WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center
ADMINISTRATIVE PANEL DECISION
Confédération Nationale du Crédit Mutuel v. Mickael Marie, Benjamin Olivier, Adan Franklin, Graviere Stephanie
Case No. D2014-0005
1. The Parties
The Complainant is Confédération Nationale du Crédit Mutuel of Paris, France, represented by MEYER & Partenaires, France.
The Respondents are Mickael Marie of France; Benjamin Olivier of Italy; Adan Franklin of Italy; and Graviere Stephanie of Italy, hereinafter referred to as the “Respondent”.
2. The Domain Names and Registrar
The disputed domain names <bcreditmutuel.com>, <creditbmutuel.com>, <creditmutuelbq.com> and <mutuelcreditb.com> (the “Domain Names”) are registered with Tucows Inc. (the “Registrar”).
3. Procedural History
The Complaint was filed with the WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center (the “Center”) on January 3, 2014. On January 3, 2014, the Center transmitted by email to the Registrar a request for registrar verification in connection with the disputed domain names. On January 3, 2014, 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 January 13, 2014. In accordance with the Rules, paragraph 5(a), the due date for Response was February 2, 2014. On January 28, 2014, the Center received an email communication from an individual, claiming identity theft. The Respondent did not submit any response. Accordingly, the Center notified the Respondent’s default on February 3, 2014.
The Center appointed Willem J. H. Leppink as the sole panelist in this matter on February 11, 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.
4. Factual Background
The following facts are undisputed.
The Complainant, Confédération Nationale du Crédit Mutuel, is the central body for the Crédit Mutuel Banking Group. Crédit Mutuel is a famous French banking and insurance service group. Crédit Mutuel operates a website at the address of “www.creditmutuel.com”.
The Complainant owns many registrations of or including the trademark CREDIT MUTUEL (“Trademark”), such as an International semi-figurative trademark with registration number 1646012, a Community figurative trademark with registration number 005146162, and French semi-figurative trademarks with registration numbers 1475940 and 1646012
The domain name <bcreditmutuel.com> was registered on May 22, 2013.
The domain name <creditbmutuel.com> was registered on June 17, 2013.
The domain name <creditmutuelbq.com> was registered on June 19, 2013.
The domain name <mutuelcreditb.com> was registered on June 13, 2013.
5. Parties’ Contentions
Insofar as relevant, the Complainant contends the following.
First of all, the Complainant requests that the Panel consolidate the four requests regarding the Domain Names <bcreditmutuel.com>, <creditbmutuel.com>, <creditmutuelbq.com> and <mutuelcreditb.com>.
The Domain Names are confusingly similar to the Trademark. The Complainant asserts that the generic Top-Level Domain (gTLD) “.com” should not be taken into account while comparing the Domain Names with a claimed trademark, as it is a technical and necessary part of a domain name with no distinguishing feature nor legal significance.
The Trademark is entirely reproduced in the Domain Names <bcreditmutuel.com>, <creditbmutuel.com> and <mutuelcreditb.com>. The minor sole difference between these latter and the Trademark, consisting in the adjunction of the letter “B”, does not prevent these Domain Names from being confusingly similar to the Trademark. This is a typical case of typosquatting.
The Trademark is also entirely reproduced in the domain name <creditmutuelbq.com>. This latter consists in the combination of the Trademark with the letters “BQ”, which is the abbreviation of the French term “banque”. The addition of the letter “BQ” to the Trademark worsens the risk of confusion, given that the Group ”Crédit Mutuel ”, embedded in France, exercises the main part of its banking and financial activities in France.
The Complainant adds that the Respondent has no rights or legitimate interests in respect of the Domain Names. The Respondent is not related in any way to the Complainant’s business. The Complainant has granted no license or authorization to the Respondent to make any use or apply for registration of the Domain Names.
According to the Complainant, in view of the reputation and the well-known Trademark in the field of banking and financial services, it is difficult to imagine that the Respondent could have ignored it at the time it applied for the very confusingly similar Domain Names.
The Respondent indicates in the WhoIs database for <bcreditmutuel.com> that the registrant organization is “BCREDITMUTUEL”, which attests its knowledge of the Complainant’s Trademark. Furthermore, the fraudulent registrations of the Respondent can also be detected in the choice of adding the letters “B” and “BQ”. The Respondent indeed uses this practice in order to redirect the Internet users, who could make misspellings, to its website, which is called “typosquatting”.
