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WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center
ADMINISTRATIVE PANEL DECISION
Reuters Limited v. Stealth Commerce (a/k/a Telmex Management Services)
Case No: D2002-0223
1. The Parties
The Complainant is Reuters Limited, a corporation registered under the laws of England and Wales, with a registered office at 85 Fleet Street, London, United Kingdom.
According to the SAEGIS database, the Respondent is Stealth Commerce of Pasae Estate, Road Town, Tortola, Virgin Islands, BV1, which has been the registrant of the domain name in dispute since February 15, 2002. Prior to this date, the registrant was Telmex Management Services of the same address (Complaint, Exhibit A). It may be assumed that the two registrants are linked, or that they are even the same entity; for the purposes of the present proceeding, it is sufficient to note that the Respondent is Stealth Commerce.
2. The Domain Name and Registrar
The domain name in dispute is <reutersnewsagency.com> and is registered with DirectNIC, Intercosmos Media Group, Inc., 650 Poydras Street, New Orleans, Louisiana, United States of America.
3. Procedural History
3.1 The Complaint was made pursuant to the Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy adopted by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers ("ICANN") on August 26, 1999, ("the Policy"), in accordance with the Rules for Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy, also adopted by ICANN on October 24, 1999, ("the Rules"), and the WIPO Supplemental Rules for Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy (the "Supplemental Rules").
3.2 The Complaint was received by the WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center (the "Center") on March 6, 2002, (by email) and on March 11, 2002, (in hardcopy). Following verification of the registration of the domain name and other details with the Registrar (DirectNIC) on March 19, 2002, the Center completed its compliance checklist on March 21, 2002, and then notified the Respondent of the Complaint and the commencement of administrative proceedings, together with a copy of the Complaint, on the same day. An amended Notification of Complaint was then sent to the Respondent on March 25, 2002. These steps were in accordance with paragraph 2(a) of the Rules. In accordance with the Rules and Supplemental Rules, the Respondent was given until April 10, 2002, in which to file a Response.
3.3 On April 15, 2002, the Center issued a Notification of Respondent Default to the Respondent, stating that it had received no Response within the specified time, and that it would now proceed to the appointment of an Administrative Panel.
3.4 On April 24, 2002, the parties were notified of the appointment of the Administrative Panel to be composed of Staniforth Ricketson (as sole member) and the projected decision date of May 8, 2002.
3.5 In light of the above, the Panel finds that:
- The Complaint was filed in accordance with the requirements of the Rules and the WIPO Supplemental Rules.
- The Respondent was properly notified of the Complaint, in accordance with paragraph 2 of the Rules.
- The Panel was correctly constituted.
3.6 No communication has been received from the Respondent at any time during these proceedings, although the Panel would have been prepared to receive and consider such a communication up to the date of finalization of the decision. In the absence of any Response by the Respondent, the Panel now proceeds to determine the dispute on the basis of the Complaint under paragraph 5(e) of the Rules.
4. Factual Background
4.1 The Complainant is a leading international news and financial information services group and is also the "largest international news and television agency in the world, serving both traditional and new media" (Complaint, par 9). It is the owner of a large number of marks comprising the name "Reuters" on its own and in combination with other words or symbols, and has registrations for these marks in a large number of countries, including the USA, the UK, Canada, the European Union and Australia (a full list is provided in Complaint, Exhibit C). These are registered in a number of classes of goods and services, but principally in classes 16, 35, 36, 38 and 42. It is stated further in the Complaint (pars 11 and 12) that the "Reuters" trade mark has been extensively used by the Complainant on television and the Internet, in newspapers and in various other media, and that the Complainant has an "active presence on the Internet" based on the domain name "reuters.com" and a number of domain names incorporating the name "Reuters" (Complaint, part 13).
