The Complainant is Andrey Ternovskiy dba Chatroulette of Sliema, Malta, represented by CSC Digital Brand Services Group AB, Sweden.
The Respondent is Host Master, Transure Enterprise Ltd of Wilmington, Delaware, United States of America (“US”).
The disputed domain name <chatroulette-japan.com> is registered with Above.com, Inc. (the “Registrar”).
The Complaint was filed with the WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center (the “Center”) on February 9, 2018. On February 12, 2018, the Center transmitted by email to the Registrar a request for registrar verification in connection with the disputed domain name. On February 13, 2018, the Registrar transmitted by email to the Center its verification response disclosing registrant and contact information for the disputed domain name which differed from the named Respondent and contact information in the Complaint. The Center sent an email communication to the Complainant on February 13, 2018 providing the registrant and contact information disclosed by the Registrar, and inviting the Complainant to submit an amendment to the Complaint. The Complainant filed an amended Complaint on February 14, 2018.
The Center verified that the Complaint together with the amended 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 and 4, the Center formally notified the Respondent of the Complaint, and the proceedings commenced on February 27, 2018. In accordance with the Rules, paragraph 5, the due date for Response was March 19, 2018. The Respondent did not submit any response. Accordingly, the Center notified the Respondent’s default on March 20, 2018.
The Center appointed Zoltán Takács as the sole panelist in this matter on March 22, 2018. 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.
The language of this administrative proceeding is English, that being the language of the Registration Agreement.
Chatroulette, created and owned by the Complainant is an online chat website that pairs random people from around the world together for real-time, webcam-based conversations.
The Complainant created the Chatroulette service and website in 2009 and shortly after its launch it began to receive 500 visitors per day while continuing to experience consistent growth. Only one month after its launch the number of visitors grew to 50,000 per day, approximately 1,5 million per month.
According to Alexa.com statistics, the Chatroulette website, located at “www.chatroulette.com” received over 270,000 unique monthly visitors in the month of December 2017, earning a global popularity rank of 18,214.
The Complainant owns a number of trademark registrations for the word mark CHATROULETTE, among others:
- US Trademark Registration No. 4445843 with priority of January 10, 2011, registered for services of Classes 38 and 45 of the Nice Agreement Concerning the International Classification of Goods and Services for the Purpose of the Registration of Marks (hereinafter: the “Nice Classification”);
- European Union Trademark (“EUTM”) Registration No. 008944076 with priority of March 10, 2010, registered for services of Classes 35, 38 and 42 of the Nice Classification.
Since November 16, 2009 the Complainant owns the domain name <chatroulette.com> which identifies the principal website for his Chatroulette service.
The disputed domain name was registered on July 4, 2011 and it redirects to a website featuring links to third-party websites some of which in direct competition with the Complainant’s business.
Prior to filing its Complaint the Complainant sent a cease-and-desist letter to the Respondent requesting cessation of any use of the disputed domain name and transfer of it to the Complainant. The Respondent did not reply to the Complainant’s cease-and-desist letter.
The Complainant contends that the disputed domain name <chatroulette-japan.com> is confusingly similar to his CHATROULETTE trademark since it reproduces the trademark in its entirety and addition of a hyphen and the geographical term “Japan” is not sufficient to distinguish the disputed domain name from the Complainant’s trademark.
The Complainant alleges that the Respondent has no rights or legitimate interests in respect of the disputed domain name and is unable to rely on any of the circumstances set out in paragraphs 4(c)(i), (ii) or (iii) of the Policy.
The Complainant states that the Respondent incorporated his CHATROULETTE trademark in the disputed domain name with obvious intent to capitalize on the reputation of it by diverting Internet users seeking information about the Complainant to the Respondent’s website featuring pay-per-click links, which among others is evidence of bad faith registration and use.
The Complainant submits that at the time of initial filing of the Complaint the Respondent was using a privacy service to hide its identity, which previous UDRP panels have held serves as further evidence of bad faith registration and use.
The Complainant contends that the Respondent has previously been involved in several cybersquatting and/or typosquatting cases, which is also indicative of bad faith registration and use.
