WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center
ADMINISTRATIVE PANEL DECISION
Vodafone Group Plc v. "Vodafone"/Network Solutions, LLC
Case No. DAG2014-0001
1. The Parties
The Complainant is Vodafone Group Plc of Newbury, Berkshire, United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Island ("United Kingdom"), represented by Olswang LLP, United Kingdom.
The Respondent is "Vodafone" of Drums, Pennsylvania, United States of America ("United States"); Network Solutions, LLC of Jacksonville, Florida, United States.
2. The Domain Name and Registrar
The disputed domain name <vodafone.ag> is registered with Network Solutions, LLC (the "Registrar").
3. Procedural History
The Complaint was filed with the WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center (the "Center") on March 18, 2014. On March 19, 2014, the Center transmitted by email to the Registrar a request for registrar verification in connection with the disputed domain name. On March 20 and 24, 2014, the Registrar transmitted by email to the Center its verification responses confirming that the Respondent "Vodafone" is listed as the registrant and providing the contact. In response to a notification by the Center that the Complaint was administratively deficient, the Complainant filed an amended Complaint on March 26, 2014.
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(a) and 4(a), the Center formally notified the Respondent of the Complaint, and the proceedings commenced on March 31, 2014. In accordance with the Rules, paragraph 5(a), the due date for Response was April 20, 2014. The Respondent did not submit any response. Accordingly, the Center notified the Respondent's default on April 22, 2014.
The Center appointed Michael J. Spence as the sole panelist in this matter on May 9, 2014. 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 one of the largest mobile communications companies in the world with a market capitalization of approximately GBP 108.1 billion. It operates under the trade mark VODAFONE and associated marks, which together constitute one of the most recognized brands in the world. The disputed domain name was registered on June 30, 2013. The Respondent has been the proprietor of the disputed domain name for 11 months but has neither yet made any use of it, nor any apparent preparations for use, other than for a website that appears to offer services in competition with those of the Complainant and in breach of its trade mark rights.
5. Parties' Contentions
The Complainant contends that the disputed domain name is identical or confusingly similar to its trade mark; that the Respondent has no rights or legitimate interests in the disputed domain name; that the disputed domain name was registered and is being used in bad faith.
The Respondent did not reply to the Complainant's contentions.
6. Discussion and Findings
A. Identical or Confusingly Similar
The disputed domain name contains the Complainant's trade mark in its entirety. There is therefore no doubt that the possibility for confusion exists, and that the disputed domain name is identical or confusingly similar to the mark.
The Panel therefore finds that the Complainant has established the first element of paragraph 4(a) of the Policy in relation to the disputed domain name.
B. Rights or Legitimate Interests
It is for the Complainant to establish, at least prima facie that the Respondent has no rights or legitimate interests in the disputed domain name (Croatia Airlines d.d. v. Modern Empire Internet Ltd., WIPO Case No. D2003-0455, Belupod.d. v. WACHEM d.o.o., WIPO Case No. D2004-0110). Use for a website that appears to offer services in competition with those of the Complainant and in breach of its trade mark rights, cannot constitute use sufficient to establish rights or legitimate interests in the disputed domain name. There is no evidence that the Respondent has ever used, or made preparations to use, the disputed domain name in any other way. Moreover, it is difficult to imagine what legitimate use might be made of a domain name entailing such a very strong likelihood of confusion with a well-known brand.
The Panel therefore finds that the Complainant has established the second element of paragraph 4(a) of the Policy in relation to the disputed domain name.
C. Registered and Used in Bad Faith
Use for a website that appears to offer services in competition with those of the Complainant and in breach of its trade mark rights is perhaps the classic case of registration and use in bad faith. It clearly evinces as intention to profit from the confusion created by the likelihood of confusion between the Complainant's trade mark and the disputed domain name because in this case that likelihood is so strong.
The Panel therefore finds that the Complainant has established the third element of paragraph 4(a) of the Policy.
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 <vodafone.ag> be transferred to the Complainant.
Michael J. Spence
Date: May 24, 2014