World Intellectual Property Organization

WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center

ADMINISTRATIVE PANEL DECISION

Intesa Sanpaolo S.p.A. v. Milan Kovac

Case No. D2010-1159

1. The Parties

The Complainant is Intesa Sanpaolo S.p.A. of Torino, Italy, represented by Perani Pozzi Tavella, Italy.

The Respondent is Milan Kovac of Slovakia.

2. The Domain Name and Registrar

The disputed domain name <linksanpaolo.com> is registered with Hebei Guoji Maoyi (Shanghai) LTD aka HEBEI INTERNATIONAL TRADING (SHANGHAI) CO., LTD dba HebeiDomains.com.

3. Procedural History

The Complaint was filed with the WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center (the “Center”) on July 13, 2010. On July 15, 2010, the Center transmitted by email to Hebei Guoji Maoyi (Shanghai) LTD aka HEBEI INTERNATIONAL TRADING (SHANGHAI) CO., LTD dba HebeiDomains.com a request for registrar verification in connection with the disputed domain name. On the same day, Hebei Guoji Maoyi (Shanghai) LTD aka HEBEI INTERNATIONAL TRADING (SHANGHAI) CO., LTD dba HebeiDomains.com transmitted by email to the Center its verification response confirming that the Respondent is listed as the registrant and providing the contact details. On July 20, 2010, the Center transmitted by email to the parties a communication in both Slovak and English regarding the language of proceedings. On July 23, 2010, the Complainant submitted a request that English be the language of proceedings. The Respondent did not comment on the language of proceedings by the specified due date.

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 the Respondent of the Complaint, and the proceedings commenced on July 27, 2010. In accordance with the Rules, paragraph 5(a), the due date for Response was August 16, 2010. The Respondent did not submit any response. Accordingly, the Center notified the Respondent’s default on August 17, 2010.

The Center appointed Ladislav Jakl as the sole panelist in this matter on August 19, 2010. 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.

On the question of the language of the proceedings, the Center invited the parties to comment as the language of the proceedings is normally the same as the language of the registration agreement, in this case, Slovak. The Respondent did not comment on this question by the specified due date. The Complainant requested the Panel to decide that the language of the administrative proceedings in this case be English. According to Paragraph 11(a) of the Rules the Panel has the authority to determine a different language other than the one in the registration agreement, having regard to the circumstances of the administrative proceeding. Therefore the Panel, taking into account the circumstances of this case and a number of recent UDRP proceedings and the reasons cited therein (BrandStrategy, Inc. v. BusinessService Ltd., WIPO Case No. D2007-0749; Laboratoire Biosthétique Kosmetik GmbH & Co. KG and MCE S.A.S. v. BusinessService Ltd., WIPO Case No. D2007-1836), decides that the language of the administrative proceedings be English.

4. Factual Background

The Complainant asserted, and provided evidence in support of, and the Panel finds the following facts;

The Complainant is a leading Italian banking group and also one of the protagonists in the European financial arena. Intesa Sanpaolo is the company resulting from the merger (effective as of January 1, 2007) between Banca Intesa S.p.A. and Sanpaolo IMI S.p.A., two of the top Italian banking groups.

Intesa Sanpaolo is among the top banking groups in the euro zone, with a market capitalisation exceeding 31,7 billion euros, and an undisputed leader in Italy, in all business areas (retail, corporate and wealth management). Thanks to a network of approximately 5,900 branches capillary and well distributed throughout the country, with market shares of more than 17% in most Italian regions, the Complainant offers its services to approximately 12 million customers. Intesa Sanpaolo has a strong presence in Central-Eastern Europe with a network of approximately 2,000 branches and over 8,5 million customers. Moreover, the international network specialised in supporting corporate customers is present in 34 countries, in particular in the Mediterranean area and those areas where Italian companies are most active, such as the United States, Russian Federation, the peoples Republic China and India (Annex C of the Complaint).

The Complainant is the owner, among others, of the following registrations for the trademarks SANPAOLO and LINKS SANPAOLO (Annex D of the Complaint):

- International trademark registration n. 814852 SANPAOLO & device, granted on September 26, 2003, in class 36;

- Community trademark registration n. 3252764 SANPAOLO & device, applied on July 02, 2003 and granted on January 27, 2005, in class 36;

- Italian trademark registration n. 1236517 LINKS SANPAOLO & device, applied on October 25, 2006 and granted on January 12, 2010, in classes 9 and 36.

