WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center
ADMINISTRATIVE PANEL DECISION
Raymond Blanc v. Caribbean Online International Limited
Case No. D2008-0150
1. The Parties
The Complainant is Raymond Blanc, Oxfordshire, United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, represented by Morgan Cole Solicitors, United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.
The Respondent is Caribbean Online International Limited, Nassau, Bahamas.
2. The Domain Name and Registrar
The disputed domain name <raymondblanc.com> (the “Domain Name”) is registered with DomainDoorman, LLC.
3. Procedural History
The Complaint was filed with the WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center (the “Center”) on January 30, 2008. On February 1, 2008, the Center transmitted by email to DomainDoorman, LLC a request for registrar verification in connection with the domain name at issue. On February 4, 2008, DomainDoorman, LLC transmitted by email to the Center its verification response confirming that Respondent is listed as the registrant and providing the contact details. 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 Respondent of the Complaint, and the proceedings commenced on February 7, 2008. In accordance with the Rules, paragraph 5(a), the due date for Response was February 27, 2008. Respondent did not submit any response. Accordingly, the Center notified the Respondent’s default on February 28, 2008.
The Center appointed Thomas D. Halket as the sole panelist in this matter on March 12, 2008. 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.
The Center received an e-mail from the Respondent on March 26, 2008 consenting to transfer the domain name which the Center brought to the Panel’s attention. On the Panel’s instructions, the Center issued a Panel Order on March 29, 2008 which stated:
“1. The Panel notes that the Respondent entity is this case appears to have come forward with an offer to settle the matter (see attached).
2. The Parties are accordingly invited to contact each other with a view to exploring possible options for settlement of the matter. Should such settlement prove possible, and a transfer agreement is reached between the parties, the Complainant is invited to confirm this to the Panel in writing, including confirmation that it has obtained actual control of the disputed domain name.
3. Any submission in reply to this Panel Order should be submitted to the Center by email to email@example.com no later than April 5, 2008. After that date, if no confirmation of settlement has been received, the Panel expects to proceed to issue its decision.
4. The due date for Decision is hereby extended to April 8, 2008.”
On April 4, 2008, the Center received an e-mail from the Complainant in response to the Panel Order stating inter alia: “We have contacted the Respondent, in line with the Panel’s Order, but the transfer has not been completed. The Complainant is concerned that there should not be any further delays in this matter, and should grateful if the Panel would now proceed to decide the case and announce its decision shortly. […] Though the Respondent has asked for certain pieces of information, there is no certainty that the Respondent will fully co-operate to transfer the domain name, and the Respondent has not provided the code information to the Complainant to enable a transfer to take place” The Center brought the Complainant’s e-mail to the Panel’s attention.
4. Factual Background
The following facts are alleged by Complainant and not contested by Respondent.
Complainant is Raymond Blanc. He is an internationally known chef, restaurateur, TV celebrity and author. He is particularly well known in the United Kingdom where he (i) established Le Manoir Aux Quat’ Saisons, the only country house hotel in the United Kingdom to have retained its prestigious classification of two Michelin stars for the last 23 years, (ii) hosted the popular BBC2 television series “The Restaurant”, (iii) opened ‘La Petite Blanc’ brasserie which has grown into the national Brasserie Blanc chain, (iv) established a well known cookery school and (v) otherwise frequently appears in national newspapers and magazines, and on television, promoting authentic, imaginative and organic cuisine and recommending recipes.
He has had a number of high profile consultancies including Marks & Spencer (1989-1995) and Virgin Atlantic Airways (1991-1995). He has been a consultant for the Waitrose supermarket chain since 1994.
He has also used his personal name to endorse cookery related products including the Florette salad range, the Gagganau oven range and kitchens crafted by Smallbone. In addition, he has provided public cookery demonstrations for brands that he has endorsed, including Smallbone kitchens and Wusthof knives.
He is the author of a number of popular cookery and food books, including:
- September 2002 – “Foolproof French Cookery” published by BBC Books.
- February 1998 – “Blanc Vite” published by Hodder Headline.
- October 1996 – “A Blanc Christmas” published by Hodder Headline.
- September 1994 – “Blanc Mange” published by BBC Books to accompany a TV series starring Raymond Blanc.
- September 1991 – “Cooking for Friends” published by Hodder Headline.
- November 1988 – “Recipes from Le Manoir Aux Quat’ Saisons” published by Littlebrown, and which appeared on The Sunday Times bestseller list for 11 weeks.
He has won numerous personal awards and accolades during his career, including an OBE from Her Majesty the Queen in 2007 in recognition of services to promoting culinary excellence and for raising the awareness of the importance of healthy food as a central element of family life.
Respondent is a company registered in the Bahamas which Complainant states has no association with him and no permission to use his name. According to a recent “www.whois.domaintools.com” search conducted by Complainant, Respondent is listed as owning about 293,000 domain names.
An Internet user accessing the Domain Name is taken to a generic holding page containing a series of “sponsored listings”. Clicking on any one of the categories shown on that holding page takes the user to further links to commercial websites which Complainant states are not associated with him.
