WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center
ADMINISTRATIVE PANEL DECISION
Credit Industriel et Commercial S.A., Credit Industriel de L’Ouest S.A. v. Coyote MassMedia
Case No. D2012-0725
1. The Parties
The Complainant is Credit Industriel et Commercial S.A., Credit Industriel de L’Ouest S.A. of Paris and Nantes, France, represented by Meyer & Partenaires, France.
The Respondent is Coyote MassMedia of Rockville, Maryland, United States of America.
2. The Domain Name and Registrar
The disputed domain name <ciccreditservices.com> is registered with DirectNIC, LTD.
3. Procedural History
The Complaint was filed with the WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center (the “Center”) on April 5, 2012. On April 10, 2012, the Center transmitted by email to DirectNIC, LTD a request for registrar verification in connection with the disputed domain name. On April 10, 2012, DirectNIC, LTD transmitted by email to the Center its verification response confirming that the Respondent is listed as the registrant and providing the contact details for the disputed domain name.
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 April 12, 2012. In accordance with the Rules, paragraph 5(a), the due date for Response was May 2, 2012. The Respondent did not submit a response prior to the due date. Accordingly, the Center notified the Respondent’s default on May 7, 2012. On May 31, 2012, the Respondent submitted a late response.
The Center appointed Leon Trakman as the sole panelist in this matter on May 14, 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 an established French banking group, consisting of five regional banks with over four million clients in France and branches elsewhere in Europe, Africa, Latin America, North America and Asia. It includes four groups: private banking, capital-development, financial banking and network support trades. Complainant’s main website is located at “www.cic.fr”.
The Complainant provides evidence that it has used the acronym “CIC” (for Credit Industriel de L’Ouest) since 2000; that it was the result of a merger in 1957 between Credit Nantais and Credit de L’Ouest, established in 1912 and 1913 respectively. In December 2006, following the merger between Credit Industriel de L’Ouest (“CIO”) and Banque Regionale de L’Ouest (“BRO Credit Industriel de L’Ouest) CIO was renamed Credit Industriel et Commercial Ouest (“CIC OUEST”).
The disputed domain name was created on January 11, 2011.
5. Parties’ Contentions
The Complainant alleges that it has trademark rights in CIC, CREDIT DUO CIC and CREDIT PROJET CIC; that CIC has been its trade name and acronym since 1859; that it has registered a number of trademarks consisting or including "CIC" in France and abroad; and provides evidence of such registrations and of trademark rights in CREDIT DUO CIC and CREDIT PROJET CIC.
The Complainant adduces further evidence that it is also the registrant of various generic and country level domain names including <cic.fr>; <cic.eu>; >crc.asia>; <cic.mobi>; <cic-bank.com>; <paiement-cic.eu>; and <paiement-cic.fr>.
The Complainant also provides evidence that its trademarks are widely known and identified with it globally. Among such evidence are three prior UDRP decisions, each finding that there was confusing similarity to the Complainant’s well-known trademark or trademarks in circumstances that are reasonably analogous to those in the present case. These cases include: Confederation Nationale du Credit Mutuel and Credit Industriel et Commercial S.A. v. Trabaja Jayam, Zeb Fi Tarmatek WIPO, Case No. DLC2009-0002; Credit Industriel et Commercial S.A., CM-CIC Securities v. Homeshop, WIPO Case No. 2007-0530 and Credit Industriel et Commercial And Credit Industriel et Commercial S.A., CM-CIC Securities v. Click Cons. Ltd, WIPO Case No. 02007-1323.
The Complainant alleges, on the basis of the aforementioned cases, that it should “indisputably “ be considered as having “trademark rights on the sole wording CIC and/or combined with a generic or descriptive term In the banking vocabulary (like CREDIT DUO CIC, CREDIT PROJECT CIC, BANQUES, CASH, ...)”.
The Complainant alleges that the Respondent registered the disputed domain name on November 1, 2011; that the Respondent has registered over four hundred domain names; and that some of these infringe third parties rights including: <bloomingdaletowncenter.com>, <bloomingdaletowncenter.net> and <citizen2.org>.