4.2 The Complainant states that, on October 15, 2002, Telmex Management Services, registered the domain name <reutersnewsagency.com> (Complaint, Exhibit A) and that the registration information in relation to this was changed on February 15, 2002, by changing the registration to Stealth Commerce. However, the mailing address provided by both Telmex and Stealth to the registrar of the domain name was identical (although the name of the administrative, technical and billing contact was changed), and the website associated with the domain name remained the same (Complaint, par 16). This domain name, in turn, directs traffic to a website at http://www.girlhire of which Telmex and Stealth have successively been registrants, this change having occurred on February 15, 2002, the date on which the registrant details for <reutersnewsagency.com> were changed (Complaint, exhibit F). Upon entering < reutersnewsagency.com> and then http://www.girlhire visitors view an image of a woman with the caption "it’s simple…we provide women". There is a list that indicates that the women advertised provide a variety of escort and temp services, ranging from those of an "executive lover", "escort", "fantasy maid", "secretary" and "wife". Various pictures and biographies are provided, which indicate that the services provided are not just conventional secretarial and office services: see generally, Complaint, par 19, and Exhibit G. There is evidence that the Respondent has also registered a number of other domain names incorporating well known trade marks, such as <theholidayinn.com> and <thequalityinn.com> which direct Internet users to other websites controlled by the Respondents that offer escort services and the like, similar to those offered at http://www.girlhire (se further Complaint, par 20 and Exhibit H).
4.3 On learning of the registration of <reutersnewsagency.com> by Telmex, the Complainant sent Telmex a letter and email on November 30, 2001, requiring the latter to transfer the domain name to it (Complaint, par 21, Exhibit I). There was no response to this letter and the domain name continued to be used to promote the escort service at http://www.girlhire. A further communication was sent by the Complainant on January 2, 2002, addressed to Mr. Antoinne Rousseau, the administrative contact, of Telmex (Exhhibit J). There was no response to this second communication, and the unopened letter was returned by Federal Express with the notation "Return to Shipper. Company say they do not take …document from this company anymore" (Complaint, Exhibit K). Subsequently, after the change of registration details from Telmex to Stealth, on February 20, 2002, the Complainant sent a further letter and email to Mr. Robert Thorp, the new administrative contact of Stealth Commerce, repeating the Complainant’s demand that the domain name be transferred to it (Complaint, Exhibit L). No reply to this communication was received, and the Complainant then initiated the present proceedings.
5. Parties’ Contentions
The Complainant seeks transfer to it of the disputed domain name <reutersnewsagency.com>. In support of such a contention, it is necessary for a Complainant under the UDRP to address each of the elements described in paragraph 4(a) of the Policy. In substance, the Complainant’s submissions on these points are as follows.
- With respect to the elements described in paragraph 4(a)(i), the Complainant has provided evidence of the wide number of registrations of the mark "Reuters" and various combinations including "Reuters" that it owns in many jurisdictions. These, then, are the marks in which it has "rights" for the purposes of paragraph 4(a)(i). As to whether the domain name <reutersnewsagency.com> is confusingly similar to the mark "Reuters", the Complainant points to the fact that the additional word "newsagency" in the domain name is directly descriptive of the Complainant’s business, and notes that there are a number of Panel decisions in which the addition of descriptive words of this kind to trade marks has been held to be confusingly identical: PRIMEDIA Magazine Finance Inc v Yelena M Wright, WIPO Case No. D2001-1007; National Hockey League and Lemieux Group Lp v Domain For Sale, WIPO Case No. D 2001-1185. The Complainant points also to the fame and distinctiveness of the "Reuters" mark, referring here to earlier Panel decisions involving Reuters: WIPO Cases Nos. D2000-1110; D2000-0471; and D2000-0441.
- With respect to the element described in paragraph 4(a)(ii), the Complainant argues that the Respondent has no rights or legitimate interests with respect to the domain name <reutersnewsagency.com>, noting here that the latter bears no relationship to the business operated by the Respondent, ie. the escort service at http://www.girlhire.
- With respect to paragraph 4(a)(iii), the Complainant alleges that the Respondent has shown bad faith in registering and using the domain name, falling within the circumstances referred to in both paragraphs 4(c)(ii) and (iv) of the Policy. In relation to paragraph 4(c)(ii), the Complainant alleges that the Respondent has demonstrated a pattern of cybersquatting behaviour because it has registered the domain name <reutersnewsagency.com> in order to prevent the Complainant from reflecting the mark in a corresponding domain name and that this has caused damage to the goodwill and reputation of the Complainant. In relation to paragraph 4(c)(iv), the Complainant alleges that the Respondent has caused confusion for the purposes of commercial gain by diverting Internet users to http://www.girlhire. Moreover, it appears to have engaged in a pattern of such conduct in relation to other domain names that incorporate well known trade marks through its registration and use of such domain names as <ahiltonhotel.com>, <themarriotthotel.com>, <planethollywoods.com>, <britishbroadcastingchannel.com>, <msnmessages.com>, <theholidayinn.com> and <thequalityinn.com> (Complaint, Exhibits D and H).
