WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center
ADMINISTRATIVE PANEL DECISION
Inter-Continental Hotels Corporation v. lin qing feng
Case No. D2013-1639
1. The Parties
The 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.
The Respondent is lin qing feng of Guangzhou, Guangdong, China.
2. The Domain Name and Registrar
The disputed domain name <sz-intercontinental.com> is registered with Guangdong JinWanBang Technology Investment Co., Ltd. (the “Registrar”).
3. Procedural History
The Complaint was filed with the WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center (the “Center”) on September 18, 2013. On September 18, 2013, the Center transmitted by email to the Registrar a request for registrar verification in connection with the disputed domain name. On September 23, 2013, the Registrar transmitted by email to the Center its verification response confirming that the Respondent is listed as the registrant and providing the contact details. On September 25, 2013, the Center transmitted an email to the parties in both Chinese and English language regarding the language of the proceeding. On September 25, 2013, the Complainant confirmed its request that English be the language of the proceeding. The Respondent did not comment on the language of the proceeding by the specified due date.
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 proceeding commenced on October 2, 2013. In accordance with the Rules, paragraph 5(a), the due date for Response was October 22, 2013. The Respondent did not submit any response. Accordingly, the Center notified the Respondent’s default on October 23, 2013.
The Center appointed Sebastian M.W. Hughes as the sole panelist in this matter on November 4, 2013. 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 a company incorporated in the state of Delaware in the United States of America and the owner of numerous international and national registrations for the trade mark INTERCONTINENTAL (the “Trade Mark”).
The Respondent is an individual apparently with an address in China.
C. The Disputed Domain Name
The disputed domain name was registered on January 16, 2013.
5. Parties’ Contentions
The Complainant made the following submissions in the Complaint.
The Complainant was founded in 1948 and currently operates 170 hotels under the Trade Mark worldwide, including a hotel in Shenzhen, China.
The disputed domain name is confusingly similar to the Trade Mark. It contains the Trade Mark in its entirety together with the letters “sz”, an abbreviation for Shenzhen.
The Respondent has no rights or legitimate interests in the disputed domain name. It has been used in respect of a website which features the Trade Mark and falsely appears to be the official website for, or otherwise affiliated with, the Complainant’s InterContinental hotel in Shenzhen (the “Website”). The Complainant has received complaints from consumers who have attempted to make reservations for the Complainant’s hotel at the Website.
The use of the disputed domain name by the Respondent in this manner amounts to registration and use in bad faith.
The Respondent did not reply to the Complainant’s contentions.
6. Discussion and Findings
6.1 Language of the Proceeding
The language of the registration agreement for the disputed domain name is Chinese.
Pursuant to the Rules, paragraph 11, in the absence of an agreement between the parties, or unless specified otherwise in the registration agreement, the language of the administrative proceeding shall be the language of the registration agreement. No agreement has been entered into between the Complainant and the Respondent to the effect that the language of the proceeding should be English.
Paragraph 11(a) of the Rules allows the Panel to determine the language of the proceeding having regard to all the circumstances. In particular, it is established practice to take paragraphs 10(b) and (c) of the Rules into consideration for the purpose of determining the language of the proceeding. In other words, it is important to ensure fairness to the parties and the maintenance of an inexpensive and expeditious avenue for resolving domain name disputes. Language requirements should not lead to undue burdens being placed on the parties and undue delay to the proceeding (Whirlpool Corporation, Whirlpool Properties, Inc. v. Hui’erpu (HK) Electrical Appliance Co. Ltd., WIPO Case No. D2008-0293; Solvay S.A. v. Hyun-Jun Shin, WIPO Case No. D2006-0593).
The Complainant has requested that English be the language of the proceeding for the following reasons:
(1) The disputed domain name contains Latin characters and the English language Trade Mark;
(2) The Respondent was also the respondent in Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide, Inc., Worldwide Franchise Systems, Inc., The Sheraton, LLC, Westin Hotel Management, L.P. v. Zeng Zheng, Lin Qing Feng, WIPO Case No. D2013-0840, a case in which the panelist determined that English should be the language of the proceeding based upon evidence of the respondent’s proficiency in the English language, the respondent having communicated with the complainant’s legal representatives in English.
The Respondent did not file a Response and did not file any submissions with respect to the language of the proceeding.
In exercising its discretion to use a language other than that of the registration agreement, the Panel has to exercise such discretion judicially in the spirit of fairness and justice to both parties, taking into account all relevant circumstances of the case, including matters such as the parties’ ability to understand and use the proposed language, time and costs (Groupe Auchan v. xmxzl, WIPO Case No. DCC2006-0004; Finter Bank Zurich v. Shumin Peng, WIPO Case No. D2006-0432).
