Microsoft Corporation v. Gerardo Torres / JerryG
Claim Number: FA1203001432610
Complainant is Microsoft Corporation (“Complainant”), represented by James F. Struthers of Richard Law Group, Inc., Texas, USA. Respondent is Gerardo Torres / JerryG (“Respondent”), Illinois, USA.
REGISTRAR AND DISPUTED DOMAIN NAME
The domain name at issue is <halo4beta.biz>, registered with GoDaddy.com, Inc.
The undersigned certifies that he has acted independently and impartially and to the best of his knowledge has no known conflict in serving as Panelist in this proceeding.
James A. Carmody, Esq., as Panelist.
Complainant submitted a Complaint to the National Arbitration Forum electronically on March 2, 2012; the National Arbitration Forum received payment on March 2, 2012.
On March 2, 2012, GODADDY.COM, INC. confirmed by e-mail to the National Arbitration Forum that the <halo4beta.biz> domain name is registered with GODADDY.COM, INC. and that Respondent is the current registrant of the name. GODADDY.COM, INC. has verified that Respondent is bound by the GODADDY.COM, INC. registration agreement and has thereby agreed to resolve domain disputes brought by third parties in accordance with ICANN’s Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy (the “Policy”).
On March 5, 2012, the Forum served the Complaint and all Annexes, including a Written Notice of the Complaint, setting a deadline of March 26, 2012 by which Respondent could file a Response to the Complaint, via e-mail to all entities and persons listed on Respondent’s registration as technical, administrative, and billing contacts, and to email@example.com. Also on March 5, 2012, the Written Notice of the Complaint, notifying Respondent of the e-mail addresses served and the deadline for a Response, was transmitted to Respondent via post and fax, to all entities and persons listed on Respondent’s registration as technical, administrative and billing contacts.
Having received no response from Respondent, the National Arbitration Forum transmitted to the parties a Notification of Respondent Default.
On April 10, 2012, pursuant to Complainant's request to have the dispute decided by a single-member Panel, the National Arbitration Forum appointed James A. Carmody, Esq., as Panelist.
Having reviewed the communications records, the Administrative Panel (the "Panel") finds that the National Arbitration Forum has discharged its responsibility under Paragraph 2(a) of the Rules for Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy (the "Rules") "to employ reasonably available means calculated to achieve actual notice to Respondent" through submission of Electronic and Written Notices, as defined in Rule 1 and Rule 2. Therefore, the Panel may issue its decision based on the documents submitted and in accordance with the ICANN Policy, ICANN Rules, the National Arbitration Forum's Supplemental Rules and any rules and principles of law that the Panel deems applicable, without the benefit of any response from Respondent.
Complainant requests that the domain name be transferred from Respondent to Complainant.
A. Complainant makes the following assertions:
1. Respondent’s <halo4beta.biz> domain name, the domain name at issue, is confusingly similar to Complainant’s HALO mark.
2. Respondent does not have any rights or legitimate interests in the domain name at issue.
3. Respondent registered and used the domain name at issue in bad faith.
B. Respondent failed to submit a Response in this proceeding.
Complainant owns the world famous trademark HALO®, which is used in connection with science fiction video games for Microsoft’s XBOX game platform, as well as other goods and services. Complainant owns USPTO Reg. No. 2,598,381, registered July 23, 2002 for its HALO mark with a date of claimed first use in commerce of November 15, 2001. Complainant has not licensed or otherwise authorized Respondent to use the HALO mark and Respondent is not commonly known by the <halo4beta.biz> domain name at issue which is confusingly similar to Complainant’s mark.
The disputed domain name resolves to a web site entitled “Halo 4 Beta” that prominently features Complainant’s Logos, and images related to Complainant’s Halo game. No indications of source are provided other than Complainant’s famous marks. The home page asks visitors to drive additional traffic to Respondent’s website by liking it on Facebook and posting favorable reviews on their walls. Respondent then invites visitors to “click download below for the PC beta version of this game.” Visitors clicking the button are informed that the download file will be locked until they participate in third-party offers or surveys.
Paragraph 15(a) of the Rules instructs this Panel to "decide a complaint on the basis of the statements and documents submitted in accordance with the Policy, these Rules and any rules and principles of law that it deems applicable."
Paragraph 4(a) of the Policy requires that Complainant must prove each of the following three elements to obtain an order that a domain name should be cancelled or transferred:
(1) the domain name registered by Respondent is identical or confusingly similar to a trademark or service mark in which Complainant has rights; and
(2) Respondent has no rights or legitimate interests in respect of the domain name; and
(3) the domain name has been registered and is being used in bad faith.
