WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center
ADMINISTRATIVE PANEL DECISION
Credit Agricole S.A. v. Diego Giovanni Ferrero
Case No. D2016-0467
1. The Parties
1.1 The Complainant is Credit Agricole S.A. of Montrouge Cedex, France, represented by Nameshield, France.
1.2 The Respondent is Diego Giovanni Ferrero of Los Angeles, California, United States of America.
2. The Domain Name and Registrar
2.1 The disputed domain name <ssl-creditagricole.com> (the “Domain Name”) is registered with Melbourne IT Ltd (the “Registrar”).
3. Procedural History
3.1 The Complaint was filed with the WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center (the “Center”) on March 8, 2016. On March 8, 2016, the Center transmitted by email to the Registrar a request for registrar verification in connection with the Domain Name. On April 2, 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.
3.2 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”).
3.3 In accordance with the Rules, paragraphs 2 and 4, the Center formally notified the Respondent of the Complaint, and the proceedings commenced on April 5, 2016. In accordance with the Rules, paragraph 5, the due date for Response was April 25, 2016. The Respondent did not submit any response. Accordingly, the Center notified the Respondent’s default on April 26, 2016.
3.4 The Center appointed Matthew S. Harris as the sole panelist in this matter on May 4, 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
4.1 The Complainant is a large bank based in France, which trades under the name “Credit Argricole”.
4.2 It is the owner of various trade marks that incorporate or comprise the name “Credit Agricole”. These include:
(i) European Union trade mark no 6456974 for the word mark CREDIT AGRICOLE in classes 9, 16, 35, 36, 38 and 42 filed on November 13, 2007 and registered on October 23, 2008.
(ii) International trade mark no 1064647 for the word mark CREDIT AGRICOLE in classes 9, 16, 35, 36, 38 and 42 filed on January 4, 2011, registered on January 4, 2011 and which has proceeded to grant in two countries.
4.3 It is also the owner of various domain names that incorporate the term “Credit Argricole” in one form or another. The oldest of these is <credit-agricole.com>, which was registered on December 31, 1999 and is used for a website that promotes the Complainant’s activities.
4.4 The publically available WhoIs information for the Domain Name would suggest that the Respondent is an individual based in the United States of America.
4.5 The Domain Name was registered on February 26, 2016. It has not been used for any active website since registration and there is no evidence of any other active use of the Domain Name before the Panel.
5. Parties’ Contentions
5.1 The Complainant contends that the letters “ssl” in the Domain Name would be understood as a reference to the “Secure Sockets Layer” cryptographic protocol and claims that the Domain Name is confusingly similar to the Complainant’s trade marks.
5.2 The Complainant claims that the Respondent is not affiliated with nor authorised by it in any way and that the Respondent has no right or legitimate interest in the Domain Name.
5.3 The Complainant further contends that the distinctiveness and reputation of the Complainant’s marks is such that it is reasonable to infer that the Respondent was aware of those marks at the time the Domain Name was registered and that the Doman Name was registered and has been used in bad faith.
5.4 The Respondent did not reply to the Complainant’s contentions.
6. Discussion and Findings
6.1 There are no exceptional circumstances within paragraph 5(f) of the Rules so as to prevent this Panel from determining the present dispute based upon the Complaint, notwithstanding the failure of the Respondent to lodge any Response.
6.2 Notwithstanding this default, it remains incumbent on the Complainant to make out its case in all respects under paragraph 4(a) of the Policy. Namely, the Complainant must prove that:
(i) the Domain Name is identical or confusingly similar to a trade mark or service mark in which the Complainant has rights (Policy, paragraph 4(a)(i)); and
(ii) the Respondent has no rights or legitimate interests in respect of the Domain Name (Policy, paragraph 4(a)(ii)); and
(iii) the Domain Name has been registered and is being used in bad faith (Policy, paragraph 4(a)(iii)).
6.3 However, under paragraph 14 of the Rules, where a party does not comply with any provision of the Rules, the panel shall “draw such inferences therefrom as it considers appropriate”.
A. Identical or Confusingly Similar
6.4 The Domain Name can only be sensibly read as comprising the entirety of the Complainant’s CREDIT AGRICOLE word marks, with the prefix “ssl” and the addition of the “.com”, Top-Level Domain. The addition of the prefix “ssl” does not so transform or change the natural reading of the Domain Name so as to prevent a finding of confusing similarity with these marks.
6.5 The Panel therefore finds that the Complainant has made out the requirements of paragraph 4(a)(i) of the Policy.
B. Rights or Legitimate Interests
6.6 For the reasons that are explained in greater detail when considering the issue of bad faith registration and use later on in this decision, the Panel has formed the view that the Domain Name was registered and has subsequently been held by the Respondent with the intention of taking some form of unfair advantage of the reputation of the Complainant’s business and trade marks. Such use does not provide a right or legitimate interest for the purposes of the Policy.
6.7 The Panel therefore finds that the Complainant has made out the requirements of paragraph 4(a)(ii) of the Policy.
C. Registered and Used in Bad Faith
6.8 The Panel accepts the Complainant’s contention that the distinctiveness and reputation of the Complainant’s marks is such that the only reasonable conclusion that can be reached is that the Respondent was aware of those marks at the time the Domain Name was registered. There is no sensible reading of the Domain Name that the Panel can conceive of that does not involve some sort of reference to the Complainant.
6.9 The Panel cannot say for certain why the Domain Name was registered and has subsequently been passively held. Nevertheless, it does not matter. This is one of those cases where it is difficult to see how the Domain Name might be used in a manner that did not take unfair advantage of the reputation of the Complainant’s business and mark and which would not involve bad faith (as to which see Telstra Corporation Limited v. Nuclear Marshmallows, WIPO Case No. D2000-0003 as elaborated upon by the three person panel in Mr. Talus Taylor, Mrs. Anette Tison v. Vicent George Warning/Fayalobi Interaction Management, WIPO Case No. D2008-0455).
6.10 Further, the Panel accepts the Complainant’s contention that the letters “ssl” in the Domain Name are most likely to be understood as a reference to the “Secure Sockets Layer” cryptographic protocol. The Panel suspects that any financial institution would be concerned by the fact that a third party had registered a domain name, such as the Domain Name, that is inherently suggestive of secure Internet communication with that institution where that third party has no relationship with that institution. In short, in the absence of any explanation or argument to the contrary, the Domain Name appears to the Panel to be inherently deceptive.
6.11 In the circumstances, the Panel concludes that the Domain Name was registered and used in bad faith and that the Complainant has made out the requirements of paragraph 4(a)(iii) of the Policy.
7.1 For the foregoing reasons, in accordance with paragraphs 4(i) of the Policy and 15 of the Rules, the Panel orders that the Domain Name, <ssl-creditagricole.com>, be transferred to the Complainant.
Matthew S. Harris
Date: May 6, 2016