WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center
ADMINISTRATIVE PANEL DECISION
Inter-Continental Hotels Corporation v. Louise Lane / WhoisGuard
Case No. D2012-2037
1. The Parties
Complainant is Inter-Continental Hotels Corporation of Atlanta, Georgia, United States of America, represented by The GigaLaw Firm, Douglas M. Isenberg, Attorney at Law, LLC, United States of America.
Respondent is Louise Lane / WhoisGuard, of New York, New York, United States of America and Los Angeles, California, United States of America, respectively.
2. The Domain Name and Registrar
The disputed domain name <intercontinental-kl.com> is registered with eNom (the “Registrar”).
3. Procedural History
The Complaint was filed with the WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center (the “Center”) on October 15, 2012. On October 15, 2012, the Center transmitted by email to the Registrar a request for registrar verification in connection with the disputed domain name. On October 16, 2012, the Registrar 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 October 17, 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 October 17, 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 October 18, 2012. In accordance with the Rules, paragraph 5(a), the due date for Response was November 7, 2012. Respondent did not submit any response. Accordingly, the Center notified Respondent’s default on November 8, 2012.
The Center appointed Jeffrey M. Samuels as the sole panelist in this matter on November 20, 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
Complainant Inter-Continental Hotels Corporation is one of a number of companies collectively known as Inter-Continental Hotels Group (IHG), the world’s largest hotel group by number of rooms. Companies within IHG own, manage, lease or franchise, through various subsidiaries, more than 4,500 hotels and 666,000 guest rooms, serving more than 153 million guests annually in 100 countries and territories around the world.
Complainant’s INTERCONTINENTAL hotel brand was founded in 1948 and today is used in connection with 169 hotels worldwide, including a hotel in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Complainant or its affiliates own at least 370 registrations in at least 165 countries for trademarks that consist of the mark INTERCONTINENTAL, including U.S. Trademark Registration No. 890,271 for the mark INTERCONTINENTAL and Malaysian Trademark Registration No. 8502477 for the mark INTER.CONTINENTAL.
The disputed domain name <intercontinental-kl.com> was registered on July 26, 2012.
5. Parties’ Contentions
Complainant asserts that the disputed domain name is confusingly similar to Complainant’s INTERCONTINENTAL mark. Complainant notes that the disputed domain name incorporates Complainant’s mark in its entirety and contends that the addition to the disputed domain name of a hyphen and of the geographical identifier “kl”, which stands for Kuala Lumpur, does not avoid a finding of confusing similarity.
Complainant further maintains that it has rights in and to the INTERCONTINENTAL mark.
Complainant indicates that Respondent has no rights or legitimate interests in the disputed domain name. According to Complainant, it has never assigned, granted, licensed, sold, transferred or otherwise authorized Respondent to use or register the INTERCONTINENTAL mark in any manner. Upon information and belief, Complainant further maintains that Respondent has never used, or made preparations to use, the disputed domain name in connection with any bona fide offering of goods or services, has never been commonly known by the disputed domain name, and is not making a legitimate noncommercial or fair use of the disputed domain name. According to Complainant, Respondent is using the disputed domain name in connection with an employment-related and identity-theft scam by impersonating Complainant’s InterContinental Kuala Lumpur hotel in an effort to obtain personal information from innocent job-seekers.
With respect to the issue of “bad faith” registration and use, Complainant asserts that Respondent has intentionally attempted to attract, for commercial gain, Internet users to a website by creating a likelihood of confusion with the INTERCONTINENTAL trademark as to the source, sponsorship, affiliation, or endorsement of Respondent’s website or of a product or service on such site, in violation of paragraph 4(b)(iv) of the Policy. Complainant also argues that the requisite bad faith is demonstrated because Respondent’s registration of the disputed domain name prevents Complainant from reflecting its mark in a corresponding domain name and Respondent has “engaged in a pattern of such conduct,” as evidenced by the approximately 139 proceedings brought against Respondent under the Policy, nearly all of which have resulted in decisions ordering the transfer of the domain name in issue in the proceeding.
