The Complainant is Société Nationale des Chemins de Fer Français, Paris, France, represented by Cabinet Santarelli, France.
The Respondent is Richard J., California, United States of America.
The disputed domain name <sncfgrandvoyageur.com> is registered with eNom.
The Complaint was filed with the WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center (the “Center”) on February 2, 2009. On February 3, 2009, the Center transmitted by email to eNom a request for registrar verification in connection with the disputed domain name. On February 3, 2009, eNom transmitted by email to the Center its verification response confirming that the 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” or “UDRP”), 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 16, 2009. In accordance with the Rules, paragraph 5(a), the due date for Response was March 8, 2009. Respondent did not submit any response. Accordingly, the Center notified Respondent's default on March 9, 2009.
The Center appointed Eduardo Machado as the sole panelist in this matter on March 18, 2009. 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.
Complainant is the French State railway company which operates the French passengers' railway system. The Complainant's trademark SNCF and trade name SNCF are well known in France. Furthermore, Complainant is the registrant of various domain names, such as <grandvoyageur-sncf.com>, <grandvoyageursncf.com> and <grand-voyageur-sncf.com>.
Respondent has previously been involved in many domain name disputes where the transfer of the disputed domain name to the respective complainant was ordered. See Apagor Distribution S.A.S. v. Richard J., WIPO Case No. D2006-1567; Grosbill S.A. v. Richard J., WIPO Case No. D2006-1254; France Telecom v. Richard J, WIPO Case No. D2006-0807; Lyonnaise de Banque v. Richard J., WIPO Case No. D2006-0142; Société Air France v. Richard J., WIPO Case No. D2005-0821, Société Générale v. Richard J., WIPO Case No. D2005-0817, Credit Industriel et Commercial S.A. v. Richard J., WIPO Case No. D2005-0569. These cases have further similarities: the disputed domain names consisted of websites with sponsored links which proposed competing services to those of complainants, as well as in all of these cases Respondent did not reply to complainants' contentions.
Identity or Confusing Similarity of the Disputed Domain Name with the Trademarks “SNCF” and “GRAND VOYAGER SNCF” (paragraph 4(a) (i))
Complainant contends that the disputed domain name reproduces in its entirety the marks of Complainant SNCF and GRAND VOYAGEUR SNCF and is therefore confusingly similar to these marks.
Complainant asserts that it is the registrant of various domain names composed of the sign GRAND VOYAGEUR SNCF, for instance <grandvoyageur-sncf.com>, <grandvoyageursncf.com>, <grand-voyageur-sncf.com>.
Respondent has no Rights or Legitimate Interests in Respect of Domain Name (paragraph 4(a)(ii))
Complainant contends that it has not licensed, contracted or otherwise permitted Respondent to use the SNCF/ GRAND VOYAGEUR SNCF marks, as well as to register any domain name incorporating such marks. Furthermore, Complainant affirms that it has not acquiesced in any way the use or registration of the SNCF/ GRAND VOYAGEUR SNCF marks by Respondent.
Complainant affirms that Respondent has no rights on the contested domain name, nor legitimate interests to this domain name.
Bad Faith Registration and Use (Paragraphs 4(b)(iii) and 4 (b) (iv))
Complainant claims that Respondent was aware of the existence of Complainant's marks SNCF/ GRAND VOYAGEUR SNCF since the website to which the disputed domain name resolves is in French and contains a link to Complainant's official website. Complainant affirms that Respondent therefore intends to take advantage of the reputation of Complainant's marks SNCF and GRAND VOYAGEUR SNCF.
Complainant contends that Respondent obtains a financial gain every time an Internet user would inadvertently access its website and activate any of the sponsored links. Therefore, Complainant asserts that according to paragraph 4 (c)(iv) of the Policy, this circumstance is an evidence of the registration and use of a domain name in bad faith, particularly since the disputed domain name is connected with services the Complainant provides.
Also, Complainant affirms that the disputed domain name was registered in order to prevent it from reflecting its marks in a corresponding domain name.
Respondent did not reply to Complainant's contentions.
