WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center
ADMINISTRATIVE PANEL DECISION
Stripe, Inc. v. Jeroen Hissink
Case No. DNL2021-0050
1. The Parties
The Complainant is Stripe, Inc., United States of America (“United States” or “US”), represented by Taft, Stettinius & Hollister, LLP, United States.
The Respondent is Jeroen Hissink, the Netherlands.
2. The Domain Name and Registrar
The disputed domain name <stripesofficial.nl> (the “Disputed Domain Name”) is registered with SIDN through Metaregistrar B.V.
3. Procedural History
The Complaint was filed with the WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center (the “Center”) on September 28, 2021. On September 28, 2021, the Center transmitted by email to SIDN a request for registrar verification in connection with the Disputed Domain Name. On September 29, 2021, SIDN 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 September 29, 2021, providing the registrant and contact information disclosed by SIDN, and requesting the Complainant to submit an amendment to the Complaint. The Complainant filed an amended Complaint on October 4, 2021.
The Center verified that the Complaint as amended satisfied the formal requirements of the Dispute Resolution Regulations for .nl Domain Names (the “Regulations”).
In accordance with the Regulations, articles 5.1 and 16.4, the Center formally notified the Respondent of the Complaint, and the proceedings commenced on October 6, 2021. In accordance with the Regulations, article 7.1, the due date for Response was October 26, 2021. The Respondent did not submit any response. Accordingly, the Center notified the Respondent’s default on October 29, 2021.
The Center appointed Moïra Truijens as the panelist in this matter on November 10, 2021. The Panel finds that it was properly constituted. The Panelist has submitted the Statement of Acceptance and Declaration of Impartiality and Independence, as required to ensure compliance with the Regulations, article 9.2.
4. Factual Background
The Complainant is a US technology company that builds economic infrastructure for the Internet. The Complainant’s software is used to accept payments and manage businesses online. It is available for businesses in over 40 countries, including the European Union (“EU”) and the United States. The Complainant uses its website at “www.stripe.com” to publish its documentation, libraries, and other resources.
The Complainant owns a number of trademark registrations worldwide, consisting of or containing the term “stripe”, including:
- EU Registration No. 16272304, for STRIPE, registered August 3, 2017, and covering inter alia “business consulting and information services; new business venture development and formation consulting services; business development services, namely, providing start-up support for businesses of others; referrals in the field of business; referrals in the field of accounting; bookkeeping for electronic funds transfer; collection and analysis of quality metric data for ecommerce merchants for business purposes; administration, billing and reconciliation of accounts on behalf of others; providing business information, namely, statistical information provided online from a computer database or the Internet; providing statistical information for business or commercial purposes; billing; invoicing; tax and taxation planning, advice, information and consultancy services; consulting and information concerning accounting”;
- EU Registration No. 010112498, for STRIPE, registered on December 14, 2011, and covering inter alia “financial services, namely online credit card payment and transaction processing and transmission of bills and payments thereof; financial services, namely, electronic funds transfer via electronic communications networks; clearing and reconciling financial transactions via electronic communications networks”;
(hereinafter also referred to as the “Trademark” in singular).
The Complainant states that the Trademark is being used in connection with financial services and business consulting services throughout the world since 2011.
SIDN informed the Center that the Disputed Domain Name was registered by the Respondent on March 21, 2021. At the time the Complaint was filed, the website under the Disputed Domain Name appeared to be active, resolving to a website with a similar look as the Complainant’s, displaying the Trademark, and promoting and advertising payment solutions.
5. Parties’ Contentions
The Complaint’s contentions may be summarized as follows.
The Complainant asserts that the Disputed Domain Name is confusingly similar to the Trademark, because the Disputed Domain Name consists of the Trademark in its entirety with the addition of the generic term “official”.
The addition of a generic term to a trademark does nothing to dispel confusion. The word “official” in fact adds to the confusion as it implies that the Disputed Domain Name is the “official” website of the Complainant or that Respondent acts in an “official” capacity on behalf of or in association with the Complainant. The addition of the letter “s” to the Trademark, which is generally understood as a sign of plural form of an object, does not serve to render the Disputed Domain Name dissimilar to the Trademark as it is too insignificant to have any real effect in the perception of the mark.
