Google takes Googled.com 21 years later

Google, the 800 lbs search engine gorilla, has taken over the domain Googled.com.

It took 21 years and the use of the UDRP process to bring this 2001 registration home. Googling is the act of using Google to search for and find related results and “Googled” would be the past tense, however, this is a misappropriation of the GOOGLE trademark and not a generic word.

The UDRP case was decided at the Forum (NAF) rather swiftly:

[…] it is evident that Respondent had actual knowledge of Complainant and its mark when it registered the Domain Name.  Complainant’s mark is known world-wide.  It is unique and somewhat whimsical and is not a name a business entity would select for a domain name unless it was targeting Complainant’s mark for commercial gain.  Respondent copied that mark exactly into the Domain Name, albeit with a subtle misspelling. 

Final decision: Transfer the domain Googled.com to the Complainant.

Google LLC v. Markus Tamm

Claim Number: FA2206002001423

PARTIES

Complainant is Google LLC (“Complainant”), represented by James R. Davis, II of Perkins Coie LLP, District of Columbia, USA. Respondent is Markus Tamm (“Respondent”), Latvia.

REGISTRAR AND DISPUTED DOMAIN NAME

The domain name at issue is , registered with NameSilo, 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.

Charles A. Kuechenmeister, Panelist.

PROCEDURAL HISTORY

Complainant submitted a Complaint to the Forum electronically on June 22, 2022; the Forum received payment on June 22, 2022.

On June 22, 2022, NameSilo, LLC confirmed by e-mail to the Forum that the domain name (the Domain Name) is registered with NameSilo, LLC and that Respondent is the current registrant of the name. NameSilo, LLC has verified that Respondent is bound by the NameSilo, 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 June 23, 2022, the Forum served the Complaint and all Annexes, including a Written Notice of the Complaint setting a deadline of July 13, 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@googled.com. Also on June 23, 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 July 19, 2022, pursuant to Complainant’s request to have the dispute decided by a single-member Panel, the Forum appointed Charles A. Kuechenmeister 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 a Response from Respondent.

RELIEF SOUGHT

Complainant requests that the Domain Name be transferred from Respondent to Complainant.

PARTIES’ CONTENTIONS

A. Complainant

Complainant operates an internet search engine and provides a wide range of goods and services. It has rights in the GOOGLE mark through its registration of that mark with multiple trademark authorities, including the United States Patent and Trademark Office (“USPTO”). Respondent’s Domain Name is identical or confusingly similar to Complainant’s GOOGLE mark as it incorporates the mark in its entirety, merely misspelling it by adding the letter “d,” and adding the “.com” generic top-level domain (“gTLD”).

Respondent has no rights or legitimate interests in the Domain Name. It is not commonly known by the Domain Name, and Complainant has not authorized or licensed Respondent to use its GOOGLE mark. Respondent is not using the Domain Name for a bona fide offering of goods or services or for a legitimate noncommercial or fair use, but instead uses it to host pay-per-click and advertisements for third-party products.

Respondent registered and uses the Domain Name in bad faith. Respondent prevents Complainant from using a domain name that reflects its mark and has engaged in a pattern of bad faith registrations, it uses the Domain Name to attract Internet traffic to its website for commercial gain by causing confusion as to the source, sponsorship, endorsement or affiliation of its website, it registered the confusingly similar Domain Name while having no connection with Complainant or its GOOGLE mark, and it registered and uses the Domain Name with actual knowledge of Complainant’s rights in the GOOGLE mark.

B. Respondent

Respondent did not submit a Response in this proceeding.

FINDINGS

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 a complainant to prove each of the following three elements to obtain an order cancelling or transferring a domain name:

(1) the domain name registered by the respondent is identical or confusingly similar to a trademark or service mark in which the complainant has rights; and

(2) the 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, pursuant to paragraphs 5(f), 14(a) and 15(a) of the Rules the Panel will decide this administrative proceeding on the basis of Complainant’s undisputed representations 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. Nevertheless, the Panel may deny relief where a complaint contains mere conclusory or unsubstantiated arguments. 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”), WIPO Overview 3.0, at ¶ 4.3 (“In cases involving wholly unsupported and conclusory allegations advanced by the complainant, . . . panels may find that—despite a respondent’s default—a complainant has failed to prove its case.”).