The Complainant provides evidence of having sent a cease and desist letter to the Respondent, alleging an infringement of its intellectual property and requesting transfer of ownership of the disputed domain name to it, which it alleges was not answered.
Accordingly, the Complainant alleges that the Respondent has abused the registration and use of the disputed domain name. It requests that its complaint be decided in terms of the Policy and Rules (Rule 3(b)(i)); and that the disputed domain name be transferred to it.
The Respondent did not submit a response to the Complainant’s contentions within the due date. The Respondent did submit a late Response on May 31, 2012.
The Panel finds the purported Response has failed to satisfy the procedural requirements for Filing a Response. In particular, Respondent was informed well in advance of the deadline within which to submit a response, but failed to do so.
The Respondent has also failed to establish any intervening and unforeseen force majeure circumstance arising beyond Respondent's reasonable control that could justify such a delay, however unlikely such a claim would be to succeed in these circumstances.
In any event, the Panel holds that there is nothing in the Response that would alter the Panel’s findings in this case.
6. Discussion and Findings
A. Identical or Confusingly Similar
The Panel finds that the disputed the disputed domain name in issue is identical to the Complainant’s trademarks in some respects, and confusingly similar in other respects. In particular, the disputed domain name, <ciccreditservices.com> is identical to the Complainant’s trademark, CIC, except in two non-material respects. Firstly, the disputed domain name adds the descriptive words “credit services”, which in itself the Panel finds confusingly similar to one of the main services provided by the Complainant. It is well settled that the addition of descriptive language to a disputed domain name that is otherwise identical to a complainant’s trademark or other name does not negate the confusingly similar nature of that name to that trademark or other name.
For example, in Credit Industriel et Commercial S.A. v. Osed Wireless, CAC Decision No. 100084, concerning the domain name <paiement-cic.com> the panel found that the domain name was confusingly similar to the trademark of the Complainant. There the panel stated that:
“[T]he mere addition of a common French word, such as "paiement' does not alleviate the likelihood of confusion. All the more so given the nature of this word which can be directly linked to the Complainant's trademark and products, and therefore may reinforce the likelihood of confusion in the users minds. In act the word "paiement" is specific to the banking jargon”
Similarly, in Credit Industriel et Commercial S.A. and Credit Industriel de L'Ouest v. Maison Tropicale SA, WIPO Case No. D2007-1817, concerning the domain name <ciccreditmonitor.net>., the panel held that:
“[T]he mere combination of the generic terms ‘credit’ and ‘monitor’ to the CIC trade mark in the disputed domain name does not take away the overall impression that the domain name is connected to the Complainants. In fact, in the context of the specific business the Complainants are engaged in, the potential for confusion is increased by the inclusion of the words ‘credit’ and ‘monitor’/’creditmonitor’".
In Credit Industriel et Commercial S.A. v. PrivacyProtect.org and Angelina Fashion Accessories Ltd / Rajeev Joshi, WIPO Case No. D2009-1662, concerning the domain name <insurance-cic.com>, the panel held to similar effect, adding:
“The likelihood of confusion between the disputed domain name and the CIC trademark is reinforced by the fact that insurance is one of the areas of business in which Complainant is engaged, and Complainant has registered and used for years the trademark ASSURANCES CIC.[T]he Panel finds that the <insurancecic.com> domain name is clearly confusingly similar to the CIC trademark and, as a result, finds that the requirement of paragraph 4(a)(i) of the Policy is met.”
In the instant case, the addition of the words “credit services” to the CIC trademark in the disputed domain name not only fails to refute the similarity between the Complainants trademarks and the disputed domain name but the Panel finds that it accentuates that confusion. Such confusion, too, constitutes evidence of the Respondent’s bad faith registration of the disputed domain name with the intention to cause confusion among Internet users who reasonably identify that name with the Complainants' well known trademarks and services. This will be dealt with below, in section 6.C. concerning bad faith registration under UDRP paragraph 4(a)(iii).
