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Home Legal News NAF Panelist Clubs 3 Letter Domain
NAF Panelist Clubs 3 Letter Domain PDF Print E-mail
Written by brett   
Friday, 06 May 2011 10:44

My blog slumber is over. This morning, it was reported that a Panelist at the National Arbitration Forum awarded the domain name <NMC.com> to The National Motor Club of America. See National Motor Club of America, Inc. v. Domain Names, Inc., No. FA 1103001381111 (NAF May 4, 2011). Although the respondent failed to respond, this was an abysmal opinion. The Panelist first found that the registrant of a three-letter, generic domain name lacked any legitimate right to register that domain name, because there was no evidence that he was known by that name. The Panel then found, based on non-use, alone, that the registrant had registered and used the domain name in bad faith. Seriously? In the absence of any evidence that the respondent registered a three-letter generic domain name to profit off of the complainant’s trademark, non-use equals bad faith? I would love to have had this case, and I would love to stick it to the National Motor Club in Court for it’s abusive filing. Just because you win doesn’t make it right.

It’s good to be back.

PARTIES

Complainant is National Motor Club of America, Inc. (“Complainant”), represented by Jason R. Fulmer of Gardere Wynne Sewell LLP, Texas, USA. Respondent is Domain Names Inc., Attn: NMC.COM c/o Network Solutions (“Respondent”), Pennsylvania, USA.

REGISTRAR AND DISPUTED DOMAIN NAME

The domain name at issue is <nmc.com>, registered with NETWORK SOLUTIONS, LLC.

PANEL

The undersigned certifies that he has acted independently and impartially, and, to the best of his knowledge, has no conflict of interests in serving as Panelist in this proceeding.

Terry F. Peppard as Panelist.

PROCEDURAL HISTORY

Complainant submitted a Complaint to the National Arbitration Forum electronically on March 30, 2011; the National Arbitration Forum received payment on March 30, 2011.

On March 30, 2011, NETWORK SOLUTIONS, LLC. confirmed by e-mail to the National Arbitration Forum that the <nmc.com> domain name is registered with NETWORK SOLUTIONS, LLC. and that Respondent is the current registrant of the name. NETWORK SOLUTIONS, LLC. has verified that Respondent is bound by the NETWORK SOLUTIONS, LLC. registration agreement and has thereby agreed to resolve domain disputes brought by third parties in accordance with ICANN’s Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy (the “Policy”).

On March 31, 2011, the Forum served the Complaint and all Annexes, including a Written Notice of the Complaint, setting a deadline of April 20, 2011 by which Respondent could file a Response to the Complaint, via e-mail to all entities and persons listed on Respondent’s registration as technical, administrative, and billing contacts, and to This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it . Also on March 31, 2011, the Written Notice of the Complaint, notifying Respondent of the email addresses served and the deadline for a Response, was transmitted to Respondent via post and fax, to all entities and persons listed on Respondent’s registration as technical, administrative and billing contacts.

Having received no response from Respondent, the National Arbitration Forum transmitted to the parties a Notification of Respondent Default.

On April 22, 2011, pursuant to Complainant’s request to have the dispute decided by a single-member Panel, the National Arbitration Forum appointed Terry F. Peppard as sole Panelist in this proceeding.

Having reviewed the communications records, the Administrative Panel (the “Panel”) finds that the National Arbitration Forum has discharged its responsibility under Paragraph 2(a) of the Rules for Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy (the “Rules”) “to employ reasonably available means calculated to achieve actual notice to Respondent” through submission of Electronic and Written Notices, as defined in Rule 1 and Rule 2. Therefore, the Panel may issue its decision based on the documents submitted and in accordance with the ICANN Policy, ICANN Rules, the National Arbitration Forum’s Supplemental Rules and any rules and principles of law that the Panel deems applicable, without the benefit of any response from Respondent.

RELIEF SOUGHT

Complainant requests that the domain name be transferred from Respondent to Complainant.

PARTIES’ CONTENTIONS

A. Complainant makes the following assertions:

Founded in 1956, Complainant is one of the largest independently owned motor clubs in the United States.

Complainant currently serves more than six million travelers and offers services throughout the United States and Canada.

Complainant owns service mark registrations with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (“USPTO”) for its NMC marks, including Reg. No. 773,833, issued July 21, 1964.

Respondent registered the <nmc.com> domain name on March 13, 1998.

Respondent’s disputed domain name does not resolve to an active website.

Respondent’s <nmc.com> domain name is identical to Complainant’s NMC mark.

Respondent is not commonly known by the <nmc.com> domain name, and Complainant has not given Respondent permission to use Complainant’s mark.

