WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center
ACCOR Société Anonyme v. Digi Real Estate Foundation
Case No. D2006-1260
1. The Parties
The Complainant is ACCOR Société Anonyme, Evry, France, represented by Cabinet Dreyfus & Associés, France.
The Respondent is Digi Real Estate Foundation, Panama City, Panama.
2. The Domain Name and Registrar
The disputed domain name <sofitelminneapolis.com> is registered with Nettuner Corp. DBA Webmasters.com.
3. Procedural History
The Complaint was filed with the WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center (the “Center”) on September 28, 2006. On September 29, 2006, the Center transmitted by email to Nettuner Corp. DBA Webmasters.com a request for registrar verification in connection with the domain name at issue. On September 29, 2006, Nettuner Corp. DBA Webmasters.com transmitted by email to the Center its verification response confirming that the Respondent is listed as the registrant, and providing the contact details for the administrative, billing, and technical contact. The Center verified that the Complaint satisfied the formal requirements of the Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy (the “Policy”), the Rules for Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy (the “Rules”), and the WIPO Supplemental Rules for Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy (the “Supplemental Rules”).
In accordance with the Rules, paragraphs 2(a) and 4(a), the Center formally notified the Respondent of the Complaint, and the proceedings commenced on October 13, 2006. In accordance with the Rules, paragraph 5(a), the due date for Response was November 2, 2006. The Respondent did not submit any response. Accordingly, the Center notified the Respondent’s default on November 7, 2006.
The Center appointed Francine Tan as the sole panelist in this matter on November 17, 2006. The Panel finds that it was properly constituted. The Panel has submitted the Statement of Acceptance and Declaration of Impartiality and Independence, as required by the Center to ensure compliance with the Rules, paragraph 7.
4. Factual Background
The Complainant, founded in 1967, is one of the world’s largest groups in the travel and tourism industry, and a leader in the provision of corporate services. It owns about 4,000 hotels in 90 countries worldwide. The Complainant is the trademark proprietor in relation to the following hotel names: Novotel, Ibis, Motel 6 and Sofitel. Sofitel hotels are located in 61 countries, with 200 hotels in 53 countries. The Complainant has numerous worldwide trademark registrations for SOFITEL, including International Trademark Registration Nos. 406255 (filed on April 18, 1974), 614992 (filed October 29, 1993) and 642172 (filed on August 31, 1995). The Complainant is the owner of the domain name <sofitel.com> and Internet users are able to find information on, and make bookings with, the hotels at the Complainant’s website, “www.sofitel.com”.
The Respondent’s website at “www.sofitelminneapolis.com” offers links to many different websites including those of travel agents and other hotels in Minneapolis.
The Complainant sent letters by email and registered mail to the Respondent to inform the latter of its rights in the trademark SOFITEL and to request, with a view to achieving an amicable settlement, the transfer of the disputed domain name to the Complainant. The Complainant did not receive any reply from the Respondent.
5. Parties’ Contentions
The Complainant contends that:
(1) The disputed domain name is identical or confusingly similar to the Complainant’s trademarks and service marks. The addition of the word “Minneapolis” is insufficient to negate the confusing similarity between the Complainant’s mark and the domain name. In fact, it adds to the confusion as people would think that the disputed domain name relates specifically to the Sofitel hotels in Minneapolis.
(2) The Respondent has no rights or legitimate interests in the domain name. Firstly, the Respondent is not affiliated with the Complainant in any way and the latter has not authorized the former to use the trademark SOFITEL or to register any domain name incorporating the SOFITEL mark.
The Respondent has no prior rights or legitimate interest in the domain name, and is not known under the name “Sofitel”, “SofitelMinneapolis”, or any other similar name. The Respondent is not making any legitimate non-commercial or fair use of the domain name and this is evident from the various links to competing sites offered on the Respondent’s website. The Respondent cannot, reasonably speaking, claim to be engaged in a legitimate activity with the use of the domain name since SOFITEL is a famous trademark of the Complainant.
The Respondent’s failure to respond to the Complaint shows that the Respondent has no rights or legitimate interests in the domain name.
(3) The domain name was registered and is being used in bad faith. The Respondent knew or must have known of the Sofitel hotel chain. It would be difficult for the Respondent to deny this since the precise combination of the words “Sofitel” and “Minneapolis” is clearly indicative that the Respondent had the Complainant’s hotel chain in mind when registering the disputed domain name.
The Respondent’s apparent intention was to disrupt the Complainant’s business as the domain name offers sponsored links to the websites of other hotels. It is an attempt by the Respondent to attract, for commercial gain, Internet users by creating a likelihood of confusion with the Complainant’s trademark.
The Respondent did not reply to the Complainant’s contentions.
6. Discussion and Findings
In accordance with paragraph 4(a) of the Policy, the Complainant has to prove that each of the three following elements is satisfied:
(1) The domain name is identical or confusingly similar to a trademark or service mark in which the Complainant has rights;
(2) The Respondent has no rights or legitimate interests in respect of the domain name; and
(3) The domain name has been registered and is being used in bad faith.
The Policy stipulates that the burden of proof lies with the Complainant.
A. Identical or Confusingly Similar
The Panel finds that the domain name is confusingly similar to the Complainant’s trademark SOFITEL. The addition of the generic word “Minneapolis” does not serve to remove the confusion but in fact adds to it in this particular case. Internet users would very naturally expect the website “www.sofitelminneapolis.com” to be the official website of the Complainant and to relate to the Complainant’s Sofitel hotel(s) in Minneapolis.
The Panel accordingly finds that the Complainant has established the first element of the Policy.
B. Rights or Legitimate Interests
The Panel finds that the Complainant has satisfied the burden of establishing a prima facie case that the Respondent has no rights or legitimate interests in the disputed domain name. In failing to respond to the Complainant’s “cease and desists” letters and the Complaint lodged under these proceedings, the Panel draws the inference that the Respondent does not have rights or legitimate interests in the domain name.
The Panel accordingly finds that the Complainant has established the second element of the Policy.
C. Registered and Used in Bad Faith
In this case, the Panel finds that a case of bad faith registration and use by the Respondent has been established. Having considered the evidence submitted by the Complainant, the Panel agrees that the Respondent must have known of the Complainant’s trademark rights in SOFITEL and of the Sofitel hotel chain. The addition of the location name “Minneapolis” to the mark and the offering of links to other hotels in Minneapolis on the Respondent’s website are indications of bad faith. Further, the Respondent’s lack of response in these proceedings adds weight to the Complainant’s case.
The Panel accordingly finds that the Complainant has established the third element of the Policy.
For all the foregoing reasons, in accordance with paragraphs 4(i) of the Policy and 15 of the Rules, the Panel orders that the domain name <sofitelminneapolis.com> be transferred to the Complainant.
Dated: November 24, 2006