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WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center
ADMINISTRATIVE PANEL DECISION
Ravalgaon Sugar Farms Ltd v Srinivasa Raju Manthena
Case No. D2001-1339
1. The Parties
The Complainant is Ravalgaon Sugar Farms, a company incorporated in India with its registered office at Ravalgoan-423 108, Taluka Malegoan, District Nasik, Maharashtra, India.
The Complainant is represented by Mr. Y.P. Dandiwala of Messrs Mulla & Mulla & Craigie Blunt & Caroe, Mulla House, 51 Mahatma Gandhi Road, Mumbai, India, 400 001.
The Respondent is Srinivasa Raju Manthena, 1901 Halford Ave #77 Santa Clara, CA 95051, United States of America.
2. The Domain Name and Registrar
The Disputed Domain Names are <ravalgaon.net> and <ravalgaon.com>.
The registrar of <ravalgaon.net> is Register.com, Inc., 11th Floor, 575 8th Avenue, New York, New York 100/8, United States of America. The registrar of <ravalgaon.com> is eNom, Inc., Suite #100, 16771 NE 80th Street, Redmond, Washington, 98052, United States of America.
3. Procedural History
The WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center ("the WIPO Center") received the Complaint by email on November 9, 2001, and in hard copy form on November 13, 2001. The WIPO Center issued an Acknowledgement of Receipt of Complaint on November 15, 2001. On December 6, 2001, the WIPO Center verified that the Complaint satisfies the formal requirements of the Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy ("the Policy"), WIPO’s Rules for Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy ("the Rules") and that payment was properly made. The Administrative Panel ("the Panel") is satisfied that this is the case.
The Complaint was properly filed and notified in accordance with paragraph 2(a) of the Rules.
On November 19, 2001, the registrar of <ravalgaon.net> verified that <ravalgaon.net> is registered through Register.com, Inc., and that Srinivasa Manthena is the current Registrant and Administrative Contact. The registrar of <ravalgaon.net> indicated that the Policy applies to <ravalgaon.net> and that the <ravalgaon.net> domain name is active. The Respondent has not requested that <ravalgaon.net> be deleted from the domain name database nor sought to terminate this agreement with the registrar. The Respondent is therefore bound by the provisions of the Policy.
The registrar of <ravalgaon.net> also noted that the <ravalgaon.com> domain name expired on February 26, 2001, and is now registered with another registrar, eNom, Inc.
The WIPO Center notified the Respondent of the Complaint by email, fax and courier on December 6, 2001, in the usual manner, and informed the Respondent that the deadline for sending its Response to the Complainants and to the WIPO Center was December 26, 2001.
There was no response from the Respondent and on December 28, 2001, the WIPO Center sent to the Respondent a Notification of Respondent Default.
The undersigned Panelist was contacted by the WIPO Center on January 15, 2002, and submitted a Statement of Acceptance and Declaration of Impartiality and Independence to the WIPO Center on January 16, 2002. The Panelist finds that the Panel was properly constituted in accordance with the Rules.
No further submissions were received by the WIPO Center or the Panelist and the extended date for the issuance of the Panel’s Decision was February 11, 2002.
4. Common Complaint
The Complaint as filed was in respect of two domain names namely <ravalgaon.com> and <ravalgaon.net>.
The registrant of the <ravalgaon.net> domain name is the Respondent, Srinivasa Raju Manthena. The registrar is Register.Com, Inc., with the email address <firstname.lastname@example.org>.
The registrant of the <ravalgaon.com> domain name is listed as AA, London, 111111, Great Britain with the email address <email@example.com>. The details of the registrant are obscure. The registrar is eNom, Inc, with the email address: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Rule 3(c) of the Rules provides that a complaint may relate to more than one domain name provided the domain names are registered by the same domain name holder.
There is no indication that this is the case here. The contact details of the two registrants are different. They are also registered with different Registrars. The Complainant has adduced no evidence that the Respondent is also the registrant of the <ravalgaon.com> domain name, the Panel has also found that the <ravalgaon.com> website is inactive.
