World Intellectual Property Organization

WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center

ADMINISTRATIVE PANEL DECISION

Elite Licensing Company SA, Elite Model Management v. Chloe Castell

Case No. DBZ2010-0002

1. The Parties

The Complainants are Elite Licensing Company SA of Fribourg, Switzerland and Elite Model Management of Paris, France, represented by Cabinet Degret, France.

The Respondent is Chloe Castell of Zurich, Switzerland.

2. The Domain Name and Registrar

The disputed domain name <elitemodel.bz> is registered with 1API GmbH.

3. Procedural History

The Complaint was filed with the WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center (the “Center”) on August 25, 2010. On August 25, 2010, the Center transmitted by email to 1API GmbH a request for registrar verification in connection with the disputed domain name. On August 26, 2010, 1API GmbH transmitted by email to the Center its verification response confirming that the Respondent is listed as the registrant 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 August 26, 2010. In accordance with the Rules, paragraph 5(a), the due date for Response was September 15, 2010. The Respondent did not submit any response. Accordingly, the Center notified the Respondent’s default on September 16, 2010.

The Center appointed Tobias Zuberbühler as the sole panelist in this matter on September 22, 2010. 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 Complainants are part of the Elite group of companies which run the Elite model agency network. The Elite group, and in particular the Complainants, own an extensive worldwide portfolio of trademarks containing the word “elite”.

The Elite model agency was established in 1972 and has approximately 40 agencies across five continents. The yearly Elite Model Look contest has on average 350,000 participants and takes place in at least 50 different countries. Many supermodels have been discovered and hired through the contest, including Claudia Schiffer, Cindy Crawford and Naomi Campbell.

The disputed domain name was registered on June 7, 2010 and is currently being used to promote escort services.

5. Parties’ Contentions

A. Complainant

The Complainants submit that ELITE is a highly reputable and well-known trademark around the world, as evidenced among others by previous WIPO UDRP decisions.

The only difference between the disputed domain name and the Complainants’ ELITE trademark is the addition of the generic word “model” and the country code top level domain “.bz”. The phrase “model” is descriptive and does not serve to distinguish the disputed domain name from the Complainants’ mark. Previous UDRP cases have shown that simply adding a common or generic term to a notorious mark is not sufficient to give the disputed domain name an individual meaning, nor is it enough to prevent the overall impression that the disputed domain name has some sort of connection with the Complainant.

The Respondent is not using the disputed domain name for any bona fide offering of goods or services. First, the disputed domain name points to an infringing website which gravely prejudices and damages the Complainants’ good reputation. In addition, the Complainants have never assigned, licensed, sold or transferred any rights in their ELITE trademarks to the Respondent, and the Respondent has never been and is not currently known by the disputed domain name. The Respondent thus has no rights or legitimate interests in the disputed domain name.

The disputed domain name points to a website which could be mistakenly attributed to the Complainants. Furthermore, the contents of the website infringe on the Complainants’ rights and gravely prejudice the Complainants by associating their marks to objectionable and possibly illegal activities; this is a further indication of the Respondent’s bad faith. Moreover, the registration, without authorization, of a domain name that comprises a famous trademark is in itself evidence of bad faith.

B. Respondent

The Respondent did not reply to the Complainants’ contentions.

6. Discussion and Findings

A. Identical or Confusingly Similar

The disputed domain name consists of the Complainants’ trademark ELITE with the addition of a generic term “model” (which relates to the field in which the Complainants operate) and the suffix “.bz”, the ccTLD of Belize.

The Complainants’ trademark ELITE is a well-known trademark. This follows from the evidence submitted by the Complainants, and has also been stated in several previous panel decisions under the Policy (cf. e.g. Elite Model Management Corporation v. Wesley Perkins, WIPO Case No. D2006-0297; Elite Licensing Company SA, and Elite Model Management v. Ruben Arcas Paterna, WIPO Case No. D2010-0653).

Moreover, a WIPO case search with the term “elite” for complainants shows that the Complainants have initiated over 20 WIPO UDRP proceedings to date involving several dozen domain names.

The Panel finds that this case is no different than the others in that the addition of a generic word (here: “model”) to the well-known mark ELITE does not alter the fact that the disputed domain name is confusingly similar to the mark.

The Complainants have thus fulfilled the requirements of paragraph 4(a)(i) of the Policy.

B. Rights or Legitimate Interests

Under the circumstances of this case, there are no indications before the Panel of any rights or legitimate interests of the Respondent in respect of the disputed domain name.

The Complainants, having made a prima facie case which remains unrebutted, have fulfilled the requirements of paragraph 4(a)(ii) of the Policy.

C. Registered and Used in Bad Faith

The disputed domain name is connected to a website promoting escort services.

It is evident that the Respondent’s only purpose in registering the disputed domain name was to divert traffic away from the Complainants’ websites to its own website for commercial gain, by promoting and selling its escort services. Such activity falls squarely within the terms of paragraph 4(b)(iv) of the Policy.

It may also be concluded that the Respondent knew of the existence of the Complainants’ trademark and its significance in Switzerland (where the Respondent is domiciled) when the disputed domain name was registered.

Under the circumstances, the Panel finds that the Respondent’s conduct constitutes bad faith registration and use, thus fulfilling paragraph 4(a)(iii) of the Policy.

7. Decision

For all the foregoing reasons, in accordance with paragraphs 4(i) of the Policy and 15 of the Rules, the Panel orders that the domain name <elitemodel.bz> be transferred to the Complainant, Elite Licensing Company SA.

Tobias Zuberbühler
Sole Panelist
Dated: October 4, 2010

 

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