Use of the “.nl” country code Top-Level Domain (“ccTLD”) does not further distinguish the confusing similarity of the Disputed Domain Name to the Trademark.
The Respondent lacks rights or legitimate interests in the Disputed Domain Name and is not making a bona fide offering of goods or services or a legitimate noncommercial or fair use of the Disputed Domain Name. The Respondent is referred to in the WhoIs database as “none listed”, has never been commonly known by the Trademark nor any variations thereof, and has never used any trademark or service mark similar to the Disputed Domain Name by which it may have come to be known, other than the infringing use noted herein.
The Complainant has not granted the Respondent any license, permission, or authorization by which it could own or use any domain name registrations that are confusingly similar to the Trademark.
The Respondent’s use of the Trademark in its entirety associated with competing services, plus the Respondent’s use of a website with highly similar branding as compared to the Complainant’s “www.stripe.com” website, supports a finding that the Respondent’s intention is to trade off the goodwill and reputation of the Trademark, confuse consumers, and disrupt the Complainant’s business, which cannot convey any rights in or a legitimate use of the Disputed Domain Name.
There is no reason for the Respondent to have registered the Disputed Domain Name other than to trade off of the reputation and goodwill of the Trademark for commercial gain. The nature of the Disputed Domain Name itself evidences bad faith registration and use.
The Respondent did not reply to the Complainant’s contentions.
6. Discussion and Findings
Pursuant to article 2.1 of the Regulations, the Complainant must prove each of the following three elements:
a. the Disputed Domain Name is identical or confusingly similar to:
I) a trademark, or trade name, protected under Dutch law in which the Complainant has rights; or
II) a personal name registered in the General Municipal Register (“Gemeentelijke Basisadministratie”) of a municipality in the Netherlands, or the name of a Dutch public legal entity or the name of an association or foundation registered in the Netherlands under which the Complainant undertakes public activities on a permanent basis; and
b. the Respondent has no rights to or legitimate interests in the Disputed Domain Name; and
c. the Disputed Domain Name has been registered or is being used in bad faith.
In accordance with article 10.3 of the Regulations, the Panel shall determine the admissibility, relevance and weight of the evidence submitted; if no response has been submitted, the Panel shall rule on the basis of the complaint; and the Complaint shall in that event be granted, unless the Panel considers it to be without basis in law or fact.
A. Identical or Confusingly Similar
The Complainant has submitted copies of the registrations of the Trademark.
Consequently, the Panel finds that the Complainant has proven that it has rights in the Trademark. The Disputed Domain Name incorporates STRIPE in its entirety. The addition of the letter “s” and the word “official” to the Trademark does not prevent a finding of confusing similarity. The Trademark is clearly recognizable in the Disputed Domain Name. See WIPO Overview of WIPO Panel Views on Selected UDRP Questions, Third Edition (“WIPO Overview 3.0”), sections 1.7 and 1.8.1
The ccTLD “.nl” is typically disregarded under the confusing similarity test, since it is a technical registration requirement (see WIPO Overview 3.0, section 1.11).
The Panel finds that the Disputed Domain Name is confusingly similar to the Trademark and that the Complainant has thus established the first element of article 2.1(a) of the Regulations.
B. Rights or Legitimate Interests
A complainant bears the burden of prima facie showing that the respondent has no rights or legitimate interests in the domain name. If a complainant succeeds in making its prima facie case, the burden of production shifts to the respondent, which will then have to come forward with appropriate allegations or evidence demonstrating a right or legitimate interest in the domain name (Croatia Airlines d.d. v. Modern Empire Internet Ltd., WIPO Case No. D2003-0455).
Article 3.1 of the Regulations provides circumstances in which such rights or legitimate interests to a domain name may be demonstrated. These circumstances include i) use of the domain name in connection with a bona fide offering of goods or services; ii) being commonly known by the domain name; and iii) making legitimate noncommercial or fair use of the domain name.
