WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center

ADMINISTRATIVE PANEL DECISION

Philip Morris Products S.A. v. Liu Chao, Jiang Xi Zhong Gui Jian She Gong Cheng You Xian Gong Si

Case No. D2018-1568

1. The Parties

The Complainant is Philip Morris Products S.A. of Neuch√Ętel, Switzerland, represented by Simone Intellectual Property Services Asia Limited, China.

The Respondent is Liu Chao, Jiang Xi Zhong Gui Jian She Gong Cheng You Xian Gong Si of Nanchang, Jiangxi, China.

2. The Domain Name and Registrar

The disputed domain name <iqoscnn.com> is registered with Xin Net Technology Corp. (the “Registrar”).

3. Procedural History

The Complaint was filed in English with the WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center (the “Center”) on July 12, 2018. On the same day, the Center transmitted by email to the Registrar a request for registrar verification in connection with the disputed domain name. On July 13, 2018, 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 July 16, 2018 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 July 17, 2018.

On July 16, 2018, the Center sent an email to the Parties in English and Chinese regarding the language of the proceeding. The Complainant requested that English be the language of the proceeding on July 17, 2018. The Respondent did not comment on the language of the proceeding.

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 in English and Chinese of the Complaint, and the proceedings commenced on July 24, 2018. In accordance with the Rules, paragraph 5, the due date for Response was August 13, 2018. The Respondent did not submit any response. Accordingly, the Center notified the Respondent’s default on August 14, 2018.

The Center appointed Matthew Kennedy as the sole panelist in this matter on August 17, 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 belongs to a corporate group owned by Philip Morris International, Inc. (“PMI”), a tobacco company. PMI distributes IQOS, an electronically-controlled device into which a tobacco stick is inserted and heated to create a tobacco vapor. The Complainant has not yet commercialized its IQOS products in China. The Complainant owns multiple trademark registrations including Chinese trademark registrations numbers 16314286 for IQOS and 16314287 for IQOS in a particular script (the “IQOS logo”), both registered from May 14, 2016 and both specifying goods in class 34, including electronic cigarettes. Those registrations remain in effect.

The Respondent is the underlying registrant of the disputed domain name. The registrant name is an individual and the registrant organization is a Chinese company whose name can be translated as “Jiangxi Zhonggui Construction Engineering Co. Ltd”.

The disputed domain name was created on March 9, 2018. It resolves to a website in Chinese that claims to be an IQOS China official store. The website prominently displays the Complainant’s IQOS logo and images of the Complainant’s products and offers them for sale. Prices are quoted in RMB.

5. Parties’ Contentions

A. Complainant

The disputed domain name is identical or confusingly similar to the Complainant’s IQOS trademarks. The disputed domain name contains the IQOS trademark in its entirety. The mere addition of “cnn” which is similar to an abbreviation for China will further mislead the public into believing that this is the Complainant’s official website in China.

The Respondent has no rights or legitimate interests in respect of the disputed domain name. The Respondent is not authorized by the Complainant to use its IQOS trademarks, let alone to include the entirety of the IQOS trademark in a domain name associated with its business. The disputed domain name is being used in connection with a website that offers for sale what are alleged to be the Complainant’s IQOS products.

The disputed domain name was registered and is being used in bad faith. The Respondent has maliciously registered the disputed domain name with clear knowledge of the Complainant’s IQOS trademarks. The Complainant’s trademarks have achieved a high reputation and recognition among consumers on a global basis, including in the Greater China region through the Complainant’s long-term and extensive promotion in the region. The Respondent is operating a website associated with the disputed domain name that falsely claims to be an IQOS China official store.

B. Respondent

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

6. Discussion and Findings

6.1 Language of the Proceeding

Paragraph 11(a) of the Rules provides that “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.” The Registrar confirmed that the Registration Agreement for the disputed domain name is in Chinese.

The Complainant requests that the language of the proceeding be English. Its main arguments are that the disputed domain name incorporates an English abbreviation which suggests that the Respondent is at the very least competent in the English language; and that the commission of a translator would create unnecessary costs for the Complainant and cause delay.

Paragraph 10(b) and (c) of the Rules require the Panel to ensure that the Parties are treated with equality, that each Party is given a fair opportunity to present its case and that the administrative proceeding take place with due expedition. Prior UDRP panels have decided that the choice of language of the proceeding should not create an undue burden for the parties. See, for example, Solvay S.A. v. Hyun-Jun Shin, WIPO Case No. D2006-0593; Whirlpool Corporation, Whirlpool Properties, Inc. v. Hui’erpu (HK) electrical appliance co. ltd., WIPO Case No. D2008-0293.

The Panel observes that in the present proceeding the Complaint was filed in English. Despite having received notice of the Complaint and of the Complainant’s language request in Chinese and English, the Respondent has not expressed any interest in responding to the Complaint or otherwise participating in the present proceeding. In these circumstances, the Panel considers that requiring the Complainant to translate the Complaint into Chinese would create an undue burden and delay, whereas selecting English as the language of the proceeding will not unfairly prejudice either Party.

Having considered all the circumstances above, the Panel determines under paragraph 11(a) of the Rules that the language of this proceeding is English.

6.2 Substantive Issues

Paragraph 4(a) of the Policy provides that the Complainant must prove each of the following elements:

(i) the disputed 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 disputed domain name; and

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

A. Identical or Confusingly Similar

Based on the evidence submitted, the Panel finds that the Complainant has rights in the IQOS trademark.

The disputed domain name wholly incorporates the Complainant’s IQOS trademark as its initial element. It also includes the letters “cnn”. However, these letters do not dispel confusing similarity with the Complainant’s IQOS trademark, which remains clearly recognizable within the disputed domain name.

The only additional element is the generic Top-Level Domain (“gTLD”) suffix “.com”. A gTLD suffix is generally disregarded for the purposes of assessing confusing similarity under the Policy. See Lego Juris A/S v. Chen Yong, WIPO Case No. D2009-1611; Dr. Ing. h.c. F. Porsche AG v. Zhanglei, WIPO Case No. D2014-0080.

Therefore, the Panel finds that the disputed domain name is confusingly similar to a trademark in which the Complainant has rights. The Complainant has satisfied the first element in paragraph 4(a) of the Policy.

B. Rights or Legitimate Interests

Paragraph 4(c) of the Policy sets out the following circumstances which, without limitation, if found by the Panel, shall demonstrate that the respondent has rights to, or legitimate interests in, a disputed domain name, for the purposes of paragraph 4(a)(ii) of the Policy:

(i) before any notice to [the respondent] 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] (as an individual, business, or other organization) [has] been commonly known by the [disputed] domain name, even if [the respondent 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.

As regards the first circumstance above, the disputed domain name is being used in connection with an online store that offers for sale what are alleged to be the Complainant’s IQOS products. The Complainant states that it has not authorized the Respondent to use its IQOS trademarks, let alone to include the entirety of the IQOS trademark in a domain name associated with its business. Regardless of whether the products offered for sale on the Respondent’s website are counterfeit or genuine, the Panel notes that the website is misleadingly presented in such a way that it claims to be an IQOS website operated by, or affiliated with, the Complainant. These facts show that the Respondent’s use of the disputed domain name is not in connection with a bona fide offering of goods or services. See Oki Data Americas, