The Complainant is Karolinska Institutet, Sweden, represented by SILKA Law AB, Sweden.
The Respondent is Michael Ghali, United States of America.
The disputed domain name <karolinskainstitutet.org> is registered with Network Solutions, LLC (the “Registrar”).
The Complaint was filed with the WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center (the “Center”) on May 12, 2020. On May 12, 2020, the Center transmitted by email to the Registrar a request for registrar verification in connection with the disputed domain name. On May 14, 2020, 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 May 14, 2020, 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 amendment to the Complaint on May 14, 2020.
The Center verified that the Complaint together with the amendment to 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 May 15, 2020. In accordance with the Rules, paragraph 5, the due date for Response was June 4, 2020. The Respondent sent two emails to the Center on May 28 and June 1, 2020. The Respondent did not submit any response. .
Accordingly, the Center notified the Parties of the commencement of the Panel appointment process on June 5, 2020.
The Center appointed Alistair Payne as the sole panelist in this matter on June 9, 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 medical school and university in Sweden that has operated since 1810. It is one of that country’s largest centre of medical academic research and caters for approximately 6,000 full time students at Bachelor’s and Master’s levels. It owns the registered trade mark KAROLINSKA INSTITUTET in numerous countries including in the European Union under trade mark number 004884185, registered on April 24, 2007.
The disputed domain name was registered on April 14, 2020. It re-directs to a website featuring information about the Respondent who is a neurosurgeon and the website claims that the Respondent works at the Complainant’s institution and has an affiliation with the Complainant. The website page also features the narrative “© 2024 Karolinska Institutet” at the foot of the page.
The Complainant submits that it owns registered trade mark rights for its KAROLINSKA INSTITUTET trade mark as set out above and that the disputed domain name wholly incorporates and is identical to its trade mark.
The Complainant submits that there is no evidence that the Respondent is commonly known by the disputed domain name or that he owns trade mark rights in the disputed domain name. It further says that the unauthorised use of its trade mark in the disputed domain name is not consistent with a bona fide offering of goods or services.
The Complainant notes that the text on the website implies that the Respondent is a surgeon at the Complainant’s university which the Complainant denies and says is false because the Respondent has never had any relationship with the Complainant.
As far as bad faith is concerned the Complainant says its registered trade mark rights pre-date the disputed domain name. The Complainant says that after searching it can find no evidence that the Respondent has any registered rights in the name “karolinska institutet”. It submits that the KAROLINSKA INSTITUTET is a well-known trade mark amongst medical universities and that it is highly unlikely that the Respondent was not aware of it at the date of registration of the disputed domain name.
The Complainant notes that it has sought to contact the webhost registrar and Domain Name System host to try to disable the site and has sent an email to the Respondent at his contact email address as presented on the website. The Complainant notes that the response received indicated that the Respondent had not created the website nor registered the disputed domain name. Based also on the response received from the Respondent that someone must have set up the disputed domain name and website in his honour, the Complainant suggests that this is most likely a fabricated response from someone pretending to be the Respondent. In summary the Complainant submits that the Respondent has no connection with it and that this amounts to registration and use in bad faith.
The Respondent sent two email communications to the Center but did not reply to the Complainant’s contentions.
The Complainant has demonstrated that it owns registered trade mark rights in the KAROLINSKA INSTITUTET mark and in particular in the European Union under trade mark number 004884185 registered on 14 April 2020. The disputed domain name wholly incorporates this mark with no other element and is therefore identical to it prior to the “.org” generic Top-Level Domain. As a result, the Panel finds that the Complaint succeeds under this element of the Policy.
The Complainant has submitted that there is no evidence that the Respondent is commonly known by the disputed domain name or that he owns trade mark rights in the disputed domain name. It further says that the unauthorised use of its trade mark in the disputed domain name is not consistent with a bona fide offering of goods or services.
