WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center
ADMINISTRATIVE PANEL DECISION
Credit Karma, Inc. v. Haimin Xu
Case No. DCO2019-0038
1. The Parties
The Complainant is Credit Karma, Inc., United States of America (“United States”), represented by Reed Smith, LLP, United States.
The Respondent is Haimin Xu, China.
2. The Domain Name and Registrar
The disputed domain name <creditkarma.co> 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 September 19, 2019. On September 19, 2019, the Center transmitted by email to the Registrar a request for registrar verification in connection with the disputed domain name. On September 20, 2019, 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 September 25, 2019. In accordance with the Rules, paragraph 5, the due date for Response was October 15, 2019. The Respondent did not submit any response. Accordingly, the Center notified the Respondent’s default on October 18, 2019.
The Center appointed Luca Barbero as the sole panelist in this matter on October 25, 2019. 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 was founded in 2007 and provides personal finance products and services, ranging from free credit and financial management platform services to credit monitoring services, credit and calculator tools and personal recommendations based on each individual user’s credit profile. The platform also offers consumers, access to educational content and reviews for a wide range of financial products, including credit cards, home loans, auto loans and personal loans.
With over 1,100 employees, the Complainant has acquired over 100 million members in the United States, United Kingdom and Canada, developing a global reputation as a leading financial company.
Having invested considerable time, money and resources in promoting its products and services using means such as television broadcasting, cable and streaming, radio commercials, social media, billboards, digital and print advertising, Internet websites, and mobile applications, the Complainant has developed a considerably high level of recognition and goodwill in the finance industry, thanks to which it has also received multiple recognitions and awards over the years, including the Forbes’ top ten most valuable FinTech companies in America and the Edison Awards, Gold Medal in Financial Services/Banking. Today, the Complainant is being valued at USD 4 billion and is also quoted as one of the top FinTech start-ups in the world.
The Complainant is the owner of the following trademark registrations for CREDIT KARMA, as per trademark certificates submitted as annexes to the Complaint:
- United States trademark registration No. 4014356 for CREDIT KARMA (word mark), filed on November 20, 2009 and registered on August 23, 2011, in class 35; with a first use in commerce of February 1, 2008.
- United States trademark registration No. 5057486 for CREDIT KARMA (figurative mark), filed on September 10, 2015 and registered on October 11, 2016, in class 9, 35, 36, 38, 41, and 45; with a first use in commerce of February 1, 2008.
The Complainant also owns more than 350 domain names that comprise the wording “credit karma”, including but not limited to the following: <creditkarma.ca>, <creditkarma.net>, <creditkarmaonline.com>, <creditkarmafortaxes.com>, <creditkarmareviews.com> and <gotocreditkarma.com>, most of which redirect to the Complainant’s main website available at the domain name <creditkarma.com>, which was registered on August 30, 2005 and is used by the Complainant to promote its services under the trademark CREDIT KARMA.
The disputed domain name <creditkarma.co> was registered July 20, 2010 and redirects to websites promoting alleged financial services.
5. Parties’ Contentions
The Complainant contends that disputed domain name is identical to the trademark CREDIT KARMA in which the Complainant has rights as it reproduces the trademark in its entirety with the mere addition of the country code Top-Level Domain (ccTLD) “.co”.
The Complainant highlights that, as a result of such similarity and because the “.co” ccTLD does not bring about a domain name with an inherently different meaning or association, users could easily believe there is some relation, affiliation, connection approval or association between the Respondent and the Complainant, when in fact no affiliation exists.
With reference to rights or legitimate interests in respect of the disputed domain name, the Complainant states that, considering its widespread reputation and its rights deriving from its trademark registrations, the Respondent can in no way assert that it has any rights or legitimate interest in the disputed domain name.
The Complainant also submits that the Respondent is in fact not referred to or commonly known by the name “Credit Karma”, nor does it have any legal relationship with the Complainant. The Complainant further asserts that the Respondent seems to have registered the disputed domain name for the sole purpose of profiting off the goodwill and reputation of the Complainant by redirecting Internet traffic to third party websites that offer competing products and services.
With reference to the circumstances evidencing bad faith, the Complainant indicates that, due to the notoriety of its CREDIT KARMA trademark and services, the Respondent was well aware of the Complainant’s rights and renown at the time it registered the disputed domain name.
The Complainant emphasizes that the Respondent has acted in bad faith by opportunistically registering and using a domain name that incorporates the CREDIT KARMA trademark, with the deliberate intention of attracting, for commercial gain, Internet users to Complainant’s competitor and commercial sites unrelated to the Complainant.
The Complainant concludes that the Respondent has attempted to capitalize off this fact by purchasing the disputed domain name, which has nothing to do with the Respondent, in order to trade off the goodwill gained by the Complainant over the years.
The Respondent did not reply to the Complainant’s contentions.
6. Discussion and Findings
According to paragraph 15(a) of the Rules: “A Panel shall decide a complaint on the basis of the statements and documents submitted and in accordance with the Policy, these Rules and any rules and principles of law that it deems applicable.” Paragraph 4(a) of the Policy directs that the Complainant must prove each of the following:
(i) that the disputed domain name registered by the Respondent is identical or confusingly similar to a trademark or service mark in which the Complainant has rights;
(ii) that the Respondent has no rights or legitimate interests in respect of the disputed domain name; and
(iii) that the disputed domain name has been registered and is being used in bad faith.
