WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center

ADMINISTRATIVE PANEL DECISION

Accor SA v. Yan Mengjia

Case No. D2018-1194

1. The Parties

The Complainant is Accor SA of Issy-Les-Moulineaux, France, represented by Dreyfus & associés, France.

The Respondent is Yan Mengjia of Fuzhou, China.

2. The Domain Name and Registrar

The disputed domain name <novotelbrightonbeach.com> is registered with Beijing Innovative Linkage Technology Ltd. dba dns.com.cn (the “Registrar”).

3. Procedural History

The Complaint was filed in English with the WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center (the “Center”) on May 30, 2018. On May 30, 2018, the Center transmitted by email to the Registrar a request for registrar verification in connection with the disputed domain name. On June 4, 2018, 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 June 5, 2018, the Center transmitted an email in English and Chinese to the Parties regarding the language of the proceeding. The Complaint submitted a request that English be the language of the proceeding on June 8, 2018. The Respondent did not comment on the language of the proceeding.

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 June 12, 2018. In accordance with the Rules, paragraph 5, the due date for Response was July 2, 2018. The Respondent did not submit any response. Accordingly, the Center notified the Respondent’s default on July 3, 2018.

The Center appointed Sok Ling MOI as the sole panelist in this matter on July 9, 2018. 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 French multinational hotel group which operates a portfolio of more than 4,000 hotels in 100 countries worldwide. The Complainant’s hotel brands include “Raffles”, “Sofitel”, “Fairmont”, “Pullman”, “Swissotel”, “Mercure”, “Ibis” and “Novotel”. There are 496 “Novotel” hotels in 56 countries around the world including a hotel on Sydney Brighton Beach and 21 hotels in China where the Respondent is located.

The Complainant owns trade mark registrations for the NOVOTEL trade mark in various jurisdictions in connection with its hotels and restaurant services, including the following trade mark registrations:

Mark

Country

Class

Registration Number

Registration Date

NOVOTEL

International Register

42

542032

July 26, 1989

NOVOTEL

European Union Trade Mark

43

10429082

April 20, 2012

NOVOTEL

China

42

15930534

August 28, 2016

The Complainant also operates a website at its domain name <novotel.com>, registered on April 10, 1997.

The disputed domain name <novotelbrightonbeach.com> was registered on November 25, 2017. It redirects to a landing page with links to various gambling websites in Chinese (Annex 1 of the Complaint).

5. Parties’ Contentions

A. Complainant

The Complainant contends that the disputed domain name <novotelbrightonbeach.com> is identical or confusingly similar to its NOVOTEL trade marks. The Complainant further contends that the Respondent has no rights or legitimate interests in respect of the disputed domain name, and the disputed domain name has been registered and is being used in bad faith.

The Complainant requests the transfer of the disputed domain name.

B. Respondent

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

6. Discussion and Findings

6.1 Language of the Proceeding

Pursuant to paragraph 11(a) of the Rules, unless otherwise agreed by the Parties, or specified otherwise in the Registration Agreement, the language of the administrative proceeding shall be the language of the Registration Agreement, subject to the authority of the Panel to determine otherwise, having regard to the circumstances of the administrative proceeding.

Paragraphs 10(b) and (c) of the Rules require the Panel to ensure that the proceeding takes place with due expedition and that the Parties are treated equitably and given a fair opportunity to present their respective cases.

The language of the Registration Agreement for the disputed domain name is Chinese. From the evidence on record, no agreement appears to have been entered into between the Complainant and the Respondent regarding the language issue. The Complainant filed its Complaint in English and requested that English be the language of the proceeding. The Respondent did not comment on the language of the proceeding.

