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WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center
ADMINISTRATIVE PANEL DECISION
Planned Parenthood Federation of America, Inc. v. Constituent Service, Inc., Constituent Service, Marc Wolin d/b/a Constituent Service, and/or Politics Nationwide, Inc.
Case No. D2000-0296
1. The Parties
The Complainant in this administrative proceeding is Planned Parenthood Federation of America, Inc., a New York not-for-profit corporation. The Respondents are Constituent Service, Inc., Constituent Service, Marc Wolin d/b/a Constituent Service, and/or Politics Nationwide, Inc.
2. The Domain Name and Registrar
The domain name in dispute is as follows: "republicansforchoice.org". The domain name was registered by Respondent Constituent Service with Network Solutions, Inc. on or about September 13, 1999. (While Constituent Service is listed as the Registrant, according to the records of the California Secretary of State, the legal name of the Registrant is Constituent Service, Inc.)
3. Procedural Background
On April 14, 2000, the WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center received from Complainant a complaint for decision in accordance with the Uniform Policy for Domain Name Dispute Resolution, adopted by the Internet Corporation of Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) on August 26, 1999 ("Policy"), the Rules for Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy, approved by ICANN on October 24, 1999 ("Rules"), and the WIPO Supplemental Rules for Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy (Supplemental Rules).
The complaint was filed in compliance with the requirements of the Rules and the Supplemental Rules, payment was properly made, the administrative panel was properly constituted, and the panelists submitted the required Statements of Acceptance and Declarations of Impartiality and Independence.
The instant Administrative Proceeding was commenced on April 28, 2000. Respondent’s response was due on or before May 18, 2000.
Respondent failed to file a response to the complaint and a "Notification of Respondent’s Default," dated May 31, 2000, was forwarded by WIPO to Respondent.
The decision of the Panel was due to WIPO on or before July 6, 2000.
The Panel notes that, while the parties have engaged in settlement negotiations, to date, the dispute has not been resolved. ("Complainant and Respondents have an agreement in principle to resolve this dispute, but such an agreement has not yet been finalized. As such, complainant … does NOT consider this dispute to be completely resolved at the present time, and is NOT yet prepared to withdraw its complaint from WIPO.") See May 18, 2000 e-mail message from Complainant to WIPO.)
4. Factual Background
Complainant owns U.S. Service Mark Registration No. 1,814,158 for the mark REPUBLICANS FOR CHOICE, as used in connection with "promoting human reproductive freedom by letter writing, talks to groups, petitioning and lobbying government officials and agencies, and testifying at legislative hearings." The registration issued on December 28, 1993, and is now incontestable. The mark was first used by Complainant in connection with the above-recited services in July 1981. See Annex D to Complainant’s Index of Documentary and Other Evidence.
According to the complaint, Complainant uses the mark REPUBLICANS FOR CHOICE in connection with its program Republicans for Choice (the "Program"). Program participants and staff have, for years, worked with hundreds of Republicans constituents, voters and elected officials across the U.S., spanning the legislative and executive branches of all levels of government. Through Complainant’s local chapters, hundreds of thousands of U.S. voters have had exposure to the mark and the Program in 45 cities, through local organizations, meetings, fundraisers, and other activities targeted toward Republican voters.
The Program and the mark have been promoted over the years through mailings, brochures, newspaper ads, and electronic mail.
As noted above, Respondent Constituent Service registered the domain name "republicansforchoice.org" on or about September 13, 1999. This is but one of about 1,100 politically related domain names that Respondent has registered. These domain names span the political spectrum. See Annex C for complete list of domain names.
It is apparently Respondents’ intent to charge Complainant and others a $19.95 monthly license fee to be able to supply content under the domain names and to share with Complainant and others advertising revenue. See Piplin Declaration, Annexes J & K. In various e-mail communications, Respondent Wolin has boasted as follows:
You do understand we are building this vehicle that will forever straddle a huge and growing open spigot, unless we ever go to a system of publicly financed campaigns (not likely any time soon)?
I understand, completely, just how awesome the sums are, and will be. The sums we may yet make are truly staggering. Not even Bill Gates has what I have, with such an open spigot.
See Pipkin Declaration, Annex K.
It further appears that Respondent does not operate an active Web site under the domain name in dispute. As of March 3, 2000, the site billed itself as "under construction," and, as of April 6, 2000, the site was completely blank, stating that it was "coming soon," presumably on May 8, 2000. See Paul Declaration, Annex H.
5. Parties’ Contentions
Based on the above unrebutted factual contentions, Complainant contends that it should prevail because: (1) the domain name in dispute is identical to a service mark in which it has rights; (2) Respondent has no rights or legitimate interests in respect of the domain name; and (3) the domain name was registered and is being used in bad faith.
While Respondent did not file a response to the complaint, in an e-mail dated June 22, 2000, Respondent Wolin communicated with WIPO as follows:
I do NOT dispute Planned Parenthood is entitled to have that url. Quite frankly, I NEVER HAVE. As far as I’m concerned, there is no contest here. They can take the name.
6. Discussion and Findings
The Panel determines that Complainant has established all of the elements required under paragraph 4 a. of the Policy.
There is no question that the domain name "republicansforchoice.org" is legally identical to the service mark REPUBLICANS FOR CHOICE. The term "org" has no trademark significance. It is also clear, as a result of Complainant’s long use of the mark and the existence of its U.S. registration, that Complainant has rights in the mark.
The evidence also demonstrates that Respondents have no rights or legitimate interests in the domain name in dispute. Respondents are in no way affiliated with Complainant or the Program and never sought nor obtained the consent of the Complainant to register the domain name. Further, as noted above, Respondents do not operate an active Web site under the "republicansforchoice.org" domain name. The Panel also determines that none of the other circumstances set forth in paragraph 4. c. of the Policy is applicable.
Finally, the evidence is clear that Respondents registered the domain name and are using it in bad faith. As Complainant argues, and as the Panel finds, Respondents have registered the domain name in dispute and others "as part of a grand scheme to create a mega-site that will dominate all political traffic and thereby make money on the Internet. … Complainant and others have incentive to pay the ransom, because Internet traffic looking for Complainant and others will be diverted to Respondent’s site, and thus have no other way to view Complainant and others’ content."
The Panel determines that Respondents’ plan to charge a monthly fee to permit Complainant (and perhaps others) to provide content to the various Web sites whose domain names are owned by Respondent demonstrates bad faith, within the meaning of paragraph 4. b. (i) of the Policy. The evidence further supports the existence of circumstances that fall within the meaning of paragraphs 4. b. (ii) and (iv) of the Policy. That is, Respondents have engaged in a course of conduct designed to prevent Complainant and other trademark owners from reflecting their marks in a corresponding domain name and have intentionally attempted to attract, for commercial gain, Internet users to its Web site by creating a likelihood of confusion with Complainant’s mark as to the source, sponsorship, affiliation, or endorsement of the site.
7. Panel Decision
In view of the above, the Panel orders that the domain name "republicansforchoice.org" be transferred to Complainant.
Jeffrey M. Samuels
Sally M Abel Thomas D. Halket
Dated: July 7, 2000