Respondent does not have any rights to or legitimate interests in the <nmc.com> domain name.

Respondent registered and uses the <nmc.com> domain name in bad faith.

B. Respondent failed to submit a Response in this proceeding.

FINDINGS

(1) the domain name registered by Respondent is identical to a service mark in which Complainant has rights; and

(2) Respondent has no rights to or legitimate interests in respect of the domain name; and

(3) the same domain name was registered and is being used by Respondent in bad faith.

DISCUSSION

Paragraph 15(a) of the Rules instructs this Panel to “decide a complaint on the basis of the statements and documents submitted in accordance with the Policy, these Rules and any rules and principles of law that it deems applicable.”

In view of Respondent’s failure to submit a response, the Panel shall decide this administrative proceeding on the basis of Complainant’s undisputed representations pursuant to paragraphs 5(e), 14(a) and 15(a) of the Rules and draw such inferences it considers appropriate pursuant to paragraph 14(b) of the Rules. The Panel is entitled to accept all reasonable allegations and inferences set forth in the Complaint as true unless the evidence is clearly contradictory. See Vertical Solutions Mgmt., Inc. v. webnet-marketing, inc., FA 95095 (Nat. Arb. Forum July 31, 2000) (holding that a respondent’s failure to respond allows all reasonable inferences of fact in the allegations of a complaint to be deemed true); see also Talk City, Inc. v. Robertson, D2000-0009 (WIPO Feb. 29, 2000): “In the absence of a response, it is appropriate to accept as true all allegations of the Complaint.”

Paragraph 4(a) of the Policy requires that Complainant must prove each of the following three elements to obtain an order that a domain name should be cancelled or transferred:

i. the domain name registered by Respondent is identical or confusingly similar to a trademark or service mark in which Complainant has rights; and

ii. Respondent has no rights or legitimate interests in respect of the domain name; and

iii. the domain name has been registered and is being used in bad faith.

Identical and/or Confusingly Similar

Complainant has established rights in its NMC service mark under Policy ¶ 4(a)(i) through its trademark registrations with a national trademark authority, the USPTO. See Expedia, Inc. v. Tan, FA 991075 (Nat. Arb. Forum June 29, 2007):

As the [complainant’s] mark is registered with the USPTO, [the] complainant has met the requirements of Policy ¶ 4(a)(i).

See also Intel Corp. v. Macare, FA 660685 (Nat. Arb. Forum Apr. 26, 2006) (finding that a complainant had established rights in the PENTIUM, CENTRINO and INTEL INSIDE marks by registering the marks with the USPTO).

The addition of a generic top-level domain (“gTLD”) to the mark of another in forming a domain name is not relevant when determining whether the domain name is identical to the mark under Policy ¶ 4(a)(i). See Trip Network Inc. v. Alviera, FA 914943 (Nat. Arb. Forum Mar. 27, 2007) (concluding that the affixation of a gTLD to a domain name is irrelevant to a Policy ¶ 4(a)(i) analysis); see also Jerry Damson, Inc. v. Tex. Int’l Prop. Assocs., FA 916991 (Nat. Arb. Forum Apr. 10, 2007):

The mere addition of a generic top-level domain (“gTLD”) “.com” does not serve to adequately distinguish the Domain Name from the mark.

Respondent’s <nmc.com> domain name is therefore identical to Complainant’s NMC service mark under Policy ¶ 4(a)(i).

Rights or Legitimate Interests

Complainant alleges that Respondent does not have rights to or legitimate interests in the <nmc.com> domain name. Complainant is required to produce a prima facie case in support of this allegation, whereupon the burden shifts to Respondent to prove that it possesses rights to or legitimate interests in the disputed domain name. Complainant has adequately established a prima faciecase. Owing to Respondent’s failure to respond to the allegations of the Complaint filed in these proceedings, we may presume that Respondent does not possess rights or legitimate interests in the disputed domain name. See G.D. Searle v. Martin Mktg., FA 118277 (Nat. Arb. Forum Oct. 2, 2002):

Because Complainant’s submissions constitute a prima facie case under the Policy, the burden effectively shifts to Respondent. Respondent’s failure to respond means that Respondent has not presented any circumstances that would promote its right or legitimate interests in the subject domain name under Policy ¶ 4(a)(ii).

See also Am. Express Co. v. Fan Suhendro, FA 129120 (Nat. Arb. Forum Dec. 30, 2002): “[B]ased on Respondent’s failure to respond, it is presumed that Respondent lacks all rights and legitimate interests in the disputed domain name.”

