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WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center
ADMINISTRATIVE PANEL DECISION
Kforce Inc. v. Belize Domain Whois Service Lt.
Case No. D2007-1317
1. The Parties
The Complainant is Kforce Inc., Florida, United States of America, represented by Thomas & LoCicero PL, United States of America.
The Respondent is Belize Domain Whois Service Lt., City of Belmopan, Belize.
2. The Domain Names and Registrar
The disputed domain names <kforcetechnology.com> and <kforcetechnologystaffing.com> are registered with Intercosmos Media Group d/b/a directNIC.com
3. Procedural History
The Complaint was filed with the WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center (the “Center”) by hard copy on September 3, 2007. On September 5, 2007, the Center transmitted by email to Intercosmos Media Group d/b/a directNIC.com a request for registrar verification in connection with the domain names at issue. On September 5, 2007, Intercosmos Media Group d/b/a directNIC.com transmitted by email to the Center its verification response confirming that the Respondent is listed as the current registrant and providing the contact details. In response to a notification by the Center that the Complaint and any annexes thereto must be provided to the Center in electronic form, the Complainant filed the Complaint and annexes in electronic form on September 11, 2007. The Center verified that the Complaint satisfied the formal requirements of the Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy (the “Policy”), 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 September 13, 2007. In accordance with the Rules, paragraph 5(a), the due date for Response was October 3, 2007. The Respondent did not submit any response. Accordingly, the Center notified the Respondent’s default on October 5, 2007.
The Center appointed Ms. Joan Clark as the sole panelist in this matter on October 17, 2007. 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
According to the WHOIS Search Results provided by Network Solutions the Respondent is the registrant of the domain name <kforcetechnology.com> which was created on January 20, 2006 to expire on January 20, 2008, and is also the registrant of the domain name<kforcetechnologystaffing.com> created on January 23, 2006 to expire on January 23, 2008.
The Complainant is the registered owner of the following service marks registered in the United States Patent and Trademark Office: the word mark KFORCE.COM registered October 2, 2001 for personnel placement and recruitment services; the word mark KFORCE registered September 24, 2002, the word mark KFORCE KNOWLEDGE STAFFING MODEL registered September 19, 2006 and the mark KFORCE PROFESSIONAL STAFFING and design registered March 28, 2006, all three last mentioned marks for personnel placement and recruitment services and business management consulting services.
5. Parties’ Contentions
The Complainant states that it is based in Tampa, Florida and offers professional and technical specialty staffing services throughout the United States, in fields which include technology, finance and accounting, health and life sciences and government. Customers of the Complainant include companies seeking employees and individuals seeking employment. According to the Complainant, customers access the Complainant’s services via the Internet and through approximately seventy-five (75) field offices located in forty-three (43) markets.
The Complainant avers that it was incorporated in the State of Florida in 1994 and that, for the fiscal year ended December 31, 2006, the Complainant’s net service revenues were $938,448,000.00.
The Complainant also states that it registered the domain name <kforce.com> on March 19, 1999 and that this is an Internet site that offers the Complainant’s services to its clients and to the general public, including listings of job openings, job-hunting information, job-seeking and career advice, a resumй-posting service and general company information.
According to an affidavit of the Director for E-Marketing and Communications of the Complainant, the monthly page-view average on the Complainant’s web site in 2006 was approximately 250,000, which breaks down to weekly average page-views of approximately 60,000 and daily average page-views of approximately 8,000.
The Complainant relies upon its United States trade-mark registrations, including those listed in paragraph 4 above, and avers that the word mark KFORCE.COM has been used since July 1, 1999 and that KFORCE has been used since April 1, 2001.
The Complainant states that it has invested considerable resources into the promotion of the KFORCE family of marks and has well-established rights in all its marks, and that its trade-marks have become well-known as indicators of the source and quality of the Complainant’s personnel placement, staffing and business-management consulting services.
The Complainant asserts that the Respondent’s domain name <kforcetechnology.com> incorporates the Complainant’s trade-mark and points to a web site that serves as a portal and offers links with titles such as “technology services”, “institute of technology”, “technology education” and “technology training”, and further that the “technology services” link leads to additional links for companies that offer the same services offered by the Complainant.
