WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center
ADMINISTRATIVE PANEL DECISION
Confederation Nationale Du Credit Mutuel v. Equitron
Case No. D2007-0622
1. The Parties
The Complainant is Confederation Nationale Du Credit Mutuel, Paris, France, represented by MEYER & Partenaires, France.
The Respondent is Equitron, Floortown, Pennsylvania, United States of America.
2. The Domain Name and Registrar
The disputed domain name <créditmutuel.net> is registered with Spotdomain LLC d/b/a DomainSite.com (the “Registrar”).
3. Procedural History
The Complaint was filed on-line with the WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center (the “Center”) on April 24, 2007, and the hard copy was received by the Center on April 26, 2007.
On April 27, 2007, the Center transmitted by email to the Registrar a request for registrar verification in connection with the domain name at issue.
On April 28, 2007, the Registrar transmitted by email to the Center its verification response confirming inter alia that Spotdomain LLC d/b/a DomainSite.com is the registrar of the domain name in issue, 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 May 3, 2007.
In accordance with the Rules, paragraph 5(a), the due date for Response was May 23, 2007.
The Respondent did not submit any response. Accordingly, the Center notified the Respondent’s default on May 25, 2007.
The Center appointed James Bridgeman as the sole panelist in this matter on June 11, 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
There was no Response or submissions received from the Respondent and it follows that there are no agreed facts. On the evidence submitted by the Complainant, the factual background is as follows:
The Complainant is the political and central body for the Crédit Mutuel Banking Group and is the second French banking and insurance service group. The Complainant has been providing services to approximately fourteen million clients for more than a century.
The Complainant is the owner of the trademark CREDIT MUTUEL and is the owner of a number of trademark registrations incorporating the words “Credit Mutuel” in France and abroad viz.
CREDIT MUTUEL, French semi-figurative trademark No. 1475940 of July 8, 1988 classes 35 and 36 of 1957 Nice Agreement, renewed on May 15, 1998.
CREDIT MUTUEL, French semi-figurative trademark No. 1646012 of November 20, 1990 in classes 16, 35, 36, 38 (internet services) and 41 of Nice Agreement, renewed on November 20, 2000.
CREDIT MUTUEL semi-figurative International trademark No. 570182 of May 17, 1991 in classes 16, 35, 36, 38 and 41 of Nice Agreement, designating Benelux, Italy and Portugal.
The Complainant has an established Internet presence and is the owner of domain names <creditmutuel.net> registered on October 3, 1996 and <credit-mutuel.net> registered on October 5, 1996. The Complainant has established a website at these addresses. The internationalized domain name <créditmutuel.com> was registered on February 26, 2001 in the name of the Complainant’s computing subsidiary.
As no Response has been filed the information available relating to the Respondent is that found on the Whois record and the information provided in the Complaint.
The domain name in dispute was registered by the Respondent on March 18, 2006. The Respondent has not established a website at the address and the domain name in dispute resolves to a parking page.
5. Parties’ Contentions
The Complainant requests a decision that the disputed domain name be transferred to the Complainant.
Addressing the Complainant’s trademark rights, the Complainant submits and has provided evidence that it is engaged in the provision of financial services and consists of a network of 3100 offices in France managed through 18 regional banks. Present in every field of finance, the group is a major player on the market of personal banking and in the corporate area. Its main priority is to provide high-quality relationships and services to its members and customers.
The Complainant submits that it has trademark rights in the mark CREDIT MUTUEL. The Complainant refers to its rights in the abovementioned registered trademarks and asserts that said trademarks have been continuously used in commerce since their registration.
The Complainant is using its trademark as domain names <creditmutuel.net> and <credit-mutuel.net> to promote its activities on the Internet. The Complainant operates a web portal under the uniform resource locator “http://www.creditmutuel.com”, dedicated to its products and services and providing a lot of information to the public about financial matters.
The Complainant has acquired a substantial reputation in the field of banking and insurance services in France and Europe. By way of illustration, according to a Forrester survey, The Complainant ranks number one in France and number four in Europe; the Complainant ranks as the number two in electronic banking services on the TNS Sofres award list.
Addressing the question of similarity, the Complainant claims that the domain name <créditmutuel.net> is identical or at least confusingly similar to its trademark CREDIT MUTUEL. The trademark CREDIT MUTUEL is entirely reproduced in the disputed domain name. Previous decisions under the UDRP have also ruled that the absence of space or stresses in litigated domain name added to a trademark may be ignored in assessing the question of identity or confusing similarity. Examples being:
International Bank for Reconstruction and Development d/b/a The World Bank v. Yoo Jihn Sohn, WIPO Case No. D2002-0222 regarding <worldbank.net>: where the panel observed that “[t]he absence of spaces between words is common and to be expected in domain names, and does not reduce confusion between them and valid trade or service marks”; and Société Air France / The World of Travel, WIPO Case No. D2002-0485 regarding <lastminute-air-france.com> and <lastminute-air-france.net>.
