The Complainant is University of Maryland Global Campus, United States of America, represented by Rimon, P.C., United States of America.
The Respondent is WhoisGuard Protected, WhoisGuard, Inc., Panama / Alex Showley, United States of America.
The disputed domain name <umgcventures.org> is registered with NameCheap, Inc. (the “Registrar”).
The Complaint was filed with the WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center (the “Center”) on April 1, 2020. On April 2, 2020, the Center transmitted by email to the Registrar a request for registrar verification in connection with the disputed domain name. On April 2, 2020, the Registrar transmitted by email to the Center its verification response confirming that the Respondent is listed as the registrant and providing the contact details.
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 and 4, the Center formally notified the Respondent of the Complaint, and the proceedings commenced on April 3, 2020. In accordance with the Rules, paragraph 5, the due date for Response was April 23, 2020. The Respondent did not submit any response. Accordingly, the Center notified the Respondent’s default on April 24, 2020.
The Center appointed Evan D. Brown as the sole panelist in this matter on May 4, 2020. 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 Complainant is a well-known and highly-attended university that recently began the process of rebranding as University of Maryland Global Campus, abbreviated as “UMGC”. Since 2016, the Complainant has operated a non-profit organization to support the university’s endowment via revenue generating opportunities. The Complainant likewise is rebranding this entity as “UMGC Ventures”. The Complainant has used the mark UMGC in interstate commerce since July 1, 2019.
On the very day that the Complainant publicly announced it would be rebranding as “UMGC” (December 19, 2018), disputed domain name was registered. For a time, the Parties negotiated the transfer of the disputed domain name from the Respondent to the Complainant. The Respondent had offered to sell the disputed domain name for USD 4,000. Those talks fell through. The Respondent has set the disputed domain name to redirect to a parked page.
The Complainant contends that the disputed domain name is identical or confusingly similar to the Complainant’s mark; that the Respondent has no rights or legitimate interests in respect of the disputed domain name; and that the disputed domain name was registered and is being used in bad faith.
The Respondent did not reply to the Complainant’s contentions.
To succeed, the Complainant must demonstrate that all of the elements listed in paragraph 4(a) of the Policy have been satisfied:
(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.
The Panel finds that all three of these elements have been met in this case.
This element requires the Panel to consider two issues: first, whether the Complainant has rights in a relevant mark; and, second, whether the disputed domain name is identical or confusingly similar to that mark. This element under the Policy functions primarily as a standing requirement. WIPO Overview of WIPO Panel Views on Selected UDRP Questions, Third Edition (“WIPO Overview 3.0”), section 1.7.
The Panel finds the Complainant has unregistered or common law rights in the UMGC mark for purposes of the Policy based on how the Complainant has used that mark in commerce since 2019. The disputed domain name incorporates this mark into the disputed domain name. For these purposes, the incorporation of the mark into the disputed domain name is sufficient to show confusing similarity.
The Panel evaluates this element of the Policy by first looking to see whether the Complainant has made a prima facie showing that the Respondent lacks rights or legitimate interests in respect of the disputed domain name. If the Complainant makes that showing, the burden of demonstrating rights or legitimate interests shifts to the Respondent.
The Complainant has made a prima facie showing that the Respondent lacks rights or legitimate interests in respect of the disputed domain name. By failing to respond to the Complaint, the Respondent did not overcome its burden of demonstrating rights or legitimate interests, and no other facts in the record tip the balance in the Respondent’s favor.
Paragraph 4(c) of the Policy instructs respondents on a number of ways they could demonstrate rights or legitimate interests (“you” and “your” in the following refers to the particular respondent):
“(i) before any notice to you 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 organization) 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 this case, there are several indicators concerning the Respondent’s lack of rights or legitimate interests. The Respondent is not commonly known by the disputed domain name, nor is there any evidence in the record showing the Respondent’s use of, or demonstrable preparations to use, the disputed domain name in connection with a bona fide offering of goods or services before any notice of the dispute.
Accordingly, the Respondent does not have any rights or legitimate interests in regard to the disputed domain name.
The Policy requires a complainant to establish that the disputed domain name was registered and is being used in bad faith.
The Complainant has provided evidence that when the Respondent registered the disputed domain name, the Complainant had already publicly announced its rebranding to “UMGC” – the very letters comprising a dominant portion of the disputed domain name. The fact that the Respondent registered the disputed domain name on the very day of the public announcement is not – in the Panel’s view – coincidence. The timing shows the Respondent’s abusive and wrongfully opportunistic behavior. Simply stated, the timing shows bad faith registration.
Paragraph 4(b) of the Policy says that a Panel should consider it evidence of bad faith registration and use when one registers a domain name primarily for the purpose of selling that domain name to the complainant trademark owner for more than the costs directly related to the domain name. In this case, the offer to sell the disputed domain name to the Complainant for an amount orders of magnitude more than what the Respondent likely paid for it, paired with the opportunistic timing noted in the preceding paragraph, underscores the Respondent’s bad faith use.
Accordingly, the Panel finds the Complainant has satisfied this third element of the Policy.
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 <umgcventures.org> be transferred to the Complainant.
Evan D. Brown
Date: May 18, 2020
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