Calpers.com: Sold on NameJet, domain gets lost via the #UDRP process

Paying up for a domain in a NameJet auction, only to lose it a few months later isn’t great news.

In the case of Calpers.com, it was sold for $1,718 dollars last December. Source: NameBio.

CALPERS is an acronym for California Public Employees’ Retirement System and a registered trademark since 2001. The domain was in their possession until a failure in the renewal system sent the domain into a NameJet auction. The domain Calpers.com retains the original registration date of Novermber 13, 1998.

Per the UDRP:

The Panel has accessed the Internet Archive and determined that the disputed domain name appears to have originally been registered by Complainant, and used by Complainant through August 2005. It was subsequently not used, until sometime in 2022 when it was used to resolve to the parked page referred to above.

On the basis of the above, the Panel finds that Respondent did not originally register the disputed domain name and that Respondent registered the disputed domain name well after Complainant acquired its trademark rights in the CALPERS mark.

The sole panelist at the Forum (NAF) delivered the decision to transfer the domain Calpers.com to the Complainant.

California Public Employees’ Retirement System v. Nette, Nanci

Claim Number: FA2207002006055

PARTIES

Complainant is California Public Employees’ Retirement System (“Complainant”), California, USA. Respondent is Nette, Nanci (“Respondent”), California, USA.

REGISTRAR AND DISPUTED DOMAIN NAME

The domain name at issue is calpers.com, registered with Network Solutions, LLC.

PANEL

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.

Richard Hill as Panelist.

PROCEDURAL HISTORY

Complainant submitted a Complaint to the Forum electronically on July 27, 2022; the Forum received payment on July 27, 2022.

On July 28, 2022, Network Solutions, LLC confirmed by e-mail to the Forum that the calpers.com domain name is registered with Network Solutions, LLC and that Respondent is the current registrant of the name. Network Solutions, LLC has verified that Respondent is bound by the Network Solutions, LLC 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 August 1, 2022, the Forum served the Complaint and all Annexes, including a Written Notice of the Complaint, setting a deadline of August 22, 2022 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 postmaster@calpers.com. Also on August 1, 2022, 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 Forum transmitted to the parties a Notification of Respondent Default.

On August 24, 2022, pursuant to Complainant’s request to have the dispute decided by a single-member Panel, the Forum appointed Richard Hill as Panelist.

Having reviewed the communications records, the Administrative Panel (the “Panel”) finds that the 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 Forum’s Supplemental Rules and any rules and principles of law that the Panel deems applicable, without the benefit of any response from Respondent.

RELIEF SOUGHT

Complainant requests that the domain name be transferred from Respondent to Complainant.

PARTIES’ CONTENTIONS

A. Complainant

Complainant states that it uses the CALPERS mark as a service mark in connection with the administration of public employee welfare plans and administration of public employee retirement benefit plans. With assets of approximately $450 billion, Complainant is the largest defined-benefit public pension in the United States, and it administers retirement benefits for more than 2 million California state, local government, and public-school employees, retirees, and their families, and health benefits for more than 1.5 million enrollees. Complainant claims rights in the CALPERS mark through its registration in the United States in 2002, with filing date October 19, 2001 and first use in commerce February 28, 1997. The mark is famous.

Complainant alleges that the disputed domain name is identical or confusingly similar to its CALPERS mark as it incorporates the mark in its entirety, merely adding the “.com” generic top-level domain (“gTLD”).

According to Complainant, Respondent lacks rights or legitimate interests in the disputed domain name. Respondent is not commonly known by the disputed domain name, nor has Complainant authorized or licensed any rights to Respondent in the CALPERS mark. Respondent does not use the disputed domain name for any bona fide offering of goods or services, nor for any legitimate noncommercial or fair use. Instead, the disputed domain name resolves to a parked page that displays click-through advertising links, some to products and services that compete with those of Complainant.

Further, says Complainant, Respondent registered and uses the disputed domain name in bad faith. Respondent uses the disputed domain name in an attempt to create a likelihood of confusion with Complainant’s CALPERS mark and attract users for commercial gain by displaying competing advertising links at the resolving website. Respondent has engaged in a pattern of bad faith registration and use of domain names.

B. Respondent

Respondent failed to submit a Response in this proceeding.

FINDINGS

Complainant has rights in the mark CALPERS and uses it to provide administration of public employee welfare plans and administration of public employee retirement benefit plans.

Complainant’s rights in its mark predate Respondent’s registration of the disputed domain name.

Complainant has not licensed or otherwise authorized Respondent to use its mark.

The resolving website displays click-through advertising links to products and services, some of which compete with those of Complainant. Respondent has engaged in a pattern of bad faith registration and use of domain names.

DISCUSSION

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(f), 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 set forth in a complaint; however, the Panel may deny relief where a complaint contains mere conclusory or unsubstantiated arguments. See WIPO Jurisprudential Overview 3.0 at ¶ 4.3; see also eGalaxy Multimedia Inc. v. ON HOLD By Owner Ready To Expire, FA 157287 (Forum June 26, 2003) (“Because Complainant did not produce clear evidence to support its subjective allegations [. . .] the Panel finds it appropriate to dismiss the Complaint”).

