World Intellectual Property Organization

WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center

ADMINISTRATIVE PANEL DECISION

Barclays Bank PLC v. Afrikhostings

Case No. D2012-0297

1.The Parties

The Complainant is Barclays Bank PLC of London, United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland (“UK”), represented by Pinsent Masons Solicitors, UK.

The Respondent is Afrikhostings of Abidjan, Ivory Coast.

2. The Domain Name and Registrar

The Disputed Domain Name <barclays-bank-uk.com> is registered with GoDaddy.com, LLC.

3. Procedural History

The Complaint was filed with the WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center (the “Center”) on February 14, 2012. On February 15, 2012, the Center transmitted by email to GoDaddy.com, LLC. a request for registrar verification in connection with the Disputed Domain Name. On the same date, GoDaddy.com, LLC . transmitted by email to the Center its verification response confirming that the Respondent is listed as the registrant of the Disputed Domain Name 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 the Respondent of the Complaint, and the proceedings commenced on February 24, 2012. In accordance with the Rules, paragraph 5(a), the due date for Response was March 15, 2012. The Respondent did not submit any response. Accordingly, the Center notified the Respondent’s default on March 16, 2012.

The Center appointed Philip N. Argy as the sole panelist in this matter on March 21, 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.

All other administrative requirements appear to have been satisfied.

4. Factual Background

The following salient facts, taken from the Complaint, remain uncontested:

The Complainant is a major global financial services provider engaged in retail banking, credit cards, corporate banking, investment banking, wealth management and investment management services with an extensive international presence in Europe, the Americas, Africa and Asia. It has been in business continually under the BARCLAYS brand since 1896 and now operates in over 50 countries.

The Complainant is the registered proprietor of numerous trademarks comprising the word BARCLAYS both alone and together with devices and other words. These numerous variants of the BARCLAYS mark are registered in many countries.

The Complainant is also the registrant of a portfolio of domain names including <barclays.co.uk> which was registered “before August 1996” and <barclays.com> which was registered on November 23, 1993. The Complainant uses these domain names to promote and offer its banking and financial related goods and services throughout the world.

The Respondent registered the Disputed Domain Name on July 3, 2011.

5. Parties’ Contentions

A. Complainant

The Complainant seeks to prove that all three limbs of the Policy are satisfied, namely, that:

(1) The Disputed Domain Name is identical or confusingly similar to the BARCLAYS trademark or service mark in which the Complainant has rights; and

(2) The Respondent has no rights or legitimate interests in respect of the Disputed Domain Name; and

(3) 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 nor place any other material before the Panel.

6. Discussion and Findings

The Complainant bears the onus of proving that each limb of the Policy is satisfied. Accordingly, despite there being no Response, the Panel is obliged to consider the Complainant’s evidence and arguments.

A. Identical or Confusingly Similar

The Disputed Domain Name comprises the word BARCLAYS followed by the generic word “bank” followed by the country designator “uk” with the further addition of the “.com” generic Top Level Domain. As the Complainant is a bank based in the UK, the matter added to the BARCLAYS mark in the Disputed Domain Name self-evidently compounds the confusion rather than doing anything to distinguish it from the Complainant’s brand name. Curious though the Panel is as to why the Complainant provided no evidence of trademark registrations in Africa, the Panel is satisfied that the Disputed Domain Name is confusingly similar to the Complainant’s UK and European Community BARCLAYS trademarks, and that finding is sufficient to make good the first limb of the Policy.

B. Rights or Legitimate Interests

The Panel cannot discern any basis on which the Respondent might hold rights or legitimate interests in a name that has been in use by the Complainant and its corporate predecessors for nearly 115 years. BARCLAYS is a household word in most countries in which it does business, including the African continent where the Respondent is located. The Complainant has not granted any rights to the Respondent to use the Disputed Domain Name and the Respondent claims none. Nor does the Respondent contend that it has any legitimate interests in the Disputed Domain Name. The Complainant notes that “initially” the Disputed Domain Name resolved to a parking page at which click-through traffic was generated through the use of financial services links generated by GoDaddy. In the Panel’s view that use does not amount to a legitimate interest in respect of the Disputed Domain Name. Subsequent to the issue of correspondence from the Complainant’s lawyers to the Respondent, the Disputed Domain Name was re-directed to the Complainant’s website where it remains re-directed. Absent any explanation from the Respondent as to why it might do that, the Panel agrees with the Complainant that in the circumstances the conduct is suspicious and certainly not capable of conferring a right or legitimate interest on the Respondent. It can hardly be said that the Complainant’s website is a site from which the Respondent is engaging in any legitimate trading activity. Accordingly, the Complainant has made good the second limb of the Policy.

C. Registered and Used in Bad Faith

The Complainant’s lawyers wrote to the Respondent on no less than four occasions demanding cessation of use of the Disputed Domain Name, but all to no avail. In this Panel’s view, once a complainant has made out a prima facie case, as the Complainant has done in this matter, it behoves a respondent to file something by way of a credible response if it is to have much chance of displacing the bad faith interpretations that might otherwise be placed on its conduct.

The registration by the Respondent of a domain name that contains the Complainant’s BARCLAYS trade mark, together with words that describe the Complainant’s activity and location, makes it easy for the Panel to accept the Complainant’s contentions that the Respondent must have been aware of the Complainant and its reputation at the time it registered the Disputed Domain Name. Even more obvious is the fact that the Disputed Domain Name has since the first letter sent by the Complainant’s lawyers been pointed to the Complainant’s main website.

In what appears to be somewhat of a standard form Complaint, the Complainant specifically relies on paragraph 4(b)(iv) of the Policy and recites that ground by reference to an assertion that the Respondent is using the Complainant’s mark to attract Internet users to the Respondent’s site for commercial gain. Of course whilst that ground had legs initially, for so long as the Disputed Domain Name remains pointed to the Complainant’s site and the re-direction is virtually instantaneous, it is quite inapposite.

Nevertheless, in all the circumstances there was plainly no rationale for the Respondent’s registration of the Disputed Domain Name and the Panel can and does infer that it was registered and thereafter used in bad faith. The subsequent (and continuing) redirection raises a somewhat more intriguing question: can pointing the Disputed Domain Name at the Complainant’s own website be a bad faith use? It is undoubtedly suspicious and the Panel cannot conceive of what altruistic motives overcame the Respondent after its receipt of the letter from the Complainant’s lawyers. Absent any undertaking from the Respondent that the re-direction will remain in place permanently, the Panel infers that it is a ploy to circumvent the Policy and that the Respondent is most likely to revert to its diversionary parking page after the Panel has ruled. The Panel is not prepared to see the objectives of the Policy thwarted by this implausible ruse, and finds that the Respondent’s strategy is most likely a bad faith subterfuge.

Accordingly, the Panel agrees with the Complainant’s contention that the Disputed Domain Name was registered and is being used in bad faith, thus satisfying the third limb of the Policy.

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 <barclays-bank-uk.com> be transferred to the Complainant.

Philip N. Argy
Sole Panelist
Dated: April 4, 2012

 

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