World Intellectual Property Organization

WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center

ADMINISTRATIVE PANEL DECISION

Philip Morris Brands Sàrl v. NURINET

Case No. D2011-2116

1. The Parties

The Complainant is Philip Morris Brands Sàrl of Neuchâtel, Switzerland, represented by Boehmert & Boehmert, Germany.

The Respondent is NURINET of KyongJu-City, Republic of Korea.

2. The Domain Name and Registrar

The disputed domain name <marlborogold.com> is registered with Netpia.com. Inc.

3. Procedural History

The Complaint was filed with the WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center (the “Center”) on December 2, 2011. On December 5, 2011, the Center transmitted by email to Netpia.com. Inc. a request for registrar verification in connection with the disputed domain name. On December 8, 2011, Netpia.com. Inc. transmitted by email to the Center its verification response confirming that the Respondent is listed as the registrant and providing the contact details.

On January 4, 2012, the Center informed the parties that the language of the registration agreement for the disputed domain name is Korean, and invited the Complainant to either (i) provide evidence of an agreement between the parties that the proceedings should be conducted in English, or (ii) to submit the Complaint translated into Korean or (iii) to submit a request for English to be the language of the proceedings. The Complainant submitted a request that English be the language of the proceedings on January 4, 2012 by referring to the Complainant’s previously submitted request (including arguments and supporting material) in its Complaint. The Respondent did not file any language submission or objection to the Complainant's request that English be the language of proceedings.

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 January 17, 2012. In accordance with the Rules, paragraph 5(a), the due date for Response was February 6, 2012. The Respondent did not submit any response. Accordingly, the Center notified the Respondent’s default on February 7, 2012.

The Center appointed Ho-Hyun Nahm as the sole panelist in this matter on February 15, 2012. 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 Complainant is a company which is part of the group of companies affiliated to Philip Morris International Inc. (jointly referred to as “PMI”). PMI is an international tobacco company, with products sold approximately in 180 countries. The Complainant owns a large portfolio of trademarks for its tobacco products.

Among them, but not limited to, are the following trademark registrations (referred to as “Trademarks”):

-Australian Trademark MARLBORO No. A161395 registered on July 27, 1960;

-German Trademark MARLBORO GOLD No. 01019087, registered on June 15, 1981;

-International Registration No.01025388: MARLBORO GOLD ADVANCE with priority of December 7, 2009 designating various countries including Republic of Korea.

According to the registrar’s verification response, the disputed domain name was registered on August 13, 2011.

5. Parties’ Contentions

A. Complainant

The Complainant contends in the Complaint that:

- The disputed domain name is identical and confusingly similar to trademarks in which the Complainant has rights;

- The Respondent has no rights or legitimate interests in respect of the disputed domain name; and

- The disputed domain name was registered and is being used in bad faith.

B. Respondent

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

6. Discussion and Findings

A. Language of Proceedings

The Complaint was filed in the English language. It is noted that the language of the registration agreement for the disputed domain name is Korean. According to paragraph 11 of the Rules, the language of the administrative proceeding shall be the language of the registration agreement unless the Panel decides otherwise. The spirit of paragraph 11 is to ensure fairness in the selection of language by giving full consideration to the parties’ level of comfort with each language, the expenses to be incurred and the possibility of delay in the proceeding in the event translations are required and other relevant factors. In the present case, the registration agreement for the disputed domain name was made in the Korean language.

The Complainant has submitted a request that English be the language of proceeding in which it has advanced a number of arguments including that, according to the Complainant, the Respondent has ability understanding the English language from the fact that the website resolved by the disputed domain name is in English, and as it clearly follows from the website’s content, the Respondent is offering communication on a business level in English and therefore is capable of the English language.

The Respondent did not submit any objection to the Complainant’s request that English be the language of proceeding.

On the other hand, the Complainant is not able to communicate in Korean and therefore, if the Complainant were to submit all documents in Korean, the administrative proceeding would be unduly delayed and the Complainant would have to incur substantial expenses for translation.

It is also noteworthy that the Center indicated that it would accept a Response in either English or Korean and also indicated it would (and has) appointed a Panelist familiar with both English and Korean.

In any event, the Respondent failed to submit a Response in either language and declined to participate in the proceeding.

Therefore, in consideration of all of the above circumstances and in the interest of fairness to both parties, the Panel hereby decides, under paragraph 11 of the Rules, that English shall be the language of proceeding in this case. See Deutsche Messe AG v. Kim Hyungho, WIPO Case No. D2003-0679.

B. The Respondent’s default

The Respondent did not submit any Response by the due date.

