Complainant is PuppySpot Group, LLC, United States of America (“United States”), represented by LKP Global Law, LLP, United States.
Respondent is Domain Administrator, See PrivacyGuardian.org, United States / Tankeu Son Joel, Rio, Cameroon.1
The disputed domain name <puppies-spot.com> is registered with NameSilo, LLC (the “Registrar”).
The Complaint was filed with the WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center (the “Center”) on September 27, 2019. On September 27, 2019, the Center transmitted by email to the Registrar a request for registrar verification in connection with the disputed domain name. On September 30, 2019, 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 Complainant on October 2, 2019, providing the registrant and contact information disclosed by the Registrar, and inviting Complainant to submit an amendment to the Complaint. Complainant filed an amended Complaint on October 7, 2019.
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 Respondent of the Complaint, and the proceedings commenced on October 15, 2019. In accordance with the Rules, paragraph 5, the due date for Response was November 4, 2019. Respondent did not submit any response. Accordingly, the Center notified Respondent’s default on November 5, 2019.
The Center appointed Stephanie G. Hartung as the sole panelist in this matter on November 20, 2019. 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.
Complainant is a company organized under the laws of the United States that is active in the online pet industry.
Complainant has provided evidence that it is the registered owner of various trademarks relating to Complainant’s company name and brand “Puppyspot”, including, inter alia:
- Word mark PUPPYSPOT, United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), registration number: 5,146,415, registration date: February 21, 2017; status: active;
- Word mark PUPPYSPOT, Canadian Intellectual Property Office (CIPO), registration number: TMA1,007,734, registration date: October 29, 2018; status: active.
Moreover, Complainant runs a website at “www.puppyspot.com” offering Complainant’s pet related online services.
Respondent, according to the disclosed WhoIs information for the disputed domain name, is a resident of Cameroon and registered the disputed domain name on August 25, 2019. Complainant has demonstrated that, at some point before the filing of the Complaint, the disputed domain name directed to a website at “www.puppies-spot.com” pretending to belong to an online puppy shop located in Pittsburgh, PA, United States, and offering puppies for online sale. Also, Complainant has provided excerpts from a so-called “Puppy Scammer List Website” at “www.petscams.com” with consumer comments indicating fraudulent activities under the disputed domain name, as well as email correspondence received by Complainant relating to customer inquiries regarding any affiliation of Complainant with Respondent’s disputed domain name and to complaints from individuals who seem to have been defrauded by Respondent.
Complainant requests that the disputed domain name be transferred to Complainant.
Complainant contends that it has operated its online retail store services marketed and branded with the PUPPYSPOT trademark since 2016. Moreover, Complainant claims that it enjoys tremendous reputation and goodwill in the pet industry in the United States and throughout the world due to the high quality of its puppies and services provided through the PUPPYSPOT website as well as due to large amounts of time and expenses invested therein.
Complainant submits that the disputed domain name is confusingly similar to Complainant’s PUPPYSPOT trademark as it includes only minor differences thereto such as the pluralized form of “puppy” and a hyphen. Moreover, Complainant asserts that Respondent has no rights or legitimate interests in respect of the disputed domain name since (1) Respondent has neither been known by the disputed domain name nor is there evidence of any business named “Puppies Spot” operating in Pennsylvania or anywhere in the United States, and (2) Respondent is not making a legitimate noncommercial or fair use of disputed domain name, but rather utilizes it for illicit gain by allegedly selling puppies and misleadingly diverting consumers, thereby tarnishing the goodwill associated with Complainant’s PUPPYSPOT trademark. Finally, Complainant argues that Respondent registered and is using the disputed domain name in bad faith since (1) the selection of a confusingly similar name allows Respondent to pray on consumer confusion and defraud such consumers, (2) Complainant has received customer inquiries regarding any affiliation of Complainant with Respondent’s disputed domain name, and (3) Complainant has received complaints from individuals who seem to have been defrauded by Respondent.
Respondent did not reply to Complainant’s contentions.
Under paragraph 4(a) of the Policy, Complainant carries the burden of proving:
(i) That the disputed domain name is identical or confusingly similar to a trademark or service mark in which Complainant has rights; and
(ii) 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.
Respondent’s default in the case at hand does not automatically result in a decision in favor of Complainant, however, paragraph 5(f) of the Rules provides that if Respondent does not submit a response, in the absence of exceptional circumstances, the Panel shall decide the dispute solely based upon the Complaint. Further, the Panel may draw such inferences as are appropriate from Respondent’s failure to submit a Response.
The Panel concludes that the disputed domain name <puppies-spot.com> is confusingly similar to the PUPPYSPOT trademark in which Complainant has rights.
