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WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center
ADMINISTRATIVE PANEL DECISION
Randan Corp. v. Rapazzini Winery
Case No. D2003-0353
1. The Parties
The Complainant is Randan Corp., a corporation existing under the laws of California,
with a place of business at Gilroy, California, United States of America. Complainant
is represented by Daniel R. Richardson of Richardson Intellectual Property Law,
The Respondent is Rapazzini Winery, an entity with a place of business at Gilroy,
California, United States of America. Respondent is represented by Michael K. Bosworth
of Burns, Doane, Swecker & Mathis, LLP.
2. The Domain Names and Registrar
The domain names at issue are <garligarni.com> and <garlicgarni.com>.
The domain names are registered with Network Solutions, Inc. ("NSI").
3. Procedural History
The Complainant initiated this proceeding by filing a Complaint by email with
the World Intellectual Property Organization Arbitration and Mediation Center
(the "Center") on May 7, 2003. On May 9, 2003,
the Center received a hard copy of the Complaint. The Center verified that the
Complaint satisfied the formal requirements of the ICANN Uniform Domain Name
Dispute Resolution Policy (the "Rules") and the Supplemental Rules
for Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy.
On May 8, 2003, the Center sent an email to NSI requesting a registrant verification
in connection with this case. On May 12, 2003, NSI sent an email to
the Center confirming that the Respondent is the registrant of the domain names.
On May 12, 2003, the Center formally commenced this proceeding. On May 31, 2003,
Respondent submitted its timely Response to the Complaint. On June 11, 2003,
after clearing for any potential conflicts, the Center appointed David H. Bernstein
as the Sole Panelist in this matter.
On June 16, 2003, the Panel issued Procedural Order No. 1, which
stated, in relevant part:
"Respondent asserts that Complainant consented to Respondent’s registration
of the <garligarni.com> and <garlicgarni.com> domain names (the
‘domain names’). Response, § III(C)(II); Declaration of Alex Larson (‘Larson
Decl.’), ¶ 5. If true, this fact is potentially dispositive because the Policy
requires that Complainant prove both bad faith registration and bad
faith use. E-duction, Inc. v. Zuccarini, WIPO Case
No. D2000-1369 (February 5, 2001); The Thread.com LLC. v. Poploff,
WIPO Case No. D2000-1470 (January 5, 2001).
If Complainant in fact consented to Respondent’s registration of the domain
names, Complainant cannot satisfy one of the prerequisites for transfer under
"Whether it is true remains to be determined. Because this is a new issue
raised for the first time in the Response, this fact was obviously not addressed
in the Complaint. Under the circumstances, the Panel determines that it is appropriate
to grant the Complainant an opportunity to address this issue. Investissement
Marius Saradar S.A.L. v. John Naffah, WIPO
Case No. D2000-0853 (November 22, 2000). Because Rule 5 contemplates
that a respondent will have the right to respond to a complaint, and because
Rule 10(b) directs the Panel to treat the parties with equality, the Panel concludes
that it is appropriate to give Respondent a right to respond to the Complainant’s
supplemental submission, if any. Pacific Fence & Wire Co v. Pacific Fence,
WIPO Case No. D2001-0237 (June 11, 2001).
"A related assertion in the Response is that Complainant granted Respondent
written permission to use Complainant’s trademark and logo in Internet advertising.
Larson Decl. ¶ 5. Respondent did not, however, attach a copy of that written
consent to its Response. The specific terms of this consent, if it exists, may
well have bearing on the disputed issues in this proceeding.
"Accordingly, the Panel issues the following request for supplemental
• On or before June 18, 2003, Respondent shall submit a copy
of the written consent referenced in paragraph 5 of the Larson Declaration.
• On or before June 27, 2003, Complainant may submit a supplemental
submission addressing the factual assertion that Complainant consented to Respondent’s
registration of the domain names and the legal effect of any such facts.
• On or before July 7, 2003, Respondent may submit a supplemental
submission responding to the Complainant’s supplemental submission.
"Each party shall limit its supplemental submission to the specific request
and shall deliver its submission to the Center via email no later than 11 p.m.,
Greenwich Mean Time, on the due date, with a copy by email to the other party.
