WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center
ADMINISTRATIVE PANEL DECISION
Credit Industriel et Commercial en abrégé CIC v. Caribbean Online International Ltd.
Case No. D2007-0423
1. The Parties
The Complainant is Credit Industriel et Commercial en abrégé CIC, of Paris, France, of France, represented by Meyer & Partenaires, France.
The Respondent is Caribbean Online International Ltd., of Nassau, Bahamas, Bahamas.
2. The Domain Names and Registrars
The disputed domain names <ffilbanque.com> and <filbanqur.com> are registered with DomainDoorman, LLC and BelgiumDomains, LLC.
3. Procedural History
The Complaint was filed with the WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center (the “Center”) on March 30, 2007. On March 30, 2007, the Center transmitted by email to DomainDoorman, LLC and BelgiumDomains, LLC a request for registrar verification in connection with the respective domain names at issue. On April 4, 2007, DomainDoorman, LLC and BelgiumDomains, LLC transmitted by email to the Center their verification responses confirming that the Respondent is listed as the registrant of each of the above domain names 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 April 10, 2007. In accordance with the Rules, paragraph 5(a), the due date for Response was April 30, 2007. The Respondent did not submit any response. Accordingly, the Center notified the Respondent’s default on May 3, 2007.
The Center appointed David Levin Q.C. as the sole panelist in this matter on May 8, 2007. 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
Credit Industriel et Commercial S.A. (hereinafter referred to as ‘the Complainant’) is a French bank, a subsidiary of the Crédit Mutuel-CIC group. Crédit Mutuel-CIC is France’s fourth largest banking group. The Complainant has 3.6 million clients with a network of 1940 branches in France. It also conducts business in 37 foreign countries.
As part of its banking business it offers Internet facilities through the online banking service ‘FILBANQUE’. This service is conducted through its computing subsidiary, EURO INFORMATION. Internet facilities are offered through four domain names: <filbanque.tm.fr>; <filbanque.com>; <filbanque.fr>; and <filbanque.eu>. These domain names were registered on diverse dates between 1998 and 2006.
FILBANQUE is the trade name which has been used by the Complainant for its online banking services since 1992. The trademark FILBANQUE was initially registered under the Complainant’s former name in January 1992. It has since been renewed in the name of the Complainant. It has been used by the Complainant for the online banking services for the entire CIC banking group. Hyperlinks resolve to FILBANQUE online services on each of the Complainant’s regional bank websites.
The Complainant is also the owner of the following trademarks in various classes: French figurative trademark FILBANQUE n° 95553426 registered on January 13, 1995; French figurative trademark FILBANQUE n° 95553427 registered on January 13, 1995; French nominative trademark FILBANQUE No. 01 3 126 064 registered on October 15, 2001; and French figurative trademark FILBANQUE No. 013130040 registered on November 7, 2001.
5. Parties’ Contentions
The Complainant contends that the domain names that are the subject of the present complaint are almost identical to the FILBANQUE mark, the only difference being, in each case, the addition or change of a single letter. In the case of <ffilbanque.com> the difference is the addition of the second ‘f’; In the case of <filbanqur.com> the difference is the substitution of ‘r’ for ‘e’ as the final letter. The Complainant submits that the Respondent has sought to take advantage of Internet users typing an incorrect address when seeking to access the Complainant’s website, a practice known as “typosquatting”. For this reason the Complainant contends that the disputed domain names are confusingly similar to its trademark.
To the Complainant’s knowledge, the Respondent has never registered FFILBANQUE or FILBANQUR trademarks and has never acquired any common law trademark rights in these wordings. The Complainant has no commercial relationship with the Respondent and has neither authorized nor licensed the Respondent in any way to use or exploit the FILBANQUE trademark, to appropriate these domain names, or to otherwise associate itself with the Complainant. The Complainant invites the Panel to draw the inference that the Respondent was most likely well aware of Complainant’s famous mark when Respondent registered <ffilbanque.com> and <filbanqur.com>. The Complainant contends that its mark was well-known around the world and the Respondent has apparently acquired the domain name for the purpose of diverting Internet traffic from the Complainant’s legitimate website to a website containing click-through links from which financial revenue is received based upon the number of clicks. Such behavior should not be viewed as a bona fide offering of services.
The Complainant would also seek to have the Panel draw inferences from other similar cases involving the Respondent that it is involved in the business of using infringing domain names to divert legitimate internet users and thereby gain for itself revenue. It maintains that the Respondent is not known by the names now incorporated in the subject domain names and that such activities are not a legitimate non-commercial or fair use of the domain names. In the circumstances, it contends that the Respondent has no rights or legitimate interests in respect of the disputed domain names.