The Panel finds that the disputed domain name is also confusingly similar to the Complainant’s trademarks CREDIT DUO CIC and CREDIT PROJECT CIC. The disputed domain name replicates both the words "credit" and "CIC" which form integral parts of the Complainant’s trademark.
Nor does the addition of the word "services" in the disputed domain name resolve that confusion. The Panel finds this to be merely a descriptive word that heightens the likelihood of confusion among Internet users who associate the word “services” with the services provided by the Complainant.
As a result, the disputed domain name <ciccreditservices.com>is confusingly similar to the acronym and trademark CIC by which the Complainant is widely known. It is also confusingly similar to Complainant’s trademarks in CREDIT DUO CIC and CREDIT PROJECT CIC.
The fact that the disputed domain name concludes with the adjunction ".com" does not negate the confusion caused by the disputed domain name with the Complainant’s trademark. Nor does that adjunction render the disputed domain name distinctive. An adjunction is no more than a technical requirement for a domain name system. As the Panel stated in Credit Industriel et Commercial S.A. v. Osed Wireless, CAC Decision No. 100084, <paiement cic.com>: "[s]uch an adjunction is due to the current technical requirements of the domain name system. This inclusion should not be taken into account when evaluating the identity or similarity between the disputed domain name and the complainant's trademark."
B. Rights or Legitimate Interests
The Panel finds that the Respondent has no rights or legitimate interests in the disputed domain name <ciccredit services.com> under UDRP paragraph 4(a)(ii). Nor does the Respondent have any apparent interest in the name "cic" or "cic credit services". It is evident that the Respondent has no present or prior relationship with the Complainant. The Respondent is not acting for or on behalf of the Complainant. The Respondent is not the Complainant’s agent. The Respondent does not have any license or other authorization to apply for registration or to use the disputed domain name. Indeed, the Respondent has no business association with the Complainant.
The Panel notes the decision in Confédération Nationale du Crédit Mutuel and Crédit Industriel et Commercial S.A. v. Trabaja Jayam, Zeb Fi Tarmatek, WIPO Case No. DLC2009-0002 concerning the domain names <creditmutuel.sc> and <cic.lc>. There the panel found that:
“the Complainants have established such prima facie case, inter alia, due to the fact that the Complainants have not licensed or otherwise permitted the Respondent to use the CREDIT MUTUEL and CIC trademarks, a variation or a combination thereof. The Panel finds that the Respondent has no rights or legitimate interests in respect of the disputed domain names.”
The Panel therefore holds that the Respondent has no rights or legitimate interests in the disputed domain name <ciccreditservices.com>.
C. Registered and Used in Bad Faith
The Panel finds further that the Respondent has registered and used the disputed domain name in bad faith.
It is unreasonable to insist that the Respondent, by happenstance, stumbled upon the disputed domain name and registered it in good faith. The Respondent cannot reasonably be assumed not to have known that it was registering a domain name that was confusingly similar to the trademarks of the Complainant. Nor can the Respondent reasonably be supposed not to have known at the time of registration of the Complainant’s international reputation in relation to banking and finance. In registering the disputed domain name, the Panel finds that the Respondent must reasonably have known of the Complainant’s legal rights and interests in the trademarks CIC, CREDIT DUO CIC and CREDIT PROJECT CIC relating to its financial and banking services. It is improbable that the Respondent somehow was not so aware. It is also likely that the Respondent combined the trademark CIC with descriptors “credit” and “services” purposefully, in order to profit by creating the impression that it was a part of the Complainant’s banking and financial services. Nor is it reasonable to conclude that, because the Complainant’s primary business was in France and the Respondent appears to be located in the United States, that the Respondent was somehow unaware of the Complainant’s business. In fact, the Complainant’s domain name is globally known, and not limited to France. As a result, there is no reasonable doubt but that the Respondent was aware of the Complainant’s legitimate rights and interests when it registered the disputed domain name that was confusingly similar to the Complainant’s trademarks and that the Respondent did so in bad faith.