In view of Respondent's failure to submit a response, the Panel shall decide this administrative proceeding on the basis of Complainant's undisputed representations pursuant to paragraphs 5(e), 14(a) and 15(a) of the Rules and draw such inferences it considers appropriate pursuant to paragraph 14(b) of the Rules. The Panel is entitled to accept all reasonable allegations and inferences set forth in the Complaint as true unless the evidence is clearly contradictory. See Vertical Solutions Mgmt., Inc. v. webnet-marketing, inc., FA 95095 (Nat. Arb. Forum July 31, 2000) (holding that the respondent’s failure to respond allows all reasonable inferences of fact in the allegations of the complaint to be deemed true); see also Talk City, Inc. v. Robertson, D2000-0009 (WIPO Feb. 29, 2000) (“In the absence of a response, it is appropriate to accept as true all allegations of the Complaint.”).
Complainant contends has established its rights in the HALO mark by registering it with the USPTO (e.g., Reg. No. 2,598,381 registered July 23, 2002). Complainant owns multiple other trademark registrations issued by the USPTO for the HALO mark. Complainant has successfully established its rights in the HALO mark under Policy ¶ 4(a)(i) by registering the mark with the USPTO. See Expedia, Inc. v. Tan, FA 991075 (Nat. Arb. Forum June 29, 2007) (“As the [complainant’s] mark is registered with the USPTO, [the] complainant has met the requirements of Policy ¶ 4(a)(i).”); see also Reebok Int’l Ltd. v. Santos, FA 565685 (Nat. Arb. Forum Dec. 21, 2005) (finding trademark registration with the USPTO was adequate to establish rights pursuant to Policy ¶ 4(a)(i)).
Respondent’s disputed domain name is confusingly similar to Complainant’s HALO mark. The disputed domain name includes the entire mark, merely adding the descriptive term “beta,” the descriptive number “4,” and the generic top-level domain “.biz.” Respondent has failed to differentiate its <halo4beta.biz> domain name form Complainant’s HALO mark in any meaningful way. The Panel finds that Respondent’s disputed domain name is confusingly similar to Complainant’s HALO mark under Policy ¶ 4(a)(i). See Trip Network Inc. v. Alviera, FA 914943 (Nat. Arb. Forum Mar. 27, 2007) (concluding that the affixation of a gTLD to a domain name is irrelevant to a Policy ¶ 4(a)(i) analysis); see also Constellation Wines U.S., Inc. v. Tex. Int’l Prop. Assocs., FA 948436 (Nat. Arb. Forum May 16, 2007) (finding that the addition of the descriptive term “wine” to the complainant’s BLACKSTONE mark in the <blackstonewine.com> domain name was insufficient to distinguish the mark from the domain name under Policy ¶ 4(a)(i)); see also Am. Online, Inc. v. Fu, D2000-1374 (WIPO Dec. 11, 2000) (finding that adding the suffixes "502" and "520" to the ICQ trademark does little to reduce the potential for confusion).
The Panel finds that Policy ¶ 4(a)(i) has been established.
Complainant must first make a prima facie case that Respondent lacks rights and legitimate interests in the disputed domain name under Policy ¶ 4(a)(ii), and then the burden shifts to Respondent to show it does have rights or legitimate interests. See Hanna-Barbera Prods., Inc. v. Entm’t Commentaries, FA 741828 (Nat. Arb. Forum Aug. 18, 2006) (holding that the complainant must first make a prima facie case that the respondent lacks rights and legitimate interests in the disputed domain name under UDRP ¶ 4(a)(ii) before the burden shifts to the respondent to show that it does have rights or legitimate interests in a domain name); see also AOL LLC v. Gerberg, FA 780200 (Nat. Arb. Forum Sept. 25, 2006) (“Complainant must first make a prima facie showing that Respondent does not have rights or legitimate interest in the subject domain names, which burden is light. If Complainant satisfies its burden, then the burden shifts to Respondent to show that it does have rights or legitimate interests in the subject domain names.”).
Respondent is not commonly known by the disputed domain name. The WHOIS information identifies the registrant of the disputed domain name as “Gerardo Torres / JerryG.” Respondent has not submitted any evidence that it is commonly known by a disputed domain name. Based upon the available evidence, the Panel concludes that Respondent is not commonly known by the disputed domain name under Policy ¶ 4(c)(ii). See M. Shanken Commc’ns v. WORLDTRAVELERSONLINE.COM, FA 740335 (Nat. Arb. Forum Aug. 3, 2006) (finding that the respondent was not commonly known by the <cigaraficionada.com> domain name under Policy ¶ 4(c)(ii) based on the WHOIS information and other evidence in the record); see also Coppertown Drive-Thru Sys., LLC v. Snowden, FA 715089 (Nat. Arb. Forum July 17, 2006) (concluding that the respondent was not commonly known by the <coppertown.com> domain name where there was no evidence in the record, including the WHOIS information, suggesting that the respondent was commonly known by the disputed domain name).
