WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center

ADMINISTRATIVE PANEL DECISION

CenterPoint Energy, Inc. v. Domain Admin, Privacy Protect, LLC (PrivacyProtect.org) / Domain Admin, Domain Privacy Guard Sociedad Anónima Ltd

Case No. D2021-4020

1. The Parties

The Complainant is CenterPoint Energy, Inc., United States of America (“United States”), represented by Fibbe Lightner, LLP, United States.

The Respondent is Domain Admin, Privacy Protect, LLC (PrivacyProtect.org), United States / Domain Admin, Domain Privacy Guard Sociedad Anónima Ltd, Panama.

2. The Domain Name and Registrar

The disputed domain name <centerpointeneegy.com> is registered with PDR Ltd. d/b/a PublicDomainRegistry.com (the “Registrar”).

3. Procedural History

The Complaint was filed with the WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center (the “Center”) on December 2, 2021. On December 2, 2021, the Center transmitted by email to the Registrar a request for registrar verification in connection with the disputed domain name. On December 3, 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. The Center sent an email communication to the Complainant on December 9, 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 December 14, 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 January 4, 2022. In accordance with the Rules, Paragraph 5, the due date for Response was January 24, 2022. The Respondent did not submit any response. Accordingly, the Center notified the Respondent’s default on January 27, 2022.

The Center appointed Miguel B. O’Farrell as the sole panelist in this matter on February 10, 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, CenterPoint Energy, Inc., is a company in the United States, with over a billion dollars in net income, operating in the field of energy delivery, including electric transmission and distribution, natural gas distribution, and energy service operations.

The Complainant is the owner of several word mark and logo registrations for CENTERPOINT ENERGY.

The Complainant’s registrations for the CENTERPOINT ENERGY trademark in the United States include the following:

- Reg. No. 2863036, CENTERPOINT ENERGY, registered on July 13, 2004 in International Class 42;

- Reg. No. 2863037, CENTERPOINT ENERGY, registered on July 13, 2004 in International Class 36;

- Reg. No. 2823759, CENTERPOINT ENERGY, registered on March 16, 2004 in International Class 39.

The Complainant is also the owner of the domain name <centerpointenergy.com>, registered on February 2, 2001, which connects to its website through which the Complainant’s customers may review their bills and make payments, monitor their electricity and gas usage, and request service calls.

The disputed domain name <centerpointeneegy.com> was registered on August 25, 2017, and resolves to a website featuring pay-per-click links such as “Centerpoint Energy Pay Bill”, “Pay Bill With Credit Card”, and “Natural Gas Services”.

5. Parties’ Contentions

A. Complainant

The Complainant claims that the disputed domain name is confusingly similar with the trademark CENTERPOINT ENERGY in which the Complainant has rights and that the Respondent has no rights or legitimate interests in the disputed domain name, which was registered and is being used in bad faith.

More specifically, the Respondent is not and has never been known by the disputed domain name. Moreover, the Complainant has not authorized, licensed, or otherwise permitted the Respondent to use the CENTERPOINT ENERGY mark, nor is the Complainant associated in any way with or related to the Respondent.

The Respondent seeks to confuse consumers into believing that they are on the Complainant’s bona fide website <centerpointenergy.com> and clicking on the Respondent’s misleading links to, for example, pay an energy bill. Indeed, the Respondent’s website prominently states “Centerpoint Energy Pay Bill” with the correct spelling of the Complainant’s name and trademark, and the banner on the webpage states “The domain Centerpointeneegy.com may be for sale. Click here to enquire about this domain”.

The Respondent’s intention from the outset has been to use the disputed domain name to attract Internet users to the Respondent’s website on the back of the Complainant’s trademark recognition and with intention for commercial gain.

Finally, the Complainant requests the Panel to issue a decision ordering that the disputed domain name be transferred to the Complainant.

B. Respondent

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 disputed domain name, the Complainant must prove each of the following, namely that:

(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 was registered and is being used in bad faith.

A. Identical or Confusingly Similar

The Panel is satisfied that the Complainant has proved that it has rights in the trademark CENTERPOINT ENERGY.

As set forth in section 1.7 of WIPO Overview of WIPO Panel Views on Selected UDRP Questions, Third Edition (“WIPO Overview 3.0”) the standing test for confusing similarity involves a reasoned but relatively straightforward comparison between the trademark and the disputed domain name to determine whether the disputed domain name is confusingly similar with the trademark. The test involves a side-by-side comparison of the disputed domain name and the textual components of the relevant trademark to assess whether the mark is recognizable within the disputed domain name.

The Panel considers that the disputed domain name is confusingly similar with the Complainant’s trademark CENTERPOINT ENERGY.

