WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center

ADMINISTRATIVE PANEL DECISION

CenterPoint Energy, Inc. v. 杨智超 (Zhichao Yang)

Case No. D2021-4046

1. The Parties

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

The Respondent is 杨智超 (Zhichao Yang), China.

2. The Domain Names and Registrar

The disputed domain names <cebnterpointenergy.com>, <cecnterpointenergy.com>, <cejterpointenergy.com>, <cemnterpointenergy.com>, <cenbterpointenergy.com>, <cenrterpointenergy.com>, <centdrpointenergy.com>, <centefpointenergy.com>, <centeprpointenergy.com>, <center-ointenergy.com>, <centerpiointenergy.com>, <centerplintenergy.com>, <centerpoibntenergy.com>, <centerpoimntenergy.com>, <centerpoinbtenergy.com>, <centerpoinetenergy.com>, <centerpoinmtenergy.com>, <centerpointdnergy.com>, <centerpointehergy.com>, <centerpointendrgy.com>, <centerpointenefgy.com>, <centerpointenegrgy.com>, <centerpointenenrgy.com>, <centerpointenergfy.com>, <centerpointenerghy.com>, <centerpointenergyt.com>, <centerpointenerhgy.com>, <centerpointenervy.com>, <centerpointenetrgy.com>, <centerpointenmergy.com>, <centerpointenwergy.com>, <centerpointetnergy.com>, <centerpointewnergy.com>, <centerpointrenergy.com>, <centerpointwenergy.com>, <centerpointyenergy.com>, <centerpoitntenergy.com>, <centerpoiuntenergy.com>, <centerponintenergy.com>, <centerpouintenergy.com>, <centerprointenergy.com>, <centetrpointenergy.com>, <centewrpointenergy.com>, <centnerpointenergy.com>, <centrerpointenergy.com>, <centwerpointenergy.com>, <centyerpointenergy.com>, <cenyterpointenergy.com>, <cetnterpointenergy.com>, <cewnterpointenergy.com>, <cnenterpointenergy.com>, <cventerpointenergy.com>, <cwenterpointenergy.com>, <cxenterpointenergy.com>,<denterpointenergy.com> (the “Domain Names”) are registered with Alibaba Cloud Computing Ltd. d/b/a HiChina (www.net.cn) (the “Registrar”).

3. Procedural History

The Complaint was filed with the WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center (the “Center”) on December 3, 2021. On December 6, 2021, the Center transmitted by email to the Registrar a request for registrar verification in connection with the Domain Names. On December 8, 2021, the Registrar transmitted by email to the Center its verification response disclosing registrant and contact information for the Domain Names which differed from the named Respondent and contact information in the Complaint. The Center sent an email communication to the Complainant on December 13, 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 16, 2021.

On December 13, 2021, the Center transmitted an email in English and Chinese to the Parties regarding the language of the proceeding. The Complainant confirmed the request that English be the language of the proceeding on December 16, 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 December 20, 2021. In accordance with the Rules, paragraph 5, the due date for Response was January 9, 2022. The Respondent did not submit any response. Accordingly, the Center notified the Respondent’s default on January 13, 2022.

The Center appointed Karen Fong 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 well known company in the United States, with over a billion dollars in net income in the field of energy delivery, including electronic transmission and distribution, natural gas distribution and energy services operations. It keeps the lights on and provides clean natural gas for millions of homes, factories and businesses in the United States. It first adopted the name “CenterPoint Energy” on February 2, 2001 in the provision of its services.

The Complainant has many registrations for the trade mark CENTERPOINT ENERGY. The earliest trade mark registration submitted in evidence is US Trade Mark registration No 2823759 which was applied for on May 23, 2001 and registered on March 16, 2004 (the “Trade Mark”).

The Complainant also owns and operates a website connected to its domain name <centerpointenergy.com> which was registered on December 12, 2000.

The Respondent, who is based in China, registered all 55 Domain Names on November 9, 2021. The Domain Names resolve to almost identical pay-per-click webpages which has link headings such as: “Payment Processing”, “Pay Bill Online” and “Accept Credit Card Payments” (the “Websites”). These links then resolve to third party companies which provide competing services to those of the Complainant.

5. Parties’ Contentions

A. Complainant

The Complainant contends that the Domain Names are confusingly similar to the Trade Mark, that the Respondent has no rights or legitimate interests with respect to the Domain Names, and that the Domain Names were registered and are being used in bad faith. The Complainant requests transfer of the Domain Names.

B. Respondent

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

6. Discussion and Findings

A. General

According to paragraph 4(a) of the Policy, for this Complaint to succeed in relation to the Domain Names, the Complainant must prove each of the following, namely that:

(i) The Domain Names are identical or confusingly similar to trade marks or service marks in which the Complainant has rights; and
(ii) The Respondent has no rights or legitimate interests in respect of the Domain Names; and
(iii) The Domain Names were registered and are being used in bad faith.

B. Language of the Proceeding

The Rules, paragraph 11(a), provide that unless otherwise agreed by the parties or specified otherwise in the registration agreement between the respondent and the registrar in relation to the disputed domain name, the language of the 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. According to the information received from the Registrar, the language of the Registration Agreements for the Domain Names is Chinese.

The Complainant submits that the language of the proceeding should be English for the following reasons:

- The Domain Names are misspellings of English words and the Websites are in English, indicating that the Respondent is familiar with the English language;
- The Complainant would be put to great expense and inconvenience to have to translate the Complaint and its evidence which would cause undue delay.

In exercising its discretion to use a language other than that of the Registration Agreement, the Panel has to exercise such discretion judicially in the spirit of fairness and justice to both Parties, taking into account all relevant circumstances of the case, including matters such as the Parties’ ability to understand and use the proposed language, time and costs.