As noted above, the Respondent has not filed a Response to the Complaint. Under paragraph 5(e) of the Rules, it is provided that if a Respondent does not submit a Response, in the absence of exceptional circumstances, the Panel shall decide the dispute based on the Complaint. As no exceptional circumstances have been brought to the Panel’s attention, it proceeds to make the findings below on the basis of the material contained in the Complaint.
6. Discussion and Findings
In accordance with paragraph 4(a) of the Policy, the Complainant has the burden of demonstrating three elements. Each of these must be shown in turn.
6.1 That the Complainant has rights in a trade or service mark with which the Respondent’s domain name is identical or confusingly similar
On the face of the Complaint as filed, the Complainant has satisfied the various requirements of this paragraph. It has adduced evidence of an extensive list of national trade mark registrations comprising the name "Reuters" and various combinations containing that name. This is more than sufficient to show that it has "rights" in a trade or service mark, namely "Reuters", for the purposes of the inquiry under paragraph 4(a)(i).
As to whether the domain name <reutersnewsagency.com> is confusingly similar or identical to "Reuters", it is important to have regard to the dominant prefix of the domain name, which is "Reuters". It is also relevant to have regard to the descriptive words that follow that describe precisely the nature of the Complainant’s business, namely that of providing news agency services. This conjunction of purely descriptive words with the same name as the registered mark is sufficient to make the domain name confusingly similar to the mark, ie. people will wonder whether the domain name is linked to or controlled by the Complainant, rather than an unrelated third party. In this regard, the Complainant has referred to two earlier Panel decisions that involved similar kinds of usages, which the present Panel finds persuasive. Thus, in PRIMEDIA Magazine Finance Inc v Yelena M Wright, WIPO Case No. D2001-1007, where the Panel found that <teenbeatmagazine.com> and <tigerbeatmagazine.com> were confusingly similar to the marks "Teen Beat" and "Tiger Beat" because the word "magazine" served to "describe [ ] the product covered by the Complainant’s registrations". To similar effect is National Hockey League and Lemieux Group Lp v Domain For Sale, WIPO Case No. D2001-1185, where the addition of another word ("penguins") to the "NHL" trade mark was insufficient to avoid a finding that the domain name was confusingly similar. See also General Electric Company v. FORDDIRECT.COM, INC., WIPO Case No. D2000-0394.
In the present case, a finding of confusing similarity is also assisted by the fame attaching to the "Reuter’s" mark in relation to news agency services. The Complainant has not adduced specific evidence of the fame of its mark, apart from general assertions that this is so. On the other hand, it does refer to previous Panel decisions involving the Complainant where Panels have commented on the fame attaching to the "Reuters" mark in relation to news services: WIPO Cases Nos. D2000-1110; D2000-0471; and D2000-0441. Accordingly, the present Panel is prepared to accept that the "Reuters" mark is so well known in relation to news agency services that the conjunction of the words "reuters’" and "newsagency" in the disputed domain name leads inexorably to the conclusion that it is confusingly similar to the Complainant’s mark.
6.2 That the Respondents must be shown to have no rights or legitimate interests in the Domain Name
Paragraph 4(c) of the Policy sets out certain matters to which a Respondent can point as demonstrating rights or legitimate interests in a disputed domain name for the purposes of paragraph 4(a)(ii). These include:
"(i) before any notice to you [the Respondent] 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 organisation) 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 noncommercial 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."
In the present proceeding, there is no evidence that the Respondent has used the domain name <reutersnewsagency.com> in connection with any bona fide offering of goods and services under that name (subpara (i)). In this regard, if the Respondent were to have any basis to claim rights or legitimate interests in the domain name, it could be expected that it would offer services or goods that match the services referred to in the domain name, namely newsagency services. As noted above, however, the opposite is the case here: Internet users are diverted to a website that has nothing whatsoever to do with newsagency services. It can therefore be said that there is no bona fide offering of services under the domain name. Nor is there any evidence of "demonstrable preparations" to use the domain name in that way (subpara (i)), while it is clear that there has been no licence or authorization given by the Complainant to the Respondent to use the name or mark "Reuters" in the way that has actually occurred.
Likewise, there is no evidence before the Panel that indicates that the Respondent has ever carried on a business under the name "Reuters" or any variant of this expression, or that it has been commonly known by that name (subparagraph (ii)). Indeed, it seems clear that the domain name is used simply as a means of diverting Internet users to view other sites that appear to be controlled by, or associated with, the Respondent.