The disputed domain name incorporates the PUPPYSPOT trademark in its entirety with a simple deviation or misspelling caused by using the plural form “puppies” instead of “puppy” and adding a hyphen. Numerous UDRP panels have recognized that incorporating a trademark in its entirety can be sufficient to establish that the disputed domain name is at least confusingly similar to a registered trademark (see e.g., PepsiCo, Inc. v. PEPSI, SRL (a/k/a P.E.P.S.I.) and EMS COMPUTER INDUSTRY (a/k/a EMS), WIPO Case No. D2003-0696). Also, UDRP panels agree that the first element under the UDRP functions primarily as a standing requirement and that the threshold test for confusing similarity involves a reasoned, but relatively straight forward comparison in order to assess whether or not the relevant trademark is recognizable within the disputed domain name (see WIPO Overview of WIPO Panel Views on Selected UDRP Questions, Third Edition (“WIPO Overview 3.0”), section 1.7). Therefore, the fact that the disputed domain name obviously includes a simple deviation or misspelling of Complainant’s PUPPYSPOT trademark is not at all inconsistent with such finding of confusing similarity. Typo-squatted domain names are, on the contrary, intended to be confusing so that Internet users, who unwittingly make common type errors, will enter the typo-squatted domain name instead of the correctly spelled trademark (see e.g., National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues, Inc., d/b/a Minor League Baseball v. John Zuccarini, WIPO Case No. D2002-1011).
Therefore, Complainant has established the first element under the Policy as set forth by paragraph 4(a)(i).
The Panel is further convinced on the basis of Complainant’s undisputed contentions that Respondent has not made use of the disputed domain name in connection with a bona fide offering of goods or services, nor has Respondent been commonly known by the disputed domain name nor can it be found that Respondent has made a legitimate noncommercial or fair use thereof without intent for commercial gain.
Respondent obviously has not been authorized to use Complainant’s PUPPYSPOT trademark, either as a domain name or in any other way. Also, there is no reason to believe that Respondent’s name somehow corresponds with the disputed domain name and Respondent does not appear to have any trademark rights associated with the terms “Puppy Spot” or “Puppies Spot”, respectively. Finally, Complainant has demonstrated that consumers who had visited the website under the disputed domain name lodged complaints, e.g. on the Internet or by emails directly addressed to Complainant, according to which they had become victims of fraudulent activities, e.g. being charged for unrealistic high transportation costs. Such business obviously neither qualifies as a bona fide offering of goods or services nor as legitimate noncommercial activity within the meaning of paragraph 4(c) of the Policy.
Accordingly, Complainant has established a prima facie case that Respondent has no rights or legitimate interests in respect of the disputed domain name. Having done so, the burden of production shifts to Respondent to come forward with appropriate evidence demonstrating such rights or legitimate interests (see WIPO Overview 3.0, section 2.1). Given that Respondent has not submitted a Response, it has not met that burden.
Therefore, the Panel finds that Complainant has also satisfied paragraph 4(a)(ii) and, thus, the second element of the Policy.
The Panel finally holds that the disputed domain name was registered and is being used by Respondent in bad faith.
Directing the disputed domain name, which is confusingly similar to Complainant’s PUPPYSPOT trademark, to a website that offers (or at least pretends to offer) the same kind of services as that of Complainant, and thereby undertaking fraudulent financial activities, is a clear indication that Respondent intentionally attempted to attract, for commercial gain, Internet users to its own website by creating a likelihood of confusion with Complainant’s PUPPYSPOT trademark as to the source, sponsorship, affiliation or endorsement of Respondent’s website. Such circumstances are evidence of registration and use of the disputed domain name in bad faith within the meaning of paragraph 4(b)(iv) of the Policy.
In this context, the Panel has also noted that Respondent not only made use of a privacy service in order to conceal its true identity, but also provided faulty or incomplete contact information in the WhoIs register for the disputed domain name since, according to the email correspondence between the Center and the postal courier DHL, the Written Notice on the Notification of Complaint dated October 15, 2019 could not be delivered. These facts at least throw a light on Respondent’s behavior which further supports the Panel’s bad faith finding.
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 <puppies-spot.com> be transferred to Complainant.
Stephanie G. Hartung
Date: December 2, 2019
1 It is evident from the case file that Domain Administrator, See PrivacyGuardian.org, United States, is a privacy protection service and that Tankeu Son Joel, Rio, Cameroon, is the underlying registrant of the disputed domain name. Therefore, unless otherwise indicated, the term “Respondent” is used by the Panel in the case at hand to refer to the latter underlying registrant only.
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