According to the evidence and the undisputed submissions of the Complainant, the Panel notes that the Respondent has not received the Complainant’s consent to use the Trademark as part of the Disputed Domain Name, nor has it otherwise been authorized to use the Trademark.
The Panel agrees with the Complainant’s contention, that the Respondent’s use of the Trademark in its entirety, associated with competing services, plus the Respondent’s use of a website with highly similar branding as compared to the Complainant’s “www.stripe.com” website, supports the finding that the Respondent’s intention is to trade off the goodwill and reputation of the Trademark, confuse consumers, and disrupt the Complainant’s business, which cannot convey any rights in or a legitimate use of the Disputed Domain Name.
The Respondent has not provided evidence, nor is there any indication in the record of this case that the Respondent is commonly known by the Disputed Domain Name.
The additional term “official” in the Disputed Domain Name may trigger an inference of affiliation in the broader facts and circumstances of the case – particularly including the associated website content (see WIPO Overview 3.0, section 2.5).
The Complainant has made a prima facie case that the Respondent lacks rights to or legitimate interests in the Disputed Domain Name, and the Respondent has not rebutted this case. In the circumstances of this case, the Panel finds that this Respondent’s default reinforces the finding that the Respondent lacks rights to or legitimate interests in the Disputed Domain Name.
The Panel concludes that the Complainant has met the second requirement of article 2.1(b) of the Regulations.
C. Registered or Used in Bad Faith
In accordance with article 3.2 of the Regulations, the Complainant has to show that the Disputed Domain Name was registered or is being used in bad faith. Several circumstances, put forward by the Complainant, make that the Panel finds that this is so.
When the Respondent registered the Domain Name, the Trademark had already been registered and was being used by the Complainant for its products. Given the composition of the Disputed Domain Name and the use of the Trademark on the Respondent’s website, the Panel finds that at the time of registration of the Disputed Domain Name the Respondent knew that it would be confusingly similar to the Trademark. In this connection, the website associated with the Trademark, and numerous additional references in commerce, on the Internet and in publications, clearly evidence the Complainant’s use of the Trademark.
The Panel also finds it relevant that on the website under the Disputed Domain Name, the Respondent promotes services that directly conflict with the Trademark. As such, the Respondent is clearly targeting the Trademark. The Respondent’s bad faith further follows from its choices to use content, a color scheme and an overall look and feel that is very similar to the Complainant’s website.
By registering and using the Disputed Domain Name, the Respondent intentionally attempted to attract for commercial gain, Internet users to the Respondent’s website, by creating a likelihood of confusion with the Trademark as to the source, sponsorship, affiliation, or endorsement of the Respondent’s website. This constitutes evidence of bad faith registration and use in accordance with article 3.1(d) of the Regulations.
This conclusion is reinforced by the fact that it is established that terms with an “inherent Internet connotation” (e.g., <e-trademark.com>, <buy-trademark.com>, or <trademark.online>), such as the term used in the Disputed Domain Name, are seen as tending to suggest sponsorship or endorsement by the trademark owner (see section 2.5.1. of WIPO Overview 3.0). However, the Complainant has apparently never sponsored or endorsed the Respondent, nor otherwise authorized the use of the Trademark in the Disputed Domain Name.
The Panel therefore concludes that the requirement of article 2.1(c) of the Regulations has also been met.
For all the foregoing reasons, in accordance with articles 1 and 14 of the Regulations, the Panel orders that the Disputed Domain Name <stripesofficial.nl> be transferred to the Complainant.
Date: November 24, 2021
1 In view of the fact that the Regulations are substantially similar to the Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy (“UDRP”), it is well established that both cases decided under the Regulations and cases decided under the UDRP, and therefore WIPO Overview 3.0, may be relevant to the determination of this proceeding (see, e.g., Aktiebolaget Electrolux v. Beuk Horeca B.V., WIPO Case No. DNL2008-0050).