Finally, there is no evidence before the Panel that indicates whether any of the factors referred to in subparagraph (iii) are applicable.
The matters referred to in paragraph 4(c) are not an exhaustive statement of what may constitute rights or legitimate interests in a domain name, and it is therefore open to a Respondent to point to other evidence that may show this. In the present proceeding, there has been no Response or evidence presented by the Respondent, and the Panel, under Paragraph 14(b) of the Rules, is entitled to draw from such default such inferences as it considers appropriate. The Panel therefore concludes that the Complainant has established this element of Paragraph 4(a) of the Policy, namely that the Respondent has no rights or legitimate interests in the disputed domain name.
6.3 That the Respondent registered and is using the Domain Name in bad faith
Paragraph 4(b) of the Policy lists certain factors which, if found by the Panel to be present, shall be evidence of registration and use of a domain name in bad faith. This is not an exclusive list, and includes:
"(i) circumstances indicating that you [the Respondent] 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 directly 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 web site 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 web site or location or of a product or service on your web site or location."
It will be noted that, under paragraph 4(a)(iii) of the Policy, both registration and use of the domain name in bad faith are required. Of the factors listed in paragraph 4(b) above, (i)-(iii) relate specifically to registration (and acquisition) of the name, while (iv) relates to use following registration. However, in view of the fact that these factors are stated to be inclusive, it follows that there can be other factors that can be relied upon to point to bad faith, both in registration and in use. In this regard, it is worth noting an early decision of an Administrative Panel to the effect that registration in bad faith followed by a passive holding of a domain name when there is no way in which it could be used legitimately can amount to use in bad faith: Telstra Corporation Ltd v Nuclear Marshmallows WIPO Case No. D 2000-0003. In addition, it would be both mistaken and artificial to confine paragraphs (i)-(iii) solely to the time of registration: presumably, it would also be a use of a disputed domain name in bad faith to do so, after registration, with one of the purposes outlined in those paragraphs. Support for this view is to be found in several Panel decisions: see, for example, Estee Lauder Inc v estelauder.com, estelauder.net and Jeff Hanna, WIPO Case No. D2000-0869 and E & J Gallo Winery v Hanna Law Firm, WIPO Case No. D2000-0615.
In the present proceeding, the Complainant raises a number of matters that go to the questions of registration and use in bad faith under paragraph 4(a) (iii) of the Policy, namely the factors referred to in paragraph 4(b)(ii) and (iv). These matters can be dealt with briefly:
Pattern of conduct: paragraph 4(b)(ii)
The Complainant has produced evidence of multiple registrations by the Respondent of domain names that are based on other well known marks: see Complaint, Exhibits D and H. Accordingly, it is open to the Panel to conclude that the requirements of this sub-paragraph are met, namely that the Respondent has registered the domain name <reutersnewsagency> in order to prevent the Complainant, as the owner of the "Reuters" mark from reflecting the mark in a corresponding domain name. In the absence of any submissions from the Respondent, it is open to the Panel to conclude that there is sufficient evidence presented here to establish a pattern of conduct of the kind described in paragraph 4(b)(ii) of the Policy. See further WIPO Case No. D2000-0370.
Likelihood of confusion: paragraph 4(b)(iv)
In the absence of any submissions by the Respondent, the Panel also accepts the contention of the Complainant that the Respondent’s registration and use of the domain name <reutersnewsagency.com> was done intentionally for the purposes of attracting, for commercial gain, Internet users to another website controlled by the Respondent by creating a likelihood of confusion with the complainant’s mark as to the source, sponsorship, affiliation, or endorsement of that web site or location. In this regard, the Panel notes that the http://www.girlhire website is clearly conducted for profit, and it seems difficult to escape the inference that the registration and use of the domain name <reutersnewsagency> was intended to represent that there was a link or connection between the Complainant and the website to which Internet users were directed. Obviously, by the time that Internet users arrived at http://www.girlhire, it would be clear that there was no such connection, but it is equally clear that such persons would be brought to that website in the first place because they would be under the impression that the domain name was linked to or associated with the Complainant.
Conclusions on bad faith
In the light of the above, the Panel concludes that the domain name was registered and used by the Respondent in bad faith.
The Panel finds that the Complainant has established its case with respect to each of the elements stated in paragraph 4(a) of the Policy in relation to the domain name that is the subject of this Complaint.
The Administrative Panel accordingly directs that the registration of the domain name <reutersnewsagency.com> should be transferred to the Complainant.
Dated: May 8, 2002