Although the Respondent appears to be a native Chinese individual, the Panel finds persuasive evidence in the present proceeding to suggest that the Respondent has sufficient knowledge of English. In particular, the Panel notes that:

(a) the disputed domain name is registered in Latin characters, rather than Chinese script;

(b) the disputed domain name is composed of two English names/words; and

(c) according to a reverse WhoIs search conducted on the Respondent’s email address by the Panel, the Respondent has registered several other domain names which comprise Latin characters and English words, such as <partneringvirtually.com>, <joincupid.com>, <aromascentsjournal.com>, <powerevertech.com>, <photoandthecitybcn.com>, <mushroomsmakesense.com> and <loginmonsterbeats.com>.

Additionally, the Panel notes that:

(a) the Center has notified the Respondent of the proceeding in both Chinese and English;

(b) the Respondent has been given the opportunity to present its case in this proceeding; and

(c) the Center has informed the Respondent that it would accept a Response in either English or Chinese.

Considering the above circumstances, the Panel finds that the choice of English as the language of the present proceeding is fair to both Parties and is not prejudicial to either one of the Parties in its ability to articulate the arguments for this case.

The Panel has taken into consideration the fact that to require the Complaint and all supporting documents to be translated into Chinese would, in the circumstances of this case, cause an unnecessary cost burden to the Complainant and would unnecessarily delay the proceeding.

Having considered all the matters above, the Panel determines under paragraph 11(a) of the Rules that it shall accept the Complaint and all supporting materials as filed in English, that English shall be the language of the proceeding, and that the decision will be rendered in English.

6.2 Substantive Issues

Paragraph 4(a) of the Policy directs that a complainant must prove each of the following three elements to obtain an order for the disputed domain name to be cancelled or transferred:

(i) the disputed domain name is identical or confusingly similar to a trade mark or service mark in which the complainant has rights;

(ii) the respondent has no rights or legitimate interests in respect of the disputed domain name; and

(iii) the disputed domain name has been registered and is being used in bad faith.

On the basis of the arguments and evidence introduced by the Complainant, the Panel concludes as follows:

A. Identical or Confusingly Similar

The Panel accepts that the Complainant has rights in NOVOTEL by virtue of its use and registration of the same as trade marks.

The disputed domain name <novotelbrightonbeach.com> incorporates the Complainant’s trade mark NOVOTEL in its entirety. The addition of the words “brighton beach” (which refers to a location in Sydney) does not prevent a finding of confusing similarity between the disputed domain name and the Complainant’s trade mark. See section 1.8, WIPO Overview of WIPO Panel Views on Selected UDRP Questions, Third Edition (“WIPO Overview 3.0”). The addition of the generic Top-Level Domain (“gTLD”) “.com” in this case does not impact the analysis of whether the disputed domain name is identical or confusingly similar to the Complainant’s trade marks. See section 1.7 of WIPO overview 3.0.

Consequently, the Panel finds that the disputed domain name is confusingly similar to the Complainant’s trade marks.

Accordingly, the Complainant has satisfied the requirements of the first element under paragraph 4(a) of the Policy.

B. Rights or Legitimate Interests

Under paragraph 4(a)(ii) of the Policy, a complainant bears the burden of establishing that the respondent lacks rights or legitimate interests in the disputed domain name. However, once the complainant makes a prima facie showing under paragraph 4(a)(ii) of the Policy, the burden of production shifts to the respondent to establish its rights or legitimate interests in the disputed domain name by demonstrating any of the following, without limitation, under paragraph 4(c) of the Policy:

(i) before any notice to it of the dispute, the respondent’s 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 has been commonly known by the disputed domain name, even if it has acquired no trade mark 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 trade mark or service mark at issue.

(See Taylor Wimpey PLC, Taylor Wimpey Holdings Limited v. honghao Internet foshan co, ltd, WIPO Case No. D2013-0974.)

The Complainant has confirmed that the Respondent is not in any way affiliated with the Complainant or otherwise authorized or licensed to use the NOVOTEL trade mark or to seek registration of any domain name incorporating the NOVOTEL trade mark. The Respondent appears to be an individual by the name of Yan Mengjia. There is no evidence suggesting that the Respondent is commonly known by the disputed domain name or that the Respondent has any rights in the term “novotel”.