Under paragraph 4(a) of the Policy, Complainant must prove that each of the following three elements are present:
“(i) the domain name is identical or confusingly similar to the Complainant's trademark; 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.”
The Panel finds that the domain name <sncfvoyageur.com> is confusingly similar to Complainant's SNCF and GRAND VOYAGEUR SNCF marks. In fact, the domain name <sncfgrandvoyageur.com> is identical to Complainant's marks. It is clear that the registered mark SNCF stands out and leads the public to think that the disputed domain name is somehow connected or associated to the owner of the registered mark See, e.g, Utensilerie Associate S.p.A. v. C & M, WIPO Case No. D2003-0159.
In addition, the “www” prefix is commonly found at the beginning of Web addresses and the suffix “.com” is non-distinctive because it is required for the registration of the domain name. See, e.g., Phenomedia AG v. Meta Verzeichnis Com, WIPO Case No. D2001-0374; RX America, LLC v. Matthew Smith, WIPO Case No. D2005-0540; Sanofi-Aventis v. US Online Pharmacies, WIPO Case No. D2006-0582.
Thus, the Panel finds that the Complainant has established the first element of the Policy.
Complainant has submitted that Respondent does not have any rights or legitimate interests in line with paragraph 4 (a)(ii) of the Policy. Complainant has stated that it has not licensed or otherwise permitted Respondent to use the SNCF/ GRAND VOYAGEUR SNCF marks.
In the absence of a Response filed by Respondent, the Panel will need to consider whether there are plausible arguments in favour of Respondent.
The Panel has no evidence to support a finding that Respondent has rights or legitimate interests in the disputed domain name. Respondent does not appear to hold any state or federal trademark or service mark registration for the disputed domain name, nor has the Panel knowledge that Respondent has been commonly known by the disputed domain name. The Panel therefore concludes that Respondent does not fulfil paragraph 4(c)(ii) of the Policy.
Furthermore, Respondent currently uses the disputed domain name to resolve to a website with sponsored links to travel services and related web pages. In fact, the disputed domain name is operated by the domain reseller Sedo.Com, LLC (“Sedo”). As “Sedo” explains on its website, “The idle domain is used to display relevant advertisements - every time a consumer clicks on one of the advertisements, you earn money”. Therefore, efforts to misleadingly divert customers with the intent of commercial gain is not an indication of bona fide use of the disputed domain name (paragraph 4(c)(i) of the Policy), nor does it constitute a legitimate noncommercial or fair use of the disputed domain name (paragraph 4(c)(iii) of the Policy). See, e.g., Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide, Inc., Sheraton, LLC, and Sheraton International Inc. v. Jake Porter, WIPO Case No. D2007-1254.
Based on the record and in accordance with the Policy, paragraph 4(c), the Panel therefore does not consider that Respondent has rights or legitimate interests in the disputed domain name.
Under paragraph 4 (b)(iv) of the Policy, a respondent has used and registered a domain name in bad faith if, inter alia, the Respondent has used the domain name intentionally to attempt to attract, for commercial gain, Internet users to respondent's website or other online location by creating a likelihood of confusion with complainant's mark as to the source, sponsorship, affiliation or endorsement of respondent's site or of a product or service offered on respondent's site.
The Panel finds that Respondent registered the domain name in bad faith, as Respondent obtains a financial gain every time an Internet user inadvertently accesses its website and activates any of the sponsored links. This circumstance is proof of registration and use of a domain name in bad faith, particularly since the website with the disputed domain name is connected with the services Complainant provides, (paragraph 4 (b)(iv) of the Policy). See, e.g. Société Nationale des Chemins de Fer Français (SNCF) v. Comdot Internet Services Private Limited./PrivacyProtect.org., WIPO Case No. D2008-0025; Gerber Products Company v. LaPorte Holdings, WIPO Case No. D2005-1277.
Therefore, the Panel concludes that the domain name was registered and is being used 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 <sncfgrandvoyageur.com> be transferred to the Complainant.
Dated: March 26, 2009