Citing previous UDRP decisions and in particular Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. v. Walsucks and Walmarket Puerto Rico, WIPO Case D2000-0477, the Complainant asserts also that the suffix “.net” should not to be taken into account while comparing a disputed domain name with a claimed trademark, as it is a technical and necessary part of domain name with no distinguishing feature nor legal significance .
The disputed domain name contains the letter “é” which is not an ASCII code character, but notably a French character. The Complainant submits that the main updated web browsers are supporting IDN and in casu, for French people, the disputed domain name strictly reproduces the Complainant’s trademark.
In previous decisions, UDRP panels have ruled that French IDNs strictly reproduced the prior trademark rights held by complainants viz. Fortuneo SA v. J. Guinebert WIPO Case No. D2001-0781 regarding <fortunéo.com> where the panel observed that “[t]he second level part of the domain name is almost identical to the Complainant’s, if not identical”; and, Rémy Martin & Cie, Cointreau SA et La Compagnie Rémy Cointreau v. Stéphane Obadia WIPO Case No. D2001-1263 regarding the domain name <rémy-cointreau.com>.
As a consequence, the Complainant claims that the domain name in dispute is identical or at the very least confusingly similar to the Complainant’s trademark CREDIT MUTUEL.
The Complainant submits that the Respondent has no rights or legitimate interests in respect of the domain name <créditmutuel.net>. The Respondent is not related in any way to the Complainant's business: it is not one of its agents and does not carry out any activity for, or has any business with it.
The Respondent is not currently and has never been known under the wording CREDIT MUTUEL, and has no trademark right on it.
No license or authorization has been granted to the Respondent to make any use of, or to apply for registration of the domain name by the Complainant.
In similar circumstances, UDRP panels have decided that the respondent had neither rights nor legitimate interests in issuing domain names viz. Credit Industrial et Commercial S.A. v. Richard J., WIPO Case No. D2005-0569 regarding <filbanquecic.com> and <cicfilbanque.com>.
Therefore the Respondent should not be considered as having rights or legitimate interests in respect of the domain name <créditmutuel.net>.
Addressing the issues of bad faith registration and use, the Complainant submits that it first became aware of the Respondent’s registration of the domain name in issue a few weeks prior to filing the Complaint. The Complainant was informed that the Respondent, a company, apparently located in Pennsylvania, had registered the domain name <créditmutuel.net> on March 18, 2006. According to its preliminary investigations, the Complainant found that the Respondent is or was an ICANN accredited registrar, doing business under the name Domainnameregistration.com. The information available to the Complainant is that the Respondent is no longer on the ICANN accredited registrars list.
Complainant submits that it is difficult to imagine that the Respondent could have been unaware of the Complainant’s trademark CREDIT MUTUEL at the time it applied for the disputed domain name <créditmutuel.net>.
CREDIT MUTUEL is only used in French and is not in the English language. A translation in English would be MUTUAL CREDIT. While registering the domain name in issue, there is no doubt that the Respondent intended to refer to the Complainant.
In support of this assertion the Complainant cites the decision of the administrative panel in a previous UDRP case filed by the Complainant, viz. Confederation Nationale du Credit Mutual v. Josh Self, WIPO Case No. D2005-1057 regarding the domain name <creditmutuelonline.com>: “The disputed domain name consists of the Complainant’s trademark plus the word ‘online’ which clearly denotes an aspect of the Complainant’s services. The Panel infers from this that the Respondent registered the disputed domain name with the Complainant in mind.”
The Complainant submits that the Respondent registered the disputed domain name <créditmutuel.net> exclusively for the purpose of taking advantage of the Complainant’s reputation and goodwill to attract Internet traffic searching for the Complainant’s products and services on the Internet.
The Respondent is using the disputed domain name to divert Internet users to a parking webpage providing sponsored links to some of the Complainant’s competitors. The disputed sponsored page is operated randomly and the Complaint would like to draw attention to the fact that the domain name could be used also in relation with phishing attacks.
