WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center
ADMINISTRATIVE PANEL DECISION
Saudi Arabian Oil Company v. PrivacyProtect.org / James Deavers
Case No. D2012-0137
1. The Parties
Complainant is Saudi Arabian Oil Company of Dhahran, Saudi Arabia, represented by Abelman Frayne & Schwab, United States of America.
Respondents are (1) PrivacyProtect.org of Nobby Beach, Null, Queensland, Australia and (2) James Deavers, Harrisonburg, Virginia, United States of America.
2. The Domain Name and Registrar
The disputed domain name <aramco-investment.com> is registered with UK2 Group Ltd.
3. Procedural History
The Complaint was filed with the WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center (the “Center”) on January 25, 2012. On January 26, 2012, the Center transmitted by email to UK2 Group Ltd. a request for registrar verification in connection with the disputed domain name. On January 27, 2012, UK2 Group Ltd. transmitted by email to the Center its verification response disclosing registrant and contact information for the disputed domain name which differed from the named Respondent and contact information in the Complaint. The Center sent an email communication to Complainant on January 30, 2012 providing the registrant and contact information disclosed by the Registrar, and inviting Complainant to submit an amendment to the Complaint. Complainant filed an amendment to the Complaint on January 31, 2012.
The Center verified that the Complaint together with the amendment to 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 1, 2012. In accordance with the Rules, paragraph 5(a), the due date for Response was February 21, 2012. Respondent did not submit any response. Accordingly, the Center notified Respondent’s default on February 22, 2012.
The Center appointed Nathalie Dreyfus as the sole panelist in this matter on February 29, 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.
According to paragraph 11(a) of the Rules, “unless otherwise agreed by the Parties, or specified otherwise in the Registration Agreement, the language of the administrative proceeding shall be the language of the Registration Agreement, subject to the authority of the Panel to determine otherwise, having regard to the circumstances of the administrative proceeding”. In the present case, the Registration Agreement is in English and the parties have not agreed to use another language. Respondents have not replied to the Complaint. Therefore, the language of the registration agreement shall dictate the language of the proceeding. Thus, the Panel determines under paragraph 11(a) of the Rules that the language of this proceeding be English.
4. Factual Background
Complainant is Saudi Arabian Oil Company which is a state-owned national oil company located notably in Saudi Arabia with headquarters in Dhahran. Complainant manages one of the world’s largest proven crude oil reserves and has one of the world’s largest gas reserves. Its activities are widespread all over the world and its offices in North America, Europe and Asia. Complainant is a fully-integrated petroleum company with operations in exploration, production, refining, petrochemicals, marketing and international shipping. It employs more than 55 000 employees and manages more than 112 oil and gas fields in Saudi Arabia. From its inception in the 1930’s its reputation increased significantly thanks to its genuine expertise in oil.
Aramco Services Company is a subsidiary of Complainant and is a bridge between Complainant’s activities in Saudi Arabia and the United States in order to ease the delivery of energy in the most convenient way. It can also be inferred from the very same records that Aramco Services Company’s core activities encompass financial services.
Complainant owns various trademarks registrations world-wide incorporating ARAMCO. These trademarks include the Bahraini trademark ARAMCO, registration no. 28968, registered on December 19, 2000 in class 4, the Chinese trademark ARAMCO, registration no. 1404336, registered on June 7, 2000 in class 4, Indian trademark ARAMCO, registration no. 893323, registered on March 29, 2007 in class 4, Egyptian trademark ARAMCO, registration no. 172612, registered on June 13, 2007 and lastly the European Community trademark ARAMCO, registration no. 918540, registered on January 12, 1999. There is no denying that Complainant registered trademarks on all continents.
Complainant also happens to be the owner of another trademark which bears on the sign SAUDI ARAMCO. To give a glimpse of Complainant’s wide trademark portfolio the Panel cannot but quote the following registrations which were transmitted in Complainant’s records:
- Brazilian trademark SAUDI ARAMCO, registration no. 820914703, registered on August 1, 2006 in class 4;
- Chinese trademark SAUDI ARAMCO, registration no.1404335, registered on June 7, 2010 in class 4;
- Community trademark SAUDI ARAMCO, registration no. 918581, registered on August 25, 2008 in class 4.
Complainant has also registered the figurative mark ENERGY BURST DESIGN in a wide range of countries which consists of a stylized star with nine points. Complainant is the owner of the following trademarks:
- Chinese trademark ENERGY BURST DESIGN No. 2019824 registered on October 21, 2003 in class 4;
- European Community trademark ENERGY BURST DESIGN No.1441690, registered on December 28, 2009 in class 4;
- Hong Kong Trademark ENERGY BURST DESIGN No. 300280638 registered on September 6, 2004 in class 4;
- Japanese trademark ENERGY BURST DESIGN, registration no. 4481144, registered on June 8, 2011 in class 4;
- United States servicemark ENERGY BURST DESIGN, registration no.2994059, registered on September 13, 2005.