Given the high profile of the trademark FILBANQUE, the Complainant submits that it was highly likely that the Respondent knew that it was registering the domain names in issue in probable breach of a trademark. The very registration of the names in a manner designed to take advantage of internet users’ typographical errors is claimed to support this inference. The Complainant refers to the common error of typing a letter twice when typing a website address and also to the fact that the letters ‘e’ and ‘r’ are positioned next to each other on any QWERTY keyboard. In the circumstances it is contended that the domain names were registered in bad faith.
Finally the submission is made that the Respondent has used the domain names in bad faith. The domain names <ffilbanque.com> and <filbanqur.com> lead to a portal site offering sponsored links. The websites promote mainly financial services and banking-related products and services, although they also contain links to lifestyle and travel sites. There, Internet users have access to a variety of goods and services, among which are links to websites of Complainant’s competitors. The Complainant submits that this kind of behavior shows clearly that the Respondent wanted to divert Internet users seeking information about the Complainant’s products and obtain revenues from this diverted traffic.
The Respondent did not reply to the Complainant’s contentions.
6. Discussion and Findings
Paragraph 15(a) of the Rules requires 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”.
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
The Complainant is the owner of several trademarks incorporating FILBANQUE and four domain names with different top-level domains that also contain FILBANQUE. It uses the trademark FILBANQUE in its substantial banking business in France and around the world. The Complainant’s evidence shows to the satisfaction of the Panel that rights, goodwill and reputation are linked to its trademark FILBANQUE
In considering the issue of ‘confusing similarity’ the Panel agrees with the views expressed in Reuters Limited v Global Net 2000, Inc, WIPO Case No. D2000-0441 in relation, inter alia, to the domain names <reters.com>; <ruters.com> and <reuers.com> that:
“A domain name which differs by only one letter from a trademark has a greater tendency to be confusingly similar to the trademark where the trademark is highly distinctive.”
The Panel finds that the Respondent’s registration of the names <ffilbanque.com> and <filbanqur.com> is registration of domain names which are confusingly similar to the trademark of the Complainant. In considering the issue of confusing similarity it is proper to ignore the domain suffix, ‘com’. The Panel infers that the alterations from the trademark are merely designed to allow the Respondent to take advantage of typographical slips which an Internet user commonly makes when in fact intending to access a website of the Complainant. In this regard the Panel follows a number of well-known panel decisions, including Dow Jones & Company, Inc. and Dow Jones LP v. John Zuccarini, WIPO Case No. D2000-0578 and the decisions referred to therein.
B. Rights or Legitimate Interests
On the evidence before the Panel, the Panel concludes that the Respondent has never registered FFILBANQUE or FILBANQUR trademarks and has never acquired any common law trademark rights in these wordings. The Complainant has no commercial relationship with the Respondent and has neither authorized nor licensed the Respondent in any way to use or exploit the FILBANQUE trademark, to appropriate these domain names, or to otherwise associate itself with the Complainant. Given the confusing similarity between the Center’s trademarks and the disputed domain names, the Panel infers that the Respondent knew of the Complainant’s mark when it registered <ffilbanque.com> and <filbanqur.com> and that it has no rights or legitimate interest in the said domain names.
The Respondent has not asserted any rights or legitimate interests in the name.
In failing to submit a Response, based on the case file, the Panel concludes that the Respondent has no rights or legitimate interests in respect of the above domain names.
C. Registered and Used in Bad Faith
The registration and use of the domain names to attract customers who are intending to access the Complainant’s website but who make a typing error and find themselves taken to a site in which they have no apparent interest for the Respondent’s financial gain is not a bona fide registration and use of a domain names.
In Credit Industriel et Commercial S.A. and Confédération Nationale du Credit Mutuel v. Spiral Matrix, WIPO Case No. D2006-0271, use by Spiral Matrix in a similar fashion to that of the Respondent was considered to be “either attracting Internet users for commercial gain or simply to disrupting the Complainants’ relationship with its customers or potential customers”. The Panel accepts that both of these motives constitute evidence of registration and use in bad faith contrary to paragraphs 4(b)(iii) and (iv) of the Policy and that the Complainant has established the necessary facts to permit the Panel to conclude that in the present case the Respondent has registered and used the domain names in issue in bad faith.
In the absence of exceptional circumstances explaining the absence of any Response to the Complaint, the Panel is entitled to draw such inferences therefrom as it considers appropriate, pursuant to Rule 14(b) of the Rules. The Panel infers that the Respondent knew of the Complainant’s trademark or commercially widespread reputation when it registered the names in question and that it intended to profit itself from that reputation.
The Panel finds that the registration and use of each of the domain names was in bad faith, contrary to the Policy, paragraphs 4(a)(iii) and 4(b) and the Rules, paragraph 3(b)(ix)(3).
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 names <ffilbanque.com> and <filbanqur.com> be transferred to the Complainant.
David Levin Q.C.
Dated: May 22, 2007