Therefore, the Respondent’s real purpose definitely consists in taking advantage from the misspellings of the Internet users whose first intention may be to enter the domain name of the Complainant <creditmutuel.com>.
Moreover, it is impossible that the Respondent was not aware of the existence of “Crédit Mutuel” when it registered the Domain Names, given that it demonstrates that it knows how to use common French words, such as “rue”, “avenue”, “ormes”, “des” and French references such as “Neuilly”, “Evry”, “Paris” and “FR”. This knowledge of French language makes even more plausible its knowledge of the Complainant and of its widely known trademark on the French territory.
The Complainant considers that the Respondent’s use of the Domain Names constitutes bad faith use. The Domain Names are currently inactive. It seems obvious that the passive holding by the Respondent must be considered as bad faith.
Consequently, the Complainant states that the Respondent should be considered to have registered and to be using the Domain Names in bad faith.
For all of the above reasons, the Complainant requests the transfer of the Domain Names.
The Respondent did not reply to the Complainant’s contentions.
However, an individual listed as the registrant for one of the Domain Names replied and claimed that she was a victim of identity theft.
6. Discussion and Findings
Concerning the consolidation of the disputes, according to paragraphs 3(c) and 10(e) of the Rules and previous UDRP decisions, the Panel considers that many factors demonstrate that the Domain Names are subject to common control under a single identity, such as:
- the email addresses provided in the WhoIs database are the same or nearly identical for the Domain Names;
- the Registrar of the Domain Names is the same;
- the domain name server information is identical;
- the addresses of the registrants are inaccurate and incoherent;
- the disputed domain names <creditbmutuel.com>, <creditmutuelbq.com> and <mutuelcreditb.com> resolve to identical “under maintenance” pages; and
- the Domain Names were all registered in May and June 2013.
In light of this, the Panel finds that the consolidation is procedurally efficient.
Pursuant to paragraph 4(a) of the Policy, the Complainant must prove each of the following three elements:
(i) the Domain Names registered by the Respondent are 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 Domain Names; and
(iii) the Domain Names registered by the Respondent have been registered and are being used in bad faith.
A. Identical or Confusingly Similar
The Domain Names incorporate the Trademark in its entirety; the only difference is the mere adjunction of the letters “B” and “BQ”.
In Canadian Tire Corporation Limited v. Swallowlane Holdings Ltd., WIPO Case No. D2009-0828, the panel found that the mere addition of one letter can be defined as a case of “typosquatting”, namely a conduct that aims at reaching Internet users that would misspell the name of a certain domain name […]. If it was not for the adjunction of the letter “t”, the domain name would be identical to the Complainant’s trademark”.
The Panel also takes into account that Internet users considering the Domain Names without awareness of its content may believe that the Domain Names are in some way connected and associated with the Complainant: this situation is known as “initial interest confusion” (see Covance, Inc. and Covance Laboratories Ltd v. The Covance Campaign, WIPO Case No. D2004-0206; CBS Broadcasting Inc., f/k/a CBS Inc. v. Nabil Z. aghloul, WIPO Case No. D2004-0988). This is even enhanced by the fact that the letters “B” or “BQ” could refer to the “banque” (being the French word for bank).
Finally, with regards to the suffixes “.com” (which indicates that the Domain Names are registered in the “.com” gTLD), as it was established in many previous UDRP decisions (see A.P. Møller v. Web Society, WIPO Case No. D2000-0135; Rollerblade, Inc. v. Chris McCrady, WIPO Case No. D2000-0429; Arab Bank for Investment And Foreign Trade (ARBIFT) v. Mr. Kenn Wagenheim / firstname.lastname@example.org, WIPO Case No. D2000-1400; Delikomat Betriebsverpflegung Gesellschaft m.b.H. v. Alexander Lehner, WIPO Case No. D2001-1447; and Crédit Industriel et Commercial SA v. Name Privacy, WIPO Case No. D2005-0457), it does not generally affect the analysis under the first element of the Policy for the purpose of determining whether a domain name is identical or confusingly similar; indeed, the suffix is a necessary component of the domain name and does not give any distinctiveness.
