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WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center
ADMINISTRATIVE PANEL DECISION
Pierce Brosnan v. Network Operations Center
Case No. D2003-0519
1. The Parties
The Complainant is Pierce Brosnan, c/o Flekman, Baren & Company, Beverly Hills, California, United States of America, represented by Arnold & Porter, United States of America.
The Respondent is Network Operations Center, Alberta Hot Rods, High Prairie, Canada.
2. The Domain Name and Registrar
The disputed domain name <piercebrosnan.com> (the "Domain Name") is registered with CORE Internet Council of Registrars.
3. Procedural History
The Complaint was filed with the WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center (the "Center") on July 1, 2003. On July 1, 2003, the Center transmitted by email to CORE Internet Council of Registrars a request for registrar verification in connection with the domain name at issue. On July 8, 2003, CORE Internet Council of Registrars transmitted by email to the Center its verification response confirming that the Respondent is listed as the registrant and providing the contact details for the administrative, billing, and technical contact. The Center verified that the Complaint satisfied the formal requirements of the Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy (the "Policy" or "UDRP"), the Rules for Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy (the "Rules"), and the WIPO Supplemental Rules for Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy (the "Supplemental Rules").
In accordance with the Rules, paragraphs 2(a) and 4(a), the Center formally notified the Respondent of the Complaint, and the proceedings commenced on July 9, 2003. In accordance with the Rules, paragraph 5(a), the due date for Response was July 29, 2003. The Respondent did not submit any Response. Accordingly, the Center notified the Respondent’s default on July 30, 2003.
The Center appointed Dawn Osborne as the sole panelist in this matter on August 13, 2003. The Panel finds that it was properly constituted. The Panel has submitted the Statement of Acceptance and Declaration of Impartiality and Independence, as required by the Center to ensure compliance with the Rules, paragraph 7.
4. Factual Background
The Complainant is an internationally famous actor and producer.
The Respondent registered the domain name <piercebrosnan.com> and has redirected it to a commercial website "www.celebrity1000.com".
5. Parties’ Contentions
The Complainant’s contentions can be summarized as follows:
(1) The Complainant is an internationally famous film and television actor. Since the late 1970s Mr. Brosnan has appeared in over 50 motion pictures, television series and television programmes including playing the role of James Bond in the popular film series based on the character created by novelist Ian Fleming. Films in which the Complainant has appeared have generated box office sales of over $1 billion in the US alone. In addition to acting, the Complainant has also produced several motion pictures. The Complainant starred in the long-running television series Remington Steele as well as other television series. He is frequently featured in celebrity news and entertainment publications and television news and entertainment programmes. He is also actively involved in the promotion of various charitable causes.
(2) By reason of the foregoing, the Complainant has become famous throughout the world and the name "Pierce Brosnan" has acquired secondary meaning. As a result, the public associates the Complainant’s services as an actor and producer with the name "Pierce Brosnan". The Complainant therefore has acquired common law trademark rights in his name and qualifies for protection under the UDRP.
(3) The Respondent has registered the Domain Name and is using it to divert traffic to a commercial website at "www.celebrity1000.com". This site purports to be the "Ultimate Entertainment Source" and offers biographical information regarding some actors. The website, however, contains no information about the Complainant. The website also contains banner advertisements, links to online retailers and uses the services of Engage "for serving and/or targeting of ads, promotions and other marketing messages," all of which presumably generate revenue for the Respondent.
(4) Following discovery of the Respondent’s registration and use of the Domain Name, the Complainant’s attorney, Sol Rosenthal, sent a letter to the Respondent notifying the Respondent that its use of the Domain Name infringed the Complainant’s rights and requesting that the Respondent transfer the Domain Name to the Complainant. No response was received.
(5) Network Operations Center is a pseudonym for the infamous cybersquatter
Jeff Burgar. Mr. Burgar, doing business as "Alberta Hot Rods"
and the "Stefanie Seymour Club", has engaged in a practice of
registering domain names comprised of celebrities’ names. The Respondent’s conduct
constitutes a pattern of conduct intended to capitalize on the goodwill associated
with others’ fame for its own illegitimate purposes, namely to drive Internet
traffic to a commercial website owned or affiliated with the Respondent or from
which the Respondent receives monetary payment as a result of the Internet traffic
brought to such websites by his illegal activities. In a prior UDRP proceeding
against Mr. Burgar, the panel noted that "it has been clearly demonstrated,
partly through Respondent’s admissions, that he obtained a succession of <celebrity.com>
domain names and this gives rise to an evident pattern of conduct in which he
stockpiled similar registrations." Celine Dion v. Jeff Burgar WIPO
Case No. D2000-1838 (February 13, 2001) at 3.