The Panel finds as follows with respect to the matters at issue in this proceeding:

Identical and/or Confusingly Similar
The GOOGLE mark was registered to Google, Inc. with the USPTO (Reg. No. 2,806,075) on January 20, 2004 and was subsequently assigned to Complainant (TESS report included in Complaint Exhibit D). Complainant’s registration of its mark with the USPTO establishes its rights in that mark for the purposes of Policy ¶ 4(a)(i). Bloomberg Finance L.P. v. Jimmy Yau, FA 1764034 (Forum Jan. 25, 2018) (“The Panel finds that complainant has rights in BLOOMBERG mark under Policy ¶ 4(a)(i) based upon its registration with multiple trademark agencies, including the USPTO.”).

Respondent’s Domain Name is identical or confusingly similar to Complainant’s GOOGLE mark. It incorporates the mark in its entirety, merely adding the letter “d” and the “.com” gTLD. These changes do not distinguish the Domain Name from Complainant’s mark for the purposes of Policy ¶ 4(a)(i). Morgan Stanley v. Francis Mccarthy / Baltec Marine Llc, FA 1785347 (Forum June 8, 2018) (“The [ and ] Domain Names are confusingly similar to Complainant’s marks, as they fully incorporate the MORGAN STANLEY mark, varying it only by subtle misspellings, omitting a space between the words, and adding the generic top-level domain (“gTLD”) ‘.com.’”). The WIPO Overview 3.0, at ¶ 1.7, states that the test for confusing similarity “typically involves a side-by-side comparison of the domain name and the textual components of the relevant trademark to assess whether the mark is recognizable within the domain name.” Notwithstanding the changes described above, Complainant’s mark is clearly recognizable within the Domain Name.

For the reasons set forth above, the Panel finds that the Domain Name is identical or confusingly similar to the GOOGLE mark, in which Complainant has substantial and demonstrated rights.

Rights or Legitimate Interests

If a complainant makes a prima facie case that the respondent lacks rights or legitimate interests in the domain name under Policy ¶ 4(a)(ii), the burden of production shifts to respondent to come forward with evidence that it has rights or legitimate interests in it. Neal & Massey Holdings Limited v. Gregory Ricks, FA 1549327 (Forum Apr. 12, 2014) (“Under Policy ¶ 4(a)(ii), Complainant must first make out a prima facie case showing that Respondent lacks rights and legitimate interests in respect of an at-issue domain name and then the burden, in effect, shifts to Respondent to come forward with evidence of its rights or legitimate interests”). If a respondent fails to come forward with such evidence, the complainant’s prima facie evidence will be sufficient to establish that respondent lacks such rights or legitimate interests. If the respondent does come forward with such evidence, the Panel must assess the evidence in its entirety. At all times, the burden of proof remains on the complainant. WIPO Overview 3.0, at ¶ 2.1.

Policy ¶ 4(c) lists the following three nonexclusive circumstances, any one of which if proven can demonstrate a respondent’s rights or legitimate interests in a domain name for the purposes of Policy ¶ 4(a)(ii):

(i) Before any notice to the respondent of the dispute, the respondent’s 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;

(ii) The respondent (as an individual, business or other organization) has been commonly known by the domain name, even if the respondent has acquired no trademark or service mark rights; or

(iii) The respondent is making a legitimate noncommercial or fair use of the domain name, without intent or commercial gain to misleadingly divert consumers or to tarnish the trademark or service mark at issue.