The Complainant requests that the disputed domain name be transferred from the Respondent to the Complainant.
The Respondent did not reply to the Complainant’s contentions.
Paragraph 15(a) of the Rules requires that the Panel’s decision be made “on the basis of the statements and documents submitted and in accordance with the Policy, these Rules and any rules and principles of law that it deems applicable.”
As noted in many previous UDRP decisions, a respondent’s default (i.e., failure to submit a formal response) would not by itself mean that the complainant is deemed to have prevailed; a respondent’s default is not necessarily an admission that the complainant’s claims are true. See section 4.3 of the WIPO Overview of WIPO Panel Views on Selected UDRP Questions, Third Edition (“WIPO Overview 3.0”).
A complainant must satisfy each of the three elements required by paragraph 4(a) of the Policy in order to succeed on the complaint, namely that:
(i) the disputed domain name is identical or confusingly similar to a trademark or service mark in which the complainant has rights;
(ii) the respondent has no rights or legitimate interests in respect of the disputed domain name; and
(iii) the disputed domain name has been registered and is being used in bad faith.
Under paragraph 4(a)(i) of the Policy, there are two requirements which the Complainant must establish, first that it has rights in a trademark or service mark, and second that the disputed domain name is identical or confusingly similar to the trademark or service mark.
As noted by many UDRP panels, if the complainant owns a trademark, then it generally satisfies the threshold requirement of having trademark rights.
The Complainant proved that he holds registered rights in the trademark CHATROULETTE, and for the purpose of this proceeding the Panel establishes that the Complainant’s US Trademark Registration No. 4445843 and EUTM Registration No. 008944076 for the word mark CHATROULETTE satisfy the requirement of having trademark rights for the purpose of the Policy.
Having determined that the Complainant has trademark rights in the CHATROULETTE mark, the Panel next assessed whether the disputed domain name <chatroulette-japan.com> is identical or confusingly similar to the CHATROULETTE trademark of the Complainant.
According to section 1.7 of the WIPO Overview 3.0 “[t]he standing (or threshold) test for confusing similarity involves a reasoned but relatively straightforward comparison between the complainant’s trademark and the disputed domain name. This test typically involves a side-by-side comparison of the domain name and the textual components of the relevant trademark to assess whether the mark is recognizable within the disputed domain name.”
According to section 1.8 of the WIPO Overview 3.0 “[w]here the relevant trademark is recognizable within the disputed domain name, the addition of other terms (whether descriptive, geographical pejorative, meaningless, or otherwise) would not prevent a finding of confusing similarity under the first element.”
According to section 1.11.1 of the WIPO Overview 3.0 “[t]he applicable Top Level Domain (“TLD”) in a domain name (e.g., “.com”, “.club”, “.nyc”) is viewed as a standard registration requirement and as such is disregarded under the first element confusing similarity test.”
The disputed domain name incorporates the Complainant’s CHATROULETTE trademark in its entirety.
The only elements in the disputed domain name that differ from the CHATROULETTE trademark of the Complainant are the addition of a hyphen and of the geographical term “Japan”, which are not sufficient to prevent finding of confusing similarity under the first element of the Policy.
The applicable generic Top-Level Domain (“gTLD”) “.com” in the disputed domain name should in relation to this administrative proceeding be disregarded.
On the basis of facts and circumstance discussed above, the Panel finds that the disputed domain name <chatroulette-japan.com> is confusingly similar to the CHATROULETTE trademark of the Complainant and that the requirement of paragraph 4(a)(i) of the Policy is satisfied.
Under paragraph 4(c) of the Policy, a respondent may demonstrate its rights or legitimate interests in a domain name by showing any of the following circumstances, in particular but without limitation:
(i) its use of, or demonstrable preparation to use the domain name or a name corresponding to the domain name in connection with a bona fide offering of goods and services;
(ii) it has been commonly known by the domain name;
(iii) it is making a legitimate noncommercial or fair use of the domain name, without intent for commercial gain to misleadingly divert customers or to tarnish the trademark or service mark at issue.