Exhibits, if any, not available in electronic form shall either be scanned and
sent with the email or shall be contemporaneously faxed to the Center and the
other party with hard copies to follow by overnight courier."
On June 18, 2003, Respondent submitted a statement declaring that the alleged
written consent referenced in ¶ 5 of the Larson Declaration had been destroyed
by water damage to Respondent’s office. On June 27, 2003, Complainant
submitted a statement denying that it ever consented to Respondent’s use of
the mark for purposes other than retail promotion. Complainant’s response included
declarations by Tom Reed and Caryl Simpson, both vice presidents of
Complainant. Respondent thereafter elected not to file any additional supplemental
4. Factual Background
Complainant, located in the self-styled "Garlic Capital of the World"
(see "www.gilroy.org"), produces and distributes garlic-based
products under its federally-registered "GARLIC FESTIVAL" trademark.
Complainant sells its products through wholesale distributors, operates a local
retail store, and offers its products online for purchase at "www.garlicfestival.com."
In 1985, Complainant began using the mark "GARLI GARNI" on its garlic
food seasoning labels. Since then, the Complainant has made continuous use of
the mark in commerce. Complainant registered "GARLI GARNI" as a trademark
with the state of California on July 12, 2001; it does not appear
to have applied for any similar registration at the federal level.
Respondent owns and operates a winery and tasting room, also in Gilroy. In
the tasting room, Respondent sells Complainant’s Garli Garni product line as
well as other garlic-based seasoning products. Respondent has sold the Garli
Garni products for years, purchasing the product both directly from Complainant
and indirectly. Currently, Complainant has terminated local distribution of
the Garli Garni product line to Respondent’s Gilroy stores but continues to
supply Respondent’s Garlic Shoppe stores in Monterey, CA and Bloomington, MN.
In addition, Respondent sells Complainant’s Garli Garni products on its
primary website, "www.garlicshoppe.com." In 1999, Respondent
registered and began use of the domain names in conjunction with its primary
5. Parties’ Contentions
Complainant asserts that the <garligarni.com> domain name is identical
to its mark, "GARLI GARNI" Although it does not claim to have
trademark rights in the name "Garlic Garni," Complainant argues
that the <garlicgarni.com> domain name is confusingly similar to its GARLI
Complainant also claims that Respondent has no rights or legitimate interest
in the domain names because Respondent knew of Complainant’s use of the mark
for years preceding Respondent’s registration of the domain names. Complainant
argues that Respondent has used the domain names for the sole purpose of diverting
actual and potential customers to Respondent’s website for commercial gain.
Complainant further alleges that Respondent registered and used the domain
names in bad faith. According to Complainant, Respondent’s unauthorized use
of the Complainant’s "Garlic Festival" mark on its web page creates
a false commercial impression in the mind of the potential customer that they
have found Complainant’s site. This creates a likelihood of confusion with the
Complainant’s mark as to the source, sponsorship, affiliation, or endorsement
of the Respondent’s website.
Finally, in its supplemental submission, Complainant denies Respondent’s assertion
that, shortly after the domain names were registered, Respondent offered to
transfer the domain names at no cost to the Complainant. To the contrary, Complainant
avers that it never was offered transfer and that it never consented to the
registration of the domain names by Respondent.
In its defense, Respondent argues that, although the <garligarni.com>
domain name is identical to Complainant’s mark, the <garlicgarni.com>
domain name is not. Rather, Respondent states, that domain name is a combination
of the generic words "garlic" and "garni" (French for garnish)
and, therefore, is merely descriptive of garlic garnishes.
Respondent also asserts that it has rights or a legitimate interest in the
domain names because Respondent is using the domain names to sell and promote
genuine Garlic Festival products. Under the principle of exhaustion of rights,
Respondent claims that it is permitted to make use of the domain names to advertise
the brand name and manufacturer of products that the Respondent sells at retail.
Respondent claims that it does not divert Complainant’s customers because Respondent
sells bona fide Garlic Festival products produced by Complainant.