Complainant asserts that Respondent has no rights or legitimate interests in the Domain Name because (i) Respondent is not commonly known by the Domain Name, (ii) Complainant has not authorized or licensed Respondent to use its mark, and (iii) Respondent is not using the Domain Name in connection with a bona fide offering of goods or services or for a legitimate noncommercial or fair use but instead uses it for a pay-per-click website which also advertises third-party products. These allegations are addressed as follows:

The information furnished to the Forum by the registrar lists “Marcus Tamm” as the registrant of the Domain Name. This name bears no resemblance to the Domain Name. Evidence could, of course, in a given case demonstrate that the respondent is commonly known by a domain name different from the name in which it registered the domain name, e.g., the case of a domain name incorporating the brand name of a specific product offered by and associated with the respondent. In the absence of any such evidence, however, and in cases where no response has been filed, UDRP panels have consistently held that WHOIS evidence of a registrant name which does not correspond with the domain name is sufficient to prove that the respondent is not commonly known by the domain name. Amazon Technologies, Inc. v. Suzen Khan / Nancy Jain / Andrew Stanzy, FA 1741129 (Forum Aug. 16, 2017) (finding that respondent had no rights or legitimate interests in the disputed domain names when the identifying information provided by WHOIS was unrelated to the domain names or respondent’s use of the same), Alaska Air Group, Inc. and its subsidiary, Alaska Airlines v. Song Bin, FA1408001574905 (Forum Sept. 17, 2014) (holding that the respondent was not commonly known by the disputed domain name as demonstrated by the WHOIS information and based on the fact that the complainant had not licensed or authorized the respondent to use its ALASKA AIRLINES mark). The Panel is satisfied that Respondent has not been commonly known by the Domain Name for the purposes of Policy ¶ 4(c)(ii).

Complainant states that it has never authorized or permitted Respondent to use its mark. Complainant has specific competence to make this statement, and it is unchallenged by any evidence before the Panel. In the absence of evidence that a respondent is authorized to use a complainant’s mark in a domain name or that a respondent is commonly known by the disputed domain name, the respondent may be presumed to lack rights or legitimate interests in the domain name. IndyMac Bank F.S.B. v. Eshback, FA 830934 (Forum Dec. 7, 2006) (finding that the respondent failed to establish rights and legitimate interests in the domain name as the respondent was not authorized to register domain names featuring the complainant’s mark and failed to submit evidence that it is commonly known by the domain name), Indeed, Inc. v. Ankit Bhardwaj / Recruiter, FA 1739470 (Forum Aug. 3, 2017) (”Respondent lacks both rights and legitimate interests in respect of the at-issue domain name. Respondent is not authorized to use Complainant’s trademark in any capacity and, as discussed below, there are no Policy ¶ 4(c) circumstances from which the Panel might find that Respondent has rights or interests in respect of the at-issue domain name.”).

Complaint Exhibit F is a screenshot of the website resolving from the Domain Name. The site features advertisements for women’s cosmetics and accessories and links for car rentals. It is a pay-per-click site. Using a confusingly similar domain name to attract Internet traffic to a webpage that offers pay-per-click links to goods and services, whether related or unrelated to a complainant’s business, is neither a bona fide offering of goods or services within the meaning of Policy ¶ 4(c)(ii) nor a legitimate noncommercial or fair use within the meaning of Policy ¶ 4(c)(iv). McGuireWoods LLP v. Mykhailo Loginov / Loginov Enterprises d.o.o, FA1412001594837 (Forum Jan. 22, 2015) (“The Panel finds Respondent’s use of the disputed domain names to feature parked hyperlinks containing links in competition with Complainant’s legal services is not a bona fide offering of goods or services pursuant to Policy ¶ 4(c)(i), and it is not a legitimate noncommercial or fair use pursuant to Policy ¶ 4(c)(iii).”), Vance Int’l, Inc. v. Abend, FA 970871 (Forum June 8, 2007) (concluding that the operation of a pay-per-click website at a confusingly similar domain name does not represent a bona fide offering of goods or services or a legitimate noncommercial or fair use, regardless of whether or not the links resolve to competing or unrelated websites or if the respondent is itself commercially profiting from the click-through fees), Materia, Inc. v. Michele Dinoia, FA1507001627209 (Forum Aug. 20, 2015) (“The Panel finds that Respondent is using a confusingly similar domain name to redirect users to a webpage with unrelated hyperlinks, that Respondent has no other rights to the domain name, and finds that Respondent is not making a bona fide offering or a legitimate noncommercial or fair use.”).

