WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center
ADMINISTRATIVE PANEL DECISION
Confédération Nationale du Crédit Mutuel v. Whois Agent, Whoisprivacy Protection Service Inc. / Jean-Philippe Beuvier
Case No. D2017-1103
1. The Parties
The Complainant is Confédération Nationale du Crédit Mutuel of Paris, France, represented by MEYER & Partenaires, France.
The Respondent is Whois Agent, Whoisprivacy Protection Service Inc. of Kirkland, Washington, United States of America / Jean-Philippe Beuvier of Le Mans, France.
2. The Domain Name and Registrar
The disputed domain name <creditmutuel-lemans.com> is registered with eNom, Inc. (the “Registrar”).
3. Procedural History
The Complaint was filed with the WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center (the “Center”) on June 6, 2017. On June 6, 2017, the Center transmitted by email to the Registrar a request for registrar verification in connection with the disputed domain name. On June 6, 2017, the Registrar transmitted by email to the Center its verification response disclosing registrant and contact information for the disputed domain name which differed from the named Respondent and contact information in the Complaint. The Center sent an email communication to the Complainant on June 8, 2017 providing the registrant and contact information disclosed by the Registrar, and inviting the Complainant to submit an amendment to the Complaint. The Complainant filed an amended Complaint on June 9, 2017.
The Center verified that the Complaint together with the amended 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 June 16, 2017. In accordance with the Rules, paragraph 5, the due date for Response was July 6, 2017. The Respondent did not submit any response. Accordingly, the Center notified the Respondent’s default on July 13, 2017.
The Center appointed Marie-Emmanuelle Haas as the sole panelist in this matter on July 21, 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.
4. Factual Background
The Complainant is a global provider of banking and financial products. According to the French ministry order No. 58-966 of October 16, 1958, the use of the name “Crédit Mutuel”. is reserved to the Complainant and to its related branches.
The Complainant is the registered owner of a large number of trademarks consisting in or including the wording “credit mutuel”, in France and abroad, such as:
- CREDIT MUTUEL, French word and device trademark No. 1475940, with registration date July 8, 1988;
- CREDIT MUTUEL, French word and device trademark No. 1646012, with registration date November 20, 1990;
- CREDIT MUTUEL, word European Union trademark No. 9943135, registered on October 20, 2011;
- CREDIT MUTUEL, word and device International trademark n° 570182, designating Benelux, Italy and Portugal, registered on May 17, 1991.
The CREDIT MUTUEL trademark has been recognized as well-known by the Center in previous UDRP cases, inter alia, in Confederation Nationale du Credit Mutuel v. Philippe Marie, WIPO Case No. D2010−1513.
The disputed domain name <creditmutuel-lemans.com> was registered on March 17, 2017. According to the evidence submitted with the Complaint, the disputed domain name resolves to a webpage on which it is specified that the domain name is suspending pending ICANN verification.
5. Parties’ Contentions
The Complainant is the political and central body for the banking group Crédit Mutuel. Crédit Mutuel is the second French banking and insurance services group, which provides its services to 12 million clients for more than a century. Crédit Mutuel is a network of 3178 offices in France, congregated in 18 regional federations. Present in all fields of finance, the group is a major actor on the market of banking services for both individuals and businesses.
The Complainant is operating a web portal under the URLs “www.creditmutuel.com” and “www.creditmutuel.fr”, dedicated to its off- and online services and providing a lot of information to the public about banking services.
The Complainant claims that the disputed domain name <creditmutuel-lemans.com> is confusingly similar to the CREDIT MUTUEL trademark.
The mere adjunction of the name of the French city “Le Mans” is not sufficient to distinguish <creditmutuel−lemans.com> from the trademark CREDIT MUTUEL or the Complainant’s domain name <creditmutuel.com>.