Complainant owns a domain name through which it communicates on its activities incorporating the trademark ARAMCO, namely the domain name <saudiaramco.com>.
Respondent PrivacyProtect.org is the concerned registrar’s privacy protection service. The publicly available WhoIs database indicates that the disputed domain name was registered on November 1, 2011. The disputed domain name formerly resolved to a website through which Internet users could proceed to make an online payment and fill in a form to become a member while registering their bank account number and other confidential data. After being requested to do so, the registrar UK2 Group Ltd. revealed the identity of the underlying registrant and his address. The name of the registrant was changed in the corresponding WhoIs database. Currently, the registrant is James Deavers, a United States citizen. There is no information of any kind on the business activity run by James Deavers. The Panel notes that Respondent has not been a party in recent UDRP proceedings. Lastly, the website to which the disputed domain name resolves is currently inactive.
5. Parties’ Contentions
Complainant contends that the disputed domain name is confusingly similar to the ARAMCO trademarks in which Complainant has rights because the only difference is the addition of the descriptive word “investment”. Complainant dwells on the fact that the well-known trademark ARAMCO is in the predominant part of the disputed domain name and is reproduced in its entirety. As ARAMCO is a neologism which has no meaning in the English language, it can be inferred that the disputed domain name <aramco-investment.com> will mistakenly lead consumers to believe that its content is linked with Complainant’s activities.
Moreover, Complainant avers that it has not given its endorsement to Respondents through a license or by any other juridical blueprint allowing them to register the disputed domain name. Moreover, Respondents’ activities are not known under the trademark ARAMCO. In the same way, Respondents do not use the disputed domain name in connection with a bona fide offering of goods and services. Before the Complaint was filed, the disputed domain name resolved to a website which was allegedly run by Aramco Services Company which happens to be the United States based subsidiary of Complainant. In addition, a reproduction of the figurative mark ENERGY BURST DESIGN, in which Complainant has rights, occurred on the said website. Respondents’ website also featured the mailing address of the subsidiary which was the genuine address of Complainant’s United States based subsidiary. As a result, Respondents’ website is deceitful and was created with the sole goal to derive profits from these similarities. In the light of Complainant’s fame, Respondents could not but have the trademark in mind when they registered the disputed domain name.
Lastly, in registering and using the disputed domain name, Respondents deliberately tried to lure Internet users on the website in order to derive some economical profit of it. The current inactiveness of the website qualifies as bad faith on the Respondents’ part.
Respondents did not reply to Complainant’s contentions and are therefore in default.
6. Discussion and Findings
Under paragraph 4(a) of the Policy, Complainant must prove each of the following:
(i) the disputed domain name is identical or confusingly similar to a trademark or service mark in which Complainant has rights; and
(ii) Respondents have 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.
A. Identical or Confusingly Similar
The Panel cannot but pinpoint that Complainant provides sufficient evidence that it has rights in the trademark ARAMCO, which it registered throughout the world.
In recent decisions issued by UDRP panels, the term “investment”, in singular or in plural, was deemed to be a descriptive word (see Virgin Enterprise Limited v. Maine Street Investments, WIPO Case No. D2011-0621; Allianz Global Investors of America, LP. And Pacific Investment Management Company (PIMCO) v. Bingo-Bongo WIPO Case No. D2011-0795).
The Panel cannot but dwell on the fact that the mere addition of a hyphen is not sufficient to lessen the risk of confusion between the disputed domain name and the trademarks registered by Complainant. Several panels have already held that the addition of a hyphen creates only a minor difference as the overall visual impression remains the same for Internet users (See Elite Licensing Company SA, Elite Model Management v. Maria Antonella Corbera, WIPO Case No. D2010-1436).
In conclusion, the mere addition of the generic term “investment” and of a hyphen does not change the overall impression of the disputed domain name which reproduces Complainant’s trademark ARAMCO. As Complainant’s trademark is the predominant and memorable part of the disputed domain name as it is positioned in the first part of the disputed domain name.
In the light of the above, the Panel finds that that the disputed domain name is confusingly similar with the Complainant’s trademarks, and thus that Complainant has satisfied paragraph 4(a)(i) of the Policy
B. Rights or Legitimate Interests
Respondents have not been authorized by Complainant to use Complainant’s trademarks in any manner. The Panel finds no evidence that Respondents ever had any rights or legitimate interests in the disputed domain name.
Complainant alleges that Respondents lack rights and legitimate interests in the disputed domain name. Complainant makes a prima facie case showing in support of its allegations and therefore the burden shifts to Respondents to demonstrate that they do have rights or legitimate interests pursuant to paragraph 4(a)(ii) of the Policy. In the light of Respondents’ failure to respond to the Complaint, which was duly filed by Complainant and notified by the Center, the Panel must assess if Respondents lack rights or legitimate interests in the disputed domain name. The Panel cannot but underline that Respondents do not seem to bear any connection with Complainant and to have any rights on the sign ARAMCO.