Identical and/or Confusingly Similar

The disputed domain name incorporates Complainant’s CALPERS mark in its entirety, merely adding the gTLD “.com”. Under Policy ¶ 4(a)(i), the addition of the “.com” gTLD is generally considered irrelevant in determining whether a disputed domain name is identical to a protected mark. See Abt Elecs., Inc. v. Ricks, FA 904239 (Forum Mar. 27, 2007) (“The Panel also finds that Respondent’s abt.com domain name is identical to Complainant’s ABT mark since addition of a generic top-level domain (“gTLD”) is irrelevant when conducting a Policy ¶ 4(a)(i) analysis.”). Therefore the Panel finds that the disputed domain name is identical to Complainant’s mark pursuant to Policy ¶ 4(a)(i).

Rights or Legitimate Interests

Complainant has not licensed or otherwise authorized Respondent to use its mark. Respondent is not commonly known by the disputed domain name: under Policy ¶ 4(c)(ii), WHOIS information can be used to determine whether a Respondent is known by a disputed domain name. See M. Shanken Commc’ns v. WORLDTRAVELERSONLINE.COM, FA 740335 (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). Here, the WHOIS information of record shows that the registrant of the disputed domain name is “Nanci Nette”. Therefore the Panel finds that Respondent is not commonly known by the disputed domain name under Policy ¶ 4(c)(ii).

The disputed domain name resolves to a parked page displaying click-through advertising links, some to products and services that compete with those of Complainant. Past panels have held that using another’s mark to resolve to a website that offers products or services in competition with a Complainant’s business is not using the domain name in connection with a bona fide offering of goods or services or a legitimate noncommercial or fair use. See Coachella Music Festival, LLC v. josh greenly / All Access Tickets, FA1507001629217 (Forum Aug. 10, 2015) (finding that the respondent had failed to provide a bona fide offering of goods or services or a legitimate noncommercial or fair use of the disputed domain name as required under Policy ¶ 4(c)(i) and Policy ¶ 4(c)(iii), where the respondent was using the disputed domain name to host a web page that featured links to services that competed with those of the complainant); see also See General Motors LLC v. MIKE LEE, FA 1659965 (Forum Mar. 10, 2016) (finding that “use of a domain to sell products and/or services that compete directly with a complainant’s business does not constitute 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)”). Thus, the Panel finds that Respondent fails to use the disputed domain name to make a bona fide offering of goods or services under Policy ¶¶ 4(c)(i) or (iii). And the Panel finds that Respondent does not have rights or legitimate interests in the disputed domain name.

Registration and Use in Bad Faith

Under the Policy, the relevant date for trademark rights is the date on which the trademark was filed. See Lenovo (Beijing) Limited Corporation China v. jeonggon seo, FA 1591638 (Forum Jan. 16, 2015) (finding Complainant has rights in the LENOVO mark dating back to the February 20, 2003 filing date with the USPTO as the trademark application was ultimately successful); see also Hershey Co. v. Reaves, FA 967818 (Forum June 8, 2007) (finding that the complainant’s rights in the KISSES trademark through registration of the mark with the USPTO “date back to the filing date of the trademark application and predate [the] respondent’s registration”).

Here, the filing date for Complainant’s mark is October 19, 2001. Complainant asserts that the mark was used in commerce as of February 28, 1997, but it does not allege – much less provide evidence to prove – that it acquired common law trademark rights prior to the date on which the disputed domain name was registered, namely November 13, 1998.

According to 3.8 of the WIPO Overview of WIPO Panel Views on Selected UDRP Questions, Third Edition (“WIPO Jurisprudential Overview 3.0”), in general, where a respondent registers a domain name before the complainant’s trademark rights accrue, panels will not normally find bad faith on the part of the respondent.

According to 3.9 of the WIPO Overview of WIPO Panel Views on Selected UDRP Questions, Third Edition (“WIPO Jurisprudential Overview 3.0”), panels have found that the mere renewal of a domain name registration by the same registrant is insufficient to support a finding of registration in bad faith.

Complainant does not allege – much less provide evidence to prove – that Respondent is not the original registrant of the disputed domain name.

As noted above, the Panel may deny relief where a complaint contains mere conclusory or unsubstantiated arguments. See WIPO Jurisprudential Overview 3.0 at ¶ 4.3; see also eGalaxy Multimedia Inc. v. ON HOLD By Owner Ready To Expire, FA 157287 (Forum June 26, 2003) (“Because Complainant did not produce clear evidence to support its subjective allegations [. . .] the Panel finds it appropriate to dismiss the Complaint”).

