WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center
ADMINISTRATIVE PANEL DECISION
La Societé des Autoroutes Paris Rhin Rhone v. Pierre Guynot
Case No. D2006-1267
1. The Parties
The Complainant is La Societé des Autoroutes Paris Rhin Rhone, Saint Apollinaire, France, represented by Schmidt, Brunet & Associés, France.
The Respondent is Pierre Guynot, Port au Prince, Haiti.
2. The Domain Name and Registrar
The disputed domain name <autorouteparisrhinrhone.com> is registered with eNom, Inc.
3. Procedural History
The Complaint was filed with the WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center (the “Center”) on September 29, 2006. On October 3, 2006, the Center transmitted by email to eNom a request for registrar verification in connection with the domain name at issue. On October 12, 2006, eNom 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. In response to a notification by the Center on October 13, 2006, that the Complaint was administratively deficient in that, inter alia, the Complaint was not filed in the language of the Registration Agreement (i.e. English), the Complainant filed an amendment to the Complaint on October 17, 2006, by email, and in hard copy on October 18, 2006. The Center verified that the Complaint together with the amendment to 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 31, 2006. In accordance with the Rules, paragraph 5(a), the due date for Response was November 20, 2006. The Respondent did not submit any response. Accordingly, the Center notified the Respondent’s default on November 21, 2006.
The Center appointed Francine Tan as the sole panelist in this matter on November 28, 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 is incorporated in France and known by the name “Autoroutes Paris Rhin Rhone” in its provision of goods and services in France. The Complainant possesses two French registrations, TM Nos. 3314056 and 3315699, for the trademarks AUTOROUTES PARIS RHIN RHONE and AUTOROUTES PARIS-RHIN-RHÔNE, respectively. These registrations cover goods and services in a large variety of classes. Classes 4, 12, 35, 37, 38 and 39 are those which feature in both trademark registrations.
The Complainant is also the domain name registrant for the domain names <parisrhinrhone.com> and <parisrhinrhone.fr>. Information from the Complainant’s website shows that it is one of Europe’s largest motorway groups. It is responsible for building and operating motorways and tolls under concessions granted by the French government.
The Respondent’s website at “www.autorouteparisrhinrhone.com” provides sponsored links to other websites offering other goods and services including route planning software, maps, and holiday and taxi services.
5. Parties’ Contentions
The Complaint is based on the following grounds:
(1) The domain name is identical or confusingly similar to a trademark or service mark in which the Complainant has rights.
The disputed domain name incorporates the corporate name and trademarks of the Complainant and confusion is thereby created. It diverts Internet users looking for the Complainant’s website to the website of the Respondent and those of the sponsored links. The Complainant asserts that the registration and exploitation of the disputed domain name constitutes an infringing act under the French Intellectual Property Code and an act of unfair competition against the Complainant.
(2) The Respondent has no rights or legitimate interests in respect of the disputed domain name.
The Respondent is not known to be involved in the transport infrastructure management sector. The Respondent’s website presents information as well as commercial links for activities and services closely related to those of the Complainant’s in France.
The Respondent is making commercial and unfair use of the domain name to divert, for lucrative purposes, Internet users of the websites operated by the Complainant.
(3) The domain name was registered and is being used in bad faith.
The disputed domain name was registered after the registration of the Complainant’s trademarks. Bad faith can be imputed because the disputed domain name is identical to the corporate name and trademarks of the Complainant. The Complainant, by virtue of the Respondent’s registration of the domain name <autorouteparisrhinrhone.com>, is prevented from using and registering the said domain name.
The Respondent did not reply to the Complainant’s contentions.
6. Discussion and Findings
Under the Policy, the Complainant must prove that:
(i) the domain name is identical or confusingly similar to a trademark or service mark in which it has rights; and
(ii) the Respondent has no rights or legitimate interests in respect of the domain name; and
(iii) the domain name has been registered and is being used in bad faith.
A. Identical or Confusingly Similar
As regards the first element under paragraph 4(a) of the Policy, the Panel finds that the domain name is effectively identical, and certainly confusingly similar, to the trademarks and service marks of the Complainant. The omission of the letter “s” after the word “autoroute” in the disputed domain name is insignificant in the present context. The domain name is in any case confusingly similar, both visually and phonetically, to the Complainant’s trademarks. In relation to the Complainant’s trademark registered under French Trademark Registration No. 3315699, the Panel also finds that the omission of the hyphen between the words “Paris”, “Rhin” and “Rhone” in the domain name to be inconsequential to the issue of confusing similarity.
The Panel therefore finds that paragraph 4(a)(i) of the Policy has been established.
B. Rights or Legitimate Interests
The Panel finds that the Complainant has made out a prima facie case that the Respondent has no rights or legitimate interests in the domain name. The burden therefore shifts to the Respondent to dispute the Complainant’s allegation. In not responding to the Complaint the Respondent has failed to rebutt any of the Complainant’s allegations. The Panel therefore finds that the Respondent has no rights or legitimate interests in the domain name. Firstly, there is no evidence which would show that the Respondent has been known by the domain name or that it has acquired rights to the use of the trademark AUTOROUTES PARIS RHIN RHONE. Secondly, there is no evidence that the Complainant has authorized the Respondent to use the Complainant’s trademarks or to register the domain name. Neither has the Respondent shown legitimate non-commercial or fair use of the domain name, but rather, the sponsored links offered on the Respondent’s website support the Complainant’s contention that the Respondent is, for commercial gain, misleadingly diverting consumers to its website and those of other service providers.
The Panel accordingly finds that paragraph 4(a)(ii) of the Policy has been established.
C. Registered and Used in Bad Faith
With reference to paragraph 4(b) of the Policy, the Panel also has no difficulty finding that there has been bad faith registration and use in this case. It is inconceivable that the Respondent did not know of the existence of the Complainant and of its trademark rights in the name AUTOROUTES PARIS RHIN RHONE. The specific combination of words making up the domain name is such that it would be extremely difficult for the Respondent to come up with a plausible explanation as to how the domain name was independently conceived and selected. Apart from registration in bad faith, the Panel also finds the Respondent’s use of the domain name on its website to constitute bad faith. The sponsored links mentioned hereinbefore create a likelihood of confusion with the Complainant’s trademarks and websites at “www.parisrhinrhone.com” and “www.parisrhinrhone.fr”. Internet users would legitimately expect, when entering the domain name <autorouteparisrhinrhone.com> on the Internet or visiting a website bearing the said domain name, to be directed to the Complainant’s website. Alternatively, they would have a reasonable expectation that the website that they are directed to is in some way sponsored by, affiliated to, or endorsed by the Complainant. This is a situation which appears to fall squarely within the example set out in paragraph 4(b)(iv) of the Policy.
The Panel therefore finds that paragraph 4(a)(iii) has been established.
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 <autorouteparisrhinrhone> be transferred to the Complainant.
Dated: December 12, 2006