The Panel finds that sufficient evidence has been adduced by the Complainant to suggest the likely possibility that the Respondent is conversant in the English language (Finter Bank Zurich v. Shumin Peng, supra). The Panel is also mindful of the need to ensure the proceeding is conducted in a timely and cost effective manner.
In all the circumstances, the Panel therefore finds it is not foreseeable that the Respondent would be prejudiced, should English be adopted as the language of the proceeding.
Having considered all the matters above, the Panel determines under paragraph 11(a) of the Rules that the language of the proceeding shall be English.
6.2 Substantive Elements of the Policy
The Complainant must prove each of the three elements in paragraph 4(a) of the Policy in order to prevail.
A. Identical or Confusingly Similar
The Panel finds that the Complainant has rights in the Trade Mark acquired through use and registration which predate the date of registration of the disputed domain name by several decades.
UDRP panels have consistently held that domain names are identical or confusingly similar to a trade mark for purposes of the Policy “when the domain name includes the trademark, or a confusingly similar approximation, regardless of the other terms in the domain name” (see Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. v. Richard MacLeod d/b/a For Sale, WIPO Case No. D2000-0662).
The disputed domain name comprises the Trade Mark in its entirety together with the commonly-used acronym for Shenzhen, which does not serve to distinguish the disputed domain name from the Trade Mark in any significant way.
The Panel therefore finds that the disputed domain name is confusingly similar to the Trade Mark and holds that the Complaint fulfills the first condition of paragraph 4(a) of the Policy.
B. Rights or Legitimate Interests
Paragraph 4(c) of the Policy provides a list of non-exhaustive circumstances any of which is sufficient to demonstrate that the Respondent has rights or legitimate interests in the disputed domain name: (i) before any notice to the Respondent of the dispute, the Respondent’s use of, or demonstrable preparations to use, the disputed domain name or a name corresponding to the disputed domain name in connection with a bona fide offering of goods or services; or
(ii) the Respondent (as an individual, business, or other organization) has been commonly known by the disputed domain name even if the Respondent has acquired no trade mark or service mark rights; or
(iii) the Respondent is making a legitimate noncommercial or fair use of the disputed domain name, without intent for commercial gain to misleadingly divert consumers or to tarnish the trade mark or service mark at issue.
There is no evidence that the Complainant has authorised, licensed, or permitted the Respondent to register or use the disputed domain name or to use the Trade Mark. The Complainant has prior rights in the Trade Mark which precede the Respondent’s registration of the disputed domain name by several decades. The Panel finds on the record that there is therefore a prima facie case that the Respondent has no rights or legitimate interests in the disputed domain name, and the burden is thus on the Respondent to produce evidence to rebut this presumption (see Do The Hustle, LLC v. Tropic Web, WIPO Case No. D2000-0624; and Croatia Airlines d.d. v. Modern Empire Internet Ltd., WIPO Case No. D2003-0455).
The Respondent has failed to show that it has acquired any trade mark rights in respect of the disputed domain name or that the disputed domain name has been used in connection with a bona fide offering of goods or services. To the contrary, the evidence suggests the disputed domain name has been used in respect of the Website, which makes unauthorised use of the Trade Mark and has been set up to falsely come across as an official or authorised website of the Complainant.
There has been no evidence adduced to show that the Respondent has been commonly known by the disputed domain name.
There has been no evidence adduced to show that the Respondent is making a legitimate noncommercial or fair use of the disputed domain name.
The Panel finds that the Respondent has failed to produce any evidence to establish rights or legitimate interests in the disputed domain name. The Panel therefore finds that the Complaint fulfils the second condition of paragraph 4(a) of the Policy.
C. Registered and Used in Bad Faith
Pursuant to paragraph 4(b)(iv) of the Policy, the following conduct amounts to registration and use in bad faith on the part of the Respondent:
By using the disputed domain name, the Respondent has intentionally attempted to attract, for commercial gain, Internet users to the Respondent’s 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 the Respondent’s website or location.
The Respondent has been using the disputed domain name in order to pass off the Website as a website of or otherwise authorised or approved by the Complainant. This is clear evidence of bad faith. The Panel therefore finds, in all the circumstances, the requisite element of bad faith has been satisfied, under paragraph 4(b)(iv) of the Policy.
For all the foregoing reasons, the Panel concludes that the disputed domain name has been registered and is being used in bad faith. Accordingly the third condition of paragraph 4(a) of the Policy has been fulfilled.
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 <sz-intercontinental.com> be transferred to the Complainant.
Sebastian M.W. Hughes
Dated: November 18, 2013