WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center
ADMINISTRATIVE PANEL DECISION
Louis Vuitton Malletier v.- J.N. Prade
Case No. D2000-1115
1. The Parties
The Complainant in this administrative proceeding is Louis Vuitton Malletier, located at 2 rue du Pont Neuf in Paris 75034 Cedex 01, France, represented by Patrice de Candé, Attorney, with offices at 29 rue Marbeuf, 75008 Paris, France, hereinafter the "Complainant".
Respondent is Dr. JN Prade, with address at 4619 Higel Avenue in Sarasota, Fl 34242, USA, hereinafter the "Respondent".
2. Domain Name and Registrar
The domain name at issue is "louisvuiton.com", registered on March 18, 2000, hereinafter referred to as the "Domain Name". The registrar is Registrer.com.
3. Procedural History
The WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center (the Center) received the Complainant’s complaint on August 24, 2000 (electronic version) and August 28, 2000 (hard copy). The Center verified that the complaint satisfies the formal requirements of the ICANN Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy (the Policy), the Rules for Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy (the Rules), and the Supplemental Rules for Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy (the Supplemental Rules). Complainant made the required payment to the Center. The formal date of the commencement of this administrative proceeding is September 6, 2000.
The Center transmitted to Register.com a request for registrar verification in connection with this case. Register.com transmitted via fax to the Center its verification response, confirming that the registrant is Dr.JN Prade, that the administrative contact is Dr. JN Prade and that the technical and zone contact is Register. com.
Having verified that the complaint satisfied the formal requirements of the Policy and the Rules, the Center transmitted on September 6, 2000, to the Respondent Notification of Complaint and Commencement of the Administrative Proceeding in accordance with the following contact details:
Dr. JN Prade
4619 Higel Av
Sarasota F1 34242
Tel: +1 941 346 1427
The Response was submitted on October 2, 2000.
In view of the Complainant’s designation of a single panelist, the Center invited Mr. Geert Glas to serve as a panelist.
Having received on October 6, 2000, Mr. Geert Glas’ Statement of Acceptance and Declaration of Impartiality and Independence, the Center transmitted to the parties a Notification of Appointment of Administrative Panel and Projected Decision Date on October 9, 2000, in which Mr. Geert Glas was formally appointed as the Sole Panelist. The Sole Panelist finds that the Administrative Panel was properly constituted and appointed in accordance with the Rules and Supplemental Rules.
The Administrative Panel shall issue its Decision based on the complaint, the response, the evidence presented, the Policy, the Rules and the Supplemental Rules.
4. Factual Background
Complainant is the owner of numerous trademark registrations in various countries for the term "Louis Vuitton". Copies of those trademark registrations are attached to the complaint. These are:
- The French word mark n° 1 627 892, registered since November 16, 1990, with the Industrial Property National Institute (INPI) for all classes of products and services 1 to 42 of the international classification.
- The United States word mark n° 1990760, registered on August 6, 1996, for products in classes 14, 16, 18, 24 and 25.
- The Italian word mark n° 465162, registered on February 13, 1987, for products in classes 9 and 12.
- The International word mark originally registered on August 6, 1968, and successively renewed, the last renewal made on June 19, 1995 under n°R416052 for products in classes 3, 6, 8, 13, 14, 16, 18, 20, 21, 24, 25, 28 and 34, which designates Austria, Switzerland, Germany, Algeria, Egypt, Spain, Hungary, Italy, Liechtenstein, Morocco, Monaco, Portugal, Rumania, Saint Marian, Vietnam, Yugoslavia, Lithuania, Croatia, Slovenia, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Georgia, Macedonia and Benelux.
- The Community trademark, n°000015610 registered on March 16, 1998, for products in classes 16, 18 and 25.
Complainant commercialises a number of well-known luxury products (suitcases, clothes, handbags, ect…) under this "Louis Vuitton" trademark.
Moreover, Complainant registered the following domain names with Network Solutions:
- vuitton.net, on January 25, 2000
- louisvuitton.com, on October 19, 1999
- vuitonshop.com, on July 5, 2000
- vuitton.org, on December 27, 1999
- lvuitton.com, on October 20, 1999
- louisvuitton.org, on January 7, 2000
- vuitton.com, on October 19, 1999
- louisvuitton.net, on January 31, 2000
- louis-vuitton.net, on May 19, 2000
On March 18, 2000, the Domain Name has been registered. It has been put for auction on March 19, 2000, on Yahoo's auction web site. However, upon receipt of a complaint letter addressed by the Complainant to Yahoo Ltd, this auction offer has been deleted from the Yahoo auction site.
On August 16, 2000, Respondent writes to Louis Vuitton's attorney that "without in any way offering you or your client the domain name for sale, I could be open to any proposition of reasonable settlement".
The Domain Name is linked to a web page featuring a one page text, in both French and English, in which Respondent pokes fun at Complainant and its products. The following excerpts from the English language version text are illustrative of tone and content of this document: 'LOUISVUITON is the proud sponsor of The "Louisvuiton Cup " for the world largest mule shit. The "Louisvuiton classic" a race for very old mules (10 years and older), ridden by very old ladies (80 years old and older)" or 'We offer the following mules at outrageous prices in line with Rolls Royce® and Ferrari®.
It should be notes that the French language version of this text (which according to the Respondent is the official version) contains a lot of orthographical mistakes and seems hastily drafted.
At the bottom of the page, the visitor can find a link leading to the official Gucci web site, another producer of luxury products.
There is no relation between Respondent and Complainant, and Respondent is not a licensee of Complainant, nor has Respondent otherwise obtained an authorisation to use Complainant’s trademarks.
