WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center

ADMINISTRATIVE PANEL DECISION

Hartford Fire Insurance Company v. VRE Unlimited

Case No. D2021-4156

1. The Parties

The Complainant is Hartford Fire Insurance Company, United States of America (“United States”), represented by Fross Zelnick Lehrman & Zissu, P.C., United States.

The Respondent is VRE Unlimited, United States.

2. The Domain Name and Registrar

The disputed domain name <hartfordgrp.com> (the “Disputed Domain Name”) is registered with GoDaddy.com, LLC (the “Registrar”).

3. Procedural History

The Complaint was filed with the WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center (the “Center”) on December 10, 2021. On December 13, 2021, the Center transmitted by email to the Registrar a request for registrar verification in connection with the Disputed Domain Name. On December 14, 2021, the Registrar transmitted by email to the Center its verification response confirming that the Respondent is listed as the registrant and providing the contact details.

The Center verified that 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 10, 2022. In accordance with the Rules, paragraph 5, the due date for Response was January 30, 2022. The Respondent did not submit any response. Accordingly, the Center notified the Respondent’s default on February 1, 2022.

The Center appointed Colin T. O'Brien as the sole panelist in this matter on February 24, 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 owns trademark registrations for THE HARTFORD mark in the United States and several other countries for several decades. The Complainant owns the following registrations for different variations of THE HARTFORD mark in the United States:

Registration No.

Mark

Reg. Date

First Use

Goods/Services

1,155,051

THE HARTFORD

May 19, 1981

1971

Insurance underwriting service in Class 36.

2,487,011

THE HARTFORD

September 11, 2001

April 15, 1999

Providing information about insurance policies and services via the worldwide computer network in Class 36.

2,153,863

HARTFORD

April 28, 1998

August 1982

Investment management services in Class 36.

2,153,891

HARTFORD

April 28, 1998

September 20, 1996

Asset management, investment, retirement planning services in Class 36.

2,105,608

THE HARTFORD & Design

October 14, 1997

December 20, 1996

Insurance underwriting services for all types of insurance in Class 36.

2,408,978

THE HARTFORD GROUP

November 28, 2000

April 19, 2000

Insurance underwriting services for all types of insurance in Class 36.

Collectively “HARTFORD Marks”.

The Complainant offers insurance and financial services in the United States including: group and employee benefits; life insurance; automobile and homeowners insurance; business insurance and reinsurance; and investment products.

The Complainant has received many awards and honors for its services and has been listed by Fortune magazine as one of America’s “most admired companies”.

The Complainant was founded in 1810.

The Disputed Domain Name was registered on February 12, 2010, and displays a parked page where the Disputed Domain Name is being offered for sale.

5. Parties’ Contentions

A. Complainant

There has never been any relationship between the Complainant and the Respondent which would give rise to any license, permission or authorization for the Respondent to use or register the Disputed Domain Name, or use the HARTFORD Marks in a domain name, at any website, or for any other purpose. The Disputed Domain Name is being used to misdirect Internet traffic and sell the Disputed Domain Name for a profit. The Complainant sent a letter to the Respondent concerning the registration and use of the Disputed Domain Name on October 25, 2021, and the Respondent has not replied.

The Disputed Domain Name is confusingly similar to the HARTFORD Marks. The Disputed Domain Name, <hartfordgrp.com>, incorporates the Complainant’s HARTFORD trademark in its entirety and is confusingly similar to the Complainant’s THE HARTFORD and THE HARTFORD GROUP trademarks, merely omitting “the” and replacing “group” with “grp” – a shortened version of the term “group”. The addition of “grp” associates the Disputed Domain Name further with the Complainant, a well-known provider of group and employee benefits.

The Respondent has no legitimate interest in the Disputed Domain Name. The Respondent’s acquisition of the Disputed Domain Name occurred after the Complainant had made extensive use of the HARTFORD Marks, and after the Complainant had secured registration for HARTFORD Marks – including THE HARTFORD GROUP – in the United States and elsewhere. Given these facts, the Respondent was on notice of the Complainant’s rights before it adopted the Disputed Domain Name incorporating Complainant’s HARTFORD Marks.

The Respondent registered and is using the Disputed Domain Name in bad faith. The Respondent has no connection with the Complainant and has never been authorized by the Complainant to use or register the Disputed Domain Name. The fact that the Respondent has registered the Disputed Domain Name which incorporates the Complainant’s registered THE HARTFORD mark and is nearly identical to the Complainant’s THE HARTFORD GROUP trademark establishes opportunistic bad faith use and registration. Further, given the reputation and renown of the Complainant’s HARTFORD Marks, most Internet users who see the Disputed Domain Name are likely to immediately recognize the Complainant’s marks and assume the Disputed Domain Name and any website associated with it is owned, controlled, or approved by the Complainant. In addition, consumers and other third parties who search the Internet for legitimate information about the Complainant may be directed to the website at the Disputed Domain Name.