The Panel notes the Complainant’s submissions regarding the language of the proceeding, the composition of the Domain Names, and other circumstances of this case. Although the Respondent has been notified in English and Chinese of the language of the proceeding and the Complaint, the Respondent has not challenged the Complainant’s language request and in fact has failed to file a Response. The Panel is also mindful of the need to ensure the proceeding is conducted in a timely and cost effective manner. In this case, the Complainant may be unduly disadvantaged by having to conduct the proceeding in Chinese. In all the circumstances, the Panel determines that English be the language of the proceeding.

C. Identical or Confusingly Similar

The Panel is satisfied that the Complainant has established that it has registered 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 55 Domain Names consist of misspellings of the Complainant’s Trade Mark in a variety of permutations with some having the addition of a single letter, and some the replacement of a letter with a different letter or in one case, a hyphen. Section 1.9 of WIPO Overview of WIPO Panel Views on Selected UDRP Questions, Third Edition (“WIPO Overview 3.0”) states that a domain name which consists of a common, obvious, or intentional misspelling of a trade mark is considered by panels to be confusingly similar to the relevant mark for the purposes of the first element.

In this case, the Trade Mark is clearly recognizable in all the Domain Names. 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 3.0).

The Panel finds that the Domain Names are confusingly similar to the Trade Mark in which the Complainant has rights and that the requirements of paragraph 4(a)(i) of the Policy therefore are fulfilled.

D. 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, a complainant is required to make out a prima facie case that the respondent lacks rights or legitimate interests. Once such a 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 the Respondent is not commonly known by the Domain Names. It has not authorised, licensed or otherwise permitted the Respondent to use the Trade Mark in the Domain Names or for any other purpose. Further, the display of pay-per-click links in this manner does not constitute a bona fide offering of goods or services or legitimate noncommercial or fair use of the Domain Names.

The Panel finds that the Complainant has made out a prima facie case, a case calling for a reply from the Respondent. The Respondent is a serial cybersquatter and has also 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 Domain Names.

The Panel finds that the Respondent has no rights or legitimate interests in respect of the Domain Names.

E. Registered and Used in Bad Faith

To succeed under the Policy, the Complainant must show that the Domain Names have been both registered and used in bad faith. It is a double requirement.

The Panel is satisfied that the Respondent must have been aware of the Trade Mark when it registered the Domain Names given the Trade Mark was registered prior to registration of the Domain Names, the Domain Names incorporate misspellings of the Trade Mark and were all registered at the same time.

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 lack of any explanation for the Respondent’s choice of the Domain Names are also significant factors to consider (as stated in section 3.2.1 of the WIPO Overview 3.0). In light of the above, the Panel finds that the Respondent deliberately registered the Domain Names in bad faith.

The Panel also finds that the actual use of the Domain Names is in bad faith. The Respondent’s websites are pay-per-click sites which have been set up for the commercial benefit of the Respondent. It is highly likely that web users when typing the Domain Names into their browser, or finding them through a search engine, would have been looking for a site operated by the Complainant rather than the Respondent. The Domain Names are likely to confuse Internet users trying to find the Complainant’s official website. Such confusion will inevitably result due to the incorporation of misspellings the Trade Mark as the most prominent element of the Domain Names.

The Respondent employs the fame of the Trade Mark to mislead users into visiting the Respondent’s websites 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 Websites and the services offered are those of or authorised or endorsed by the Complainant. The Panel therefore also concludes that the Domain Names were registered and are being used in bad faith under paragraph 4(b)(iv) of the Policy.

The Panel therefore concludes that the Domain Names were registered and are 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 Names <cebnterpointenergy.com>, <cecnterpointenergy.com>, <cejterpointenergy.com>, <cemnterpointenergy.com>, <cenbterpointenergy.com>, <cenrterpointenergy.com>, <centdrpointenergy.com>, <centefpointenergy.com>, <centeprpointenergy.com>, <center-ointenergy.com>, <centerpiointenergy.com>, <centerplintenergy.com>, <centerpoibntenergy.com>, <centerpoimntenergy.com>, <centerpoinbtenergy.com>, <centerpoinetenergy.com>, <centerpoinmtenergy.com>, <centerpointdnergy.com>, <centerpointehergy.com>, <centerpointendrgy.com>, <centerpointenefgy.com>, <centerpointenegrgy.com>, <centerpointenenrgy.com>, <centerpointenergfy.com>, <centerpointenerghy.com>, <centerpointenergyt.com>, <centerpointenerhgy.com>, <centerpointenervy.com>, <centerpointenetrgy.com>, <centerpointenmergy.com>, <centerpointenwergy.com>, <centerpointetnergy.com>, <centerpointewnergy.com>, <centerpointrenergy.com>, <centerpointwenergy.com>, <centerpointyenergy.com>, <centerpoitntenergy.com>, <centerpoiuntenergy.com>, <centerponintenergy.com>, <centerpouintenergy.com>, <centerprointenergy.com>, <centetrpointenergy.com>, <centewrpointenergy.com>, <centnerpointenergy.com>, <centrerpointenergy.com>, <centwerpointenergy.com>, <centyerpointenergy.com>, <cenyterpointenergy.com>, <cetnterpointenergy.com>, <cewnterpointenergy.com>, <cnenterpointenergy.com>, <cventerpointenergy.com>, <cwenterpointenergy.com>, <cxenterpointenergy.com>,<denterpointenergy.com> be transferred to the Complainant.

Karen Fong
Sole Panelist
Date: February 7, 2022