Thus, the Panel finds that the Domain Names are confusingly similar to the Trademark.
For all the foregoing reasons, the Panel finds that the Complainant has met its burden under paragraph 4(a)(i) of the Policy.
B. Rights or Legitimate Interests
The Respondent did not reply to the Complainant’s contentions. For that reason, the Panel has taken careful note of the factual assertions that have been made and supported by evidence by the Complainant.
In particular, the Respondent has failed to offer the Panel any of the types of evidence set forth in paragraph 4(c) of the Policy from which the Panel might conclude that the Respondent has rights or legitimate interests in the Domain Names, such as:
(i) use or preparation to use the Domain Names or a name corresponding to the Domain Names in connection with a bona fide offering of goods or services prior to notice of the dispute; or
(ii) being commonly known by the Domain Names (as an individual, business or other organization) even if the Respondent has not acquired any trademark or service mark rights; or
(iii) making legitimate noncommercial or fair use of the Domain Names, without intent for commercial gain to misleadingly divert consumers or to tarnish the trademark or service mark at issue.
There is no evidence in the case file that the Respondent has any rights or legitimate interests in the Domain Names.
The Respondent does not seem to be affiliated with the Complainant in any way. There is no evidence that “Crédit Mutuel” is one of the Respondent’s names or that the Respondent is commonly known as “Credit Mutuel”. The mere fact that the Respondent used the term “bcredimutuel” as the name of the registrant listed in the WhoIs details for one of the Domain Names is not sufficient to assume that the Respondent has a right or a legitimate interest to reflect this name in one of the Domain Names.
There is also no evidence that Respondent is, or has ever been, a licensee of franchisee of the Complainant or that the Respondent has ever asked, or has ever been permitted in any way by the Complainant to register or use the Trademark, or to apply for or use any domain name incorporating any of the trademarks.
The Domain Names were all registered in May and June 2013, after the Complainant’s registration of its Trademark. Given the notoriety of the Trademark, the Respondent, in the view of the Panel, cannot claim to have been using the terms “credit mutuel”, without being aware of the Complainant’s rights to it and chose these terms to exploit the Complainant’s Trademark. To the Panel, this proves that the Respondent’s interests cannot have been legitimate.
The Panel also finds that the Respondent is not using the Domain Names in connection with a bona fide offering of goods or services.
Finally, given the circumstance of this case, the Panel finds that the Respondent’s lack of rights or legitimate interests in the Domain Names may further be inferred by the fact that no response was filed by the Respondent. An individual listed as the registrant for one of the Domain Names replied, but claimed that she was a victim of identity theft. According to previous UDRP decisions “non-response is indicative of a lack of interests inconsistent with an attitude of ownership and a belief in the lawfulness of one’s own rights” (see Pomellato S.p.A. v. Richard Tonetti, WIPO Case No. D2000-0493 and GA Modefine S.A. and Giorgio Armani v. Yoon-Min Yang, WIPO Case No. D2005-0090).
Therefore, based on the evidence, the Panel is satisfied that the second element of the Policy is met.
C. Registered and Used in Bad Faith
The Panel finds that the Domain Names were registered and are being used in bad faith.
In light of the evidence filed by the Complainant and the absence of a reply, the Panel considers that the Complainant’s trademarks and activities are well-known throughout the world. Accordingly, in the Panel’s view, the Respondent must have been aware of the Complainant’s existence and rights when it registered the Domain Names. A further indication that the Respondent must have been aware of the existence of “Crédit Mutuel” when the Respondent registered the Domain Names is that it used common French words in the WhoIs information.
The Domain Names are currently inactive. Passive holding of a domain name can in the appropriate circumstances also be considered as of bad faith use.
Although the lack of a reply by the Respondent as such cannot by itself lead to the conclusion that there is use in bad faith, the cumulative circumstances as outlined in the decision are sufficient for the Panel to find that the passive holding by the Respondent is in bad faith.
In light of the above circumstances, the Panel is satisfied that the third element of the Policy is met and that the Domain Names were registered and are being used 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 Domain Names, <bcreditmutuel.com>, <creditbmutuel.com>, <creditmutuelbq.com> and <mutuelcreditb.com> be transferred to the Complainant.
Willem J. H. Leppink
Date: February 25, 2014