The Complainant further adds that many of the other links on the Respondent’s web site lead to universities and career training centers which offer their students job placement services and career advice.
The Complainant asserts that the Respondent’s domain name <kforcetechnologystaffing.com> incorporates the Complainant’s trade-mark and points to a web site that serves as a portal and offers links with titles such as “staffing agency”, “staffing firm”, “job staffing” and “technical staffing”.
In addition, the Complainant asserts that the Respondent has been the subject of numerous WIPO and National Arbitration Forum UDRP proceedings directed at its registrations that incorporated various protected trade-marks and trade names. In this connection the Complainant refers to the following decisions: Fat Face Holdings Ltd. v. Belize Domain WHOIS Service Lt.,
WIPO Case No. D2007-0626 (June 25, 2007); Above All Advertising Inc. v. Belize Domain WHOIS Service Lt.,
WIPO Case No. D2007-0775 (July 18, 2007); Enterprise Rent-A-Car Co. v. Whois Services c/o Belize Domain WHOIS Service, Claim No. FA 992206 (NAF June 29, 2007); C.R. Bard, Inc. and BCR, Inc. v. Belize Domain WHOIS Service Lt. a/k/a/ Whois Service, Claim No. FA 979990 (NAF June 18, 2007); Carnival Plc v. Belize Domain WHOIS Service Lt., Claim No. FA 997973 (NAF July 17, 2007); and Genzyme Corp. v. Belize Domain WHOIS Service Lt., Claim No. FA 1007978 (NAF July 25, 2007).
The Complainant notes that the decisions in all of the above cases were that the domain names at issue be transferred from the Respondent, who is also the Respondent herein, to the respective Complainants in those cases.
The Complainant asserts that the KFORCE family of trade-marks enjoys a significant degree of marketplace strength as a result of the Complainant’s long and successful use, advertising and promotion thereof, and that the domain names in dispute are confusingly similar to these trade-marks, because the Respondent has combined the Complainant’s marks, KFORCE and KFORCE.COM with generic or descriptive words describing the Complainant’s services and the industries it serves.
The Complainant asserts that the addition of generic or descriptive terms, as well as a generic top-level domain such as “.com”, fails to distinguish the domain names from the marks.
The Complainant maintains that the Respondent has no rights or legitimate interests in respect of the domain names, that it is not licensed or authorized to use the Complainant’s trade-marks and has no relationship with the Complainant, and has not been commonly known by the domain names.
The Complainant states that, to the best of its knowledge, the Respondent has not made use of names corresponding to the domain names in connection with a bona fide offering of goods or services, because the Respondent’s web sites are composed solely of links to third party-web sites.
In addition, the Complainant states the Respondent is not using the disputed domain names in connection with a legitimate non-commercial or fair use, because the Respondent presumably receives pay-per-click referral fees from the links, and that the Respondent’s use is intended for commercial gain.
Further, the Complainant asserts that the Respondent has not made any demonstrable preparations to use the domain names, or names corresponding thereto, in connection with the bona fide offering of goods or services.
The Complainant concludes that the Respondent’s obvious goal is to disrupt the Complainant’s relationship to its customers and potential customers and to trade on the goodwill built up by the Complainant through the years from its successful use of the KFORCE marks.
In addition, the Complainant asserts that the domain names in dispute should be considered as having been registered and being used in bad faith. The Complainant asserts that the Respondent is a serial cybersquatter and has been the subject of numerous WIPO and National Arbitration Forum UDRP proceedings resulting from its attempts to misappropriate the famous trade-marks of others, for its own commercial advantage, as referred to in the decisions cited above.
The Complainant asserts that the Respondent is using the disputed domain names to take bad faith advantage of Internet users who may be seeking technology staffing services or seeking employment in the technology field and that, as a direct consequence of the Respondent’s actions, the public will be lured to the Respondent’s portals and misled as to the origins, sponsorship or association of the products or services offered via the web sites reached by links on the Respondent’s web sites.
The Complainant asserts that the Respondent’s purposefully deceptive domain names anticipate, rely upon and profit from the consumer confusion created by the Respondent, and that the Respondent has acted, and continues to act, intentionally, wilfully and in bad faith with the intent to capitalize upon the Complainant’s intellectual property rights and diminish the value of the Complainant’s trade-marks and goodwill.