However, according to paragraph 4.8 of the WIPO Overview of WIPO Panel Views on Selected UDRP Questions, Third Edition (“WIPO Jurisprudential Overview 3.0”), a Panel may conduct limited factual research regarding disputed domain names:

Noting in particular the general powers of a panel articulated inter alia in paragraphs 10 and 12 of the UDRP Rules, it has been accepted that a panel may undertake limited factual research into matters of public record if it would consider such information useful to assessing the case merits and reaching a decision.

This may include visiting the website linked to the disputed domain name in order to obtain more information about the respondent or its use of the domain name, consulting historical resources such as the Internet Archive (www.archive.org) in order to obtain an indication of how a domain name may have been used in the relevant past, reviewing dictionaries or encyclopedias (e.g., Wikipedia), or accessing trademark registration databases.

The Panel has accessed the Internet Archive and determined that the disputed domain name appears to have originally been registered by Complainant, and used by Complainant through August 2005. It was subsequently not used, until sometime in 2022 when it was used to resolve to the parked page referred to above.

On the basis of the above, the Panel finds that Respondent did not originally register the disputed domain name and that Respondent registered the disputed domain name well after Complainant acquired its trademark rights in the CALPERS mark.

Respondent (who did not reply to Complainant’s contentions) has not presented any plausible explanation for its use of Complainant’s mark. In accordance with paragraph 14(b) of the Rules, the Panel shall draw such inferences from Respondent’s failure to reply as it considers appropriate. Accordingly, the Panel finds that Respondent did not have a legitimate use in mind when registering the disputed domain name.

Indeed, as already noted, the resolving websites offer competing services. This constitutes bad faith registration and use under Policy ¶ 4(b)(iv). See Asbury Auto Group Inc. v. Tex. Int’l Prop Assocs, FA 958542 (Forum May 29, 2007) (finding that the respondent’s use of the disputed domain name to compete with the complainant’s business would likely lead to confusion amongst Internet users as to the sponsorship or affiliation of a competing business and was therefore evidence of bad faith and use); see also See Xylem Inc. and Xylem IP Holdings LLC v. YinSi BaoHu YiKaiQi, FA1504001612750 (Forum May 13, 2015) (“The Panel agrees that Respondent’s use of the website to display products similar to Complainant’s, imputes intent to attract Internet users for commercial gain, and finds bad faith per Policy ¶ 4(b)(iv).”). Bad faith has been found even where a respondent has commercially benefited through links unrelated to a complainant’s mark. See Bank of Am. Fork v. Shen, FA 699645 (Forum June 11, 2006) (holding that the respondent’s previous use of the bankofamericanfork.com domain name to maintain a web directory was evidence of bad faith because the respondent presumably commercially benefited by receiving click-through fees for diverting Internet users to unrelated third-party websites); see also PopSockets LLC v. san mao, FA 1740903 (Forum Aug. 27, 2017) (finding disruption of a complainant’s business which was not directly commercial competitive behavior was nonetheless sufficient to establish bad faith registration and use per Policy ¶ 4(b)(iii)); see also Dovetail Ventures, LLC v. Klayton Thorpe, FA1506001625786 (Forum Aug. 2, 2015) (holding that the respondent had acted in bad faith under Policy ¶ 4(b)(iv), where it used the disputed domain name to host a variety of hyperlinks, unrelated to the complainant’s business, through which the respondent presumably commercially gained). Accordingly, the Panel finds bad faith registration and use per Policy ¶ 4(b)(iii) and/or (iv).

Complainant cites numerous UDRP cases in which Respondent was found to have registered and used a domain name in bad faith. Pursuant to Policy ¶ 4(b)(ii), a pattern of bad faith registrations may be demonstrated by past adverse UDRP decisions. See Webster Financial Corporation and Webster Bank, National Association v. Above.com Domain Privacy, FA1209001464477 (Forum Nov. 30, 2012) (finding where the record reflected that the respondent had been a respondent in other UDRP proceedings in which it was ordered to transfer disputed domain names to various complainants established a pattern of bad faith registration and use of domain names and stood as evidence of bad faith in the registration and use of domain names under Policy ¶ 4(b)(ii)); see also DIRECTV, LLC v. michal restl c/o Dynadot, FA 1788826 (Forum July 5, 2018) (“The record contains evidence of Respondent’s previous eleven UDRP actions, all of which resulted in the transfer of the domain names, thus establishing bad faith per Policy ¶ 4(b)(ii).”); see also Philip Morris USA Inc. v. RapidClic / VAUCLIN Olivier, FA1520008 (Forum Nov. 7, 2013) (respondent’s registration of multiple infringing domain names established a pattern of bad faith registration and use under Policy ¶ 4(b)(ii)). Thus the Panel finds that Respondent has engaged in a pattern of bad faith registration and use under Policy ¶ 4(b)(ii).

DECISION

Having established all three elements required under the ICANN Policy, the Panel concludes that relief shall be GRANTED.

Accordingly, it is Ordered that the calpers.com domain name be TRANSFERRED from Respondent to Complainant.

Richard Hill, Panelist

Dated: August 24, 2022

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