On August 16, 2009, the Respondent registered the domain name <linksanpaolo.com>.

5. Parties’ Contentions

A. Complainant

The Complainant states that it is more than obvious that the disputed domain name is confusingly similar to the Complainant’s trademarks. The disputed domain name <linksanpaolo.com> exactly reproduces the trademark LINKS SANPAOLO, without one of the letters “s”. It is clearly a minor variation of the cited trademark, used by the Complainant to identify its online banking service for the enterprises. Currently, with the merger of the banks “Sanpaolo IMI” and “Banca Intesa”, the Complainant uses the new mark LINKS INTESA SANPAOLO. Notwithstanding the above, many clients are still using the older trademark. A further demonstration of this is the choice of the Complainant to use and maintain active the following domain names: <linksanpaolo.it>, <linkssanpaolo.com>, <linksanpaoloimi.com>, <linksanpaoloimprese.it>, <linksimpresasanpaolo.it>, <linksimpresesanpaolo.com>, <linksimpresesanpaolo.it>, <linksimpresesanpaoloimi.com>, <linkssanpaolo.it> and <sanpaololinks.com>.

In support of the above, the Complainant draws the Panel’s attention to Intesa Sanpaolo S.p.A. v. Hu Lim, WIPO Case No. D2009-1793, regarding the domain names <intesampaolo.com>, <linksintesasanpaolo.com> and <webmailintesasanpaolo.com> (Annex E of the Complaint).

Furthermore, the Complainant states that the Respondent has no rights in the disputed domain name, since Milan Kovac has nothing to do with Intesa Sanpaolo. Any use of the trademarks SANPAOLO and LINKS SANPAOLO have to be authorized by the Complainant. The Respondent has not been authorized or licensed by the above mentioned banking group to use the domain name. The disputed domain name does not correspond to the name of the Respondent and Milan Kovac is not commonly known as “Linksanpaolo”. Further, the Complainant does not find any fair or noncommercial use of the disputed domain name (see “www.linksanpaolo.com” webpage, Annex F of the Complaint).

The Complainant says that the disputed domain name <linksanpaolo.com> was registered and is being used in bad faith. More particularly, there are present circumstances indicating that, by using the disputed domain name, 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 trademarks as to the source, sponsorship, affiliation, or endorsement of the website (paragraph 4(b)(iv) of the Policy). The Complainant’s trademarks SANPAOLO and LINKS SANPAOLO are distinctive and the fact that the Respondent has registered a domain name that is confusingly similar to them indicates that the Respondent had knowledge of the Complainant’s trademarks at the time of registration of the dispute domain name. The disputed domain name is not used for any bona fide offerings of goods or services. Several services can be detected, but not in good faith: in fact, the domain name is connected to a website sponsoring, among others, banking and financial services, the Complainant’s official site “www.intesasanpaolo.com” web page, as Annex G of the Complaint). Internet users, while searching for information on the Complainant’s services, are confusingly led to the websites of the Complainant’s competitors, sponsored on the website connected to the disputed domain name. It is clear that the Respondent is using the disputed domain name to intentionally attract for commercial gain Internet users by trading on the goodwill associated with the Complainant’s trademark (Annex H of the Complaint, concerning TM Acquisition Corp. v. Gary Lam, NAF Claim No. 280499, holding respondent’s use of the disputed domain name for a website linking users to competing services did not constitute a bona fide use or fair use pursuant to the UDRP). Also several UDRP WIPO decisions stated that the registration and use of a domain name to re-direct internet users to websites of competing organizations constitute bad faith registration and use under the Policy. See, e.g., Encyclopaedia Britannica Inc. v. Shedon.com, WIPO Case No. D2000-0753 (“Respondent’s ownership of a site which is a mis-spelling of Complainant’s britannica.com site and which Respondent used to hyperlink to a gambling site demonstrates Respondent’s bad faith registration and use of the britannica.com domain name”); YAHOO!INC. v. David Murray, WIPO Case No. D2000-1319 (“Registration and use of a domain name to redirect Internet users to websites of competing organisations constitutes bad faith registration and use under the Policy”); Netwizards, Inc. v. Spectrum Enterprises, WIPO Case No. D2000-1768 (“Registration and continued use of the contested domain name for re-directing Internet users, i.e. particularly customers and potential customers of the Complainant, from the Complainant’s website to the website of...a company which directly competes with the Complainant, constitutes bad faith registration and use.”); Zwack Unicum Rt.v. Erica J. Duna, WIPO Case No. D2000-0037 (respondent’s linking to complainant’s competitor held to constitute bad faith); Oly Holigan, L.P. v. Private, NAF Claim No. 00095940 (finding bad faith where respondent used the disputed domain name to “redirect the Complainant’s consumers and potential consumers to commercial websites which are not affiliated with Complainant”); Marriott International, Inc. v. Vladimir Kyznetsov, NAF Claim No. 0095648 (finding bad faith where respondent registered the domain name “marriottrewards.com” and used it to route Internet traffic to another website that “promotes travel and hotel services... identical to the services offered by the Complainant”); Baudville, Inc. v. Henry Chan, WIPO Case No. D2004-0059; Tarjeta Naranja S.A. v. MrDominio.com and Alejandro San Jorge, WIPO Case No. D2001-0295; National City Corporation v. MH Networks LLC, WIPO Case No. D2004-0128.