Finally, Respondent denies that it has registered and used the domain names
in bad faith. As noted above, Respondent alleges that, shortly after it registered
the domain names, it offered the domain names to Complainant at no cost, but
that Complainant refused Respondent’s good faith offer. Contrary to Complainant’s
assertions, Respondent claims that Complainant expressly consented to Respondent’s
use of the domain names to sell Garli Garni products. Further, Respondent asserts
that it did not register the domain names primarily for the purpose of selling,
renting, or transferring them to Complainant or a competitor, but rather for
the sole purpose of promoting its retail sale of Complainant’s Garli Garni products.
6. Discussion and Findings
In order to succeed in its claim, Complainant must demonstrate that all of
the following elements in Paragraph 4(a) of the Policy have been satisfied:
1. The domain names are identical or confusingly similar to a trademark or
service mark in which the Complainant has rights;
2. Respondent has no rights or legitimate interests with respect to the domain
3. The domain names have been registered and used in bad faith.
The Complainant must carry its burden of proof by a preponderance of evidence.
Bootie Brewing Co. v. Ward, WIPO Case No. D2003-0185
(May 28, 2003).
A. The Domain Names are Identical or Confusingly Similar to Complainant’s Trademark
Respondent does not contest Complainant’s ownership of the trademark GARLI GARNI.
Nor does it contest that <garligarni.com> is identical to the Complainant’s
trademark. Thus, the only question for resolution is whether the <garlicgarni.com>
domain name is confusingly similar to Complainant’s mark.
Respondent challenges this similarity on the ground that <garlicgarni.com>
is a combination of two generic words - garlic and garni - and therefore that
the domain name is descriptive of garlic garnishes. That argument misses the
point. The descriptiveness of the domain name, if any, may be relevant to the
question of whether Respondent is making a fair use or otherwise has a legitimate
interest in the name. It is not, however, germane to the question of whether
the domain name and the trademark share sufficient similarity as to satisfy
this threshold question. See generally Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. v. MacLeod,
WIPO Case No. D2000-0662 (September 19, 2000);
cf. Schouten Industries B.V. v. Canadian Soylife Health Co., NAF Claim
No. FA0303000149188 (July 19, 2003).
When analyzed under the proper standard, it is clear that <garlicgarni.com>
is so close to the GARLI GARNI trademark as to easily satisfy this first element.
The only relevant difference between the mark and the domain name is the addition
of a single letter. That letter, Respondent concedes, is one that consumers
are likely to mistype if they mistakenly think the product is called "Garlic
Garni" rather than "Garli Garni." Under well-settled principles,
such efforts to capture Internet users who may mistype the domain name are more
than sufficient to prove confusing similarity. Cf. Shields v. Zuccarini,
254 F.3d 476 (3d Cir. 2001) (<joescartoons.com>,
<joecarton.com>, <joescartons.com>, <joescartoon.com>, and
<cartoonjoe.com> are all confusingly similar to <joecartoon.com>);
Compaq Info. Tech. Group, L.P. v. Jones, NAF File No. 99091 (October 4, 2001),
(<compaqq.com> is confusingly similar to "Compaq" trademark);
Oxygen Media, LLC v. Primary Source, WIPO
Case No. D2000-0362 (June 19, 2000), (<oxygen.com>, with
a zero rather than the letter "o," is confusingly similar to "Oxygen"
Accordingly, Complainant easily sustains its burden of proof on this first
B. Respondent Does Not Have a Legitimate Interest in the Domain Names
Although a closer question, Complainant also has satisfied the second element
of the Policy.
Respondent forcefully argues that it has a legitimate interest in these domain
names because it is using them to sell Complainant’s own GARLI GARNI product.
It thus seeks to take advantage of the safe harbor provided by paragraph 4(c)(i)
of the Policy, which provides that a use is legitimate if, prior to commencement
of the dispute, Respondent used the domain names in connection with a bona
fide offering of goods or services.
