WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center

ADMINISTRATIVE PANEL DECISION

Compagnie Générale des Etablissements Michelin (Michelin) v. Jun Park

Case No. D2017-0093

1. The Parties

The Complainant is Compagnie Générale des Etablissements Michelin (Michelin) of Clermont-Ferrand, France, represented by Dreyfus & associés, France.

The Respondent is Jun Park of Gwangju, Republic of Korea.

2. The Domain Name and Registrar

The disputed domain name <michelins.com> is registered with Megazone Corp., dba HOSTING.KR (the “Registrar”).

3. Procedural History

The Complaint was filed with the WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center (the “Center”) on January 18, 2017. On January 18, 2017, the Center transmitted by email to the Registrar a request for registrar verification in connection with the disputed domain name. On January 20, 2017, 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.

On January 20, 2017, the Center notified the parties in both English and Korean that the language of the Registration Agreement for the disputed domain name is Korean. On the same day, the Complainant requested for English to be the language of the proceeding, to which the Respondent did not reply.

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, in both English and Korean, and the proceedings commenced on January 27, 2017. In accordance with the Rules, paragraph 5, the due date for Response was February 16, 2017. The Respondent did not submit any response. Accordingly, the Center notified the Respondent’s default on February 17, 2017.

The Center appointed Ik-Hyun Seo as the sole panelist in this matter on March 2, 2017. 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. Due to unforeseen circumstances, the Panel found it necessary to extend the due date for the decision to March 30, 2017, and the parties were so notified.

4. Factual Background

The Complainant is one of the largest tire manufacturers in the world and producer of travel and restaurant guides. The Complainant was incorporated in France in 1889 and named after the founders Édouard Michelin and André Michelin. The Complainant has marketing operations in more than 170 countries, and in 2012, produced 166 million tires at 69 facilities in 18 countries. The Complainant owns registrations for the trademark MICHELIN worldwide, including in the Republic of Korea (Registration No. 4000792530000, registered on October 29, 1991).

The Respondent appears to be a Korean individual with a residence in the Republic of Korea.

The disputed domain name was registered on December 14, 2009, and resolves to a generic “under construction” message in Korean, along with a simple message in English asking visitors to email for any inquiries.

5. Parties’ Contentions

A. Complainant

The Complainant contends that the disputed domain name is essentially identical to MICHELIN to which the Complainant has trademark registrations worldwide including in the Republic of Korea. As the disputed domain name only adds the letter “s” to the end of MICHELIN, it is confusingly similar if not identical to the famous MICHELIN mark.

The Complainant also contends that the Respondent has no rights or legitimate interests in the disputed domain name, and confirms that it has not authorized or licensed rights to the Respondent in any respect.

Finally, the Complainant contends that the disputed domain name was registered and used in bad faith. The Complainant notes that it is unlikely for the Respondent to be unaware of the MICHELIN mark considering its fame. Further, the Respondent has listed the disputed domain name for sale which shows bad faith intent to profit from its sale.

B. Respondent

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

6. Discussion and Findings

A. Language of the Proceeding

Paragraph 11(a) of the Rules provides that the language of the proceeding shall be the language of the registration agreement, unless otherwise agreed to by the parties, subject to the authority of the panel to determine otherwise. In this case, the language of the Registration Agreement is Korean, and both parties have had an opportunity to argue their position on this point. The Center issued a notice in Korean and English stating that it would accept the Complaint filed in English, and that the Response would be accepted in either Korean or English. The Respondent subsequently chose not to submit a Response.

First, the website at the disputed domain name displays a message in English which shows that the Respondent is quite proficient in English. Further, given the fact that the Complainant is based in France and the Respondent is based in the Republic of Korea, English would appear to be the fairest neutral language for rendering this decision. Besides, both parties were given the opportunity to submit arguments in the language of their preference, but the Respondent neither raised an objection as to language nor submitted any arguments whatsoever in these proceedings.

Under these circumstances, the Panel finds it proper and fair to render this decision in English.

B. Identical or Confusingly Similar

The Complainant has demonstrated with supporting evidence that it holds trademark registrations for MICHELIN in various jurisdictions, including in the Republic of Korea. The disputed domain name entirely incorporates the Complainant’s mark and simply adds the letter “s” to the end, which is a common way of making a plural (or possessive noun, with the apostrophe left out due to technical limits), and does not alter the mark in any meaningful manner. Further, there is no specific meaning attached to “michelin”, nor “michelins”. Accordingly, the disputed domain name is confusingly similar to the Complainant’s trademark.

For the reasons mentioned above, the Panel finds that the first element has been established.

C. Rights or Legitimate Interests

On the basis of the present record, the Panel finds that the Complainant has made the required allegations to support a prima facie showing that the Respondent has no rights or legitimate interests in the disputed domain name. Once such a prima facie basis has been established, the Respondent carries the burden of demonstrating its rights or legitimate interests in the disputed domain name. However, the Respondent in this case has chosen to file no Response to these assertions by the Complainant, and there is no evidence or allegation in the record that would warrant a finding in favor of the Respondent on this point.

For the reasons provided above, the Panel finds that the Respondent has no rights or legitimate interests in the disputed domain name, and that the second element has been established.

D. Registered and Used in Bad Faith

The Panel finds that there are sufficient reasons to find bad faith registration and use in this case.

The Respondent has listed the disputed domain name for sale. The price for the disputed domain name is not revealed online, but it is not unreasonable to assume that the Respondent intends to collect an amount in excess of its out-of-pocket expenses through the sale, as is often the case in these types of transactions.

Further, the disputed domain name opens to a generic “under construction” message in Korean, along with a simple message in English asking visitors to email for any inquiries. This does not constitute bona fide use, but rather, appears to be an invitation for purchase offers, especially considering the fact that the disputed domain name is for sale.

In addition, “michelins” does not have any particular meaning and there does not seem to be any apparent reason for the Respondent to have obtained registration for the disputed domain name other than to profit from its close similarity to the Complainant’s MICHELIN mark. In fact, the Complainant itself noted that “michelins” is a common misspelling for the Complainant’s MICHELIN mark, and it would certainly be possible to mistakenly type in the disputed domain name instead of <michelin.com> which the Complainant has owned and operated in connection with its business since 1993.

For the reasons given above, the Panel finds that the third and final element has been sufficiently established.

7. Decision

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, <michelins.com> be transferred to the Complainant.

Ik-Hyun Seo
Sole Panelist
Date: March 30, 2017