5. Parties Contentions
1. Complainant contends that Respondent has registered the Domain Name which is identical or at least similar, to the point of causing confusion, with the trademarks of the products or services over which the Complainant holds rights.
2. Complainant contends that the Domain Name must be considered to have been registered and used in bad faith. In its view, this allegation is supported by several facts.
Firstly, the Domain Name has been registered by the Respondent in order to be sold to the Complainant and/or to the public in contravention with the paragraph 4.b.(i) of the policy.
Secondly, the web page to which the Domain Name is connected contains a link to the web site of Gucci, one of the most important competitors of the Complainant. This link may cause a disruption for the Complainant's activities.
Finally, Complainant contends that the expressed willingness of the Respondent to accept a reasonable settlement is an offer to sell the litigious domain name and is therefore considered as proof of bad faith.
Consequently, Complainant requires the transfer of the Domain Name registration.
1. According to the Respondent, the Domain Name is not identical to the trademark. To the extent it would be considered similar, however, no confusion on the litigious web site can exist since nobody may be confused when reading the text displayed, which constitutes a mockery of the Complainant. The Respondent also stresses that no items are sold on the litigious web site to which the Domain Name is linked.
2. The Respondent underlines that no contestation has been made concerning the rights and the legitimate interests the Respondent has in the Domain Name.
He affirms to have such a right by the single fact of having registered the Domain Name, and by the exercise of his constitutional and democratic right of free speech and free press.
3. Furthermore, Respondent contests the applicability of paragraph 4.b. He first contests that he is the one who has put up the litigious Domain Name for auction. He denies that the Domain Name would have been created "primarily for the purpose of selling it".
Moreover, the auction on the Yahoo auction site was intended to the general public and not specially to the owner of the trademark or one of his competitors as provided by the rule 4.b.(1).
He also underlines that the settlement he has proposed to Complainant does not contain in any way an offer to sell the Domain Name as he contends that the Complainant interprets it.
The argument of disruption of the Complainant's activities is also contested since Respondent contends that this can only apply to a competitor, which it is not.
6. Discussion and Findings
Paragraph 15(a) of the Rules instructs the Administrative Panel as to the principles the Administrative Panel is to use in determining the dispute: "A Panel shall 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."
Paragraph 4(a) of the Policy directs that the Complainant must prove each of the following:
(1) that the Domain Name registered by the Respondent is identical or confusingly similar to the trademark in which the Complainant has rights; and,
(2) that the Respondent has no legitimate rights or interests in respect of the Domain Name; and,
(3) that the Domain Name has been registered and is being used in bad faith.
The Domain Name is "louisvuiton.com".
"Louis Vuitton" is a registered trademark of Complainant.
The Administrative Panel finds that the Domain Name is confusingly similar to the trademark "Louis Vuitton" of Complainant.
b. Rights or Legitimate Interests
Complainant has not licensed or otherwise permitted Respondent to use its trademark or to apply for or use any Domain Name incorporating his trademark.
Respondent alleges that its intentions are merely to criticise Complainant and to ridicule him. Respondent has certainly every right to exercise criticism towards Complainant and to freely express and share his point of view with the Internet community. This right, however, does not constitute a legitimate right or interest in the Domain Name as such which solely consists of the trademark of the Complainant without any distinguishing elements or add-ons. Indeed, in this case, Respondent has merely deleted a "T" where there are two.
The Administrative Panel therefore finds that Respondent has no legitimate right or interest in the Domain Name.
c. Registration and Use in Bad Faith
Several facts have to be taken into consideration when assessing the absence/presence of bad faith in this matter:
1. The Domain Name has been registered on March 18, 2000, and was already put up for auction the next day, on March 19, 2000.
2. The auction page proposes the Domain Name to "Competitors, counterfactors, humorist or even the home company".
3. Respondent's mockery page is very poor in content, which seems to indicate Respondent's lack of interest in its proclaimed purpose of criticising Complainant.
4. Respondent places a link on his web page which leads to the web site of the company Gucci. It is particularly relevant to the Panel to notice that while the Respondent criticises Complainant because its products would be extremely expensive and of bad taste, the link to the Gucci web site is unaccompanied by any (critical) comment whatsoever.
It seems to indicate that the Respondent's goal is to target specifically the Complainant's business and to lead its (potential) customers to a major competitor's web site.
It is therefore the Panel's opinion that, in view of the Respondent's behaviour, his real and current goal was to bother Complainant speculating on Complainant's irritation and financial means to sell-off the Domain Name at good price. This is revealed in Respondent's statement in the letter of August 16 to Complainant, stipulating that "Cependant(...) et sans, en aucune façon, proposer ni à vous, ni à votre client une vente de ce domaine, je suis ouvert à une proposition raisonnable de conciliation..." that can be translated by " However (...) and without in any way offering you or your client the domain for sale, I could be open to any proposition of reasonable settlement" and also by the fact that the Respondent has placed a link on the web page to one of the most important competitors of the Complainant.
In conclusion and in view of the above, it is the Panel's opinion that Respondent registered and used the Domain Name in bad faith.
In light of the foregoing, the Administrative Panel decides that the Domain Name "louisvuiton.com" registered by Respondent is confusingly similar to the trademark of Complainant, that Respondent has no right or legitimate interest in respect of the Domain Name, and that Respondent registered and used the Domain Name in bad faith.
Accordingly, pursuant to Paragraph 4, i of the Policy, the Administrative Panel requires that the registration of the Domain Name "louisvuiton.com" be transferred to Complainant.
Dated: October 13, 2000