(6) Multiple proceedings under the UDRP have been successfully prosecuted against Mr. Burgar, doing business under one of his multiple aliases, by celebrities who have obtained transfer or cancellation of domain names registered and used in bad faith by Mr. Burgar, including proceedings involving Kevin Spacey, Michael Andretti, Stephanie Seymour and Dr. Michael Crichton.
(7) The Domain Name is identical or confusingly similar to the Complainant’s PIERCE BROSNAN name, the ".com" part of the name to be disregarded for these purposes.
(8) Prior UDRP panels have recognized that Internet users expect to find a
celebrity on the Internet at a domain name address comprised of the celebrity’s
name. See Dr. Michael Crichton v Alberta Hot Rods WIPO
Case No. D2002-0872 (November 25, 2002). The Respondent is taking
advantage of such Internet user patterns for his own commercial advantage. It
is likely that Internet users seeking the Complainant’s official site will type
the Domain Name into their browsers and be frustrated and confused when they
do not reach their goal. The Respondent’s registration and use of the infringing
Domain Name is highly likely to cause confusion as to the source or sponsorship
of the Respondent’s website and possibly mislead the public into thinking that
the Complainant supports, endorses or is affiliated with the Respondent’s "www.celebrity1000.com"
(9) The Respondent has no legitimate interest in the infringing Domain Name. The Respondent has no connection or affiliation with the Complainant and has not received any licence, authorization, or consent express or implied to use the PIERCE BROSNAN name in a domain name or in any other manner. The Respondent does not offer any goods or services relating to the Complainant. No information regarding the Complainant is available on the Respondent’s commercial "www.celebrity1000.com" website. The Respondent has never been known by the name PIERCE BROSNAN or the Domain Name. Prior UDRP panels have held that the Respondent’s "www.celebrity1000.com" website portal "evidences no bona fide offering of goods and services whatsoever and does nothing but misappropriate Complainant’s website in order to lure Internet users to Respondent’s commercial site." Stephanie Seymour v Jeff Burgar NAF Case No. FA97112 (May 29, 2001).
(10) Respondent’s well-documented practice of registering domain names comprised
of celebrities’ names demonstrates his bad faith in registering the Domain Name.
In other UDRP proceedings the Respondent has admitted to "incorporating
the names of famous performers into domain names ... in 75 cases" Celine
Dion v. Jeff Burgar WIPO Case No. D2000-1838 (February 13, 2001)
at 6. Respondent’s entire business is based on registration of countless domain
names consisting or comprised of celebrity names for the purpose of driving
Internet traffic to Respondent’s website. This practice "prevented the
celebrities concerned from securing the straightforward ".com" registration
for their name as correctly spelled. They, therefore, could not reflect their
mark in the particular corresponding domain name. Such conduct falls within
the form of bad faith identified in the UDRP, paragraph 4(b)(ii)" Celine
Dion v. Jeff Burgar WIPO Case No. D2000-1838 (February 13, 2001)
at 6. Given his pattern of conduct, Respondent’s bad faith in registering the
Domain Name is irrefutable.
(11) Respondent has clearly used the Domain Name in bad faith. Respondent uses the Domain Name to divert Internet traffic to a commercial website. Respondent’s same conduct with respect to other celebrity domain names has been held by prior UDRP panels to constitute bad faith use, e.g. Kevin Spacey v. Alberta Hot Rods NAF Case No. FA114437.
(12) The mere fact of diversion, regardless of the content of Respondent’s website, is evidence of bad faith use of a domain name. Prior UDRP panels have found that this sort of activity using a domain name comprised of a well-known trademark to attract users to the registrant’s website constitutes bad faith use of the domain name. Big Dog Holding Inc. v Frank Day NAF Case No. FA93554 (March 9, 2000).
(13) Even if Respondent had not used the Domain Name to divert Internet users to an active website, his actions still would constitute registration and use in bad faith. Respondent must have expected that any use of the Domain Name would cause harm to the Complainant. The Domain Name is so obviously indicative of the Complainant’s services as an actor and producer that the Respondent’s use of the Domain Name would inevitably lead to confusion of some sort.
(14) Finally, Respondent has refused to respond to the Complainant’s cease and desist letter. Respondent’s deliberate silence is further evidence of his bad faith use of this Domain Name.
The Respondent did not reply to the Complainant’s contentions.
6. Discussion and Findings
According to paragraph 4(a) of the Policy, the Complainant must prove that:
(i) The Domain Name is identical or confusingly similar to a trademark or service mark in which the Complainant has rights; and
(ii) The 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.
