WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center
ADMINISTRATIVE PANEL DECISION
Fédération Française de Tennis (FFT) v. Versio, VERSIO.NL Domein Registratie
Case No. D2013-2021
1. The Parties
The Complainant is Fédération Française de Tennis (FFT) of Paris, France, represented by Nameshield, France.
The Respondent is Versio, VERSIO.NL Domein Registratie of Friesland, Netherlands.
2. The Domain Name and Registrar
The disputed domain name <frenchopen2014.com> is registered with Mijn InternetOplossing B.V. (the “Registrar”).
3. Procedural History
The Complaint was filed with the WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center (the “Center”) on November 26, 2013. On November 26, 2013, the Center transmitted by email to the Registrar a request for registrar verification in connection with the disputed domain name. On November 29, 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.
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 December 12, 2013. In accordance with the Rules, paragraph 5(a), the due date for Response was January 1, 2014. The Respondent did not submit any response. Accordingly, the Center notified the Respondent’s default on January 3, 2014. The Center received two informal email communications from the Respondent on January 3, 2014.
The Center appointed Edoardo Fano as the sole panelist in this matter on January 9, 2014. 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.
The Panel has not received any requests from the Complainant or the Respondent regarding further submissions, waivers or extensions of deadlines, and the Panel has not found it necessary to request any further information from the Parties.
Having reviewed the communication records in the case file provided by the Center, the Panel finds that the Center has discharged its responsibility under the Rules, paragraph 2(a), “to employ reasonably available means calculated to achieve actual notice to Respondent”. Therefore, the Panel shall issue its Decision based upon the Complaint, the Policy, the Rules and the Supplemental Rules and without the benefit of a response from the Respondent.
The language of the proceeding is English, being the language of the Registration Agreement as per paragraph 11(a) of the Rules.
4. Factual Background
The Complainant is Fédération Française de Tennis (FFT), founded in 1920 with the mission of developing tennis in France: from 1925 FFT is the organizer of the most important tennis tournament on clay, Roland Garros, also known as French Open since 1968. The Complainant owns the International Trademark Registration No. 538.170 for FRENCH OPEN, registered in 1989, as well as several Internet domain names for FRENCH OPEN, namely <frenchopen.com>, <frenchopen.fr>, <frenchopen.org>, <frenchopen.net>, <frenchopen.eu>, <frenchopen.mobi>.
The Complainant provided evidence in support of the above.
The disputed domain name <frenchopen2014.com> was registered on December 10, 2012. At the time of filing of the Complaint, the disputed domain name pointed to a webpage focused on the Complaint’s tennis tournament and with a link for the sale of the relevant tickets.
5. Parties’ Contentions
The Complainant states that the disputed domain name <frenchopen2014.com> is confusingly similar to its trademark FRENCH OPEN, being a combination of the number “2014” with the Complainant’s trademark FRENCH OPEN.
Moreover, the Complainant affirms that the Respondent has no rights or legitimate interests in respect of the disputed domain name since it has not been authorised by the Complainant to reserve the disputed domain name or to register and/or use its trademark within the disputed domain name and it is not commonly known by the disputed domain name. The use of the disputed domain name to advertise the sale of tickets for the Complainant’s tennis tournament and to misdirect Internet traffic to the corresponding website is contrary to a bona fide offering of goods or services.
The Complainant submits that the Respondent has registered and is using the disputed domain name in bad faith.
The Complainant asserts that the Respondent is using the disputed domain name for a website in which are sold purportedly the Complainant's original products, namely tickets for the Complainant’s tournament tennis matches, therefore attempting to attract consumers for commercial gain by creating a likelihood of confusion with the Complainant’s mark as to source, sponsorship, affiliation or endorsement.
On two different occasions, when notifying the Complaint and the Commencement of the Administrative Proceeding on December 12, 2013 and when notifying the Respondent Default on January 3, 2014, the Center received an identical automatic reply in Dutch from one of the email addresses linked to the Respondent, which stated:
“Dear Sir , Dear Madame,
Thank you for your email, this email has well been received by Versio. Your reference number will be 347118, please use this same reference for each and every future correspondence.