In this case, it is undisputed that Respondent was and remains an authorized
distributor of Complainant’s goods. There remains, however, a question as to
whether Respondent’s offerings can be characterized as bona fide. That
issue has been explored by numerous prior panels, which have articulated a series
of requirements in order for a reseller’s use to be deemed legitimate. See generally
Oki Data Americas, Inc. v. ASD, Inc., WIPO
Case No. D2001-0903 (November 6, 2001). Those include, at the
minimum, the following:
• Respondent must actually be offering the goods or services at issue.
E.g., World Wrestling Federation Entertainment, Inc. v. Ringside Collectibles,
WIPO Case No. D2000-1306 (January 24, 2001).
• Respondent must use the site to sell only the trademarked goods; otherwise,
it could be using the trademark to bait Internet users and then switch them
to other goods. Nikon, Inc. v. Technilab, WIPO
Case No. D2000-1774 (February 26, 2001), (use of Nikon-related
domain names to sell Nikon and competitive cameras not a legitimate use); Kanao
v. J.W. Roberts Co., CPR Case No. 0109 (July 25, 2001) (bait
and switch is not legitimate).
• The site must accurately disclose the registrant’s relationship with
the trademark owner; it may not falsely suggest that it is the trademark owner,
or that the website is the official site, if, in fact, it is only one of many
sales agents. See, e.g., Houghton Mifflin Co. v. Weatherman, Inc., WIPO
Case No. D2001-0344 (June 14, 2001), (no bona fide offering
where website’s use of Complainant’s logo, and lack of any disclaimer, suggested
that website was the official Curious George website).
• The Respondent must not try to corner the market in all domain names,
thus depriving the trademark owner of reflecting its own mark in a domain name.
Magnum Piering, Inc. v. Mudjackers, WIPO
Case No. D2000-1525 (January 29, 2001), ("a single distributor
is extremely unlikely to have a legitimate interest in precluding others from
using numerous variants on a mark").
Based on the screen shots Respondent itself has submitted, the Panel finds
Respondent’s use cannot be deemed bona fide. That is because Respondent
has not used the domain names to sell only Complainant’s trademarked goods;
rather, Respondent has used the domain names to offer an array of competitive
products for sale. There can be no justification for using the Complainant’s
trademark as a domain name to lure users to the site, and then offer those consumers
products that directly compete with the GARLI GARNI products. Nikon, Inc.,
An even closer question is presented by the domain name <garlicgarni.com>.
If consumers came to this site to find generic garlic garnishes, the offering
for sale of numerous competitive products could well be legitimate, and the
use of that descriptive domain name could be determined fair. See Commerce
LLC v. Hatcher, NAF File No. FA0203000105749 (April 9, 2002).
Once again, though Respondent’s own submission is determinative. In paragraph
5 of Respondent’s Larson Declaration, Mr. Larson explains that he secured
this domain name because "so many of our customers refer to [Complainant]’s
products as "Garlic Garni." Thus, in registering and using the <garlicgarni.com>
domain name, Respondent’s intent was not to register a generic term for garlic
garnish products, but rather, to specifically capture those consumers who erroneously
refer to Complainant’s GARLI GARNI products as GARLIC GARNI. In light of this
testimony, Respondent’s use of <garlicgarni.com> cannot be considered
fair or legitimate.
C. Respondent Has Registered and Used the Domain Names in Bad Faith
As noted in the Panel’s Procedural Order No. 1, to sustain its burden of proof
with respect to the final element, Complainant must show that Respondent registered
and used the domain names in bad faith. The Panel concludes that
Complainant has met that burden.
Respondent concedes that it registered the domain names in 1999, knowing that
Complainant produced and sold garlic-based products under the mark GARLI GARNI,
without prior consultation of the Complainant. Respondent appears to recognize
that such registration, if done without consent, would have been problematic
when it states that, shortly after procuring these registration, it specifically
asked Complainant for consent and offered to transfer the domain names to Complainant.
Larson Decl. ¶ 5.
In light of Respondent ‘s own testimony, it is clear that, at the time of registration,
Respondent lacked permission. A hotly disputed issue, though, is whether Complainant
subsequently endorsed Respondent’s ownership of these domain names. Respondent,
through Mr. Larson, says it offered to transfer the names at no cost, but
that Complainant declined and in fact consented to Respondent’s use; Complainant,
in contrast, vehemently insists that it never was offered transfer of the domain
names, never consented to Respondent’s use of the domain names, and, in fact,
did not know of Respondent’s ownership of these domain names until years later.