According to the evidence submitted by the Complainant, the disputed domain name originally resolved to a news website in Chinese. Currently, it redirects to a landing page in Chinese with links to various gambling websites, which is likely to generate pay-per-click revenue for the Respondent. Using a domain name which incorporates a trade mark and a geographical location to divert Internet traffic to gambling websites does not constitute a bona fide offering of goods or services.

The Panel is satisfied that the Complainant has made out a prima facie case showing that the Respondent lacks rights or legitimate interests in the disputed domain name. The burden of production thus shifts to the Respondent to establish his rights or legitimate interests in the disputed domain name. Since the Respondent did not file a response to the Complaint and has thus failed to offer any explanation for his registration of the disputed domain name, the prima facie case has not been rebutted.

Consequently, the Panel finds that the Respondent lacks rights or legitimate interests in the disputed domain name.

Accordingly, the Complainant has satisfied the requirements of the second element under paragraph 4(a) of the Policy.

C. Registered and Used in Bad Faith

Paragraph 4(b) of the Policy sets out four circumstances which, without limitation, shall be evidence of the registration and use of a disputed domain name in bad faith, namely:

(i) circumstances indicating that the respondent has registered or acquired the disputed 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 trade mark or service mark or to a competitor of the complainant, for valuable consideration in excess of the respondent’s documented out-of-pocket costs directly related to the disputed domain name; or

(ii) the respondent has registered the disputed domain name in order to prevent the owner of the trade mark or service mark from reflecting the mark in a corresponding domain name, provided that the respondent has engaged in a pattern of such conduct; or

(iii) the respondent has registered the disputed domain name primarily for the purpose of disrupting the business of a competitor; or

(iv) by using the disputed domain name, the respondent has intentionally attempted to attract, for commercial gain, Internet users to the respondent’s 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.

The Panel accepts that the Complainant and its trade mark NOVOTEL enjoy a strong reputation worldwide and have a significant online presence. NOVOTEL, being an invented word, is also highly distinctive. In this day and age of the Internet and advancement in information technology, the reputation of brands and trade marks transcends national borders. A cursory Internet search would have disclosed the NOVOTEL trade marks and its extensive use by the Complainant. A strong presumption thus arises that the Respondent was aware of the Complainant and its trade marks when he registered the disputed domain name. Registration of a domain name that incorporates a complainant’s well-known trade mark suggests opportunistic bad faith.

As the disputed domain name comprises the Complainant’s trade mark NOVOTEL and the geographical location of one of its hotels, it is likely that Internet users may be confused and wrongly believe that the disputed domain name is controlled by or somehow associated with the Complainant. This creates a likelihood of confusion with the Complainant’s mark as to source, sponsorship, affiliation, or endorsement of the Respondent’s website. Moreover, by redirecting Internet traffic searching for “NOVOTEL” to a landing page with links to various gambling websites likely to generate pay-per-click revenue for the Respondent, the Respondent clearly seeks to capitalise on the commercial value of the Complainant’s NOVOTEL trade mark to attract financial gain for itself. As such, the Panel finds that the circumstances referred to in paragraph 4(b)(iv) of the Policy apply to the present case. Such use of the disputed domain name cannot be in good faith.

The Center was not able to reach the Respondent at the physical address and fax number recorded with the Registrar, which strongly suggests that the Respondent had provided false contact details at the time of registering the disputed domain name. The Panel considers this further evidence of bad faith.

In view of the above finding that the Respondent does not have rights or legitimate interests in the disputed domain name, and taking into account all the circumstances, the Panel concludes that the Respondent has registered and used the disputed domain name in bad faith.

Accordingly, the Complainant has satisfied the requirements of the third element under paragraph 4(a) of the Policy.

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 <novotelbrightonbeach.com> be transferred to the Complainant.

Sok Ling MOI
Sole Panelist
Date: July 24, 2018