Veho.com UDRP used Latin language to stop Complainant’s legal attack

The UDRP filed against the aged domain, Veho.com, utilized the Latin meaning of the word “veho” as part of the response.

As the Respondent’s counsel, IP attorney John Berryhill mentioned that exact meaning:

“Veho” is a conjugated form of the Latin term “vehere”, to transport, corresponding to “I carry”. The Respondent claims that its relationship to transport is “immediately apparent”. The Respondent asserts that a number of companies engaged in transport services make use of the term “veho” in their respective domain names.

The Respondent also utilized the Complainant’s attempt at a “Plan B” approach by stating that in the past they attempted to purchase the disputed domain name from the Respondent.

The three member panel at the WIPO stated that In the Panel’s view, the term “veho” does not appear to be a common dictionary term, however, a plausible explanation for the Respondent’s registration of the disputed domain name is its potential value as a brandable four‑letter domain name.

Final decision: Deny transfer of the domain name Veho.com to the Complainant.

The domain transfer was denied.

WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center
ADMINISTRATIVE PANEL DECISION
Veho Oy Ab v. Jewella Privacy Services, LLC / Domain Manager, Orion Global Assets
Case No. D2021-4272

1. The Parties

The Complainant is Veho Oy Ab, Finland, represented by Dittmar & Indrenius Attorneys at Law Ltd, Finland.

The Respondent is Jewella Privacy Services, LLC, United States of America (“United States”) / Domain Manager, Orion Global Assets, United States, represented by John Berryhill, Ph.d., Esq., United States.

2. The Domain Name and Registrar

The disputed domain name <veho.com> is registered with Sea Wasp, LLC (the “Registrar”).

3. Procedural History

The Complaint was filed with the WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center (the “Center”) on December 17, 2021. On December 17, 2021, the Center transmitted by email to the Registrar a request for registrar verification in connection with the disputed domain name. On December 21, 2021, 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 December 21, 2021, 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 amended Complaint on December 22, 2021.

The Center verified that the Complaint together with the amended 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 January 5, 2022. On January 24, 2022, the Respondent requested an extension for submission of the Response. The Response due date was extended until January 29, 2022, in accordance with paragraph 5(b) of the Rules. The Response was filed with the Center January 29, 2022.

The Complainant submitted an unsolicited supplemental filing on February 4, 2022. The Respondent submitted a reply to the Complainant’s supplemental filing on February 4, 2022.

The Center appointed Jane Seager, Tobias Cohen Jehoram, and Gerald M. Levine as panelists in this matter on March 1, 2022. The Panel finds that it was properly constituted. Each member of 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 is a Finnish company established in 1939, engaged in the importation of vehicles, particularly those manufactured by the Daimler Group. The Complainant operates in Northern Europe, including Finland, Sweden, and the Baltic States, employing some 2,200 people. In 2020, the Complainant’s revenue was EUR 1.1 billion.

The Complainant is the owner of a number of trademarks for VEHO, including but not limited to the following:

– Estonian Trademark Registration No. 15379, VEHO, registered on April 5, 1995;

– Latvian Trademark Registration No. M38635, VEHO, registered on October 20, 1997;

– Lithuanian Trademark Registration No. 30398, VEHO, registered on November 27, 1998;

– European Union Trade Mark No. 006734941, VEHO, registered on January 22, 2009;

– United Kingdom Trademark Registration No. 00906734941, VEHO, registered on January 22, 2009; and

– Finnish Trademark Registration No. 258723, VEHO, registered on July 15, 2013.

The Complainant also owns a number of domain names comprising its VEHO trademark, including <veho.fi>, from which it operates its main consumer-facing website.

The disputed domain name <veho.com> was first registered on May 22, 2002. The Respondent claims to have acquired the disputed domain name around October 2009.

The disputed domain name currently resolves to a web page advertising the domain name as being “available for a strategic transaction”. A review of the historic screen captures (supplied in evidence with the Complaint) shows that the disputed domain name has been parked since 2011, and offered for sale via the web pages to which the disputed domain name has resolved since 2014. In 2010, the disputed domain name resolved to a website that appeared to offer news content relating to the entertainment industry. From 2008 to 2009, the disputed domain name resolved to a parking page displaying pay-per-click (“PPC”) links that targeted the automotive sector.