The Complainant relies upon the distinctiveness and reputation of its well-known trade-marks and the improbability of the Respondent’s coming up with its domain names independently to attract Internet users to portal web sites with links to companies that offer services remarkably similar to those offered by the Complainant, and concludes that there is no obvious explanation other than that the registration and use were made in bad faith with the intent to attract business to the Respondent’s sites, to disrupt the business of the Complainant and/or profit from the eventual sale of the domain names.
The Complainant concludes by requesting that the disputed domain names be transferred to the Complainant.
The Respondent did not reply to the Complainant’s contentions.
6. Discussion and Findings
A. Identical or Confusingly Similar
The evidence produced by the Complainant regarding the registration and use of its trade-marks KFORCE.COM, KFORCE, KFORCE KNOWLEDGE STAFFING MODEL and KFORCE PROFESSIONAL STAFFING, satisfies the requirement that the Complainant has rights in these marks.
The distinctive portion of the Complainant’s marks is “kforce” which is also the distinctive portion of the disputed domain names. The descriptive or generic words “technology” and “technology staffing” added in the Respondent’s marks describe the Complainant’s services and the fields in which it operates. These descriptive or generic words, instead of distinguishing the domain names from Complainant’s marks, add to the confusing similarity between the Respondent’s domain names and the Complainant’s marks. (Isleworth Land Company v. Lost in Space, SA FA, 117330 NAF)
The Panel concludes that the Complainant has satisfied the first criterion for a successful challenge to the disputed domain names, namely, that the domain names are confusingly similar to trade-marks or service marks in which the Complainant has rights.
B. Rights or Legitimate Interests
The Respondent has chosen not to respond to the Complaint or to defend its choice of the disputed domain names. The Panel finds that the Respondent has neither used, nor made demonstrable preparations to use, the disputed domain names in connection with a bona fide offering of goods or services. What the Respondent has done, with respect to the domain names in dispute, is to indicate on its web sites recommended links to other sites where the products listed on the Respondent’s web site can be found.
There is no indication that the Respondent has been commonly known by either of the domain names, and there is no indication that the Respondent is making a legitimate, non-commercial or fair use of the domain names without intent for commercial gain. It may be assumed that the Respondent is obtaining some consideration based on a pay-per-click referral from the links on its web sites. The Respondent’s use of the disputed domain names is therefore, one must assume, for commercial gain.
The Panel has concluded that the Respondent has no rights or legitimate interests in respect of the domain names in dispute.
C. Registered and Used in Bad Faith
The Complainant’s trade-marks described in paragraph 4 above were registered in 2001 and 2002 and, according to the uncontested evidence produced with the Complaint, have been in use for some years prior to the registration dates and have been promoted by investment of considerable resources to establish the Complainant’s rights in all its marks. As a result, it appears from the evidence in the Complaint that the Complainant’s marks have acquired considerable renown.
Against that background, it is inconceivable that the choice in 2006 of the Respondent’s domain names which both include the unusual term “kforce”, as well as the terms “technology” in one case and “technology staffing” in the other, terms descriptive of the Complainant’s services and areas of operation, was made independently of knowledge of the Complainant’s marks.
This conclusion is reinforced by the use of the word “staffing” in one of the Respondent’s domain names which, in addition to being descriptive of the Complainant’s services for which its marks are registered, also appears in two of the Complainant’s registered trade-marks. The result of the Respondent’s choice of its domain names is that viewers seeking to consult the Complainant’s web site are likely to be diverted to one of the Respondent’s web sites under the disputed domain names, with a consequent loss of potential business for the Complainant and deception for the consumers as to the origin, sponsorship or association of the products or services offered on the Respondent’s web sites. The Panel finds that the Respondent must have intended this confusion and to have done so in the interest of its own commercial gain.
The pattern of the Respondent’s conduct as a frequent offender evidenced in the series of similar cases noted in paragraph 5 above reinforces the conclusion reached by the Panel that the disputed domain names in this case were registered and are being used 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 names <kforcetechnology.com> and <kforcetechnologystaffing.com> be transferred to the Complainant.
Dated: October 31, 2006