5. Parties’ Contentions
(a) The Domain Name is identical and confusingly similar to a trademark or service mark in which Complainant has rights;
(b) Respondent has no rights or legitimate interests in respect of the Domain Name; and
(c) The Domain Name was registered and is being used by Respondent in bad faith.
Respondent did not reply to Complainant’s contentions.
6. Discussion and Findings
Paragraph 4(a) of the Policy directs that Complainant must prove each of the following: (i) that the domain name is identical or confusingly similar to a trademark or service mark in which the Complainant has rights; and, (ii) that the Respondent has no rights or legitimate interests in respect of the domain name; and, (iii) that the domain name has been registered and is being used in bad faith.
Paragraph 4(b) provides that for the purposes of paragraph 4(a)(iii) the following circumstances, in particular but without limitation, if found by the Panel to be present, shall be evidence of the registration and use of a domain name in bad faith: “(i)circumstances indicating that you [the Respondent] have registered or you have acquired the domain name primarily for the purpose of selling, renting, or otherwise transferring the domain name registration to the complainant who is the owner of the trademark or service mark or to a competitor of that complainant, for valuable consideration in excess of your documented out-of-pocket costs directly related to the domain name; or (ii) you have registered the domain name in order to prevent the owner of the trademark or service mark from reflecting the mark in a corresponding domain name, provided that you have engaged in a pattern of such conduct; or (iii) you have registered the domain name primarily for the purpose of disrupting the business of a competitor; or (iv) by using the domain name, you have intentionally attempted to attract, for commercial gain, Internet users to your website or other on-line location, by creating a likelihood of confusion with the complainant's mark as to the source, sponsorship, affiliation, or endorsement of your website or location or of a product or service on your web site or location.”
A. Identical or Confusingly Similar
Complainant does not claim that he has a registered mark comprising his name, but does claim that his unregistered rights in his name are sufficient under the laws of the United Kingdom to come within the first prong of the test in paragraph 4(a). The Panel has reviewed the analysis provided by Complainant and is inclined to agree with him.
Complainant has established to the satisfaction of the Panel that he has been well known commercially in the United Kingdom (and perhaps elsewhere) by his proper name for twenty years or more. There is also no question that the Domain Name is just the Complainant’s full personal name with a “.com” added to it.
Complainant’s use of his name should be sufficient to establish his right to it as an unregistered mark. But curiously he makes no explicit claim in this regard. In any event, the legal authorities cited by Complainant, and not refuted by Respondent do seem to establish that he has sufficient rights in his name to succeed against Respondent in a claim for passing off under the United Kingdom law.
A number of WIPO UDRP decisions have held that the Policy protects common law trademarks/service marks, provided that the complainant satisfies the panel that he has rights in the common law trademark or sufficient rights to ground a case for passing off. See, e.g., Julia Fiona Roberts v. Russell Boyd, WIPO Case No. D2000-0210, Jeanette Winterson v. Mark Hogarth, WIPO Case No. D2000-0235 and Dr. Michael Crichton v. In Stealth Mode, WIPO Case No. D2002-0874. While prior UDRP decisions are not binding on this Panel, they are certainly persuasive.
Accordingly the Panel finds that the Domain Name is identical or confusingly similar to a trademark or service mark in which the Complainant has rights.
B. Rights or Legitimate Interests
The facts about Respondent, and more particularly about its use of the Domain Name, which Complainant has provided would seem to indicate that Respondent could have no rights or legitimate interests in the Domain Name. It makes no use of the Domain Name other than to pass viewers on to another page which contains links to various commercial pages. Complainant states that none of those pages are associated with him and that he has never given Respondent the right to use his name. Respondent has provided no response on this point (or on any other for that matter) and it is not for this Panel to speculate beyond what reasonable inferences it can draw from the creditable evidence and contentions provided to it.
Accordingly the Panel finds that the Respondent has no rights or legitimate interests in respect of the Domain Name.
C. Registered and Used in Bad Faith
Respondent’s use of the Domain Name is for a site which further directs users to various commercial sites, none of which have any connection with Complainant. Furthermore, Respondent cannot have picked the Domain Name by chance and must have been aware of the Complainant’s renown. The Panel also agrees with Complainant that Internet users entering a domain name which is nothing more than the name of a celebrity famously associated with goods and services in a particular sector reasonably should expect to find a site offering goods or services associated with that celebrity or which he has endorsed.
In the absence of any explanation from Respondent, the Panel sees no alternative but to conclude that Respondent is intentionally using the Domain Name to use the goodwill associated with Complainant’s name and directing Internet users to an unconnected commercial website for commercial gain. Or, in other words, the Panel finds that Respondent has used the Domain Name in an attempt to attract, for commercial gain, Internet users to its website by creating a likelihood of confusion with Complainant’s mark as to the source, sponsorship, affiliation, or endorsement of its website and as such has violated paragraph 4(b) of the Policy. The fact that Respondent has been a respondent in previous UDRP proceedings and has registered several hundred thousands of domain names certainly does nothing to dispel this conclusion.
Accordingly the Panel finds that that the Domain Name has been registered and is being used by Respondent in bad faith.
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 <raymondblanc.com> be transferred to Complainant.
Thomas D. Halket
Dated: April 8, 2008