Respondent is not making a bona fide offering of goods or services or a legitimate noncommercial or fair use of the disputed domain name. The disputed domain name resolves to a website offering a software download of Complainant’s most recent game in the HALO series in return for the Internet users’ acquiescence to receipt of different online offers. Respondent is attempting to pass itself off as Complainant offering such services from the website. Respondent is not making a bona fide offering of goods or services under Policy ¶ 4(c)(i) or a legitimate noncommercial or fair use of the disputed domain name under Policy ¶ 4(c)(iii). See Mortgage Research Center LLC v. Miranda, FA 993017 (Nat. Arb. Forum July 9, 2007) (“Because [the] respondent in this case is also attempting to pass itself off as [the] complainant, presumably for financial gain, the Panel finds the respondent is not using the <mortgageresearchcenter.org> domain name for a bona fide offering of goods or services pursuant to Policy ¶ 4(c)(i), or a legitimate noncommercial or fair use pursuant to Policy ¶ 4(c)(iii).”); see also Crow v. LOVEARTH.net, FA 203208 (Nat. Arb. Forum Nov. 28, 2003) (“It is neither a bona fide offerings [sic] of goods or services, nor an example of a legitimate noncommercial or fair use under Policy ¶¶ 4(c)(i) & (iii) when the holder of a domain name, confusingly similar to a registered mark, attempts to profit by passing itself off as Complainant . . . .”).
The Panel finds that Policy ¶ 4(a)(ii) has been established.
Respondent is gaining commercially from the disputed domain name by confusing Internet users. Respondent offers a software download from the website to which the disputed domain name resolves in return for the Internet users signing up for multiple online offers. Respondent’s actions indicate an intent to pass itself off as Complainant by claiming to offer a software download that is purportedly a non-commercially released beta version of a HALO-branded new release. Respondent is attempting to confuse Internet users as to the affiliation that does not actually exist between Respondent and Complainant and then profiting off of that confusion. Respondent generates revenue from affiliate fees collected when each Internet user signs up to receive one of the offers. Thus, the Panel concludes that Respondent registered and is using the disputed domain name in bad faith under Policy ¶ 4(b)(iv) because of Respondent’s intent to capitalize off of the confusion created by its website and domain name. See MySpace, Inc. v. Myspace Bot, FA 672161 (Nat. Arb. Forum May 19, 2006) (holding that the respondent registered and used the <myspacebot.com> domain name in bad faith by diverting Internet users seeking the complainant’s website to its own website for commercial gain because the respondent likely profited from this diversion scheme); see also Perot Sys. Corp. v. Perot.net, FA 95312 (Nat. Arb. Forum Aug. 29, 2000) (finding bad faith where the domain name in question is obviously connected with the complainant’s well-known marks, thus creating a likelihood of confusion strictly for commercial gain).
Respondent’s registration and use of the disputed domain name is evidence of opportunistic bad faith due to the timing of the registration and the distinctive fame and nature of Complainant’s HALO mark. Respondent registered the disputed domain name less than 10 days after Complainant officially introduced its new HALO 4 product through a global press release. The HALO mark is distinctively tied to its video game software products, which Respondent’s disputed domain name references in both the domain name itself and the website to which it resolves. The circumstances surrounding Respondent’s registration and use of the disputed domain name indicate that Respondent registered the disputed domain name in opportunistic bad faith and, as a result, registered and is using the disputed domain name in bad faith under Policy ¶ 4(a)(iii). See Sota v. Waldron, D2001-0351 (WIPO June 18, 2001) (finding that the respondent’s registration of the <seveballesterostrophy.com> domain name at the time of the announcement of the Seve Ballesteros Trophy golf tournament “strongly indicates an opportunistic registration”); see also 3M Co. v. Jeong, FA 505494 (Nat. Arb. Forum Aug. 11, 2005) (“Respondent’s registration of the disputed domain name the same day that Complainant issued the press release regarding the acquisition constitutes opportunistic bad faith.”).
The Panel finds that Policy ¶ 4(a)(iii) has been established.
Having established all three elements required under the ICANN Policy, the Panel concludes that relief shall be GRANTED.
Accordingly, it is Ordered that the <halo4beta.biz> domain name be TRANSFERRED from Respondent to Complainant.
James A. Carmody, Esq., Panelist
Dated: April 11, 2012
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