WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center
ADMINISTRATIVE PANEL DECISION
Six Continents Hotels, Inc. v. Jia Cheng
Case No. D2017-1867
1. The Parties
The Complainant is Six Continents Hotels, Inc. of Atlanta, Georgia, United States of America (“USA” or “United States”), represented by The GigaLaw Firm, Douglas M. Isenberg, Attorney at Law, LLC, USA.
The Respondent is Jia Cheng of Guangzhou, Guangdong, China.
2. The Domain Name and Registrar
The disputed domain name <guangzhoucrowneplaza.com> (the “Domain Name”) is registered with BigRock Solutions Pvt Ltd. (the “Registrar”).
3. Procedural History
The Complaint was filed with the WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center (the “Center”) on September 25, 2017. On September 26, 2017, the Center transmitted by email to the Registrar a request for registrar verification in connection with the Domain Name. On September 27, 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 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 6, 2017. In accordance with the Rules, paragraph 5, the due date for Response was October 26, 2017. The Respondent did not submit any response. Accordingly, the Center notified the Respondent’s default on October 27, 2017.
The Center appointed Willem J. H. Leppink as the sole panelist in this matter on November 7, 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 following facts are undisputed.
The Complainant is a member of a group of companies known as InterContinental Hotels Group. Companies within InterContinental Hotels Group own, manage, lease or franchise, through various subsidiaries, 5,221 hotels and 777,675 guest rooms in nearly 100 countries and territories around the world. InterContinental Hotels Group owns a portfolio of hotel brands including Crowne Plaza Hotels & Resorts.
The Complainant is the owner of a number of registrations for the trademark CROWN PLAZA in various jurisdictions, including but not limited to various United Stated trademarks for services related to inter alia hotel services and hotel and restaurant services (hereinafter referred to as the “Trademark”), e.g., United States trademark no. 1297211 registered on September 18, 1984.
The Domain Name was registered by the Respondent on September 28, 2010. The Domain Name redirects to a website that purports to be for a “Crowne Plaza” hotel in in Guangzhou City Centre (the “Website”).
5. Parties’ Contentions
Insofar as relevant, the Complainant contends the following.
The Domain Name reproduces the Trademark in its entirety and adds the name of the city “Guangzhou”, the capital and most populous city of the province of Guangdong in southern China.
Therefore, the Domain Name is identical or confusingly similar to the Trademark.
The Respondent has no rights or legitimate interests in the Domain Name. The Complainant has never assigned, granted, licensed, sold, transferred or in any way authorized the Respondent to register or use the Trademark in any manner.
The Respondent is not making a legitimate noncommercial or fair use of the Domain Name, without intent for commercial gain misleadingly to divert consumers or to tarnish the Trademark, and, therefore, has no rights or legitimate interests in the Domain Name under paragraph 4(c)(iii) of the Policy.
Furthermore, the Complainant refers to the case Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide Inc., The Sheraton LLC, Sheraton International IP, LLC, Worldwide Franchise Systems, Inc v. Jia Cheng, WIPO Case No. D2014-2038. In this case, the panel found that the Respondent registered and used the two domain names, both related to hotel services, in bad faith.
The Respondent did not reply to the Complainant’s contentions.
6. Discussion and Findings
Pursuant to paragraph 4(a) of the Policy, the Complainant must prove each of the following three elements:
(i) the Domain Name is identical or confusingly similar to a trademark or service mark in which the Complainant has rights; and
(ii) the Respondent has no rights or legitimate interests in respect of the Domain Name; and
(iii) the Domain Name has been registered and is being used in bad faith.
A. Identical or Confusingly Similar
The Complainant must demonstrate that it has rights in a trademark and, if so, the domain name must be shown to be identical or confusingly similar to the trademark.
The Complainant has shown that it has rights in the Trademark.
The Panel finds that the addition of the geographical term “Guangzhou” does not suffice to distinguish the Domain Name from the Complainant’s Trademark since “crowneplaza” is the dominant part of the Domain Name. See Oki Data Americas, Inc. v. ASD, Inc., WIPO Case No. D2001-0903 (“[T]he fact that a domain name wholly incorporates a complainant’s registered mark is sufficient to establish identity or confusing similarity for purposes of the Policy despite the addition of other words to such marks.”)