Furthermore the Complainant argues that the current use of the disputed domain name, which allow access to the web sites of the Complainant’s competitors, causes, as well, great damages to the latter, due to the misleading of their present clients and the loss of the potential new ones (UDRP WIPO Decisions Microsoft Corporation v. StepWeb, WIPO Case No. D2000-1500; The Vanguard Group, Inc. v. Venta, WIPO Case No. D2001-1335, enclosed as Annex I of the Complaint). The Complainant,contends that the Respondent’s commercial gain is evident, as it is obvious that the Respondent’s sponsoring activity is being remunerated. In the light of the above, the third and final element necessary for finding that the Respondent has engaged in abusive domain name registration and use has been established.

B. Respondent

The Respondent did not reply to the Complainant’s contentions.

6. Discussion and Findings

In accordance with paragraph 4(a) of the Policy, the Complainant must prove that each of the three following elements is satisfied:

(i) the disputed domain name 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 disputed domain name; and

(iii) the disputed domain name has been registered and is being used in bad faith.

Paragraph 4(a) of the Policy states that the burden of proving that all three elements are present lies with the Complainant.

A. Identical or Confusingly Similar

There is no doubt that disputed domain name <linksanpaolo.com> is confusingly similar to the Complainant’s trademarks as it incorporates the word “Sanpaolo” which is contained in International trademark registration No. 814852 SANPAOLO & device, granted on September 26, 2003, in class 36, Community trademark registration No. 3252764 “SANPAOLO & device”, applied on July 2, 2003 and granted on January 27, 2005, in class 36 and Italian trademark registration No. 1236517 LINKS SANPAOLO & device, applied on October 25, 2006 and granted on January 12, 2010, in classes 9 and 36.

The Panel accepts the Complainant’s argument, that the disputed domain name <linksanpaolo.com> exactly reproduces the Italian trademark LINKS SANPAOLO, without one of the letters “S” and that it is clearly a minor variation of the cited trademark, used by the Complainant to identify its online banking service for the enterprises.

Non-distinctive additions to a trademark as well as the inclusion of the gTLD suffix “.com” do not avoid confusing similarity of domain names and trademarks (AT&T Corp. v. William Gormally, WIPO Case No. D2005-0758; Accor v. Lee Dong Youn, WIPO Case No. D2008-0705; and Sanofi-aventis v. Brad Hedlund, WIPO Case No. D2007-1310).

Accordingly, by registering the disputed domain name, the Respondent created a likelihood of confusion with the Complainant’s trademarks. Moreover, it is likely that the disputed domain name could mislead Internet users in thinking it is in some way associated with the Complainant.

For all the above cited reasons, the Panel concludes that disputed domain name is confusingly similar to the Complainant’s trademarks, and therefore the condition of paragraph 4(a)(i) of the Policy is fulfilled.

B. Rights or Legitimate Interests

The Complainant contends that the Respondent has no rights or legitimate interests in the disputed domain name, since Milan Kovac has nothing to do with Intesa Sanpaolo. In fact the Complainant contends, any use of the trademarks SANPAOLO and LINKS SANPAOLO have to be authorized by the Complainant.

The disputed domain name does not correspond to the name of the Respondent and there is nothing in the record to indicate that the Respondent is commonly known as “Linksanpaolo”. The Panel finds that Respondent has no rights in the disputed domain name. Furthermore, it is obvious that the Respondent uses the domain name for commercial gain and with the purpose of capitalizing on the fame of the Complainant’s trademarks.