Respondents formerly used the disputed domain name in order to present themselves as being Aramco Investment Company. From the evidence provided by Complainant, the Panel infers that Respondents offered a service which did not seem to be directed to the general public but rather likely to employees of Complainant. Respondents proposed a service through which one can become a member of the website and proceed to a deposit, It is likely that through this online form Respondents obtained confidential information like credit card numbers and personal identification numbers thanks to which they derived some economical profits. It goes without saying that this behavior is not a bona fide offering of goods or services. In providing such a service, Respondents have committed what is referred to as phishing. Phishing cannot be deemed as being a bona fide offering of goods and services (see Australia and New Zealand Banking Group Limited v. Bashar Ltd., WIPO Case No. D2007-0031, portraying phishing as aiming at “stealing valuable information from visitors to the website and has become a serious problem”). In the age of the Internet, phishing has become a real plague.
The Panel finds that Respondents’ attempt to pass itself off as Complainant shows that Respondents are making neither a bona fide offering of goods or services under the Policy nor a legitimate noncommercial or fair use of the disputed domain name under paragraph 4(c) the Policy.
Currently, the disputed domain name resolves to an inactive website. The Panel cannot but conclude that Respondents’ failure to make an active use of the disputed domain name is further evidence of Respondents’ lack of rights and legitimate interests in the disputed domain name.
A quick Google search conducted by the Panel shows up that there is no Company known under the name of Aramco Investment whereas the website said that Aramco Investment is a company which has “15 years of experience in the world of oil and gas market” which seems at odds given the fact that Saudi Aramco Oil Company was created in 1933. The Panel also made a quick search on domain names bearing on a combination of the terms “aramco” and “investment”. No other domain name was ever registered bearing a combination of one of these terms or on a circumlocution.
In the absence of any evidence to the contrary, Complainant has therefore made out the requirements of paragraph 4(a)(ii) of the Policy.
C. Registered and Used in Bad Faith
Paragraph 4(b) of the Policy states that any of the following circumstances, in particular but without limitation, shall be considered evidence of the registration and use of a domain name in bad faith:
“(i) circumstances indicating that the respondent registered or acquired the domain name primarily for the purpose of selling, renting, or otherwise transferring the domain name registration to the complainant (the owner of the trademark or service mark) or to a competitor of that complainant, for valuable consideration in excess of documented out-of-pocket costs directly related to the domain name;
(ii) circumstances indicating that the respondent 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 the respondent has engaged in a pattern of such conduct;
(iii) circumstances indicating that the respondent registered the domain name primarily for the purpose of disrupting the business of a competitor; or
(iv) circumstances indicating that the respondent intentionally is using the domain name in an attempt to attract, for commercial gain, Internet users to its 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 the respondent’s website or location or of a product or service on its website or location.”
Complainant has demonstrated that its registration and use of the marks ARAMCO was prior to the registration of the disputed domain name. Complainant has also underlined its extensive use of the ARAMCO trademarks. Given the fame of Complainant’s trademark, Respondents could not have ignored the ARAMCO trademark while registering the disputed domain name.
Respondents used the disputed domain name in order to obtain confidential data and adduced themselves as being the United States based subsidiary of Complainant. Respondents reproduced Complainant’s trademarks on the website to which the disputed domain name resolves in order to let users believe that it was trustworthy. This behaviour is not to be deemed as being made in good faith.
It must be underlined that Complainant already faced phishing attempts and has to protect its customers and employees from phishing attacks that can be highly detrimental (see Saudi Arabian Oil Company v. Aramco Oil Company, NAF Claim No. 1414023). Through phishing, third parties try to picture themselves as being trustworthy and collect confidential data for nefarious activities. Such behavior can jeopardize Complainant’s business and amounts to bad faith according to the Panel. In Confédération Nationale du Crédit Mutuel v. Daniel Delcore, WIPO Case No. DLC2009-0001 the panel held that “phishing would amount to bad faith as affecting or tarnishing the image of the organization whose name, website design and layout has been wrongly used”.
Before the Complaint was filed, the data of the registrant of the disputed domain name were masked by a privacy shield. The use of a privacy shield is not in itself constitutive of bad faith but combined with other elements, it may convey a finding of bad faith (see Jay Leno v. St. Kitts Registry, Domain Names Administration, WIPO Case No. D2009-0571).
For all these reasons, the Panel finds that Respondent has registered and is using the disputed domain name in bad faith. Therefore, Complainant has satisfied the third requirement of paragraph 4(a)(iii) of the Policy.
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 <aramco-investment.com> be transferred to Complainant.
Dated: March 14, 2012