On the contrary, the geographical and non-distinctive term “lemans” associated with the well-known trademark CREDIT MUTUEL creates a risk of confusion in the Internet users’ mind. They could indeed believe that the disputed domain name will resolve to a website belonging to the Crédit Mutuel and dedicated to the Crédit Mutuel’s branches in Le Mans, where the Complainant has 13 branches.
The Complainant states that the Respondent has no rights or legitimate interests in respect of the disputed domain name.
The Respondent is not related in any way to the Complainant and is not known by the disputed domain name. No license or authorization has been granted to the Respondent to make any use or apply for registration of the disputed domain name.
The Complainant states that the disputed domain name has been registered and used in bad faith.
Given the well-known character of the CREDIT MUTUEL trademark, the addition of the name of the French city “Le Mans” refers to the branches of the Complainant in this city.
Regarding the similarity of the domain name with the CREDIT MUTUEL trademark, there is no way in which the disputed domain name would have been registered and then used in good faith.
Using a WhoIs proxy service to hide one’s personal identity is another proof of bad faith.
The disputed domain name activates a webpage on which it is specified that the domain name is suspending pending ICANN verification.
Such non-use should be considered as bad faith use because of the strong reputation and well-known character of the CREDIT MUTUEL trademark and because the Respondent has taken active steps to conceal its true identity.
The Complainant relies on prior decisions that according to which “passive holding does not preclude a finding of bad faith”
Finally, the Complainant would like to point out the fact that, as a banking group, it has to continuously face counterfeiting or phishing attempts.
The Respondent did not reply to the Complainant’s contentions.
6. Discussion and Findings
A. Identical or Confusingly Similar
The Complainant has clearly established its registered rights in the CREDIT MUTUEL trademark. The Panel also recognizes that the CREDIT MUTUEL trademark is a well-known trademark.
The disputed domain name <creditmutuel-lemans.com> is composed of the Complainant’s CREDIT MUTUEL trademark, to which the name of the French city “Le Mans” is added.
The Panel notes that, according to the WhoIs data that were disclosed, the Registrant is domiciled in Le Mans.
Adding the name of a French city does not exclude any confusing similarity.
Therefore, the Panel finds that the disputed domain name is confusingly similar to the Complainant’s trademark. The condition of paragraph 4(a)(i) of the Policy has been satisfied.
B. Rights or Legitimate Interests
As set forth by paragraph 4(c) of the Policy, any of the following circumstances, in particular but without limitation, if found by the Panel to be proved based on its evaluation of all evidence presented, shall demonstrate the Respondent’s rights or legitimate interests to the domain name for purposes of paragraph 4(a)(ii):
(i) before any notice to the Respondent of the dispute, its use of, or demonstrable preparations to use, the disputed domain name or a name corresponding to the disputed domain name in connection with a bona fide offering of goods or services; or
(ii) the Respondent (as an individual, business, or other organization) has been commonly known by the disputed domain name, even if it has acquired no trademark or service mark rights; or
(iii) the Respondent is making a legitimate noncommercial or fair use of the disputed domain name, without intent for commercial gain to misleadingly divert consumers or to tarnish the trademark or service mark at issue.
The Respondent did not respond to the Complaint. Consequently it did not provide any evidence or circumstances to establish that it has rights or legitimate interests in the disputed domain name, according to paragraph 4(c) of the Policy.
In the circumstances of this case, the Panel finds that the Complainant has established a prima facie case of the Respondent’s absence of rights or legitimate interests in the disputed domain name.
The Respondent has not been licensed or authorized to use the CREDIT MUTUEL trademark or to register the disputed domain name.
The Respondent did not make a fair or noncommercial use of the disputed domain name. On the contrary, the Respondent used a privacy shield service to register the disputed domain name and mentioned a false email address […]@créditmutuel.fr in the WhoIs data, trying to legitimate his registration.
Accordingly, the Panel finds that the condition of paragraph 4(a)(ii) of the Policy has been satisfied.
