WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center
ADMINISTRATIVE PANEL DECISION
GEA Group Aktiengesellschaft v. Steve Bernard
Case No. D2014-1241
1. The Parties
The Complainant is GEA Group Aktiengesellschaft of Düsseldorf, Germany, represented by Schneiders & Behrendt Rechtsanwälte * Patentanwälte, Germany.
The Respondent is Steve Bernard of United States of America.
2. The Domain Name and Registrar
The disputed domain name <gea-phe.net> (the “Domain Name”) is registered with Melbourne IT Ltd (the “Registrar”).
3. Procedural History
The Complaint was filed with the WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center (the “Center”) on July 18, 2014. On July 18, 2014, the Center transmitted by email to the Registrar a request for registrar verification in connection with the Domain Name. On July 21, 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 July 24, 2014. In accordance with the Rules, paragraph 5(a), the due date for Response was August 13, 2014. The Respondent did not submit any response. Accordingly, the Center notified the Respondent’s default on August 14, 2014.
The Center appointed Gabriela Paiva Hantke as the sole panelist in this matter on August 22, 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 Complainant is a worldwide operating corporation and one of the largest suppliers for the food processing industry and a wide range of process industries. In 2013, the Complainant generated consolidated revenues of more than EUR 4.3 billion and employed about 18,000 people around the world (Annex 5 of the Complaint).
The Complainant is the owner of the GEA trademark worldwide and a list of these trademarks is provided in Annex 6. The earliest of these trademarks date back to 1932. The trademark is registered in countries as the United States and Australia. GEA is an acronym for “Gesellschaft für Entstaubungsanlagen” used by the Complainant since the 1930s.
The Complainant also relies on its rights with respect to its company name GEA which is protected as a company name, and/or unregistered trademark, and/or under a passing-off theory, depending on the relevant jurisdiction.
The element “PHE” is primarily used by the Complainant’s subsidiary “GEA Heat Exchangers / GEA PHE Systems”. The abbreviation “PHE” is an acronym for Plate Heat Exchangers which refers to the product produced and distributed by this company.
The Domain Name was registered on June 30, 2014.
5. Parties’ Contentions
The Complainant is the owner of the GEA trademark worldwide and a list of these trademarks is provided in Annex 6 of the Complaint. The trademark is registered in countries as the United States and Australia. GEA is an acronym for “Gesellschaft für Entstaubungsanlagen” used by the Complainant since the 1930’s.
The Complainant claims that the Domain Name is confusingly similar to the Complainant’s GEA trademark; and to the element PHE used by the Complainant, and that the Respondent has no rights or legitimate interests in the Domain Name; and the Domain Name was registered and is being used in bad faith.
The Complainant relies on its registered trademarks and also on its rights with respect to its company name GEA which is protected as a company name, and/or unregistered trademark, and/or under passing off depending on the relevant jurisdiction. Also relevant is the fact that the element “PHE” is primarily used by the Complainant’s subsidiary “GEA Heat Exchangers / GEA PHE Systems”. The abbreviation “PHE” is an acronym for Plate Heat Exchangers which refers to the product produced and distributed by this company.
The Respondent did not reply to the Complainant’s contentions.
6. Discussion and Findings
A. Identical or Confusingly Similar
The Complainant is the owner of the GEA trademark worldwide, and also uses the element “PHE” in a subsidiary and as an abbreviation for the products as previously explained.
The Domain Name <gea-phe.net> includes the GEA trademark that belongs to, and is registered in many countries in the name of, the Complainant plus the element “PHE” making the Domain Name confusingly similar to the registered trademark. This confusion is increased by the fact that GEA trademark and the “PHE” element are only separated by a hyphen, so they are both visible and easy to mislead the public, which will associate both elements with the Complainant.
In summary the Panel finds that the Domain Name is confusingly similar to the mark owned by the Complainant. Accordingly, the Complainant has therefore satisfied the first element of the Policy.
B. Rights or Legitimate Interests
The Complainant has shown ownership of the GEA trademark, rights over GEA as part of the name of the Complainant, and also has shown use of the element “PHE” in its business activities to the extent that the public identifies the Complainant with both GEA and “PHE.”
In the Panel’s view, the allegations made by the Complainant in the Complaint constitute prima facie evidence that the Respondent does not have rights or legitimate interests in the Domain Name. The Respondent did not file any response and did not seek to demonstrate any rights or legitimate interests in the Domain Name.
In view of the above, the Panel finds that the Respondent does not have any rights or legitimate interests in the Domain Name, and that the Complainant has therefore satisfied the second element of the Policy.
C. Registered and Used in Bad Faith
The Complainant has provided arguments and evidence that demonstrate that the Domain Name was registered and is being used in bad faith. In particular, there are samples of emails sending invitations for quotation of suppliers of the Complainant (Annex 10 of the Complaint), creating the impression, by including the “gea-phe.net” combination, that the sender of the emails was in fact the Complainant. And, moreover, if a supplier would have entered the Domain Name of that email address it would have been referred to the Complainant’s website to which the Domain Name <gea-phe.net> was directed. Thus the supplier would have wrongly believed that the email sent from the Domain Name actually belonged to the Complainant. If the supplier would have delivered the products based on the request made using the Domain Name, the supplier would have forfeited the products without being entitled to payment from the Complainant. This would have caused a financial damage to the supplier(s), and a substantial damage of the reputation of the Complainant.
Given the extent of the Complainant’s activities and trademark recognition and the overall circumstances of the case, the Panel concludes that the Respondent registered and used the Domain Name in bad faith and finds therefore that the Complainant satisfied the third element of the Policy.
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 <gea-phe.net> be transferred to the Complainant.
Gabriela Paiva Hantke
Date: September, 5, 2014