At the time of filing of the Complaint the disputed domain name appears to have re-directed to a website that implies that is concerned with the Respondent and that implies that the Respondent is a surgeon at the Complainant’s university as well as at a university in the United States of America. The Complainant denies that this is correct and says that it never had any relationship with the Respondent. The contact page of the website lists the Complainant as being the contact address for the Respondent. The website page also features the chronologically incorrect copyright narrative “© 2024 Karolinska Institutet” at the foot of the page in order to give the impression that the Complainant is the owner of the website when in fact it is not.
The Complainant’s legal representatives sent an email to the Respondent’s contact email address on May 11, 2020, asking the Respondent to remove the content from the website and to transfer the disputed domain name. The Respondent replied as follows on the same day using an extremely unusual form of greeting:
“Thank you Beloved Dr. [……..]. I maintain no websites.”
Subsequently the Complainant’s legal representatives replied by email and asked the Respondent to confirm whether he was connected with the website at the disputed domain name or not and whether his resume and photograph published on the website were real. The Complainant received an email response the same day explaining the Complainant’s background and achievements at unusually voluminous length and ostensibly inviting the Complainant’s researchers to collaborate with him on future projects.
Although the Respondent did not file a formal response, the Center received two emails in reply to its communications concerning these proceedings. The first of these on Thursday, May 28, 2020, contained the following text:
“Fascinating. We do not have access to the indicated domain. Entering the provided web address yields a broken link. This response respectfully concludes the dispute.”
The second on Monday, June 1, 2020, contained text as follows:
“The website and domain to which you provide a link does not exist. The complainant has no case to argue. I insist the case be terminated immediately. I expect no further communication from your legal firm. I encourage your members to pursue more worthy endeavors.”
Based on a review of the website screenshots provided in evidence by the Complainant together with the tenor of the responses allegedly from the Respondent, the Panel doubts on the real identity of the Respondent (as well as of the person appearing on the website), and the Panel is inclined to agree with the Complainant that these responses are more likely than not fabricated by someone pretending to be the Respondent.
In any event, the Complainant has made out a prima facie case that the Respondent has no rights or legitimate interests in the disputed domain name, which is in no way rebutted by the emails on the record that have been allegedly received from the Respondent. As a result, the Panel finds that the Complaint succeeds under this element of the Policy.
The disputed domain name was registered on April 14, 2020, long after the Complainant’s European Union trade mark registration and very many decades after the Complainant commenced operation under its name. It is apparent from the second response email sent to the Complainant’s legal representatives on May 11, 2020, seeking collaboration, that the Respondent (or whoever was masquerading under the name of the Respondent without his authority) was well aware of the Complainant’s identity and activities. Therefore, the Panel infers that the disputed domain name was registered purposefully with knowledge of the Complainant’s name and rights, and to take advantage of them.
As noted above under Part B, the Panel is of the view that the disputed domain name has most likely been registered and used by a third party masquerading under the name of the Respondent. This is suggested both by a review of the website screenshots provided in evidence, the tenor of the responses to the emails sent by the Complainant’s legal representatives and also the style and substance of the responses sent to the Center following its communication of this Complaint. In addition, no credible explanation was provided in the Respondent’s various emails for its registration of the disputed domain name except to note that the website no longer existed. Although the motive for this conduct is unclear, it seems to the Panel that this case, as suggested by the Complainant, more than likely amounts to a third party using the Complainant’s name and mark without authority and in bad faith for the purposes of a type of identity fraud.
Even if the Panel’s assessment in this regard is incorrect and it is in fact the Respondent who registered and used the disputed domain name, then the Panel also finds that such registration and use has been in bad faith. This conduct amounts to using the disputed domain name to intentionally attract Internet users to the Respondent’s website for the purposes of his own professional self-promotion by creating a likelihood of confusion with the Complainant’s mark as to the source, sponsorship, affiliation, or endorsement of the website. Under paragraph 4(b)(iv) of the Policy this amounts to evidence of registration and use of the disputed domain name in bad faith.
In all the circumstances the Panel finds that the disputed domain name has both been registered and used in bad faith and the Complaint also succeeds under this 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 <karolinskainstitutet.org> be transferred to the Complainant.
Date: June 23, 2020
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