Government Employees Insurance Company (“GEICO”) v. Hildegard Gruener
Case No. D2015-1410
1. The Parties
The Complainant is Government Employees Insurance Company (“GEICO”) of Washington, United States of America, represented by Burns & Levinson LLP, United States of America.
The Respondent is Hildegard Gruener of Wien, Austria.
2. The Domain Name and Registrar
The disputed domain name is registered with GoDaddy.com, LLC (the “Registrar”).
3. Procedural History
The Complaint was filed with the WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center (the “Center”) on August 10, 2015. On the same date, the Center transmitted by email to the Registrar a request for registrar verification in connection with the disputed domain name. On August 11, 2015, 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 August 14, 2015. In accordance with the Rules, paragraph 5, the due date for Response was September 3, 2015. The Respondent did not submit any response. Accordingly, the Center notified the Respondent’s default on September 4, 2015.
The Center appointed Charles Gielen as the sole panelist in this matter on September 16, 2015. 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.
4. Factual Background
The Complainant owns several registrations of trademarks composed in whole or in part of the term “Geico”.
The Complainant notably owns the following United States federal registrations for the word GEICO registered for services in class 36: number 763,274 registered on January 14, 1964 and number 2,601,179, registered on July 30, 2002.
The disputed domain name was created on July 28, 2015.
5. Parties’ Contentions
The Complainant is a well-known insurance company that has provided insurance services since 1936. The Complainant offers numerous types of insurance services including automobile, motorcycle, homeowners, rental, condominium, flood, mobile home, personal umbrella, and overseas insurance, among others. The Complainant has made extensive use of the trademark GEICO in connection with its services. The Complainant invests large sums to promote and develop its trademark through television, print media, and the Internet.
Through extensive use and promotional activities using the trademark GEICO, this trademark has become uniquely associated with the Complainant and its services. The Complainant has over 13 million policies and insures more than 22 million vehicles. It employs over 30,000 employees, and is one of the fastest-growing auto insurers in the United States.
In connection with its insurance products and services, the Complainant has established a website located at “www.geico.com”, which Complainant uses to promote and sell its motor vehicle insurance services. This website enables computer users to access information regarding the insurance services offered by the Complainant, manage their policies and claims, learn more about the Complainant and its services, and obtain insurance quotes.
The Complainant contends that the disputed domain name is confusingly similar to the Complainant’s trademark GEICO.
Furthermore, the Complainant states that the Respondent for a number of reasons does not have any rights or legitimate interests in the name “Geico” that forms the dominant element in the disputed domain name; the Respondent is not known under the name GEICO and the Respondent does not pretend to own any trademark or other rights in that name. The Complainant points at several earlier UDRP-cases in which the transfer of domain names in the name of the Respondent was ordered which domain names were all comprised of well-known trademarks. These cases included domain names like , , , and . According to the Complainant, such a scheme does not represent a legitimate interest in the disputed domain name.
Finally, the Complainant states that the Respondent registered and uses the disputed domain name in bad faith. The basis for the claim that the registration is made in bad faith first of all is that Respondent registered the domain name with full knowledge of the rights of the Complainant in the trademark GEICO and with an intent to profit off of those rights. According to the Complainant, it is inconceivable that Respondent was unaware of the rights to the trademark GEICO. Furthermore, the Complainant contends that the disputed domain name is being used in bad faith. The disputed domain name resolves in a website that appears to be a consumer survey authorized by Complainant when it is not. The Complainant has not authorized any such survey nor entered into any agreement with Respondent. Also, the disputed domain name is used to trade on the goodwill associated with the Complainant and its trademark GEICO by leading consumers to believe that Respondent or its website and services are associated with the Complainant. According to the Complainant, it is highly likely that consumers looking for legitimate GEICO products and services may have been directed to Respondent’s website and might unwittingly have transacted business with and/or relied on information provided by Respondent assuming its services were legitimately associated with Complainant.
The Respondent did not reply to the Complainant’s contentions.
6. Discussion and Findings
The Panel is of the opinion that the Complainant’s contentions are justified and that the disputed domain name should be transferred to the Complainant. The Panel gives the following reasons for its Decision.
A. Identical or Confusingly Similar
The Complainant proves that it has rights in the trademark GEICO based on different trademark registrations. This trademark is a strong and distinctive mark; it certainly is not a fantasy term. The disputed domain name contains this trademark as the most dominant part. The added term “-com” does not change the finding that the disputed domain name is similar, since the term “-com “is generally understood as standing for the most popular generic Top-Level Domain (“gTLD”) “.com”. In making the comparison between the trademark and the disputed domain name, the gTLD suffix “.com” is usually disregarded. The Panel is of the opinion that applying these principles to this case, the disputed domain name should be considered confusingly similar to the trademark.
Therefore, the requirement under paragraph 4(a)(i) of the Policy is met.
The Panel is of the opinion that the Complainant made out a prima facie case that the Respondent lacks rights or legitimate interests in the disputed domain name. The first reason is that the distinctive term GEICO is not a term one would choose as a domain name without having specific rights to such a term. The Panel has not been given evidence of any such rights, so it must be held that such rights do not exist. The term GEICO certainly is not a descriptive term serving to indicate specific characteristics of any goods or services. Furthermore the Panel notes that the Respondent has not been granted any rights to use the name GEICO as part of the disputed domain name.
In view of the aforementioned, the Panel is of the opinion that the requirement of paragraph 4(a)(ii) of the Policy is met.
The Panel is of the opinion that the disputed domain name was registered and is being used in bad faith. The Panel recalls first of all that the trademark GEICO is a well-known trademark in the United States in particular for insurance services and that it has a strong distinctive character. The trademark was used and registered before the disputed domain name was registered. It must be held that the Respondent knew of the existence of the Complainant’s trademark at the time of its registration, which is reflected by the fact that he uses the disputed domain name for a website that clearly refers to the business of the Complainant by offering a survey on the activities of the Complainant. In doing so, the Respondent creates the impression of being connected to the Complainant which is not the case. Under paragraph 4(b)(iv) of the Policy registration and use of the disputed domain name in order to intentionally attract Internet users by creating a likelihood of confusion with the trademarks of the Complainant is a clear indication of bad faith registration and use of the disputed domain name. In this case such intention follows from the fact that the Respondent suggests that the survey on its website is organized or at least authorized by the Complainant when it is not. Furthermore, it is relevant that what the Respondent does, fits in a pattern of conduct of registering domain names that contain widely known brands of others. This case is a clear example of such conduct and shows the bad faith intentions of the Respondent.
The Panel therefore considers the requirement of paragraph 4(a)(iii) to be met.
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 be transferred to the Complainant.
Date: September 30, 2015