Thus, the Panel finds that the Domain Name is confusingly similar to the Complainant’s Trademark.
For all the foregoing reasons, the Panel is satisfied that the first element of the Policy is met.
B. Rights or Legitimate Interests
The Respondent did not reply to the Complainant’s contentions. For that reason, the Panel has carefully considered the factual allegations that have been made by the Complainant and are supported by the submitted evidence.
Paragraph 4(c) of the Policy States that 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) use or preparation to use the Domain Name or a name corresponding to the Domain Name in connection with a bona fide offering of goods or services prior to notice of the dispute; or
(ii) being commonly known by the Domain Name (as an individual, business or other organization) even if the Respondent has not acquired any trademark or service mark rights; or
(iii) making legitimate noncommercial or fair use of the Domain Name, without intent for commercial gain to misleadingly divert consumers or to tarnish the trademark or service mark at issue.
There is no evidence in the case file that the Respondent has any rights or legitimate interests in the Domain Name.
The Respondent does not seem to be affiliated with the Complainant in any way. There is no evidence that “Crowne Plaza” is the Respondent’s name or that the Respondent is commonly known as “Crowne Plaza’’ or ‘’crowneplaza”. There is also no evidence that the Respondent is, or has ever been, a licensee of the Complainant or that the Respondent has ever asked, or has ever been permitted in any way by the Complainant to register or use the Complainant’s Trademark, or to apply for or use any domain name incorporating the Trademark.
Furthermore, the use of the Domain Name cannot be considered a bona fide offering of goods and services. From the screenshot that was provided by the Complainant, it appears that the Website provides the false impression to be the official website of the Crown Plaza Guangzhou City Center hotel.
Therefore, the Panel is satisfied that the second element of the Policy is met.
C. Registered and Used in Bad Faith
In light of the evidence filed by the Complainant, the Panel finds that the Complainant’s Trademark and activities are well-known throughout the world.
In the Panel’s view there is no other plausible explanation why the Respondent registered the Domain Name, other than the Respondent being aware of the Complainant and the Trademark.
In addition, the Panel refers to the case Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide Inc., The Sheraton LLC, Sheraton International IP, LLC, Worldwide Franchise Systems, Inc v. Jia Cheng, supra that was cited by the Complainant. The combination of the facts in the underlying case and those in the aforementioned case, indicate a pattern of conduct of the Respondent, namely the registration of domain names of trademark owners in the hotel industry, in combination with the geographical term “Guangzhou”. This behavior of the Respondent fits the example of paragraph 4(b)(ii) of the Policy.
Furthermore, the Panel finds that the Respondent has intentionally attempted to attract users to its Website by creating a likelihood of confusion with the Trademark. The Website creates the false impression to be an official website of the Crowne Plaza Guangzhou City Centre Hotel.
The inclusion of a tiny disclaimer in the footer of the Website that states “Att: This is the inofficial website of Crowne Plaza Guangzhou City Centre, just for publicity and promotional use”, cannot contribute to the possible finding that the Respondent is in good faith. In accordance with WIPO Overview of WIPO Panel Views on Selected UDRP Questions, Third Edition (“WIPO Overview 3.0”), the mere existence of a disclaimer cannot cure the finding of bad faith, when the overall circumstances of the case point in this direction.
This behavior of the Respondent fits the example of paragraph 4(b)(iv) of the Policy, i.e., that by using the Domain Name, the Respondent has intentionally attempted to attract, for commercial gain, Internet users to its website or other online location, by creating a likelihood of confusion with the Complainant’s mark as to the source, sponsorship, affiliation, or endorsement of the Respondent’s website or location or of a product or service on the Respondent’s website or location.
Although the lack of a reply by the Respondent as such cannot by itself lead to the conclusion that there is use in bad faith, the cumulative circumstances as outlined in the decision are sufficient for the Panel to find that the use by the Respondent is in bad faith.
In light of the above circumstances, the Panel is satisfied that the third element of the Policy is met and that the Domain Name was 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 Domain Name <guangzhoucrowneplaza.com> be transferred to the Complainant.
Willem J. H. Leppink
Date: November 21, 2017