use of the disputed domain names which incorporate a misspelling of the Complainant’s well-established LPL marks for parking pages providing competing commercial links does not constitute a bona fide or legitimate noncommercial offering of goods and services.
The Complainant’s prima facie case has been established and unrebutted by the Respondent. Accordingly, the Panel concludes that the Respondent has no rights or legitimate interests in the disputed domain names.
The Panel therefore finds that the second element of paragraph 4(a) of the Policy has been satisfied.
C. Registered and Used in Bad Faith
The Panel agrees that it is not plausible that the Respondent, by pure coincidence and without prior knowledge of the Complainant and its LPL marks, selected the disputed domain names. The Panel concludes, based on the following combination of factors in this case, that the Respondent registered and is using the disputed domain names in bad faith, with the intention to attempt to attract, for commercial gain, Internet users to the webpages posted on the Respondent’s parking pages:
(i) the Respondent’s absence of rights or legitimate interests in the disputed domain names;
(ii) the long term of use and well-established nature of the Complainant’s LPL marks;
(iii) the type of links found on the parking pages to which the disputed domain names resolve;
(iv) the Respondent’s apparent pattern of conduct in terms of cybersquatting (see, e.g., LPL Financial LLC v. 杨智超 (Yang Zhi Chao), WIPO Case No. D2021-0058; Instagram, LLC v. Zhichao Yang, WIPO Case No. D2021-1351; and International Business Machines Corporation v. 杨智超 (Zhichao Yang), WIPO Case No. D2021-0251); and
(v) the failure on the Respondent’s part to respond in this proceeding.
The employing of typosquatting in this case also signals a bad faith attempt by the Respondent to catch Internet users who mistype “lplfinancial.com” on the keyboard and who are seeking or expecting the Complainant.
The Panel therefore finds that the third element of paragraph 4(a) of the Policy has been satisfied.
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 names <lplfinanciall.com> and <lplfinanial.com> be transferred to the Complainant.
Date: December 21, 2021