WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center
ADMINISTRATIVE PANEL DECISION
Accor S.A. v. Peter Mason
Case No. D2008-0957
1. The Parties
Complainant is Accor S.A., Evry, France, represented by Cabinet Dreyfus & Associés, France.
Respondent is Peter Mason, 12 Stockton Street, San Francisco, California 94108, the United States of America.
2. The Domain Name and Registrar
The disputed domain name <novotelresorts.com> is registered with GoDaddy.com, Inc. of Scottsdale, Arizona, United States of America.
3. Procedural History
The Complaint was filed with the WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center (the “Center”) on June 24, 2008. On June 25, 2008, the Center transmitted by email to GoDaddy.com, Inc. a request for registrar verification in connection with the domain name at issue. Subsequently, GoDaddy.com, Inc. 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 July 4, 2008. In accordance with the Rules, paragraph 5(a), the due date for Response was July 24, 2008. Respondent did not submit any response. Accordingly, the Center notified Respondent's default on July 25, 2008.
The Center appointed Philip N. Argy as the sole panelist in this matter on July 30, 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.
4. Factual Background
The following facts, taken from the Complaint, are uncontested:
Complainant is the European leader and one of the world's largest business organizations in travel, tourism and corporate services. Complainant owns more than 4,000 hotels in 90 countries worldwide, and employs 170,000 people; in the United States of America alone Complainant operates 954 hotels.
Complainant owns numerous international “NOVOTEL” trademarks, which are very well known in the hotel and restaurant industries. It owns <accorhotels.com> through which it provides Internet users with a quick and easy way of finding and booking hotels that belong to any of its portfolio of hotel chains.
NOVOTEL is one of the Complainant's chains of hotels, being present in 58 countries around the world, with 397 hotels. The Complainant also owns and mainly uses <novotel.com> and <novotelhotels.com> in order to provide Internet users with a quick and easy way of finding and booking hotels that belong specifically to its NOVOTEL chain. On that NOVOTEL website, the Complainant has a specific link to information on NOVOTEL resorts around the world, of which there are many.
5. Parties' Contentions
Complainant's submissions and contentions are, in summary, that its NOVOTEL trademark is a famous mark, that <novotelresorts.com> (“Disputed Domain”) is confusingly similar to Complainant's mark, that Respondent has no rights or legitimate interests in the Disputed Domain, and that the Disputed Domain was registered and is being used in bad faith.
Given the lack of a Response, Complainant's submissions can be abbreviated for present purposes as follows:
(i) The Disputed Domain is confusingly similar to a trademark in which Complainant has rights:
The Disputed Domain wholly incorporates Complainant's registered trademark NOVOTEL, which Complainant submits is sufficient to establish confusing similarity for the purpose of the Policy despite the addition of “resorts”. Complainant also says that the “resorts” suffix appended to its NOVOTEL mark in the Disputed Domain increases rather than reduces the likelihood of confusion because the Complainant in fact markets resorts under the NOVOTEL trademark.
(ii) Respondent has no right or legitimate interest in respect of the Disputed Domain
Respondent has no rights or legitimate interest in the <novotelresorts.com> domain name based on Complainant's continuous and long prior use of its NOVOTEL mark and its use in the marketing of its NOVOTEL resorts in particular.
(iii) The Disputed Domain was registered in bad faith
Respondent registered the Disputed Domain on August 29, 2007 - well after any date on which there could be a lack of familiarity with the Complainant.
(vi) The Disputed Domain is being used in bad faith
There is simply no explanation for registration and use of the Disputed Domain by Respondent except bad faith. Respondent is using the Disputed Domain to resolve to a blank page with no apparent content.
There has been no response of any kind to the Center's communications and, in particular, no response to the allegations made in the Complaint.
6. Discussion and Findings
Although Complainant's submissions are formally uncontested, it has the burden of demonstrating that the requirements of paragraph 4(a) of the Policy are made out, and the Panel believes it proper to consider the submissions, and the evidence, and to make formal findings. Also, under paragraphs 10 and 15(a) of the Rules, the Panel regards this as a desirable course to take in any event.
A. Identical or Confusingly Similar
Complainant has extensively demonstrated its rights in the trademark NOVOTEL. The use of NOVOTEL by Complainant can be traced back to 1991. There is more than sufficient evidence that the Complainant's NOVOTEL chain also specifically markets resort properties as part of its offering to the tourist trade. The addition of the “resorts” suffix to the Complainant's trademark to form the Disputed Domain thus increases rather than reduces the likelihood of confusion. Accordingly, the Panel has no hesitation in finding the Disputed Domain to be confusingly similar to Complainant's well established NOVOTEL trademark.
B. Rights or Legitimate Interests
Respondent has not asserted any basis for its use of NOVOTEL in the Disputed Domain. As this Panel has previously noted in numerous decisions, the lack of a response to a complaint involving famous trademarks makes it difficult for a panel not to find in a complainant's favour on this element of the Policy.
For the reasons advanced by Complainant, the Panel comfortably concludes that Respondent has no rights or legitimate interests in respect of the Disputed Domain, and so finds.
C. Registered and Used in Bad Faith
The NOVOTEL mark has been in use for many years in the United States of America. No plausible explanation for Respondent's conduct has been proffered. Although not specifically noted by Complainant, the Panel notes from the Registrar's verification response that the blank page to which the Disputed Domain resolves is hosted by Sedo, so that it is in fact a Sedo landing page. Although it contains no text, it remains classic domain monetization unconnected with any bona fide supply of goods or services by Respondent. Respondent sits passively collecting click-through revenue generated solely from Complainant's goodwill and Internet users' inaccurate guessing of the correct domain name associated with Complainant's NOVOTEL Resort properties.
Given the recency with which the Disputed Domain was registered (only at the end of August 2007), the Panel formally and comfortably finds that the Disputed Domain <novotelresorts.com> was 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 <novotelresorts.com> be transferred to Complainant.
Philip N. Argy
Date: August 5, 2008