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WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center
ADMINISTRATIVE PANEL DECISION
PRL USA Holdings, Inc. v. Randy Holmes
Case No. D2001-1268
1. The Parties
The Complainant is PRL USA Holdings, Inc. ("PRL"), 103 Foulk Road, Suite 254, Wilmington, DE 19803 USA. PRL is the owner of the RALPH LAUREN and RALPH LAUREN-formative trademarks.
The Respondent is Randy Holmes, 600 Onyx Court, Fayetteville, NC 28311 USA. Holmes is the owner of record of the disputed domain name <askralphlauren.com>.
2. The Domain Name and Registrar
The disputed domain name is <askralphlauren.com>, which was registered by Holmes on June 21, 2001, with Melbourne IT, Ltd., d/b/a/ Internet Names Worldwide, Level 2 120 Kings Street, Melbourne VIC 3000 Australia.
3. Procedural History
A hard copy of the complaint was filed on October 19, 2001, with the WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center ("Center"). The Center completed its formal requirements compliance checklist on October 26, 2001, and concluded that the complaint met all requirements, and that payment had been made properly. This Panel agrees with the Center’s assessment that the complaint complies with the formal requirements of the Rules and Supplemental Rules. The Notification of Complaint and Commencement of Administrative Proceeding was sent on October 29, 2001. Holmes did not respond. On November 19, 2001, the Center sent the Notification of Respondent Default. Following her submission of a Statement of Acceptance and Declaration of Impartiality and Independence, on November 29, 2001, Sandra A. Sellers was appointed the sole panelist. The decision was scheduled to be issued December 13, 2001.
4. Factual Background
PRL is the owner of many US registrations for RALPH LAUREN and RALPH LAUREN-formative trademarks, which were registered between 1974 and 1997. Copies of the Certificates of Registration were annexed to the Complaint.
Ralph Lauren is a living individual who consents to use of his name by PRL. Mr. Lauren is a famous fashion designer who has won numerous awards. According to decisions issued by various US federal courts, appended to the Complaint, the fame of the RALPH LAUREN trademarks has long been recognized.
For over a year, PRL’s web site has contained a section entitled "Ask Ralph." Approximately 150,000 visitors per month visit the "Ask Ralph" section.
On June 21, 2001, approximately seven months after the "Ask Ralph" section became available on PRL’s website, Holmes registered the contested domain name <askralphlauren.com>.
On July 6, 2001, PRL’s counsel advised Holmes that his use of the <askralphlauren.com> domain name infringed PRL’s trademark rights, and asked that Holmes withdraw his registration.
On July 12, 2001, Holmes responded. His letter stated, "I chose this domain name with the intentions to sale [sic] the name – preferably to Ralph Lauren. … If your company refuses to purchase the domain, I will not use it for sale of any product; but I shall keep the domain name for myself, because it is mine."
On July 24, 2001, PRL’s counsel rejected Holmes’ offer to sell the domain name and demanded immediate withdrawal of the registration or transfer to PRL. Holmes did not respond to this letter.
5. Parties’ Contentions
PRL contends that the contested domain name, <askralphlauren.com>, is confusingly similar to the US registered RALPH LAUREN and RALPH LAUREN-formative trademarks and service marks, as well as the common law ASK RALPH mark used by PRL on its website, particularly because the RALPH LAUREN marks are famous. PRL also contends that Holmes has no rights to the RALPH LAUREN marks, and does not do business and is not commonly known by any name that includes RALPH LAUREN. Finally, PRL contends that Holmes registered and is using the contested domain name in bad faith, particularly due to the timing of the domain name registration and Holmes’ admission that he chose the domain name with the intention of selling it to Ralph Lauren.
Respondent Holmes has not challenged PRL’s contentions.
6. Discussion and Findings
Under Paragraph 4(a) of the Policy, the Complainant has the burden of proving each of the following: (1) that the domain name is identical or confusingly similar to the complainant’s mark; (2) that the Respondent has no rights or legitimate interests in the domain name; and (3) that the Respondent registered and is using the domain name in bad faith.
This appears to be a classic case of cybersquatting. Respondent Holmes presumably is aware of the famous RALPH LAUREN and RALPH LAUREN-formulative US registered marks. Holmes registered a domain name that contains PRL’s famous registered marks, and contains the primary elements of PRL’s "Ask Ralph" common law mark, which has been in use by PRL since November 2000. Respondent has not used the domain name since registering it in June 2001, and appears to have no other legitimate interest in the domain name. Most incriminatingly, Holmes admitted that he registered the domain name solely for the purpose of selling it – preferably to Ralph Lauren. Holmes has had an opportunity to respond to and disprove these contentions, but has failed to do so.
Accordingly, under Paragraph 4(a) of the Policy and 15 of the Rules, this Panel finds that Complainant PRL has proven that:
1) the domain name registered by the respondent is identical or confusingly similar to trade and service marks in which the complainant has rights; and
2) the respondent has no legitimate interests in respect of the domain name; and
3) the domain name has been registered and used in bad faith.
This Panel finds that the Complainant has met all the requirements of the Policy. For the reasons set forth above, Complainant’s request to transfer the domain name <askralphlauren.com> to Complainant is granted.
Sandra A. Sellers
Dated: December 13, 2001