WIPO

 

WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center

 

ADMINISTRATIVE PANEL DECISION

Singapore Airlines Limited v. European Travel Network

Case No. D2000-0641

 

1. The Parties

The Complainant is Singapore Airlines Limited, a corporation under the laws of the Republic of Singapore with its address at Airline House, 25 Airline Road, Singapore 819829. It is represented by Mr. Roy Goldbert of Schnader Harrison Segal & Lewis LLP, Attorneys of Washington DC, U.S.A.

The Respondent is European Travel Network of PO Box 025216 Ė SJO 1714, Miami, FL. 33102-5216, USA. No street address is known for the Respondent, which is not represented by counsel and which did not file a Response.

 

2. The Domain Names and Registrar

The domain names at issue are "singaporeairlines.org", "singaporeair.net" and "singaporeair.org". The domain names are registered with Network Solutions Inc., 505 Huntmar Park Drive, Herndon, Virginia 20170, United States of America ("NSI").

 

3. Procedural History

The Complaint, submitted by Singapore Airlines Limited was received on June 20, 2000, (electronic version) and June 22, 2000, (hard copy) by the World Intellectual Property Organization Arbitration and Mediation Center ("WIPO Center").

On or about June 22, 2000, a request for Registrar verification was transmitted by the WIPO Center to NSI, requesting it to:

- Confirm that a copy of the Complaint had been sent to it by the Complainant as required by the WIPO Supplemental Rules for Uniform Dispute Resolution Policy ("Supplemental Rules"), paragraph 4(b).

- Confirm that the domain names at issue are registered with NSI.

- Confirm that the person identified as the Respondent is the current registrant of the domain names.

- Provide full contact details, i.e., postal address(es), telephone number(s), facsimile number(s), email address(es), available in the Registrarís WHOIS database for the registrant of the disputed domain names, the technical contact, the administrative contact and the billing contact for the domain names.

- Confirm that the Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy was in effect.

- Indicate the current status of the domain names.

By email dated June 30, 2000, NSI advised WIPO Center as follows:

- NSI had received a copy of the Complaint from the Complainant.

- NSI is the Registrar of the domain name registrations "singaporeairlines.org", "singaporeair.net" and "singaporeair.org".

- European Travel Network (address as above) is shown as the "current registrant" of the domain names "singaporeairlines.org", "singaporeair.net" and "singaporeair.org".

- The administrative and billing contact is:

European Travel Network

Postbus 561, Eindhoven

Noord Brabant, 5600AN

Netherlands.

- The technical and zone contact is WorldNIC Name Host care of NSI.

- NSIís 4.0 Service Agreement is in effect.

- The domain name registrations "singaporeairlines.org", "singaporeair.net" and "singaporeair.org" are in "Active" status.

NSI has currently incorporated into its agreements the policy for Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution adopted by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers ("ICANN").

The advice from NSI that the domain names in question are still "active", indicates the Respondent has not requested that the domain names at issue be deleted from the domain name database. The Respondent has not sought to terminate the agreement with NSI. Accordingly, the Respondent is bound by the provisions of NSIís Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy, i.e., the ICANN policy. The Respondent has not challenged the jurisdiction of the Panel.

Having verified that the Complaint satisfied the formal requirements of the Uniform Policy and the Uniform Rules, the WIPO Center on July 6, 2000, transmitted by post/courier and by email a notification of Complaint and Commencement of Administrative Proceedings to the Respondent. A copy of the Complaint was also emailed to NSI and ICANN.

The Complainant elected to have its Complaint resolved by a single panel member: it has duly paid the amount required of it to the WIPO Center.

The Respondent was advised that a Response to the Complaint was required within 20 calendar days (i.e., by July 25, 2000). The Respondent was also advised that any Response should be communicated, in accordance with the Rules, by four sets of hard copy and by email. The Respondent has filed no Response. A Notice of Default was sent by WIPO Center to the Respondent on July 26, 2000.

On August 17, 2000, the WIPO Center invited the Honorable Sir Ian Barker QC of Auckland, New Zealand, to serve as Sole Panelist in the case. It transmitted to him a statement of acceptance and requested a declaration of impartiality and independence.

On August 17, 2000, the Honorable Sir Ian Barker QC advised his acceptance and forwarded to the WIPO Center his statement of impartiality and independence. The Panelist finds that the Administrative Panel was properly constituted in accordance with the Rules and the Supplemental Rules.

On August 21, 2000, WIPO Center forwarded to the Honorable Sir Ian Barker QC by courier the relevant submissions and the record. These were received by him on August 25, 2000. In terms of Rule 5(b), in the absence of exceptional circumstances, the Panel is required to forward its decision by September 4, 2000.

The Panel has independently determined and agrees with the assessment of WIPO Center that the Complaint meets the formal requirements of the Rules for Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy as approved by ICANN on October 24, 1999, ("the Rules") and the Supplemental Rules.

The language of the administrative proceeding is English, being the language of the registration agreement.

 

4. Factual Background

The Complainant owns and operates Singapore Airlines, a leading international air carrier, which operates in 70 cities and 35 countries throughout the world. The Complainant has operated its international air services since 1972, and prides itself on the quality of those services.

The Complainant has rights to the mark "Singapore Airlines" in numerous countries throughout the world, including the United States.

The Complainant has registered the domain name "singaporeair.com" with NSI, as well as other domain names containing "singaporeair" with country codes, e.g., "singaporeair.com.sg", "singaporeair.com.de". It claims common law trademark rights for "singaporeair" in cyberspace in those jurisdictions where such rights are recognized, including the United States.

