WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center

ADMINISTRATIVE PANEL DECISION

The South African Revenue Service v. Zaskia Fast

Case No. D2021-3745

1. The Parties

The Complainant is The South African Revenue Service, South Africa, represented by Adams & Adams, South Africa.

The Respondent is Zaskia Fast, United States of America (“United States”).

2. The Domain Name and Registrar

The disputed domain name <sarsgovza.website> (the “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 November 9, 2021. On November 9, 2021, the Center transmitted by email to the Registrar a request for registrar verification in connection with the Domain Name. On November 9, 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 November 15, 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 amendment to the Complaint on November 18, 2021.

The Center verified that the Complaint together with the amendment to the 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 13, 2021. In accordance with the Rules, paragraph 5, the due date for Response was January 2, 2022. The Respondent did not submit any response. Accordingly, the Center notified the Respondent’s default on January 4, 2022.

The Center appointed Ian Lowe as the sole panelist in this matter on January 26, 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 an organ of the State of South Africa whose main functions are the collection of revenue and facilitating local and international trade on behalf of the South African government. It was established under the name South African Revenue Service following South Africa’s transition to democracy in the early 1990s and is commonly known by the abbreviation of its name, SARS.

The Complainant operates a website at “www.sars.gov.za” providing advisory services and assistance to taxpayers in South Africa including the provision of information, reports and statistics, and guidance and assistance with the submission of tax returns.

The Complainant is the proprietor of a number of registered trademarks comprising SARS word marks and device marks. These include South Africa trademark number 2011/29912 SARS registered on August 29, 2014.

The Domain Name was registered on October 24, 2021. It does not presently resolve to a website, but at the time of preparation of the Complaint in November 2021 it resolved to a webpage displaying a cartoon figure.

5. Parties’ Contentions

A. Complainant

The Complainant contends that the Domain Name is confusingly similar to its SARS trademark, that the Respondent has no rights or legitimate interests in respect of the Domain Name, and that the Respondent registered and is using the Domain Name in bad faith.

B. Respondent

The Respondent did not reply to the Complainant’s contentions.

6. Discussion and Findings

For this Complaint to succeed in relation to the Domain Name the Complainant must prove that:

(i) the Domain Name is 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 Domain Name; and

(iii) the Domain Name has been registered and is being used in bad faith.

A. Identical or Confusingly Similar

The Complainant has uncontested rights in its SARS trademark, both by virtue of its trademark registration and as a result of SARS having become a distinctive identifier associated by consumers with the Complainant and its services through its widespread use of the mark over a number of years. Ignoring the generic Top-Level Domain (“gTLD”) “.website”, the Domain Name comprises the entirety of the Complainant’s SARS trademark together with the terms “gov” and “za”. In the view of the Panel, the addition of these words does not prevent a finding of confusing similarity between the Domain Name and the Complainant’s mark. Accordingly, the Panel finds that the Domain Name is confusingly similar to a trademark in which the Complainant has rights.

B. Rights or Legitimate Interests

The Complainant has made out a strong prima facie case that the Respondent could have no rights or legitimate interests in respect of the Domain Name. The Domain Name is not being used for an active website. In the Panel’s view, the registration of a domain name conjoining the Complainant’s trademark and abbreviation “sars” together with the terms “gov” (a very familiar abbreviation for “government” used as a second or third level domain for official government websites) and “za” (the country code for South Africa) could not conceivably be used by the Respondent for any legitimate purpose and there could be no possible justification for the Respondent having registered the Domain Name. This view is compounded by the fact that the Domain Name (ignoring the gTLD) is identical to the Complainant’s official domain name.

In the Panel’s view, the Domain Name could only have been registered to deceive Internet users into believing that it had been registered by or operated on behalf of the Complainant and for unlawful purposes, whether associated with phishing or other fraudulent activities.

The Respondent has chosen not to respond to the Complaint to explain its registration or use of the Domain Name, or to take any other steps to counter the prima facie case established by the Complainant. In the circumstances, the Panel finds that the Respondent does not have any rights or legitimate interests in respect of the Domain Name.

C. Registered and Used in Bad Faith

In light of the nature of the Domain Name, there is no doubt that the Respondent had the Complainant and its rights in the SARS mark in mind when it registered the Domain Name. As set out above, the only possible inference is that the Respondent registered the Domain Name for commercial gain with a view to taking unfair advantage of the Complainant’s rights in the mark and to confuse Internet users into believing that the Domain Name was being operated by or authorized by the Complainant.

To the extent that the Respondent’s use of the Domain Name may be said to amount to non-use, the WIPO Overview of WIPO Panel Views on Selected UDRP Questions, Third Edition (“WIPO Overview 3.0”) points out at section 3.3 that panelists have consistently found that this does not prevent a finding of bad faith. Factors that panelists take into account, whilst looking at all the circumstances, include “(i) the degree of distinctiveness or reputation of the complainant’s mark, (ii) the failure of the respondent to submit a response or to provide any evidence of actual or contemplated good-faith use, (iii) the respondent’s concealing its identity or use of false contact details (noted to be in breach of its registration agreement), and (iv) the implausibility of any good faith use to which the domain name may be put.”

The Domain Name comprises the entirety of the Complainant’s distinctive SARS mark and (ignoring the gTLD) is identical to the Complainant’s official domain name; there has been no response to the Complaint; and it is difficult to conceive of any good faith use to which the Domain Name could be put.

Accordingly, the Panel finds that the Domain Name has been registered and is being used in bad faith.

7. Decision

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 <sarsgovza.website> be transferred to the Complainant.

Ian Lowe
Sole Panelist
Date: February 8, 2022