Although not asserted in so many words by Complainant, by registering the Domain Name with a subtle misspelling of Complainant’s mark, adding the letter “d” to the mark as it appears in the Domain Name, Respondent is guilty of typosquatting, which is the intentional misspelling of a protected trademark to take advantage of typing errors made by Internet users seeking the web sites of the owners of the mark. Engaging in typosquatting is inconsistent with rights or legitimate interests in a domain name. Macy’s Inc. and its subsidiary Macy’s West Stores, Inc. v. chen wenjie c/o Dynadot Privacy, FA1404001552918 (Forum May 21, 2014) (“Respondent’s disputed domain names are typosquatted versions of Complainant’s registered mark. Typosquatting shows a lack of rights or legitimate interests.”).

The evidence furnished by Complainant establishes the required prima facie case. On that evidence, and in the absence of any evidence from Respondent, the Panel finds that Respondent has no rights or legitimate interests in the Domain Name.

Registration and Use in Bad Faith

Policy ¶ 4(b) sets forth a nonexclusive list of four circumstances, any one of which if proven would be evidence of bad faith use and registration of a domain name. They are as follows:

(i) circumstances indicating that the respondent has registered or acquired the domain name primarily for the purpose of selling, renting, or otherwise transferring the domain name registration to the complainant which is the owner of the trademark or service mark or to a competitor of that complainant, for valuable consideration in excess of the respondent’s documented out-of-pocket costs directly related to the domain name; or

(ii) the respondent has registered the domain name in order to prevent the owner of the trademark or service mark from reflecting the mark in a corresponding domain name, provided that the respondent has engaged in a pattern of such conduct; or

(iii) the respondent has registered the domain name primarily for the purpose of disrupting the business of a competitor; or

(iv) by using the domain name, the respondent has intentionally attempted to attract, for commercial gain, Internet users to the respondent’s web site or other on-line location, by creating a likelihood of confusion with the complainant’s mark as to the source, sponsorship, affiliation or endorsement of the respondent’s web site or location or of a product of service on the respondent‘s web site or location.

The evidence of Respondent’s conduct discussed above in the rights or legitimate interests analysis also supports a finding of bad faith registration and use, based upon one or more of the foregoing grounds articulated in the Policy and upon additional grounds adopted by UDRP panels over the years. First, Respondent is using the Domain Name to attract, for commercial gain, Internet users to its web site by creating a likelihood of confusion with the Complainant’s mark as to the source, sponsorship, affiliation or endorsement of its website, as described in Policy ¶ 4(b)(iv). Respondent here obtains commercial gain from its use of the Domain Name and the resolving web site to generate pay-per-click revenues. Pay-per-click sites are common on the Internet. Under the most common forms of business arrangements relating to these sites, when a visitor to the site clicks on one of the links which appear there, the site sponsor receives compensation from the various web site owners who are forwarded from the site. In most cases, the site sponsor receives compensation based upon the number of hits the downstream web site owners get from being linked to Respondent’s web site. AllianceBernstein LP v. Texas International Property Associates, Case No. D2008-1230 (WIPO, 2008) (the domain name resolved to a search directory site with links to third-party vendors and the panel inferred that the respondent received click-through-fees when site visitors clicked on those links), Brownells, Inc. v. Texas International Property Associates, Case No. D2007-1211 (WIPO, 2007), (finding in similar cases that a respondent intentionally attempted to attract internet searchers for commercial gain). Respondent’s use of the Domain Name is commercial also because the sponsors of the various web sites forwarded from Respondent’s web site benefit from the subsequent interest and purchases of those who visit the sites. UDRP panels have held that there only needs to be commercial gain sought by some party for the use to be commercial. Focus Do It All Group v. Athanasios Sermbizis, Case No. D2000-0923 (WIPO,2000) (finding that “[I]t is enough that commercial gain is being sought for someone” for a use to be commercial).