During working days we will reply at your email within the next 24 hours, in case you send an email during our office hours then we will already be able to reply back to your query within a few hours. During week end or Bank Holiday periods we will require some more time to reply to your emails
Regards Versio BV”
After the relevant due date, from another email address supposedly linked to the Respondent, two different persons informed the Center in English first that the website at the disputed domain name was removed and put offline and then that the disputed domain name was no longer in their possession.
The Respondent has made no further formal substantive reply to the Complainant’s contentions and has not filed a formal Response within the relevant due date.
A respondent is not obliged to participate in a proceeding under the Policy, but if it fails to do so, reasonable facts asserted by a complainant may be taken as true, and appropriate inferences by the panel, in accordance with paragraph 14(b) of the Rules, may be drawn (see also Reuters Limited v. Global Net 2000, Inc, WIPO Case No. D2000-0441; Microsoft Corporation v. Freak Films Oy, WIPO Case No. D2003-0109; SSL INTERNATIONAL PLC v. MARK FREEMAN, WIPO Case No. D2000-1080; ALTAVISTA COMPANY v. GRANDTOTAL FINANCES LIMITED et. al., WIPO Case No. D2000-0848; Confédération Nationale du Crédit Mutuel, Caisse Fédérale du Crédit Mutuel Nord Europe v. Marketing Total S.A., WIPO Case No. D2007-0288).
6. Discussion and Findings
Paragraph 4(a) of the Policy lists three elements, which the Complainant must satisfy in order to succeed:
(i) the disputed domain name is identical or confusingly similar to a trademark or service mark in which the Complainant has rights; and
(ii) the Respondent has no rights or legitimate interests in respect of the disputed domain name; and
(iii) the disputed domain name has been registered and is being used in bad faith.
A. Identical or Confusingly Similar
The Panel finds that the Complainant is the owner of the trademark FRENCH OPEN both by registration and acquired reputation and that the disputed domain name <frenchopen2014.com> is confusingly similar to the trademark FRENCH OPEN.
Regarding the addition of the number “2014”, referring to the current year edition of the Complaint’s tennis tournament, the Panel notes that it is now well established that the addition of generic terms or numbers to a domain name does not necessarily distinguish the domain name from a trademark (see, e.g., Aventis Pharma SA., Aventis Pharma Deutschland GmbH v. Jonathan Valicenti, WIPO Case No. D2005-0037; Red Bull GmbH v. Chai Larbthanasub, WIPO Case No. D2003-0709; and America Online, Inc. v. Dolphin@Heart, WIPO Case No. D2000-0713). The addition of the number “2014” does not therefore prevent the disputed domain name from being confusingly similar to the Complainant’s trademark.
It is also well accepted that a generic Top-Level Domain (“gTLD”) suffix, in this case “.com”, may be ignored when assessing the similarity between a trademark and a domain name (see, e.g., VAT Holding AG v Vat.com, WIPO Case No. D2000-0607).
The Panel finds that the Complainant has therefore met its burden of proving that the disputed domain name is confusingly similar to the Complainant’s trademark, pursuant to the Policy, paragraph 4(a)(i).
B. Rights or Legitimate Interests
The Respondent has failed to file a formal Response in accordance with the Rules, paragraph 5.
The Complainant in its Complaint and as set out above has established a prima facie case that the Respondent has no rights or legitimate interests in the disputed domain name. The Complainant asserts that the Respondent is not using the disputed domain name for a legitimate noncommercial or fair use or in connection with a bona fide offering of goods or services.
The prima facie case presented by the Complainant is enough to shift the burden of production to the Respondent to demonstrate that it has rights or legitimate interests in the disputed domain name. However, the Respondent has not presented any evidence of any rights or legitimate interests it may have in the disputed domain name.
