WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center
ADMINISTRATIVE PANEL DECISION
Veolia Environnement SA v. Kenneth Vargas
Case No. D2017-1844
1. The Parties
The Complainant is Veolia Environnement SA of Paris, France, represented by IP Twins S.A.S., France.
The Respondent is Kenneth Vargas of San Francisco, California, United States of America ("United States").
2. The Domain Name and Registrar
The disputed domain name <veolia-finance.com> is registered with NamePal.com #8008 (the "Registrar").
3. Procedural History
The Complaint was filed with the WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center (the "Center") on September 22, 2017. On September 22, 2017, the Center transmitted by email to the Registrar a request for registrar verification in connection with the disputed domain name. The Complainant filed an amended Complaint with additional exhibits on September 26, 2017. On October 12, 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.
The Center verified that 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 October 13, 2017. In accordance with the Rules, paragraph 5, the due date for Response was November 2, 2017. The Respondent did not submit any response. Accordingly, the Center notified the Respondent's default on November 7, 2017.
The Center appointed Steven A. Maier as the sole panelist in this matter on November 22, 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 company registered under French law. It is the holding company of a group specializing in the water, waste and energy sectors.
The Complainant is the owner of trademark registrations for the mark VEOLIA which include the following:
- European Union Trade Mark number 0910325 for the word mark VEOLIA registered on March 10, 2006, for numerous classes of goods and services including financial affairs in Class 36.
- United States trademark number 3000764 for the word mark VEOLIA registered on September 27, 2005, for numerous classes of goods and services including financial affairs in Class 36.
The disputed domain name was registered on January 21, 2017.
According to evidence submitted by the Complainant by way of screenshots, on September 6, 2017, the disputed domain name resolved to a website at "www.veolia-finance.com" headed "Veolia-Finance Finance Company". The website provided information about finance, advertised online loans and provided links to providers of such loans. It stated that Veolia-Finance had 25 years' experience in providing retail finance for construction and other products. It also invited third-party advertising for "advertisers in the financial sector" by way of banner ads, sponsored posts or sponsorship.
5. Parties' Contentions
The Complainant states that it is over 160 years old and currently has over 163,000 employees and revenue in excess of EUR 24 billion. It states that it is present in five continents, including the United States, where the Respondent is located. It provides evidence of a substantial business profile including significant advertising and promotional activities.
The Complainant relies on its trademark registrations referred to above and to additional registrations including International Trademarks for the mark VEOLIA. It also states that it owns the domain name <veolia.com>, which it registered in 2002 and has used to promote its services.
The Complainant provides evidence that it operates a subsidiary company named Veolia Environnment Finance to facilitate financing within its group, including providing guarantees to third parties. The Complainant states that it is also active in the fields of financial analysis and advice in connection with the projects in which it is engaged.
The Complainant contends that the disputed domain name is identical or confusingly similar to its trademark VEOLIA. The Complainant states that the disputed domain name incorporates the mark VEOLIA in its entirety and that the addition of the descriptive term "finance" is not sufficient to distinguish the disputed domain name from that trademark. The Complainant adds that the disputed domain name is also confusingly similar to its trademark VEOLIA in view of its activities in the field of finance.
The Complainant submits that the Respondent has no rights or legitimate interests in respect of the disputed domain name. The Complainant states that it is not affiliated with the Respondent in any way and has never authorized the Respondent to use its trademark VEOLIA. The Complainant also disputes that the Respondent has any prior rights in respect of the disputed domain name and submits that, because of the fame of the Complainant's trademark, the Respondent could not use the disputed domain name for any bona fide purpose. Instead, the Complainant asserts that the Respondent is misrepresenting a connection with the Complainant in order to obtain a financial benefit in connection with its website.