A. Identical or Confusingly Similar
(1) Complainant’s Rights
The Complainant is an internationally famous actor and producer with a significant reputation and goodwill in the name PIERCE BROSNAN for entertainment services. Accordingly, the Complainant has demonstrated rights in the unregistered trademark PIERCE BROSNAN.
(2) Identical or confusing similarity
The Domain Name is identical to the Complainant’s PIERCE BROSNAN mark, save for the ".com" generic top-level domain which does not serve to distinguish the Domain Name from the Complainant’s trademark. The Domain Name is virtually identical and confusingly similar to the Complainant’s trademark.
B. Rights or Legitimate Interests
The Respondent has not filed a Response to the Complaint and so has not made any representations concerning any rights or a legitimate interest in the Domain Name. The Respondent does not appear to have any connection with the Complainant and has not received any consent from the Complainant to use the PIERCE BROSNAN mark. The Domain Name points to a commercial website at "www.celebrity1000.com" which does not appear to offer any goods or services relating to the Complainant. It does contain commercial advertising which the Complainant suggests may generate income for the Respondent, although there is no evidence on this question. It does appear that the Complainant’s famous mark is being used to attract traffic to the Respondent’s site which has no connection with the Complainant, in circumstances where the Respondent has put forward no good reason for use of the Complainant’s mark and is simply taking advantage of the reputation and goodwill in the PIERCE BROSNAN name. The Panel finds that the Respondent has not used or made demonstrable preparations to use the Domain Name in connection with a bona fide offering of goods and services. There is also no evidence that the Respondent has been commonly known by the Domain Name, nor that he is making a legitimate non-commercial or fair use of the Domain Name. Respondent has not demonstrated any rights or legitimate interest in the Domain Name, either by any of the illustrations under Paragraph 4(c) of the Policy or on any other basis.
C. Registered and Used in Bad Faith
Paragraph 4(b) of the Rules sets out non-exclusive criteria which shall be evidence of the registration and use of a domain name in bad faith, including:
- the Respondent has 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 the Respondent has engaged in a pattern of such conduct; or
- by using the domain name, the Respondent has intentionally attempted to attract, for commercial gain, Internet users to its website or other online location, by creating a likelihood of confusion with the Complainant’s mark as to the source, sponsorship, affiliation, or endorsement of its website or location or of a product or service on its website or location.
The Respondent has not filed a Response in these proceedings and so has not attempted to controvert the Complainant’s allegations of bad faith in these proceedings. Nor did he respond to the letter before action from the Complainant.
The Complainant alleges that the Respondent, Mr. Jeff Burgar, is an individual
who has lost a number of UDRP domain name cases related to his admitted common
practice of registering celebrity names as domain names. Indeed the Panel is
satisfied of the connection as the address given for Mr. Jeff Burgar in Celine
Dion v Jeff Burgar WIPO Case No. D2000-1838
is the same as the Respondent’s address in this case, not to mention the shared
connection with the "www.celebrity1000.com" site and the use of the
name "Alberta Hot Rods" in this case by the Respondent and also by
Mr. Burgar in other UDRP proceedings involving the registration of celebrity
names. Further the Respondent has had an opportunity to respond to the Complainant’s
allegations in this regard and has not done so. Mr. Burgar appears to have
admitted in the Celine Dion WIPO case that he registered at least
75 domain names containing the names of celebrities and a number of celebrities
have brought UDRP proceedings successfully against Mr. Burgar or Respondent
entities connected with him, including Celine Dion, Kevin Spacey,
Michael Andretti, Stephanie Seymour and Dr. Michael Crichton.
Accordingly, the Panel is satisfied that in registering the Domain Name the
Respondent has engaged in a pattern of conduct of registering celebrity names
as domain names and must have intended that this would prevent the owner of
trademark rights in those names, such as the Complainant in this case, from
registering a domain name corresponding to the trademark. Clearly the Domain
Name in this case would be a significant registration to the Complainant being
the obvious choice for his main domain name and presence on the Internet.
Further, although Internet users typing the Domain Name into the browser on their computer are highly likely to be seeking an official site connected with the Complainant, the Respondent’s site does not have any obvious connection with the Complainant and there is no obvious explanation why the Domain Name has been pointed to a commercial site offering information about celebrities but not the Complainant and bearing commercial advertising. The Respondent has not offered any explanation. The Panel agrees with the Complainant that the Respondent appears to have registered and used the Domain Name to drive Internet traffic to his site for commercial gain and to benefit from likely confusion that the site is connected with the Complainant.
Accordingly, the Panel holds that the Respondent has registered and used the Domain Name in bad faith.
For all the foregoing reasons, in accordance with Paragraphs 4(i) of the Policy and 15 of the Rules, the Panel orders that the Domain Name <piercebrosnan.com> be transferred to the Complainant.
Dated: August 27, 2003