Should the products sold on the website at the disputed domain name be genuine products, legitimately acquired by the Respondent, the question that would arise is whether the Respondent would therefore have a legitimate interest in using a domain name that is confusingly similar to the Complainant’s trademark in circumstances that are likely to give rise to initial interest confusion.
According to the majority view in relation to the issue of resellers as summarized in the WIPO Overview of WIPO Panel Views on Selected UDRP Questions, Second Edition (“WIPO Overview 2.0”), paragraph 2.3:
“A reseller or distributor can be making a bona fide offering of goods and services and thus have a legitimate interest in the domain name if the use meets certain requirements. These requirements include the actual offering of goods and services at issue, the use of the site to sell only the trademarked goods and the site’s accurately and prominently disclosing the registrant’s relationship with the trademark holder. The respondent must also not try to corner the market in domain names that reflect the trademark.”
This summary is mainly based on the panel decision Oki Data Americas, Inc. v. ASD, Inc., WIPO Case No. D2001-0903.
In the present case, the Panel is of the opinion that while someone may be legally entitled to offer for sale/resale a trademark owner’s genuine trademarked products, namely tickets in the present case, that does not necessarily extend to the right to do so through a domain name that is virtually identical to that trademark owner’s trademark.
In this Panel’s view, when there is no authorization, and where the Respondent has no relevant trademark rights, it is very difficult for the Respondent to establish rights or legitimate interests in a virtually identical disputed domain name. Furthermore, the Respondent is not accurately and prominently disclosing its relationship with the Complainant in this case (see paragraph 2.3 of the WIPO Overview 2.0).
The Panel therefore finds that paragraph 4(a)(ii) of the Policy, has been satisfied.
C. Registered and Used in Bad Faith
Paragraph 4(b) of the Policy provides that “for the purposes of paragraph 4(a)(iii) of the Policy, the following circumstances, in particular but without limitation, if found by the Panel to be present, shall be evidence of the registration and use of a domain name in bad faith:
(i) circumstances indicating that [the respondent has] registered or has acquired the domain name primarily for the purpose of selling, renting, or otherwise transferring the domain name registration to the complainant who is the owner of the trademark or service mark or to a competitor of that the complainant, for valuable consideration in excess of its documented out of pocket costs directly related to the domain name; or
(ii) that [the respondent has] registered the domain name in order to prevent the owner of the trademark or service mark from reflecting the mark in a corresponding domain name, provided that [the respondent has] engaged in a pattern of such conduct; or
(iii) that [the respondent has] registered the domain name primarily for the purpose of disrupting the business of a competitor; or
(iv) that by using the domain name, [the respondent has] intentionally attempted to attract, for commercial gain, Internet users to [the respondent’s] web site 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] web site or location.”
As regards to the registration in bad faith of the disputed domain name, the reputation of the Complainant’s trademark FRENCH OPEN in the field of sport is clearly established and the Panel finds that the Respondent clearly knew that the disputed domain name <frenchopen2014.com> was confusingly similar to the Complainant’s trademark. This is also confirmed by the content of the relevant website, focused on the Complainant’s tennis tournament.
In fact, the disputed domain name was also used in bad faith since at the relevant website, the Respondent was offering tickets for the Complainant’s tennis tournament, taking advantage from the initial interest confusion created by a domain name that is virtually identical to the Complainant’s trademark.
The above suggests to the Panel that the Respondent intentionally registered and is using the disputed domain name in order to attract, for commercial gain, Internet users to its website in accordance with paragraph 4(b)(iv) of the Policy.
The Panel finds that the Complainant has presented evidence to satisfy its burden of proof with respect to the issue of whether the Respondent has registered and is using the disputed domain name in bad faith.
The Panel therefore finds that paragraph 4(a)(iii) of the Policy has been satisfied.
For all 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 <frenchopen2014.com> be transferred to the Complainant.
Date: January 20, 2014