The situation here is distinguished from that in the case of CSA International v. John O. Shannon and Care Tech Industries, Inc. Case D2000-0071, where the record showed that the personal Respondent John O. Shannon was President, Chief Executive Officer and Principal Shareholder of the corporate Respondent. In that case, this Panel was prepared to look beyond the corporate veil the corporate Respondent and determined the matter on the basis that the domain names were registered by the same domain name holder.
On the face of the record, there is no such relationship here. The Panel is therefore of the opinion that the provisions of Rule 3(c) cannot be applied. In addition,
The Panel therefore proceeds to determine only the matter of the domain name <ravalgaon.net> and the Respondent, Srinivasa Raju Manthena.
5. Factual Background
The Complainant is a company incorporated under the laws of India. The Complainant states that its corporate title is ‘a rare patronymic name’ adopted by the company in 1933.
The Complainant states that it manufactures sugar and confectionary items. The Complainant also states that it is a household name in India and that it exports its goods to Europe and the Middle East.
The Complainant is the registered proprietor of the trademark "RAVALGAON" in India and Great Britain. These trademarks were registered before the Respondent became the registered proprietor of the Disputed Domain Name on February 26, 2000.
The Respondent is one Srinivasa Raju Manthena. The Respondent is also the Administrative Contact for <ravalgaon.net> with the email address <email@example.com>. The Technical Contact and Zone Contact for <ravalgaon.net> is Register.Com, Inc., with the email address <firstname.lastname@example.org>.
6. Parties’ Contentions
The Complainant contends that it has acquired substantial reputation and goodwill in the trademark ‘RAVALGAON’. The Complainant further submits that the Disputed Domain Name is identical and/or confusingly similar to their trademark and corporate name. As such, the Complainant contends that the relevant Internet-using public might reasonably associate the disputed Domain Name with the Complainant.
Additionally, the Complainant contends that the Respondent has no rights or legitimate interests in respect of the Disputed Domain Name and believes that the Disputed Domain Name were registered ‘in bad faith’.
The Respondent has not filed a Response within the time limit prescribed by the WIPO Center.
6. Applicable Dispute
The Policy applies to this dispute. By registering <ravalgaon.net>, the Respondent accepts the dispute resolution policy adopted by the registrar of that domain name.
7. Discussion and Findings
Paragraph 4(a) of the Policy directs that the Complainant must prove each of the following:
1) That the domain name registered by the Respondent is identical or confusingly similar to a service mark or trademark in which the Complainant has rights; and
2) That the Respondent has no legitimate rights or interests in respect of the domain name; and
3) That the domain name has been registered and is being used in bad faith.
Identical or Confusing Similarity
The submissions made by the Complainant demonstrate that the Complainant has rights in the trademark "RAVALGAON" within the meaning of subparagraph 4(a)(i) of the Policy.
The Complainant’s ownership of the "RAVALGAON" trademarks and its extensive trading in connection with those marks supports the contention of the Complainant that the relevant Internet-using public would be likely to be confused by the use of the word ‘Ravalgaon’ in the Disputed Domain Name.
The Panel therefore finds that the Disputed Domain Name are identical or confusingly similar to a trademark in which the Complainant has rights.
Rights or Legitimate Interests of the Respondent
Paragraph 4(c) of the Policy stipulates how a Respondent can effectively demonstrate rights or interests in a disputed domain name:
"Any of the following circumstances, in particular but without limitation, if found by the Panel to be proved based on its evaluation of all evidence presented, shall demonstrate your rights or legitimate interests to the domain name for purposes of Paragraph 4(a)(ii):
(i) before any notice to you of the dispute, your use of, or demonstrable preparations to use, the domain name or a name corresponding to the domain name in connection with a bona fide offering of goods or services; or
(ii) you (as an individual, business or other organization) have been commonly known by the domain name, even if you have acquired no trademark or service mark rights; or
(iii) you are making a legitimate non-commercial or fair use of the domain name, without intent for commercial gain to misleadingly divert consumers or to tarnish the trademark or service mark at issue."