Second, Respondent’s registration of the Domain Name prevents Complainant from reflecting its mark in this corresponding Domain Name, and Respondent has engaged in a pattern of such conduct; as reflected in the report incorporated into the Complaint of three UDRP decisions in which domain names registered by Respondent were ordered transferred. There is no evidence that preventing Complainant from using the Domain Name itself was Respondent’s specific intent in registering the Domain Name, as Policy ¶ 4(b)(ii) appears to require, but Respondent’s primary intent in registering and using the Domain Name is less important than the effect of its conduct. Respondent knew or should have known that its registration would prevent Complainant from registering this Domain Name for its own purposes and went forward with its plans in spite of that. This demonstrates bad faith independently of Policy ¶ 4(b)(ii).

Next, as discussed above, Respondent is guilty of typosquatting. This does not fit precisely within any of the circumstances listed in Policy ¶ 4(b) but that paragraph recognizes that mischief can manifest in many different forms and takes an open-ended approach to bad faith, listing some examples without attempting to enumerate all its varieties. Worldcom Exchange, Inc. v. Wei.com, Inc., WIPO Case No. D-2004-0955 (January 5, 2005). The list of circumstances set forth in Policy ¶ 4(b) is non-exclusive, allowing for consideration of additional factors in an analysis for bad faith, and registering a typosquatted domain name has been held to be bad faith for the purposes of Policy ¶ 4(a)(iii). Vanguard Trademark Holdings USA LLC v. Shuai Wei Xu / Xu Shuai Wei, FA 1784238 (Forum June 1, 2018) (finding the respondent engaged in typosquatting—and thus registered and used the at-issue domain names in bad faith—where the names consisted of the complainant’s mark with small typographical errors introduced therein).

Respondent registered and is using the Domain Name, which is confusingly similar to the GOOGLE mark. Respondent has no connection with that mark or its owner, the Complainant. In light of the fact that the Policy ¶ 4(b) list of circumstances is non-exclusive, the use of a domain name that is confusingly similar to a trademark with which the respondent has no connection has frequently been held to be evidence of opportunistic bad faith. Kraft Foods (Norway) v. Wide, D2000-0911 (WIPO Sept. 23, 2000) (“[T]he fact that Respondent chosen [sic] to register a well-known mark to which [it] has no connections or rights indicates that [it] was in bad faith when registering the domain name at issue.”), Google LLC v. Noboru Maruyama / Personal, FA 2001001879162 (Forum Mar. 3, 2020) (“the registration and use of domain name that is confusingly similar to a trademark with which the respondent has no connection has frequently been held to be evidence of bad faith.”).

Finally, it is evident that Respondent had actual knowledge of Complainant and its mark when it registered the Domain Name. Complainant’s mark is known world-wide. It is unique and somewhat whimsical and is not a name a business entity would select for a domain name unless it was targeting Complainant’s mark for commercial gain. Respondent copied that mark exactly into the Domain Name, albeit with a subtle misspelling. In light of the non-exclusive nature of Policy, ¶ 4(b) registering a confusingly similar domain name with actual knowledge of a complainant’s rights in the incorporated mark has often been held to be evidence of bad faith registration and use for the purposes of Policy ¶ 4(a)(iii). Univision Comm’cns Inc. v. Norte, FA 1000079 (Forum Aug. 16, 2007) (rejecting the respondent’s contention that it did not register the disputed domain name in bad faith since the panel found that the respondent had knowledge of the complainant’s rights in the UNIVISION mark when registering the disputed domain name).

For the reasons first set forth above, the Panel finds that Respondent registered and is using the Domain Name in bad faith within the meaning of Policy ¶ 4(a)(iii).

DECISION

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

Accordingly, it is Ordered that the Domain Name be TRANSFERRED from Respondent to Complainant.

Charles A. Kuechenmeister, Panelist

July 20, 2022

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