C. Requirements under paragraph 4(a) of the Policy

Paragraph 4(a) of the Policy requires that the Complainant must prove each of the following three elements to obtain an order that a domain name should be cancelled or transferred:

(1) the disputed domain name registered by the Respondent is identical or confusingly similar to a trademark or service mark in which the Complainant has rights;

(2) the Respondent has no rights or legitimate interests in respect of the disputed domain name; and

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

D. Identical or Confusingly Similar

It is noted that the prominent words “marlboro” and “marlboro gold” in the disputed domain name and the Complainant’s trademarks MARLBORO, MARLBORO GOLD, and MARLBORO GOLD ADVANCE are common. As such, in this Panel’s view, it is highly likely that both the disputed domain name and the Complainant’s trademarks are conceived or pronounced among Internet users or general consumers only by the portion of the words “marlboro” or “marlboro gold”.

The addition of the generic top-level domain “.com” does not have any impact on the overall impression of the dominant portion of the disputed domain name and is therefore irrelevant to determine the confusing similarity between the Complainant’s trademark and the disputed domain name as well.

Therefore, the Panel has found that the disputed domain name is confusingly similar to each of the Complainant’s Trademarks.

E. Rights or Legitimate Interests

As it is virtually impossible for a complainant to prove the negative fact that a respondent has no rights or legitimate interests in a domain name, it is well accepted that a complainant must only show a prima facie case that there are no rights or legitimate interests on the part of the respondent. The burden of production of evidence will then shift to the respondent. See Croatia Airlines d.d. v. Modern Empire Internet Ltd., WIPO Case No. D2003-0455.

The Respondent is not affiliated with the Complainant in any way. The Complainant has not found that the Respondent has any registered trademarks or trade names corresponding to the disputed domain name. The Complainant has also not found anything that would suggest that the Respondent has been using MARLBORO or MARLBORO GOLD in any other way that would give it any rights or legitimate interests in the disputed domain name. Consequently, the Respondent may not claim any rights established by common usage. It is also clear that no license or authorization of any other kind has been given by the Complainant to the Respondent, to use the trademarks MARLBORO or MARLBORO GOLD. The Respondent is not an authorized dealer of the Complainant’s products and has never had a business relationship with the Complainant.

Under the circumstance that the Respondent did not reply to the Complainant’s allegations, the Panel finds that the Complainant has proven a prima facie case that the Respondent has no rights or legitimate interests in the disputed domain name. See De Agostini S.p.A. v. Marco Cialone, WIPO Case No. DTV2002-0005; see also Accor v. Eren Atesmen, WIPO Case No. D2009-0701.

The Panel concludes that the Respondent does not have rights or legitimate interests in the disputed domain name.

F. Registered and Used in Bad Faith

The Complainant is a company which is part of the group of companies affiliated to PMI. PMI is an international tobacco company, with products sold approximately in 180 countries. PMI has manufactured, marketed, and sold cigarettes for a number of years. In 2010, PMI held an estimated 27.6 percent of the total international cigarette, excluding China and the United States. PMI’s unequaled brand portfolio contains MARLBORO, the internationally selling cigarette brand since 1972 all over the world. As such, in this Panel’s view, it is highly unlikely that the Respondent was not aware of the rights the Complainant has in the trademark and the value of said trademark, at the date of the registration of the disputed domain name. See The Gap, Inc. v. Deng Youqian, WIPO Case No. D2009-0113; see also Caesar World, Inc. v. Forum LLC, WIPO Case No. D2005-0517.

A sophisticated domain name holder who regularly registers for use as pay-per-click landing pages cannot be willfully blind to whether a particular domain may violate trademark rights. In this context, a failure to conduct adequate searching may give rise to an inference of knowledge. See mVisible Technologies Inc., bitm v. Navigation Catalyst Systems, Inc., WIPO Case No. D2007-1141. The Respondent must be considered such a “sophisticated domain name registrant who regularly registers domain name for use as pay-per-click landing pages”. In this regard, the Panel finds that the Respondent registered the disputed domain name in bad faith.

It is also noted that the website resolved by the disputed domain name contains detailed information how to buy the domain and no information about the content “under construction” is provided. In this Panel’s view, it is apparent that the Respondent’s business-model aims at making profit by registering domain names containing well-known brands and selling them to the trademark owners or other parties. The Respondent did not use the disputed domain name in connection with a bona fide offering of goods or services but instead to divert Internet users searching for the Complainant and its products to its own website. Internet users searching for information regarding the Complainant or its products may mistakenly believe the disputed domain name to be held by the Complainant, leading to consumer confusion or frustration. See Daniel C. Marino, Jr. v. Video Images Productions, et al., WIPO Case No. D2000-0598; HBP, Inc. v. Front and Center Tickets, Inc., WIPO Case No. D2002-0802; and Pfizer Inc v. Van Robichaux, WIPO Case No. D2003-0399. Although the Internet users would at the end realize that the website they visited is not the one of the Complainant, it is likely to cause initial interest of confusion from which the Respondent definitely gets more visitors to its website.

As such, the Panel concludes that the disputed domain name was registered and is being used in bad faith.

7. Decision

For the foregoing reasons, in accordance with paragraphs 4(i) of the Policy and 15 of the Rules, the Panel orders that the disputed domain name <marlborogold.com> be transferred to the Complainant.

Ho-Hyun Nahm
Sole Panelist
Dated: February 29, 2012

 

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