In the present case, the Complainant has submitted sufficient and uncontested evidence that he holds
well-established prior rights in the trademark CHATROULETTE.
The Complainant has never authorized the Respondent to use his CHATROULETTE trademark in any way, and the Complainant’s prior rights in the CHATROULETTE trademark precede the date of registration of the disputed domain name.
According to section 2.1 of the WIPO Overview 3.0 while the overall burden of proof in UDRP proceedings is on the complainant, UDRP panels have recognized that proving a respondent lacks rights or legitimate interests in a domain name may result in the often impossible task of “proving a negative”, requiring information that is often primarily within the knowledge or control of the respondent.
As such, where a complainant makes out a prima facie case that the respondent lacks rights or legitimate interests, the burden of production on this element shifts to the respondent to come forward with the relevant evidence demonstrating rights of legitimate interests in the domain name. If the respondent fails to come forward with such relevant evidence, the complainant is deemed to have satisfied the second element.
The Respondent defaulted and failed to respond, and by doing so failed to offer the Panel any type of evidence set forth in paragraph 4(c) of the Policy, or otherwise counter the Complainant’s prima facie case.
The Panel finds that the Respondent has no rights or legitimate interests in the disputed domain name in accordance with paragraph 4(a)(ii) of the Policy.
Paragraph 4(b) of the Policy lists a number of 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 non-exclusive list includes:
“(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 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 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 your website or location or of a product or service on your website or location.”
The Complainant presented undisputed evidence which convinces the Panel that the Respondent has registered and is using the disputed domain name in bad faith.
The CHATROULETTE trademark of the Complainant has no dictionary meaning; it is a word invented by the Complainant and therefore hugely distinctive for the corresponding services.
According to section 3.1.4 of the WIPO Overview 3.0 UDRP panels have consistently found that the mere registration of a domain name that is identical or confusingly similar (particularly domain names comprising typos or incorporating the mark plus a descriptive term) to a famous or widely-known trademark by an unaffiliated entity can itself create a presumption of bad faith.
In the Panel’s opinion the only conceivable explanation for the Respondent’s choice to register the disputed domain name that reproduces the widely-known trademark of the Complainant is to exploit the reputation behind the CHATROULETTE trademark without any authorization or rights to do so.
The Respondent had been involved in a number of UDRP cases because of registering domain names reproducing or incorporating third party trademarks, such as inter alia American Woodmark Corporation v. Above.com Domain Privacy / Host Master, Transure Enterprise Ltd.,WIPO Case No. D2017-1912; Credit Karma, Inc. v. Above.com Domain Privacy / Host Master, Transure Enterprise Ltd. / Protection Domain, WIPO Case No. D2017-1827; ZB, N.A. dba Amegy Bank v. Above.com Domain Privacy / Host Master, Transure Enterprise Ltd., WIPO Case No. D2017-1268.
These proceedings resulted in transfers of the corresponding domain names registered by the Respondent, since the UDRP panels found bad faith registration and use of the domain names by the Respondent.
The Panel finds that the Respondent has engaged in a pattern of conduct of bad faith registration and use of the domain names incorporating third party trademarks which is evidence of bad faith registration and use according to paragraph 4(b)(ii) of the Policy.
The disputed domain name resolves to a pay-per-click website displaying links to services some of which in direct competition with those of the Complainant.
Using domain names incorporating a third-party trademark to divert Internet users to pay-per-click websites generating revenue for either the Respondent or anyone else is activity that is well within paragraph 4(b)(iv) of the Policy.
In addition to the facts discussed above, the Respondent’s failure to submit a response to the Complaint, to address communications of the Complainant aimed at amicable resolution of the dispute, and in particular its initial use of a privacy shield in view of this Panel further supports presumption of bad faith disregard for the trademark rights of others.
The Panel finds that paragraph 4(a)(iii) of the Policy is satisfied.
For the foregoing reasons, in accordance with paragraphs 4(i) of the Policy and 15 of the Rules, the Panel orders that the disputed domain name <chatroulette-japan.com> be transferred to the Complainant.
Date: April 3, 2018
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