Nonetheless, we will examine the evidence of record, in light of the considerations set out in Policy ¶ 4(c), to determine whether there is in it any basis for concluding that Respondent possesses rights to or legitimate interests in the disputed domain name which are cognizable under the Policy.

We first note that Complainant asserts, and Respondent does not deny, that Respondent is not commonly known by the <nmc.com> domain name, nor has Complainant given Respondent permission to use Complainant’s mark. Moreover, the pertinent WHOIS information identifies the registrant of the <nmc.com> domain name only as “Domain Names, Inc., Attn: NMC.COM c/o Network Solutions,” which does not resemble the contested domain name. On this record, we are constrained to conclude that Respondent is not commonly known by the disputed domain name so as to have rights to or legitimate interests in the disputed domain name pursuant to Policy ¶ 4(c)(ii). See IndyMac Bank F.S.B. v. Eshback, FA 830934 (Nat. Arb. Forum Dec. 7, 2006) (finding that a respondent failed to establish either rights to or legitimate interests in the <emitmortgage.com> domain name where that respondent was not authorized to register domain names featuring a complainant’s mark and failed to submit evidence that it was commonly known by the disputed domain name); see also Braun Corp. v. Loney, FA 699652 (Nat. Arb. Forum July 7, 2006) (concluding that a respondent was not commonly known by disputed domain names, and so lacked rights to or legitimate interests in the domains under Policy ¶ 4(c)(ii), where the relevant WHOIS information, as well as all other information in the record, gave no indication that that respondent was commonly known by the disputed domain names, and where a complainant had not authorized that respondent to register a domain name containing its mark).

We next observe that Complainant alleges, without objection from Respondent, that Respondent’s domain name does not resolve to an active website. Respondent’s passive holding of the domain name is evidence that it does not have rights to or legitimate interests in the domain name pursuant to Policy ¶ 4(a)(ii). See Pharmacia & Upjohn AB v. Romero, D2000-1273 (WIPO Nov. 13, 2000) (finding no rights to or legitimate interests in a respondent’s domain name where that respondent failed to submit a response to a complaint filed under the Policy and had made no active use of the domain name); see also Hewlett-Packard Co. v. Shemesh, FA 434145 (Nat. Arb. Forum Apr. 20, 2005):

The Panel finds that the [failure to make an active use] of a domain name that is identical to Complainant’s mark is not a bona fide offering of goods or services pursuant to Policy ¶ 4(c)(i) and it is not a legitimate noncommercial or fair use of the domain name pursuant to Policy ¶ 4(c)(iii).

The Panel therefore finds that Policy ¶ 4(a)(i) has been satisfied.

Registration and Use in Bad Faith

We may consider the totality of the circumstances when conducting a Policy ¶ 4(a)(iii) bad faith registration and use analysis, and our review is not limited to the factors enumerated in Policy ¶ 4(b). SeeDo The Hustle, LLC v. Tropic Web, D2000-0624 (WIPO Aug. 21, 2000):

[T]he examples [of bad faith registration and use of a domain name] in Paragraph 4(b) are intended to be illustrative, rather than exclusive.

See also Twentieth Century Fox Film Corp. v. Risser, FA 93761 (Nat. Arb. Forum May 18, 2000):

The requirement in the ICANN Policy that a complainant prove that domain names are being used in bad faith does not require that it prove in every instance that a respondent is taking positive action. Use in bad faith can be inferred from the totality of the circumstances even when the registrant has done nothing more than register the names.

Respondent’s disputed domain name does not resolve to an active website. Respondent did not submit a Response to the Complaint filed in this proceeding. This combination of circumstances justifies the conclusion that Respondent registered and is using the disputed <nmc.com> domain name in bad faith pursuant to Policy ¶ 4(a)(iii). See Disney Enters. Inc. v. Meyers, FA 697818 (Nat. Arb. Forum June 26, 2006) (holding that the non-use of a disputed domain name for several years constitutes bad faith registration and use under Policy ¶ 4(a)(iii); see also DCI S.A. v. Link Commercial Corp., D2000-1232 (WIPO Dec. 7, 2000) (concluding that the respondent’s [failure to make an active use] of a contested domain name satisfies the proof requirements of ¶ 4(a)(iii) of the Policy).

For these reasons, the Panel finds that Policy ¶ 4(a)(iii) has been satisfied.

DECISION

Complainant having established all three elements required to be proven under the ICANN Policy, the Panel concludes that the relief requested must be, and it is hereby, GRANTED.

Accordingly, it is Ordered that the <nmc.com> domain name be TRANSFERRED forthwith from Respondent to Complainant.

Terry F. Peppard, Panelist

Dated: May 4, 2011

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