The Respondent has never made any actual use of the Disputed Domain Name other than with the parked website. Failing to make an active use of the Disputed Domain Name can constitute bad faith registration and use of the Disputed Domain Name. The Respondent acquired the Disputed Domain Name on February 12, 2010, and the website has been parked with an option for visitors to purchase the Disputed Domain Name. The Disputed Domain Name is also listed for sale on “sedo.com”, with a minimum offer of USD 100. Additionally, the Disputed Domain Name <hartfordgrp.com> has been configured for email servers and there is a possibility that the Disputed Domain Name has been used, or will be used for phishing, or some other illegitimate use.

B. Respondent

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

6. Discussion and Findings

A. Identical or Confusingly Similar

The Complainant has demonstrated it owns registered trademark rights in the HARTFORD marks. The addition of the term “grp” does not prevent a finding of confusing similarity. See section 1.8 of the WIPO Overview of WIPO Panel Views on Selected UDRP Questions Third Edition (“WIPO Overview 3.0”).

Accordingly, the Disputed Domain Name is confusingly similar to a mark in which the Complainant has rights.

B. Rights or Legitimate Interests

The Complainant has presented a prima facie case that the Respondent has no rights or legitimate interests in respect of the Disputed Domain Name and has not been commonly known by the Disputed Domain Name. The fact that the Respondent obtained the Disputed Domain Name after the Complainant had begun using its globally famous HARTFORD Marks indicates that the Respondent sought to piggyback on the HARTFORD Marks for the purpose of selling the Disputed Domain Name, which is confusingly similar to the Complainant’s trademark, and possibly use the Disputed Domain Name for phishing attempts due to the Disputed Domain Name being configured for email servers.

After a complainant has made a prima facie case, the burden of production shifts to a respondent to present evidence demonstrating rights or legitimate interests in the domain name. See, e.g., Croatia Airlines d.d. v. Modern Empire Internet Ltd., WIPO Case No. D2003-0455.

Here, the Respondent has provided no evidence of any rights or legitimate interests in the Disputed Domain Name.

In the absence of any evidence rebutting the Complainant’s prima facie case indicating the Respondent’s lack of rights or legitimate interests in respect of the Disputed Domain Name, the Panel finds that the Complainant has satisfied paragraph 4(a)(ii) of the Policy.

C. Registered and Used in Bad Faith

The Disputed Domain Name was registered many years after the Complainant first registered and used its globally famous HARTFORD trademark. The evidence on the record provided by the Complainant with respect to the extent of use and global fame of its HARTFORD trademark, combined with the absence of any evidence provided by the Respondent to the contrary, is sufficient to satisfy the Panel that, at the time the Disputed Domain Name was registered, the Respondent undoubtedly knew of the Complainant’s HARTFORD trademark, and knew that it had no rights or legitimate interests in the Disputed Domain Name.

There is prima facie no reason for the Respondent to have registered the Disputed Domain Name containing the entirety of the HARTFORD trademark with the term “grp”.

Further, the use of the Disputed Domain Name by the Respondent is clearly in bad faith. Paragraph 4(b)(iv) of the Policy states that evidence of bad faith may include a respondent’s use of a domain name to intentionally attempt to attract, for commercial gain, Internet users to the respondent’s website or other online location, by creating a likelihood of confusion with the complainant’s mark as to the source, sponsorship, affiliation, or endorsement of the respondent’s website or location or of a product or service on the respondent’s website or location. The Complainant has submitted evidence that the Respondent has used the Disputed Domain Name in order to direct users to a website which is parked, and is only intended to advertise that it is selling the Disputed Domain Name. Given the fame of the Complainant’s HARTFORD mark, the obvious inference is that the Respondent hoped to mislead customers of the Complainant to visit the website at the Disputed Domain Name trading on the Complainant’s trademark and reputation. In addition, the Disputed Domain Name has been configured for email servers, which may indicate the Disputed Domain Name could be used for possible phishing attempts or some other illegitimate use. This is a textbook example of bad faith use on the part of the Respondent.

In the absence of any evidence or explanation from the Respondent, the Panel finds that the only plausible basis for registering and using the Disputed Domain Name has been for illegitimate and bad faith purposes.

Accordingly, the Panel finds that the Complainant has satisfied paragraph 4(a)(iii) of the Policy.

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, <hartfordgrp.com>, be transferred to the Complainant.

Colin T. O'Brien
Sole Panelist
Date: March 10, 2022