In 2014, the Complainant’s counsel attempted to purchase the disputed domain name. Negotiations with the Respondent’s broker ended in October 2015. In March 2016, the Complainant’s counsel made another attempt to purchase the disputed domain name, offering USD 25,000. In August 2016, the Respondent’s broker countered with USD 250,000. There were subsequent communications from the Respondent’s broker in relation to the possible sale and purchase of the disputed domain name. In September 2021, the Complainant engaged a broker, and offered USD 50,000 for the disputed domain name. The offer was rejected. The Complainant followed up with an offer of USD 75,000, which was also rejected.

5. Parties’ Contentions

A. Complainant

The Complainant asserts rights in the VEHO trademark. The Complainant submits that the disputed domain name is identical or confusingly similar to its VEHO trademark.

The Complainant submits that the Respondent has no rights or legitimate interests in respect of the disputed domain name. The Complainant asserts that the Respondent is not sponsored or affiliated with the Complainant, nor has the Respondent been authorized to make use of the Complainant’s trademark, in a domain name or otherwise. The Complainant submits that the Respondent is not using the disputed domain name in connection with any bona fide offering of goods or services, that the Respondent is not commonly known by the disputed domain name, and that the Respondent is not making any legitimate noncommercial or fair use of the disputed domain name.

The Complainant submits that the disputed domain name was registered and is being used in bad faith. The Complainant argues that its VEHO trademark enjoys substantial notoriety in Finland and its neighboring countries, as a result of which the Respondent knew or should have known of the Complainant’s rights in the VEHO trademark. The Complainant alleges that the Respondent has been targeting the Complainant by showing pictures of cars and trucks on the website to which the disputed domain name resolves. The Complainant further argues that the disputed domain name was registered in order to prevent the Complainant from reflecting its VEHO trademark in a corresponding domain name, thereby disrupting the Complainant’s business. The Complainant asserts that the promotion of third-party vehicle retailers on the web page to which the disputed domain name previously resolved evidences the Respondent’s intent to attract Internet users to the Respondent’s website by creating a likelihood of confusion with the Complainant’s trademark.

The Complainant requests transfer of the disputed domain name.

B. Respondent

The Respondent does not dispute that the disputed domain name is identical or confusingly similar to a trademark or service mark in which the Complainant has rights.

With regard to the second element of the Policy, the Respondent notes that “veho” is a conjugated form of the Latin term “vehere”, to transport, corresponding to “I carry”. The Respondent claims that its relationship to transport is “immediately apparent”. The Respondent asserts that a number of companies engaged in transport services make use of the term “veho” in their respective domain names. The Respondent submits that the disputed domain name consists of a Latin word that is not exclusively associated with any party, and that a short domain name such as the disputed domain name has considerable legitimate value, as it may be of interest to various unrelated prospective purchasers for different purposes. The Respondent submits that it is a duly registered company that operates a business of dealing in domain names, and asserts that it has received inquiries from the Complainant’s agents relating to the possible sale and purchase of the disputed domain name since at least 2016.

With regard to the third element of the Policy, the Respondent states that its predecessor in interest was established in October 2009. The Respondent submits that it has never attempted to contact the Complainant or to sell the disputed domain name to the Complainant. The Respondent submits that the Complainant, through its various agents, attempted to purchase the disputed domain name from the Respondent. The Respondent further submits that, the Parties being unable to agree on an acceptable price for the sale and purchase of the disputed domain name, the Complainant proceeded to file a so-called “Plan‑B” Complaint under the Policy. The Respondent submits that it has never made use of the disputed domain name in a way that targets the Complainant. The Respondent submits that it has not registered or used the disputed domain name in bad faith.

The Respondent requests that the Panel deny the remedies requested by the Complainant.

6. Discussion and Findings

6.1. Procedural Considerations

A. Identity of the Respondent

The disputed domain name was registered using a privacy service. The underlying registrant of the disputed domain name has been identified as Orion Global Assets LLC, a Delaware company in the United States. The Complainant claims that the Respondent has not provided sufficient detail for the identification of the Respondent. The validity of the Respondent’s incorporation is not in question in the present proceeding, nor does the Panel have jurisdiction to determine such matters. The Complainant has correctly identified the Respondent listed in the Registrar’s WhoIs records, as disclosed by the Registrar. The Respondent’s counsel makes certain allegations regarding the Complainant’s failure to serve legal notice on the Respondent’s authorized representative. The Respondent’s allegations in this regard are of limited relevance to the proceeding, and have no prejudicial effect on the outcome of the proceeding.