Based on the Complaint, the Panel finds that the Respondent is not affiliated with the Complainant in any way, nor has the Respondent been authorized by the Complainant to register and use the Complainant’s trademarks or to seek registration of any domain name incorporating said trademarks.

There is a consensus view by previous UDRP panels that such use cannot be considered a bona fide offering of goods or services, or a noncommercial or fair use in circumstances as the ones that are present in this case (Bridgestone Corporation v. Horoshiy, Inc., WIPO Case No. D2004-0795; Deutsche Telekom AG v. Dong Wang, WIPO Case No. D2005-0819).

For the above cited reasons, the Panel finds that the Respondent has no rights or legitimate interests in the disputed domain name, and that the requirements of paragraph 4(a)(ii) of the Policy are therefore fulfilled.

C. Registered and Used in Bad Faith

Under paragraph 4(a)(iii) of the Policy, the Complainant must prove that the disputed domain name was registered and is being used in bad faith. Paragraph 4(b) sets out certain circumstances which, in particular but without limitation, are to be construed as evidence of both. These include, inter alia, paragraphs 4(b)(ii), (iii) and (iv):

(ii) the Respondent has registered the disputed 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 the Respondent has engaged in a pattern of such conduct; or

(iii) the Respondent has registered the disputed domain name primarily for the purpose of disrupting the business of a competitor; or

(iv) by using the disputed domain name, the Respondent has intentionally attempted to attract, for commercial gain, Internet users to his website or other on-line location, by creating a likelihood of confusion with the Complainant’s mark as to source, sponsorship, affiliation, or endorsement of his website or of a product or service on that website or location.

There are present circumstances indicating that, by using the domain name <linksanpaolo.com>, 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 trademarks as to the source, sponsorship, affiliation, or endorsement of the website (paragrapg 4(b)(iv) of the Policy). The Panel finds that by using the Complainant’s trademarks to draw Internet users to a site offering what appears to be competing or at least related goods, the Respondent is attempting to divert customers from the Complainant and thus to disrupt the Complainant’s business. Such conduct has been found to signal bad faith in other cases such as Six Continents Hotels, Inc. v. Ramada Inn, WIPO Case No. D2003-0658.

The Complainant’s trademarks SANPAOLO and LINKS SANPAOLO are distinctive and the fact that the Respondent has registered a domain name that is confusingly similar to them indicates that the Respondent had knowledge of the Complainant’s trademarks at the time of registration of the dispute domain name. The Complainant has submitted evidence, unchallenged by the Respondent, which tends to demonstrate that the Respondent knew or must have known of the Complainant’s trademarks at the time he registered the disputed domain name.

The Panel accepts the arguments of the Complainant, that disputed domain name is not used for any bona fide offerings of goods and services. Several services can be detected, but not in good faith: in fact, the domain name is connected to a website sponsoring, among others, competing banking and financial services to the Complainant’s official site “www.intesasanpaolo.com” web page. Therefore, Internet users, while searching for information on the Complainant’s services, are confusingly led to the websites of the Complainant’s competitors, sponsored on the website connected to the disputed domain name. In such a way, the Respondent is using the disputed domain name to intentionally attract for commercial gain Internet users by trading on the goodwill associated with the Complainant’s trademarks. WIPO UDRP decisions have stated that the registration and use of a domain name to re-direct Internet users to websites of competing organizations constitute bad faith registration and use under the Policy. Such conduct has been found to signal bad faith in other cases such as Six Continents Hotels, Inc. v. Ramada Inn, WIPO Case No. D2003-0658, Encyclopaedia Britannica Inc. v. Sheldon.com, WIPO Case No. D2000-0753, Netwizards, Inc. v. Spectrum Enterprises, WIPO Case No. D2000-1768, Zwack Uniuom RT. v. Erica J. Duna, WIPO Case No. D2000-0037.

For the above cited reasons the Panel finds that the disputed domain name was registered and used in bad faith.

Considering all the facts and evidence, the Panel therefore finds that the requirements of paragraph 4(a)(iii) of the Policy are also fulfilled in this case.

7. Decision

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 <linksanpaolo.com> be transferred to the Complainant.

Ladislav Jakl
Sole Panelist
Dated: September 2, 2010

 

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