The disputed domain name contains the Complainant’s trademark in its entirety, save for the absence of a space and that the letter “r” of “energy” has been replaced by the letter “e”, which is certainly insufficient to avoid its confusing similarity with the Complainant’s trademark.

For the purposes of assessing identity or confusing similarity under paragraph 4(a)(i) of the Policy, it is permissible for the Panel to ignore the generic Top-Level Domain (“gTLD”) as it is viewed as a standard registration requirement (section 1.11 of WIPO Overview 3.0). Thus, for the test for confusing similarity the Panel shall disregard the “.com” gTLD included in the disputed domain name.

The Panel finds that the disputed domain name is confusingly similar with the trademark CENTERPOINT ENERGY in which the Complainant has rights and that the requirements of paragraph 4(a)(i) of the Policy therefore are fulfilled.

B. Rights or Legitimate Interests

Pursuant to paragraph 4(c) of the Policy, a respondent may establish rights to or legitimate interests in a 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 trademark or service mark rights; or

(iii) the respondent is making a legitimate noncommercial or fair use of the domain name, without intent for commercial gain, to misleadingly divert consumers.

Although the Policy addresses ways in which a respondent may demonstrate rights or legitimate interests in a disputed domain name, it is well established, as it is put in section 2.1 of WIPO Overview 3.0, that a complainant is required to make out a prima facie case that the respondent lacks rights or legitimate interests in the domain name. Once such prima facie case is made, the burden of production shifts to the respondent to come forward with relevant evidence demonstrating rights or legitimate interests in the disputed domain name. If the respondent fails to come forward with such relevant evidence, the complainant is deemed to have satisfied the second element.

The offering for sale of the disputed domain name by the Respondent does not constitute use of, or demonstrable preparations to use the disputed domain name in connection with a bona fide offering of goods or services and, therefore, cannot establish rights or legitimate interests pursuant to paragraph 4(c)(i) of the Policy.

There is no evidence in the present case that the Respondent has been commonly known by the disputed domain name, enabling it to establish rights or legitimate interests therein.

Furthermore, there is no evidence to prove any of the circumstances mentioned in paragraph 4(c) of the Policy, nor any other element to prove that the Respondent has legitimate interests or that it has established rights in the disputed domain name.

Likewise, and as further discussed under section 6.C of this decision, it does not seem that the Respondent is making any legitimate noncommercial or fair use of the disputed domain name – which is almost identical and confusingly similar with the Complainant’s CENTERPOINT ENERGY trademark – but rather that it intends to use the disputed domain name for the purpose of deriving unfair monitory advantage by confusing Internet users and leading them to believe that the site to which the disputed domain name relates to is the official site of the Complainant.

As indicated in paragraph 6.A above, the disputed domain name is almost identical and confusingly similar to the CENTERPOINT ENERGY trademark and the Respondent is not using the disputed domain name in any way that may be considered fair use.

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 responded 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 disputed domain name (Telstra Corporation Ltd. v. Nuclear Marshmallows, WIPO Case No. D2000-0003).

The Panel finds that the Respondent has no rights or legitimate interests in respect of the disputed domain name and that the requirements of paragraph 4(a)(ii) of the Policy have been fulfilled.

C. Registered and Used in Bad Faith

The Panel is satisfied that the Respondent must have been aware of the Complainant’s trademark CENTERPOINT ENERGY mentioned in section 4 above when it registered the disputed domain name on August 25, 2017.

The Complainant’s registrations and use of the trademark CENTERPOINT ENERGY predate the registration of the disputed domain name by many years.

The Respondent, when registering the disputed domain name, has targeted the Complainant’s trademark CENTERPOINT ENERGY with the intention to confuse Internet users and capitalize on the fame of the Complainant’s trademark and business for its own monetary benefit. In the Panel’s view, the Respondent has engaged in what is known as typosquatting, which, as established in section 1.9 of WIPO Overview 3.0, typically signals the intention on the part of a respondent to confuse users seeking or expecting a complainant.

The fact that there is a clear absence of rights or legitimate interests coupled with no credible explanation for the Respondent’s choice of the disputed domain name is also a significant factor to consider that the disputed domain name was registered in bad faith (as stated in section 3.2.1 of WIPO Overview 3.0).

The Panel finds that the Respondent has registered and uses the disputed domain intentionally to attempt to attract for commercial gain, Internet users to its website by creating a likelihood of confusion with the Complainant’s CENTERPOINT ENERGY trademark as to the source, sponsorship, affiliation, or endorsement. This amounts to bad faith under paragraph 4(b)(iv) of the Policy.

The Panel finds that the disputed domain name was registered and is being used in bad faith, and that the requirements of paragraph 4(a)(iii) of the Policy have been fulfilled.

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 disputed domain name <centerpointeneegy.com> be transferred to the Complainant.

Miguel B. O'Farrell
Sole Panelist
Date: February 17, 2022