The <ravalgaon.net> website resolves to a generic page. This fact, when combined with the absence of any submissions by the Respondent to the contrary, indicates that the Respondent does not have any rights or legitimate interests in the <ravalgaon.net> domain name within the ambit of subparagraph 4(c)(i). There is also no evidence before the Panel to suggest that the Respondent is ‘commonly known by the domain name’ pursuant to subparagraph 4(c)(ii). Finally, the lack of any meaningful use of the <ravalgaon.net> domain name compels the Panel to find that the Respondent is not making a ‘legitimate non-commercial or fair use’ of the Disputed Domain Name. As such, the Panel finds that the Complainant has successfully established that the Respondent does not have any rights or legitimate interests in respect of <ravalgaon.net>.
Under paragraph 4(b) of the Policy, the following circumstances, in particular but without limitation, shall be considered evidence of the registration and use of a domain name in bad faith:
(i) circumstances indicating that you have registered or you have acquired the domain name primarily for the purpose of selling, renting or otherwise transferring the domain name registration to the complainant who is the owner of the trademark or service mark or to a competitor of that complainant, for valuable consideration in excess of your documented out-of-pocket costs related to the domain name; or
(ii) you have registered the domain name in order to prevent the owner of the trademark or service mark from reflecting the mark in a corresponding domain name, provided that you have engaged in a pattern of such conduct; or
(iii) you have registered the domain name primarily for the purpose of disrupting the business of a competitor; or
(iv) by using the domain name, you have intentionally attempted to attract, for commercial gain, Internet users to your website or other on-line location, by creating a likelihood of confusion with the complainant’s mark as to the source, sponsorship, affiliation or endorsement of your website or location or of a product or service on your website.
The Panel in Telstra Corporation Limited v Nuclear Marshmallows [WIPO case No. D2000-0003] held that a Complainant can only successfully establish ‘bad faith’ within the meaning of subparagraph 4(a)(iii) of the Policy by proving both registration and use of the domain name in bad faith.
The Complainant asserts that the inactivity of the Disputed Domain Name ‘implies mala fide intentions’ on the part of the Respondent. There is some authority for the proposition that the ‘passive holding’ of a domain name can, in certain circumstances, amount to the domain name being used in bad faith: Telstra v Nuclear Marshmallows. In that case, the Panel found that it was ‘not possible to conceive of any plausible actual or contemplated active use of the domain name by the Respondent that would not be illegitimate…’
In the instant case, the Panel has found that the Complainant has a strong reputation in India and Great Britain. The Respondent has not submitted any evidence of actual or contemplated use in good faith by it of the Disputed Domain Name. Nevertheless, to infer bad faith from this conduct is a leap that the Panel is not prepared to make.
At no stage has the Respondent sought to sell the Disputed Domain Name to the Complainant. There is also no evidence before the Panel to suggest that the Respondent has engaged in a pattern of conduct aimed at frustrating the efforts of trademark owners by preventing the reflection of the trademark in a domain name, or that the Complainant and the Respondent are competitors. Finally, the use to which the Respondent has put the <ravalgaon.net> website to date does not constitute an intentional attempt to attract Internet users to that website by creating a likelihood of confusion with the Complainant’s mark. Although the circumstances listed in paragraph 4(b) of the Policy are non-exhaustive, the Complainant has not put forward additional circumstances for the Panel’s consideration. Accordingly, the Panel finds that the Complainant has failed to establish that the Respondent registered the Disputed Domain Name in bad faith. Furthermore, the Panel finds that the Complainant has failed to establish that the Respondent has used the <ravalgaon.net> domain name in bad faith.
In light of the abovementioned findings, the Panel decides:
a) that the <ravalgaon.net> domain name is identical or confusingly similar to the "RAVALGAON" trademark in which the Complainant has rights;
b) that the Respondent has no rights or legitimate interests in respect of the Disputed Domain Name; and
c) that the Disputed Domain Name was not registered ‘in bad faith’ and has not been used thereafter ‘in bad faith’.
As such the Panel concludes that the Complainant has not established its case and dismisses the Complaint.
Dated: February 11, 2002