In the recent cybersquatting action, Asahi Breweries Ltd. v. Whois Privacy Protection Service, Inc., Demand Domains, Inc. WIPO D2009-1481 (December 25, 2009), a single member Panel was faced with a dispute over the domain www.asahibeer.com. Complainant has used the mark ASAHI for beer since 1892 and maintains a domain at www.asahibeerusa.com. The disputed domain was registered in 1998 and Respondent provided a Response to the Complaint.
Under paragraph 4(a) of the ICANN UDRP Policy, in order to obtain the remedy of transfer of the disputed domain name, Complainant must prove (i) the disputed domain name is identical or confusingly similar to a 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 by the Respondent.
Respondent requested that the decision be dismissed and agreed to transfer the domain to Complainant. Respondent sought the Panel to not render a decision in light of its agreement to transfer, but the Panel explained that Complainant’s failure to accept the offer of settlement under paragraph 17 of the Rules, it would proceed with the decision.
In addressing the first element, the Panel explained that the long standing rights to the ASAHI mark were established and that the domain was identical and confusingly similar to the domain. As a result the Panel found Complainant proved this element.
Moving to the second element, the Panel explained that Complainant made a prima facie case. The Panel found that Respondent did not use the web site for any legitimate, bona fide or non-commercial purpose. The Panel found that Complainant satisfied this element as well.
The final element, bad faith, provided more review by the Panel. The Panel found that the sponsored links to third party web sites was evidence of bad faith registration and use. Respondent argued that its offer to transfer was evidence to demonstrate its good faith. The Panel dismissed this argument noting recent cases and explained:
In some recent cases respondents have taken advantage of complainants, who in good faith had accepted their offers of transfer to settle disputes. The respondents in such cases typically put forward a proposal to transfer the domain name, with a specific request that there should be no finding of bad faith. It appears, in some of those cases, the requests for settlement were only a ploy to gain additional time in order to continue deriving the revenue generated from the disputed domain names and were apparently not genuine offers of settlement. The cases then had to be reinstituted by the complainant, while the respondent had managed to gain further time generating pay-per-click revenue in the guise of making an offer of settlement.
The Panel went further to note that bad faith had been found in cases where inadvertent registration through semi-automated processes occurred. The Panel also found that the number of cases Respondent had been involved in showed a consistent pattern and was additional proof of bad faith.
The Panel found that ASAHI proved all three elements and ordered the domain be TRANSFERRED.