B. Admissibility of the Parties’ Supplemental Findings

Supplemental filings are generally not admissible, unless there are exceptional circumstances that warrant their inclusion. The Parties’ supplemental filings present information that was reasonably available to the Parties at the time of submission of the Complaint and amended Complaint. As a result, the Panel has determined that the Parties’ supplemental filings are appropriately excluded. In any event, the Panel has reviewed the Parties’ supplemental filings, and determines that their inclusion would not have any material effect on the outcome of the proceeding. See WIPO Overview of WIPO Panel Views on Selected UDRP Questions, Third Edition (“WIPO Overview 3.0”), section 4.6.

6.2. Substantive Matters

In order to prevail, the Complainant must demonstrate, on the balance of probabilities, that it has satisfied the requirements of paragraph 4(a) of the Policy, namely that:

(i) the disputed domain name is identical or confusingly similar to a trademark or service mark in which the Complainant has rights; and

(ii) the Respondent has no rights or legitimate interests in respect of the disputed domain name; and

(iii) the disputed domain name was registered and is being used in bad faith.

A. Identical or Confusingly Similar

The Complainant is the owner of trademarks for VEHO, of which the registration details are set out in the factual background section above. The disputed domain name comprises the Complainant’s VEHO trademark without alteration under the generic Top-Level Domain (“gTLD”) “.com”. The Panel finds the disputed domain name to be identical to the Complainant’s trademark. The Complainant has satisfied the requirements of paragraph 4(a)(i) of the Policy.

B. Rights or Legitimate Interests

In light of the Panel’s findings under paragraph 4(a)(iii) of the Policy, the Panel does not consider it necessary to reach a determination under the second element.

C. Registered and Used in Bad Faith

Having considered the Parties’ assertions and supporting evidence, as summarized above, it appears that the Respondent became the registrant of the disputed domain name in around October 2009. Prior to that date, the disputed domain name resolved to a parking page with PPC links relating to the automotive industry. Historic screen captures of the web pages to which the disputed domain name resolved indicates that from approximately October 2009 to October 2010, the disputed domain name continued to resolve to a web page stating “Welcome to veho.com for resources and information on auto purchase and auto insurance”, then in October 2010, the use changed such that the disputed domain name resolved to a website displaying news about the entertainment industry. In March 2012, the disputed domain name resolved to a parking page, which stated “this domain is not for sale unless you know us”, then by around March 2014, the disputed domain name had become parked, and was offered for sale with requests for Internet users to make an offer to purchase it. From August 2016 to August 2020, the disputed domain name continued to be parked and offered for sale, during which time a stock photo of a group of trucks appeared on the web page to which the disputed domain name resolved.

Generally speaking, UDRP panels have found that the practice as such of registering a domain name for subsequent resale would not by itself support a claim that the Respondent registered the domain name in bad faith with the primary purpose of selling it to a trademark owner.

The Complainant is well established in its own market, however, commercial use of the “veho” name or brand is not limited to the Complainant. At the time that the Respondent acquired the disputed domain name, the Complainant’s rights in the VEHO trademark were limited to jurisdictions in Europe. The Respondent is incorporated in the United States (previously registered in Anguilla). There is no evidence of the Respondent having engaged in an abusive pattern of domain name registration targeting the Complainant or any third party.

In the Panel’s view, the term “veho” does not appear to be a common dictionary term, however, a plausible explanation for the Respondent’s registration of the disputed domain name is its potential value as a brandable four‑letter domain name.

With regard to the display of sponsored links to operators in the automotive industry, this appears to be the result of action taken by the former registrant of the disputed domain name. While such links remained on the web page to which the disputed domain name resolved for approximately one year after the Respondent acquired the disputed domain name, the disputed domain name was subsequently used in connection with a website with news about the entertainment industry, following which the disputed domain name was parked again, and offered for sale. As such, any prior evidence that would tend to support an inference of targeting resulting from the actions of the prior registrant appears to have been mitigated by the Respondent’s subsequent use. While the disputed domain name did display an image of parked trucks for a period between 2016 and 2020, in the Panel’s view this alone is insufficient to support the conclusion that the Respondent sought to target the Complainant through the disputed domain name.

For reasons set out above, the Panel considers that there is insufficient evidence to support the conclusion that the Respondent’s aim in registering the disputed domain name was to profit from or exploit the Complainant’s trademark. The Panel finds that the Complainant has failed to demonstrate, on the balance of probabilities, that the Respondent registered and is using or has used the disputed domain name in bad faith. The Panel finds that the Complainant has failed to satisfy the requirements of paragraph 4(a)(iii) of the Policy.

7. Decision

For the foregoing reasons, the Complaint is denied.

Jane Seager
Presiding Panelist

Tobias Cohen Jehoram
Panelist

Gerald M. Levine
Panelist
Date: March 25, 2022

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