Respondent did not reply to Complainant’s contentions.
6. Discussion and Findings
A. Identical or Confusingly Similar
The Panel concludes that the disputed domain name <intercontinental-kl.com> is confusingly similar to the INTERCONTINENTAL mark. As noted by Complainant, the disputed domain name incorporates the mark in its entirety, adding only the descriptive identifier “kl” and a hyphen. In the Panel’s view, neither of these additions, either singly or collectively, is sufficient to avoid a determination of confusing similarity. See, e.g., EAuto, L.L.C. v. Triple S. Auto Parts d/b/a Kung Fu Yea Enterprises, Inc., WIPO Case No. D2000-0047; Parfums Christian Dior v. 1 Netpower, Inc., WIPO Case No. D2000-0022.
The Panel further finds that Complainant has rights in the INTERCONTINENTAL mark. Such rights are established by Complainant’s many trademark registrations for the mark issued by countries around the world, including the U.S. (see Annex 8 to Complaint) and Malaysia (see Annex 9 to Complaint). Complainant’s rights in the mark are also established by its long use of the mark in connection with hotel-related services.
B. Rights or Legitimate Interests
The Panel concludes that Complainant has met its burden of establishing that Respondent has no rights or legitimate interests in the disputed domain name. There is no evidence that Respondent is using the disputed domain name in connection with the bona fide offering of goods or services, is commonly known by the disputed domain name, or is making a legitimate noncommercial or fair use of the disputed domain name.
The evidence supports Complainant’s assertion that Respondent is using the disputed domain name in connection with a scam that seeks personal information from innocent job seekers. Such use cannot provide Respondent a right or legitimate interest in the disputed domain name. Annex 5 to the Complaint includes an email sent from firstname.lastname@example.org to an individual in which it is stated as follows:
“Kindly be informed that your payment has been confirmed and every required documents (sic) has been submitted to the Malaysian Immigration Authorities for processing.” The email is “signed” by a person purported to be the director of human resources at InterContinental Hotel Kuala Lumpur.
C. Registered and Used in Bad Faith
The Panel concludes that the disputed domain name was registered and is being used in bad faith. The evidence indicates that Respondent lures job seekers to disclose confidential information by redirecting them from a website using the disputed domain name to Complainant’s own website and communicating with email addresses that use the disputed domain name. As found by the panel in Inter-Continental Hotels Corp. v. James Alex, WIPO Case No. D2010-0974, “[u]sers attracted to those sites are induced to apply for fictitious jobs whereby they are likely to be tricked into disclosing personal information. Commercial gain would come from the sale of such information to criminals. It would also come from pocketing the travelling expenses to be paid up front to … bogus diplomats or agents.”
The Panel, therefore, determines that Respondent has intentionally attempted to attract, for commercial gain, Internet users to a website by creating a likelihood of confusion with the INTERCONTINENTAL mark as to the source, sponsorship, affiliation, or endorsement of Respondent’s website or of a product or service on such site, in violation of paragraph 4(b)(iv) of the Policy.
Moreover, inasmuch as the evidence indicates that Respondent “has engaged in a pattern” of cybersquatting, the Panel further concludes that the requisite bad faith is established under paragraph 4(b)(ii) of the Policy, which permits a finding of bad faith where a respondent has prevented a complainant from reflecting its mark in a corresponding domain name and has engaged in a pattern of such conduct. Annex 10 of the Complaint includes a long list of UDRP disputes filed against Respondent.
Further support for a determination of bad faith registration and use is found in the fact that Complainant’s INTERCONTINENTAL mark is a well-known, internationally recognized mark that has been in use for more than 60 years prior to the registration of the disputed domain name. It strains credulity to believe Respondent was not aware of Complainant and of its mark at the time it registered the disputed domain name.
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 <intercontinental-kl.com> be transferred to Complainant.
Jeffrey M. Samuels
Date: December 4, 2012