C. Registered and Used in Bad Faith
Paragraph 4(b) of the Policy sets out examples of circumstances that will be considered by an Administrative Panel to be evidence of bad faith registration and use of a domain name. It provides that:
“For the purposes of paragraph 4(a)(iii), the following circumstances, in particular but without limitation, if found by the Panel to be present, shall be evidence of the registration and use of a domain name in bad faith:
(i) circumstances indicating that you have registered or you have acquired the domain name primarily for the purpose of selling, renting, or otherwise transferring the domain name registration to the Complainant who is the owner of the trademark or service mark or to a competitor of that Complainant, for valuable consideration in excess of your documented out-of-pocket costs directly related to the domain name; or
(ii) you have registered the domain name in order to prevent the owner of the trademark or service mark from reflecting the mark in a corresponding domain name, provided that you have engaged in a pattern of such conduct; or
(iii) you have registered the domain name primarily for the purpose of disrupting the business of a competitor; or
(iv) by using the domain name, you have intentionally attempted to attract, for commercial gain, Internet users to your web site or other on-line location, by creating a likelihood of confusion with the complainant’s mark as to the source, sponsorship, affiliation, or endorsement of your web site or location or of a product or service on your web site or location.”
The Complainant has demonstrated the well-known character of its CREDIT MUTUEL trademark.
The Respondent, who is domiciled in France, could not ignore the Complainant’s rights in the CREDIT MUTUEL trademark when he registered the disputed domain name.
The Panel finds that the disputed domain name was registered in bad faith with the Complainant in mind, to make a commercial gain and disrupting the Complainant’s activity.
The Respondent is not using the disputed domain name to resolve to an inactive website.
The WhoIs data mentioning the email address […]@créditmutuel.fr in order to give an appearance of legitimacy to the registration.
This is another evidence that the Respondent aimed at creating a likelihood of confusion with the Complainant’s trademarks in order to mislead Internet users, and especially the Complainant’s clients, for commercial gain or for any purpose that cannot be legitimate, given the well-known character of the CREDIT MUTUEL trademark and the fact that banking services are strictly regulated, for protection and control purposes, in the public interest.
This is why the French ministry order No. 58-966 of October 16, 1958, provides that the use of the name “Crédit Mutuel” is reserved to the Complainant and to its related branches.
Any registered domain name enables the registrant to create email addresses. In the present case, such email addresses might be used for any purposes and notably for spamming or phishing purposes, to obtain banking and personal data from the Complainant’s customers and to misuse these data.
In any event, it has long been generally held in previous UDRP decisions that the passive holding of a domain name that incorporates a well-known trademark, without obvious actual or contemplated good faith use, does not necessarily circumvent a finding that the domain name is in use within the requirements of paragraph 4(a)(iii) of the Policy (Telstra Corporation Limited v. Nuclear Marshmallows, WIPO Case No. D2000-0003).
The Panel finds that the criteria set out in the Telstra decision on passive holding are met in view of the following circumstances:
(i) the Complainant’s trademark has a strong reputation and is well-known,
(ii) the Respondent has provided no evidence whatsoever of any actual or contemplated good faith use by it of the domain name,
(iii) the Respondent has taken active steps to conceal his true identity,
(iv) the Respondent has actively provided, and failed to correct, false contact details, in breach of his registration agreement, and
(v) taking into account all of the above, it is not possible to conceive of any plausible actual or contemplated active use of the domain name by the Respondent that would not be illegitimate, such as by being a passing off, an infringement of consumer protection legislation, or an infringement of the Complainant’s rights under trademark law.
In light of these particular circumstances, the Panel is of the opinion that the Respondent’s passive holding of the disputed domain name satisfies the requirement of paragraph 4(a)(iii) that the domain name “is being used in bad faith” by Respondent.
Therefore, the condition set out by paragraph 4(a)(iii) of the Policy has been met by the Complainant.
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 <creditmutuel-lemans.com> be transferred to the Complainant.
Date: August 4, 2017