There is ample evidence of other UDRP panels holding similarly in analogous cases. In Credit Industriel et Commercial S.A. v. PrivacyProtect.org and Angelina Fashion Accessories Ltd / Rajeev Joshi, WIPO Case No. 2009-1662 concerning the domain name <insurance-cic.com> it was stated:
“The Panel finds that Respondent was undoubtedly aware of the existence of Complainant and of its trademark CIC when Respondent registered the disputed domain name. That finding is reinforced by the fact that Respondent chose to combine the word "CIC" with "insurance' a term which describes one of the areas of business in which Complainant is engaged, Complainant having registered and used for years the trademark ASSURANCES CIC.”
Similarly, in Credit Industrial et Commercial S.A., Credit Industrial de L'Ouest v. Maison Tropicale SA, WIPO Case No. 2007-1817, concerning the domain name <ciccreditmonitor.net>, the panel concluded that:
“There can be very little doubt in the circumstances of this case that the Respondent was aware of the Complainants and their CIC marks when it registered the domain name and created a website without any bona fide offering of goods or services but in which sponsored links to the websites of competitors of the Complainants are offered. This is an instance of opportunistic bad faith on the part of the Respondent as it involves the use of a well-established trade mark in combination with other generic words within the domain name, which describe or are suggestive of the very kind of services offered by the Complainants. It would be confusing to Internet users and customers of the Complainants.”
Accordingly, the Panel finds that the Respondent registered the disputed domain name <ciccreditservices.com> in bad faith.
The Panel also finds that the Respondent used the disputed domain name in bad faith. In particular, the Respondent has used the disputed domain name as a parking website and to direct Internet traffic, through several hyperlinks in French, to the websites of the Complainants’ competitors. In doing so, the Respondent is acting in bad faith in seeking to entice Internet users to its website by using a domain name that is confusingly similar to Complainant’s trademarks. The Respondent is also using the disputed domain name for profit and at the expense of the Complainant in establishing a pay-per-click parking website that includes links to some of the competitors of the Complainant. As was stated in Credit Industrial et Commercial S.A., Credit Industrial de L'Ouest v. Maison Tropicale SA, supra.: “The Panel agrees that an inference of bad faith can be made where a website with a confusingly similar domain name is used by the respondent to provide ‘sponsored links’ to external websites of the competitors of a complainant. In the cases identified in the Complaint, the domain names were ordered by the respective panelists to be transferred to the Complainants as the respondents were found to have registered and used the domain names in bad faith. Taking all of the aforesaid into account, and in the specific circumstances of this case, the Panel is accordingly satisfied that paragraph 4(a)(iii) of the Policy has been established.”
Evidence of bad faith use of a disputed domain name is also evident as in Dr. Martens International Trading GmbH, Dr. Maertens Marketing GmbH v. Private Whois Service, WIPO Case No. D2011-1753. There the panel found that:
“By creating a PPC parking website that featured PPC links to the Complainants' competitors, the Respondent similarly used the domain name in bad faith. The purpose of this PPC parking website clearly was for profit, based on their confusing the Respondent's domain name and/or website with the Complainants and/or their website. Once on the Respondent's page, some users likely click on advertisers' links, which presumably would confer a commercial benefit on the Respondent. The fact that the Respondent was willing to pay money to register or acquire this domain name, to continue to maintain it, and to host the website, all are evidence that the Respondent expected to profit from the domain name in this way. The Panel therefore infers that the Respondent profited from the goodwill associated with the DR. MARTENS mark by collecting click-through fees and that the Respondent used the domain name in bad faith."
The Panel in Get Away Today.Com Inc. v. Warren Gilbert, WIPO Case No. DCO2010-0021, concerning the domain name <getawaytoday.co> concluded, to a similar effect, that the respondent had “intentionally attempted to attract for commercial gain Internet users to its website by creating a likelihood of confusion with Complainant's mark as to source, sponsorship, affiliation, or endorsement of Respondent's website.” As was the case there, the Panel here finds that the Respondent registered and has used the disputed domain name in bad faith within the meaning of paragraph 4(b) of the Policy.
The Panel therefore concludes that the Respondent has not only registered, but also used the disputed domain name, <ciccreditservices> in bad faith.
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, <ciccreditservices>, be transferred to the Complainant.
Dated: June 1, 2012