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WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center
ADMINISTRATIVE PANEL DECISION
Dolphin Telecom Plc v. Dr. Joseph Chikelue Obi
Case No. D2000-0922
1. The Parties
1.1 The Complainant is Dolphin Telecom Plc, a public limited company incorporated in England with its registered office at The Crescent, Jays Close, Basingstoke, Hampshire, RG22 4BS, United Kingdom. The Respondent is Dr. Joseph Chikelue Obi, 30 Kingsmead Park, Bedford Road, Rushton, Northants, NN10 0NF, United Kingdom with an alternative address located at Flat 8, 179A Blackness Road, Dundee, United Kingdom.
2. The Domain Name and Registrar
2.1 The domain names in issue are "dolphintele.com" and "dolphin-tele.com".
2.2 The Registrar is Register.com. A fax from Register.com to the Center was received by the Center on August 16, 2000, confirming that the Complainant had forwarded to it a copy of the Complaint and that the Respondent was the current registrant of "dolphintele.com" and "dolphin-tele.com".
3. Procedural History
3.1 The Complaint was dated August 2, 2000, and received by the WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center (the "Center") on the same day.
3.2 Notice of the proceedings was served on the Respondent in accordance with the rules applicable to the Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy ("the Policy") on August 17, 2000. The Respondent failed to file a response to the Complaint by the September 5, 2000, deadline. Notification of Respondent Default was served on September 12, 2000. A Panel was constituted on September 26, 2000, with a single panelist, Nick Gardner. A statement of acceptance and declaration of impartiality and independence has been filed by the Panelist.
3.3 The Respondent provided by e-mail on September 26, 2000, an out of time Response. The Panel in its discretion admits and has taken account of this Response.
3.4 The date scheduled for the Panel to render its decision is October 9, 2000.
3.5 The Complainant is represented by Marcus J. O’Leary, Esq. of the Law Offices of Marcus J. O’Leary, Centennial Court, Easthampstead Road, Bracknell, Berkshire, RG12 1YQ, United Kingdom. The Respondent is representing himself in this proceeding.
4. Factual Background
4.1 The Complainant is a public mobile radio network operator in Europe with, it states, over 300,000 subscribers in the UK, France, Belgium, Germany, Spain and Portugal and licenses covering a population of more than 220 million people. It has over 1000 employees.
4.2 The Complainant's use of the name "Dolphin" dates back to February 26, 1998, when it changed its name from Tetralink Telecommunications Limited to Dolphin Telecommunications Limited.
4.3 The Complainant or its associated companies have registered a series of trade marks throughout the European Union, namely in the Benelux countries, France, Spain, Denmark, Germany, Great Britain, Eire and Portugal for the marks "Dolphin", "Dolphin Telecom PLC", "Dolphin C+ ", "Dauphin", "Delphin", "Delphinet" and "Golphino". Broadly, the marks are registered for the provision of computer database services (class 38) and cellular telephone communications (class 42).
4.4 It appears from the "whois" search provided by Register.com that the Respondent registered the domain names "dolphintele.com" and "dolphin-tele.com" in May 2000.
4.5 On June 9, 2000, the Respondent informed the Complainant that he controlled the domain names "dolphintele.com" and "dolphin-tele.com" and offered to sell the domain names to the Complainant for a price in excess of Ј20,000. The Complainant declined the Respondent’s offer by an e mail dated July 17, 2000.
4.6 At some point after June 9, 2000, the Complainant sought legal advice in this matter. There followed a series of correspondence between the Respondent, the Complainant and the Complainant’s lawyers in which the Respondent repeatedly stated his perceived rights in respect of the domain names "dolphintele.com" and "dolphin-tele.com" and offered them for sale to the Complainant. The Complainant in response invited the Respondent to transfer back ownership of the domain names in return for payment of the Respondent’s reasonable out-of-pocket expenses. The nature of the Respondent’s demands, as set out in this correspondence, are clearly shown by, for example, his e-mail dated July 17, 2000, in which the Respondent sought to exponentially escalate the price for the domain names in the following terms:
"The asking price for both domains is Ј25,000 …. this offer expires at 12 noon on 21/7/2000 …. After 12 noon on 21/7/2000 the asking price will shoot up to Ј250,000 for both domains .… And if the matter goes to Court, then the asking price will exponentially rise to Ј2.5 million .… for both domains."
5. The Claimant’s Contentions
5.1 These are set out at length in the Complaint but may be summarised as follows:
- the domain names at issue are directly associated with the Dolphin trade mark and variations thereof which the Complainant and its related entities own.
- the domain names "dolphintele.com" and "dolphin-tele.com" are identical or, at a minimum, confusingly similar to the Complainant's name and marks.
- the Complainant owns numerous trade mark registrations in Europe relating to the provision of computer database services and cellular telephone communications incorporating the word "DOLPHIN", including a trade mark registration for the word mark DOLPHIN.
- the Respondent has no legitimate reason to register or maintain the domain names "dolphintele.com" and "dolphin-tele.com" and has failed to articulate any rights in or legitimate reason for registering the domain names.
- the domain names "dolphintele.com" and "dolphin-tele.com" are unrelated to the Respondent and if he tried to associate "Dolphin" with the provision of computer database services and cellular telephone communications, it would violate the Complainant’s worldwide trade marks.
- the Respondent appears to have registered the domain names "dolphintele.com" and "dolphin-tele.com" solely for resale.
6. The Respondent’s Contentions
6.1 The Respondent’s contentions seem to be first that the domain names are different from the Complainant’s name and marks and second that as they were available and the Complainant had not registered them he was free to do so. He says his subsequent behaviour is:
"the same dog eat dog competitive methods that obtain [sic] in the commercial world".
7. Discussion and Findings
7.1 The Panel has reviewed the Complaint and the documents annexed to the Complaint. In the light of this material this Panel finds as set out below.
7.2 The domain names dolphintele.com and dolphin-tele.com are if not identical certainly confusingly similar to various of the Complainant's registered trade marks.
7.3 There is no evidence to show that the Respondent had any legitimate basis to register the domain names or any intent to use them in any manner unconnected with the Complainant's business. The names do not appear likely to have been independently chosen. Absent such evidence the Panel concludes that the Complainant is correct and that the names were registered in bad faith with the intention of reselling them to the Claimant. The events that took place when the Respondent first contacted the Complainant and the Respondent’s general conduct thereafter, as described above, clearly support this conclusion.
8.1 In light of the above findings, the Panel’s decision is as set out below.
8.2 The domain names are confusingly similar to the Complainant's trade marks (see paragraph 4(a)(i) of the Policy).
8.3 The Respondent has no rights or legitimate interests in the domain names (see paragraph 4(a)(ii) of the Policy).
8.4 The domain names were registered and are being used in bad faith (see paragraph 4(a)(iii) of the Policy). In particular, they were registered primarily for the purpose of selling them to the Complainant for consideration in excess of the Respondent's out of pocket costs (see paragraph 4(b)(i) of the Policy).
8.5 This Panel directs that the domain names be transferred to the Complainant.
Dated: October 6, 2000