The Complainant uses the "Singapore Airlines" mark and the expression "Singapore Air" to promote and market its aviation services worldwide through various marketing channels, including websites. The Panel is able to take judicial notice of the fact that its "Singapore Airlines" mark is distinctive and universally associated with the Complainantís airline. The Complainant obtains substantial revenue from the sale of its products and services.

The Complainant has not granted any license or other authority to the Respondent to use the disputed domain names.

When internet users type in any of the disputed domain names, they are immediately connected with the Respondentís travel discount website. Described as "the mother lode of resources for finding cheap fares", this website offers an exhaustive range of discounted travel products and discount providers. The Respondent is clearly in the business of selling discount travel products such as air tickets, hotel rooms and rental cars.

 

5. Partiesí Contentions

The Complainant submits that the only possible conclusion must be the Respondent registered and is using in bad faith domain names which are identical to its world-famous registered mark, "Singapore Airlines", and its allied common law mark "Singapore Air". As a travel broker, the Respondent must have known of the Complainantís marks and the Complainantís place in the world of international aviation.

The Respondent has made no submissions.

 

6. Discussion and Findings

Paragraph 15(a) of the Rules instructs the 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".

The burden for the Complainant, under paragraph 4(a) of the ICANN Policy, is to show:

h That the domain names registered by the Respondent are identical or confusingly similar to a trademark or service mark in which the Complainant has rights; and

h That the Respondent has no rights or legitimate interests in respect of the domain names; and

h That the domain names have been registered and are being used by the Respondent in bad faith.

The domain names "singaporeairlines.org", "singaporeair.net" and "singaporeair.org" are obviously identical or confusingly similar to the Complainantís marks, whether registered or common law. The fact that in two of them the letters "lines" are omitted does not diminish the fact that the marks refer clearly to an airline with a close connection with Singapore Ė in fact the universally-known Singapore Airlines.

Likewise, the Panel decides that the Respondent has no rights or legitimate interests in the domain names at issue. The Respondent has never suggested to the contrary. Nor has the Respondent suggested that it is known by the marks.

Paragraph 4(b) of the ICANN Policy states:

"For the purposes of Paragraph 4(a)(iii), the following circumstances, in particular but without limitation, if found by the Panel to be present, shall be evidence of the registration and use of a domain name in bad faith:

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

(ii) you have 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 you have engaged in a pattern of such conduct; or

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

(iv) by using the domain name, you have intentionally attempted to attract, for commercial gain, Internet users to your web site or other on-line location, by creating a likelihood of confusion with the complainantís mark as to the source, sponsorship, affiliation, or endorsement of your web site or location or of a product or service on your web site or location."

It should be noted that the circumstances of bad faith are not limited to the above.

The Panel considers that the Respondent has registered and used the domain names "singaporeairlines.org", "singaporeair.net" and "singaporeair.org" in "bad faith" for the following reasons:

(a) "singaporeairlines.org", "singaporeair.net" and "singaporeair.org" are so obviously connected with a well-known airline that their very use by someone with no connection with the airline suggests opportunistic bad faith. Indeed, it is hard to imagine a more blatant exercise in "cybersquatting".

(b) The fact that the Respondent is a discount travel agent with a substantial business (if the website is any indication) creates an almost irrefutable inference of registration and use in bad faith of domain names purporting to refer to a major world airline.

(c) The Respondent has diluted the Complainantís marks by directing to its own travel website persons wishing to find out about the Complainantís services etc.

There is normally, in cases such as this, some warning letter to a Respondent seeking an explanation. This often elicits some tendentious excuse for "cybersquatting". Although such a letter is normally to be encouraged, its absence here is not material because of the blatancy of the Respondentís conduct. The registration of domain names obviously relating to the Complainant is a major pointer to the Respondentís bad faith and desire to "cash in" on the Complainantís reputation.

The present situation is similar to that in Educational Tertiary Service v. TOEFL (WIPO Case D2000-0044) where the learned Panelist said:

"The value which Respondents seeks to secure from sale of the domain name is based on the underlying value of Complainantís trademark. This value is grounded in the right of Complainant to use its mark to identify itself as a source of goods or services. Respondents have failed to establish any legitimate domain name-related use for Complainantís trademark, in a context in which such legitimization might be possible. The Respondents having failed to present any such justification, the Panel may reasonably infer that Respondents neither intended to make nor has made any legitimate use of Complainantís trademark in connection with the [domain name at issue."

Accordingly, for all the various reasons discussed above, the Panel finds that the domain names "singaporeairlines.org", "singaporeair.net" and "singaporeair.org" have been registered and are being used by the Respondent in bad faith.

 

7. Legal Considerations

Although entitled to consider principles of law deemed applicable, the Panel finds it unnecessary to do so. The jurisprudence which is being rapidly developed by a wide variety of Panelists worldwide under the ICANN Policy provides a fruitful source of precedent. Cheeky attempts by "cybersquatters" to capitalize on universally known brands or trademarks have been thwarted fairly summarily by a variety of WIPO Panelists. United States law seems consistent with such an approach.

 

8. Decision

For the foregoing reasons, the Panel decides:

(a) that the domain names registered by the Respondent are identical or confusingly similar to the trademark to which the Complainant has rights;

(b) that the Respondent has no rights or legitimate interests in respect of the domain names; and

(c) the Respondentís domain names have been registered and are being used in bad faith.

Accordingly, pursuant to paragraph 4(i) of the Policy, the Panel requires that the registration of the domain names "singaporeairlines.org", "singaporeair.net" and "singaporeair.org" be transferred to the Complainant.

 


 

Hon Sir Ian Barker QC
Panelist

Dated: August 29, 2000