The Complainant contends that UDRP precedent establishes that “even if such use commonly occurs on so-called “parking” pages, a respondent has a responsibility for the content that a respondent allows to be posted at the site e.g. Hewlett Packard Company v. Alvaro Collazo FA0302000144628 and Société AIR FRANCE v. Alvaro Collazo, WIPO Case No. D2003-0417.
Moreover the registration in dispute prevents the Complainant from reflecting its online banking services activity in a corresponding domain name on the .net gTLD.
The Complainant submits that as a former registrar, the Respondent should be aware of the rules applying to domain names, especially with respect to third parties trademark rights.
As a matter of fact, the Respondent is not making any legitimate non-commercial or fair use of the disputed domain.
For all these reasons, Equitron Inc. has engaged in bad faith registration and use of the domain name <créditmutuel.net>.
The Respondent did not reply to the Complainant’s contentions.
6. Discussion and Findings
Paragraph 4(a) of the Policy places on the Complainant the onus of proving that:
(i) the domain name in dispute is identical or confusingly similar to a trademark or service mark in which the Complainant has rights; and
(ii) the Respondent has no rights or legitimate interests in respect of the said domain name; and
(iii) the said domain name has been registered and is being used in bad faith.
A. Identical or Confusingly Similar
The Complainant is the owner of numerous trademark registrations incorporating the words CREDIT MUTUEL. Furthermore the Complainant has satisfied this Panel that it has a substantial reputation and goodwill in the use of the trademark CREDIT MUTUEL in the financial services and insurance business in France and other jurisdictions.
The domain name consists of words that are identical to the Complainant’s trademark CREDIT MUTUEL except that the domain name contains the non-ASCII character “é” in place of the simple ASCII character “e”.
This Panel accepts the arguments of the Complainant, set out above in relation to the similarity of the domain name and the Complainant’s trademark. The use of the non-ASCII character “é” in place of the simple ASCII character “e” has little or no significance in this case, either technical or otherwise. The difference is minute and as the Complainant has pointed out most web browsers support IDN characters.
In the circumstances this Panel is satisfied that the domain name at issue is confusingly similar to the mark CREDIT MUTUEL in which the Complainant has rights.
B. Rights or Legitimate Interests
The Complainant has put forward a credible prima facie case that the Respondent has no rights or legitimate interest in the domain name. In such circumstances the onus shifts to the Respondent to establish that it has such rights or interest. In casu, the Respondent has not filed any Response and in the circumstances having put forward a convincing prima facie case, the Complainant is entitled to succeed on the second part of the test in paragraph 4(a) of the Policy.
As the Complainant has pointed out there is no evidence that the Respondent has engaged in any action that shows it has rights or legitimate interests in the disputed domain name. On the contrary the indications are that the Respondent has been engaged in providing Internet services using a quite distinct names: Domainnameregistration.com and Equitron. This has not been denied by the Respondent.
This Administrative Panel finds that on the balance of probabilities the Respondent has no rights or legitimate interests in respect of the said domain name <créditmutuel.net>.
C. Registered and Used in Bad Faith
As to the registration and use of the domain name in issue: on the balance of probabilities the Respondent registered the domain name <créditmutuel.net> with the specific intent to take advantage of the Complainant’s trademark.
The very limited use of the domain name by the Respondent effectively amounts to passive domain name holding in this case. The Respondent has failed to put the domain name to any active use, save as the address on a parking page, and this was in all likelihood done in the knowledge that the domain name was confusingly similar to the Complainant’s known trademark and likely to attract Internet users seeking the Complainant’s own website and in circumstances where the parking page contained links to the Complainant’s competitors.
The Respondent appears to have selected the domain name to take advantage of the Complainant’s goodwill and reputation and to cause confusion among Internet users. The Respondent has since arranged for the domain name <créditmutuel.net> to resolve to a parking page containing sponsored links to some of the Complainant’s competitors. Such use amounts to bad faith use in the circumstances outlined.
Furthermore the Respondent appears to be engaging in “typosquatting” by selecting the character “é” in place of the simple letter “e”.
In the circumstances the Panel is satisfied that by its registration and use of the domain name in dispute the Respondent has intentionally attempted to attract, for commercial gain, Internet users to its website by creating a likelihood of confusion with the Complainant’s mark as to the source, sponsorship, affiliation, or endorsement of the Respondent’s website or location or of a product or service on the Respondent’s website or location and it follows that for all the reasons above that the domain name in dispute was registered and is being used in bad faith.
The Complainant having succeeded in establishing all three elements of the test in paragraph 4(a) of the Policy is entitled to succeed and have the domain name in dispute transferred to it.
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 <créditmutuel.net> be transferred to the Complainant.
Dated: June 25, 2007