Dueling declarations of this type pose a unique problem in proceedings under
the Policy given the lack of discovery, cross-examination and live testimony
at which credibility determinations can be made. Tribeca Film Center, Inc.
v. Lorenzo Brusasco-Mackenzie, WIPO Case
No. D2000-1772 (April 10, 2001). The Panel must nevertheless do
the best it can to resolve the disputed facts on the paper record. Bootie Brewing
Co., supra. If, because of these inherent limitations, the Panel gets it
wrong, the parties still are free to pursue their dispute in court, where all
of the procedural protections missing from the proceedings under the Policy
are available. Policy ¶ 4(k).
In this case, the evidence tends to support Complainant’s version of the events
– that is, that Complainant was never asked and never consented to Respondent’s
registration of these domain names. First, though Mr. Larson claims that
his conversation with Tom Reed and Carol Simpson was witnessed by Jon and
Zondra Rapazzini, Mr. and Mrs. Rapazzini’s declarations
are too conclusory to be of any evidentiary value. Rather than provide factual
support for Mr. Larson’s assertions, they simply state: "The events
as Alex Larson has sworn on his Declaration dated May 27, 2003, are
true and accurate." That statement is demonstrably over broad, as some
of the statements in Mr. Larson’s declaration reflect his own actions,
and thus it is highly dubious that Mr. and Mrs. Rapazzini have sufficient
personal knowledge to affirm that every statement in his declaration is true.
Moreover, Mr. and Mrs. Rapazzini offer no basis for even their
conclusory statement – they do not, for example, state that they witnessed the
discussion between Messrs. Larson and Reed and Ms. Simpson,
nor do they recount their recollection of what was said. Accordingly, the Panel
disregards the Rapazzini declarations.
In contrast, Complainant has submitted detailed, credible declarations. Not
only do Mr. Reed and Ms. Simpson recount the specific events and deny
having consented to the registration, but they also provide persuasive reasons
why they never would have consented had they been asked. Mr. Reed, for
example, explains that, because of his background in advertising, he is sensitive
to the need to protect trademarks, and thus would not have allowed one retailer
to own a domain name incorporating his company’s trademark. Moreover, Mr. Reed
recounts how he first learned of Respondent’s registration through a consumer
comment – a fact that further undermines any suggestion that he had earlier
knowledge of Respondent’s registration and use of the domain names. Finally,
both Mr. Reed and Ms. Simpson specifically state that they never had
any contact with Mr. and Mrs. Rapazzini.
The Panel thus finds, on this record, that Complainant’s version of the events
leading to this dispute are more credible than Respondent’s. With that as the
factual predicate, a finding of bad faith flows naturally. Respondent’s conduct
is on all fours with Policy paragraph 4(b)(iv), which provides that a Complainant
can prove bad faith by showing that Respondent "intentionally attempted
to attract, for commercial gain, Internet uses to [its] website . . . by creating
a likelihood of confusion with the complainant’s mark as to the source, sponsorship,
affiliation or endorsement of [its] website." In light of the evidence,
that appears to have been Respondent’s intent from the start.
Complainant has met its burden of proof under Paragraph 4 of the Policy. The
domain name <garligarni.com> is identical, and the domain name <garlicgarni.com>
is confusingly similar, to Complainant’s GARLI GARNI trademark, Respondent lacks
a legitimate interest in those domain names, and Respondent has registered and
used the domain names in bad faith. Accordingly, the Panel concludes that the
domain names at issue should be transferred to the Complainant.
David H. Bernstein
Dated: July 28, 2003
1. The Panel notes that Complainant relies,
in part, on a California state registration to establish its trademark rights.
Unlike a federal trademark registration, a state registration may not deserve
a presumption of validity. That is because, unlike the thorough examination
process at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, applications for state trademark
registrations are subject to only minimal, if any, review. In this case, though,
Complainant also has alleged continuous use of the mark since 1985, which is
more than sufficient to establish common law trademark rights.