WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center

ADMINISTRATIVE PANEL DECISION

Audi AG v. John Smith

Case No. D2016-0184

1. The Parties

The Complainant is Audi AG of Ingolstadt, Germany, represented by HK2 Rechtsanwälte, Germany.

The Respondent is John Smith of Washington DC, United States of America.

2. The Domain Name and Registrar

The disputed domain name <audi-vn.com> is registered with GoDaddy.com, LLC (the “Registrar”).

3. Procedural History

The Complaint was filed with the WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center (the “Center”) on January 29, 2016. On January 29, 2016, the Center transmitted by email to the Registrar a request for registrar verification in connection with the disputed domain name. On January 30, 2016, 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 and 4, the Center formally notified the Respondent of the Complaint, and the proceedings commenced on February 2, 2016. In accordance with the Rules, paragraph 5, the due date for Response was February 22, 2016. The Respondent did not submit any response. Accordingly, the Center notified the Respondent’s default on February 23, 2016.

The Center appointed Clive Duncan Thorne as the sole panelist in this matter on March 9, 2016. 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 one of the biggest car manufacturers in the world. The worldwide deliveries of Audi cars reached approximately 1,741,127 cars in 2014. The Complainant sells various kinds of cars from compact cars like the A1 to sports cars like the Audi R8 or SUVs like the Q7 which are produced globally e.g., in Germany, India or China. At Annex 4 to the Complaint is a summary “Audi at a Glance” which sets out details of the Complainant’s vehicles and sales.

The Complainant owns numerous national and international trademark registrations for the mark AUDI. These are summarised in a schedule within the Complaint. In two earlier WIPO UDRP decisions; Audi AG v. Mike Gillespie, Gillespie Auto Group, WIPO Case No. D2007-1850, it was held that the mark “Audi” is distinctive and famous. In Volkswagen AG v. Zigoumis Constantine, WIPO Case No. D2008-0755, the panel found that the mark “Audi” had an “extremely strong reputation”.

The Complainant relies upon Interbrand’s top Global Brands 2015 which ranked the mark Audi 44 amongst the Global 100 top brands and estimated its value at about USD10,328 million.

The Complainant promotes its trademarks worldwide with innovative websites, TV spots and as a sponsor of sporting events. The Complainant and its affiliated companies or authorized dealers run various websites using domain names which include the AUDI trademark such as <audi.de>, <audi.com>, <audi.us>, <audi.cn>, <myaudi.de>, <audi.ch>, <audi.it>, <audi-shop.de> and <audi.nl>.

The Complainant relies upon the website of its Viet Namese branch which is published under the domain name <audi.vn>, an extract from which is set out in the Complaint.

The disputed domain name was registered on October 7, 2015. At the time of the Complaint the website at the disputed domain name was active and imitated the look and feel of the Complainant’s official site.

The Respondent did not reply to the Complaint and therefore the Panel finds the evidence adduced by the Complainant to be true and proceeds to determine this complaint on the basis of the Complainant’s evidence alone.

5. Parties’ Contentions

A. Complainant

The Complainant submits:-

1. That the trademark AUDI is distinctive and famous throughout the world.

2. That the disputed domain name is confusingly similar to the trademark AUDI.

3. The Respondent has no rights or legitimate interests in respect of the disputed domain name. In particular there is no bona fide offering of goods or services by the Respondent using the disputed domain name.

4. The Respondent is not commonly known by the disputed domain name.

5. The disputed domain name was registered and is being used in bad faith. The Respondent is impersonating the Complainant by using its trademarks.

6. The Respondent is intentionally attempting to attract for commercial gain Internet users to the Respondent’s website by creating a likelihood of confusion with the Complainant’s mark.

7. The Respondent has registered the disputed domain name primarily for the purpose of disrupting the business of a competitor.

B. Respondent

The Respondent did not reply to the Complainant’s contentions.

6. Discussion and Findings

A. Identical or Confusingly Similar

For the reasons set out above, the Panel finds that the Complainant has rights in the registered trademark AUDI.

The Panel also finds that the disputed domain name is confusingly similar to the Complainant’s trademarks AUDI. The difference between the trademark AUDI and the disputed domain name is the addition of the descriptive term “.vn” which is the Country Code and the Top Level Domain for Viet Nam.

The Panel finds for the Complainant in respect of this element.

B. Rights or Legitimate Interests

There is no evidence that the Respondent is using the disputed domain name in dispute in connection with a bona fide offering of goods or services. To the contrary, the evidence of the use of the disputed domain name by the Respondent shows that he is attracting Internet users to the website in the belief that it is controlled or endorsed by the Complainant. In particular, the Respondent has published a website that imitates the look and feel of the Complainant’s website design, using the Complainant’s trademarks and names AUDI and uses photographs of the Complainant’s products.

The Complainant points out that the Respondent’s website is similar to the official Audi website for Viet Nam which is accessible under the domain name <audi.vn>. The Complainant sets out fully in the Complaint details and sample screenshots from its own website as well as from the Respondent’s website from which it can be seen that the Respondent has reproduced much of the Complainant’s content from its own website.

There is no evidence that the Respondent is commonly known by the name “Audi”. According to a WhoIs search the registrant of the disputed domain name is “John Smith”. There is no evidence that any person or entity using this name is in any way related to the Complainant’s trademarks.

Accordingly, the Panel finds that the Respondent had no rights or legitimate interests in respect of the domain name in dispute.

C. Registered and Used in Bad Faith

Having considered the evidence of the Complainant’s trademark rights, this Panel finds that the trademark AUDI is distinctive and famous.

The Complainant submits that the registration and use of the disputed domain name for the purposes of impersonation of a trademark owner are well established examples of bad faith registration and use.

The Complainant points out that the Respondent impersonates the Complainant by using the Complainant’s trademarks AUDI, the well-known marketing slogan “Vorsprung durch Technik” and pictures showing cars bearing the Complainant’s “famous” four interlocking ring trademark. The Complainant submits that this by itself constitutes bad faith use and registration.

The Complainant also submits that the Respondent impersonates the Complainant in order to attract Internet users to the website under the disputed domain name for commercial gain. It relies upon the fact that the Respondent’s website includes a contact form and a telephone number possibly leading to the Respondent. As this is the only contact information given on the website it is probable that the Respondent is seeking to make Internet users contact him for the purpose of selling goods relating to the Complainant’s products.

The Complainant also submits that the Respondent has registered the disputed domain name primarily for the purpose of disrupting the business of a competitor as a result of “phishing” activity. It submits that the Respondent is disrupting the Complainant’s business by causing a risk that customers of the Complainant unintentionally disclose their log in data and online credentials for the Complainant’s services to the Respondent. Evidence of this can be seen at the Respondent’s login site as exhibited at Annex 8 of the Complaint. Internet users i.e., customers of the Complainant are thus put at risk by disclosing their online data to an unknown entity.

The Panel, in the absence of any evidence to the contrary accepts the Complainant’s evidence in relation to this element and finds that the disputed domain name was registered and is being used in bad faith by the Respondent.

7. Decision

For all the foregoing reasons and in accordance with paragraphs 4(i) of the Policy and 15 of the Rules, the Panel orders that the disputed domain name <audi-vn.com> be transferred to the Complainant.

Clive Duncan Thorne
Sole Panelist
Date: March 21, 2016