The Complainant submits that the disputed domain name was registered and has been used in bad faith. The Complainant contends that it is implausible that the Respondent was unaware of its trademark VEOLIA when it registered the disputed domain name and, even if it was not so aware, it could and should easily have established the Complainant's rights by undertaking a simple Google search. The Complainant refers to the Respondent's website described above and states that this has also included links to YouTube videos promoting quick loan services and other online loan providers. The Complainant asserts that quick loan services are frequently scams, and that in any event the Respondent is deriving fees or commission from the third-party websites to which its website links. The Complainant submits, in particular, that the Respondent has intentionally used the disputed domain name for commercial gain by misrepresenting a connection between its website and the Complainant's trademark. The Complainant further submits that it sent a "cease and desist" communication to the Respondent by email on April 21, 2017, followed by a reminder on June 16, 2017, but the Respondent did not reply to either communication.
The Complainant requests the transfer of the disputed domain name.
The Respondent did not reply to the Complainant's contentions.
6. Discussion and Findings
In order to succeed in the Complaint, the Complainant is required to show that all three of the elements set out under paragraph 4(a) of the Policy are present. Those elements are:
(i) that the disputed domain name is identical or confusingly similar to a trademark or service mark in which the Complainant has rights;
(ii) that the Respondent has no rights or legitimate interests in respect of the disputed domain name; and
(iii) that the disputed domain name has been registered and is being used in bad faith.
A. Identical or Confusingly Similar
The Complainant has established that it has extensive and longstanding registered trademark rights in the name and mark VEOLIA and that the goods and services or which the mark is registered include financial affairs. The disputed domain name incorporates the whole of the Complainant's trademark VEOLIA together with the dictionary term "finance" which the Panel finds to be insufficient to distinguish the disputed domain name from the Complainant's trademark, particularly in circumstances where the Complainant's activities include financial affairs. Therefore, the Panel finds that the disputed domain name is identical or confusingly similar to a trademark or service mark in which the Complainant has rights.
B. Rights or Legitimate Interests
The Panel finds that the Complainant's above submissions give rise to a prima facie case for the Respondent to answer that it has no rights or legitimate interests in respect of the disputed domain name. However, the Respondent has not participated in this proceeding and has not, therefore, submitted any evidence of rights or legitimate interests on its part, whether in the circumstances contemplated by paragraph 4(c) of the Policy or otherwise. There being no other evidence before the Panel of any such rights or legitimate interests, and for reasons set out under bad faith below, the Panel concludes that the Respondent has no rights or legitimate interests in the disputed domain name.
C. Registered and Used in Bad Faith
In order to establish registration in bad faith, the Complainant must show that the Respondent had the Complainant's trademark in mind when it registered the disputed domain name and intended unfairly to take commercial advantage of that trademark. In this case, the Complainant has established that its trademark VEOLIA is widely known, including in the United States, and the Panel finds the mark to be highly distinctive of the Complainant. The Respondent, having neither replied to the Complainant's "cease and desist" communication nor filed any Response in this proceeding, has failed to provide any explanation for its choice of the disputed domain name and in particular its incorporation of the Complainant's mark VEOLIA in the disputed domain name. In all the circumstances, the Panel infers on the balance of probabilities that the Complainant registered the disputed domain name with knowledge of the Complainant's trademark and with the intention of unfairly obtaining a commercial benefit from the goodwill attaching to that trademark.
The Panel also finds that the Respondent has used the disputed domain name for the purposes of a website which has no genuine connection with the Complainant and which purports to offer online loans and similar services from a variety of third-party providers. The website also solicits third-party advertising and sponsorship. Given its findings as to the distinctiveness and reputation of the Complainant's trademark and the lack of any explanation on the part of the Respondent, the Panel finds by using the disputed domain name, the Respondent has intentionally attempted to attract, for commercial gain, Internet users to its website by creating a likelihood of confusion with the Complainant's trademark as to the source, sponsorship, affiliation, or endorsement of its website or of products or services on its website (paragraph 4(b)(iv) of the Policy).
The Panel therefore concludes that the disputed domain name has been registered and is being used in bad faith.
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, <veolia-finance.com>, be transferred to the Complainant.
Steven A. Maier
Date: November 29, 2017