A. Identical or Confusingly Similar
The Panel finds that the Complainant has established rights over the trademark CREDIT KARMA based on the trademark registrations cited under section 4 above and the related trademark certificates submitted as annex 10 to the Complaint.
As highlighted in section 1.7 of the WIPO Overview of WIPO Panel Views on Selected UDRP Questions, Third Edition (“WIPO Overview 3.0”), the first element functions primarily as a standing requirement, and the threshold test for confusing similarity typically involves a side-by-side comparison of the domain name and the textual components of the relevant trademark to assess whether the mark is recognizable within the disputed domain name.
In the case at hand, the Complainant’s word trademark CREDIT KARMA is entirely reproduced in the disputed domain name, with the mere addition of the ccTLD “.co”, which is commonly disregarded under the first element confusing similarity test (section 1.11 of the WIPO Overview 3.0).
Therefore, the Panel finds that the Complainant has proven that the disputed domain name is identical to a trademark in which the Complainant has established rights according to paragraph 4(a)(i) of the Policy.
B. Rights or Legitimate Interests
It is well-established that the burden of proof lies on the complainant. However, satisfying the burden of proving a lack of the respondent’s rights or legitimate interests in respect of the domain name according to paragraph 4(a) (ii) of the Policy is potentially quite onerous, since proving a negative circumstance is always more difficult than establishing a positive one.
Accordingly, in line with the UDRP precedents, it is sufficient that the Complainant show a prima facie case that the Respondent lacks rights or legitimate interests in the disputed domain name in order to shift the burden of production on the Respondent. If the Respondent fails to demonstrate rights or legitimate interests in the disputed domain name in accordance with paragraph 4(c) of the Policy or on any other basis, the Complainant is deemed to have satisfied paragraph 4(a)(ii) of the Policy (see Croatia Airlines d.d. v. Modern Empire Internet Ltd., WIPO Case No. D2003-0455; Belupo d.d. v. WACHEM d.o.o., WIPO Case No. D2004-0110; Banco Itau S.A. v. Laercio Teixeira, WIPO Case No. D2007-0912; Accor v. Eren Atesmen, WIPO Case No. D2009-0701).
In the case at hand, by not submitting a Response, the Respondent has failed to invoke any circumstance that could demonstrate, pursuant to paragraph 4(c) of the Policy, any rights or legitimate interests in the disputed domain name.
Moreover, it has been repeatedly stated that when a respondent does not avail itself of its right to respond to a complaint, it can be assumed in appropriate circumstances that the respondent has no rights or legitimate interests in the disputed domain name (Nordstrom, Inc. and NIHC, Inc. v. Inkyu Kim, WIPO Case No. D2003-0269).
According to the evidence on record, there is no relationship between the Complainant and the Respondent and the Complainant has not authorized the Respondent to register or use its trademark or the disputed domain name. Furthermore, there is no indication before the Panel that the Respondent is commonly known by the disputed domain name.
As mentioned above, the disputed domain name points to websites promoting purported financial services competing with the ones provided by the Complainant under the nearly identical domain name <creditkarma.com>.
In view of the above-described use of the disputed domain name, the Panel finds that the Respondent is not using the disputed domain name in connection with a bona fide offering of goods or services or a legitimate noncommercial or fair use without intent for commercial gain to misleadingly divert consumers or to tarnish the Complainant’s trademark.
Thus, in light of the above, the Panel finds that the Respondent has no rights or legitimate interests in respect of the disputed domain name, in accordance with paragraph 4(a)(ii) of the Policy.
C. Registered and Used in Bad Faith
Paragraph 4(a)(iii) of the Policy requires that the Complainant prove that the disputed domain name was registered and is being used by the Respondent in bad faith.
As to the bad faith at the time of the registration, the Panel notes that, in light of the Complainant’s prior use of the trademark CREDIT KARMA, the well-known character of the trademark, recognized also in prior UDRP decisions, and the Complainant’s prior registration of the nearly identical domain name <creditkarma.com>, the Respondent was or ought to be aware of the Complainant and its trademark when it registered the disputed domain name. Moreover, the redirection of the disputed domain name to websites promoting competing financial services suggests that the Respondent was indeed well aware of the Complainant and its trademark and registered the disputed domain name with the Complainant and its trademark in mind.
Furthermore, in view of the notoriety of the Complainant’s trademark, the Panel finds that the Respondent acted in opportunistic bad faith at the time of registration, since the disputed domain name is so obviously connected with the Complainant that its selection by the Respondent, which has no connection with the Complainant, suggests the disputed domain name was registered with a deliberate intent to create an impression of an association with the Complainant.
As to the use of the disputed domain name, the Panel finds that Internet users, in light of the contents of the websites linked to the disputed domain name, may be misled on the source, sponsorship, affiliation, or endorsement of the Respondent’s website, according to paragraph 4(b)(iv) of the Policy.
Therefore, the Panel finds that the Complainant has also proven that the disputed domain name was registered and is being used in bad faith according to paragraph 4(a)(iii) of the Policy.
For all the foregoing reasons, in accordance with paragraphs 4(i) of the Policy and 15 of the Rules, the Panel orders that the domain name, <creditkarma.co> be transferred to the Complainant.
Date: November 8, 2019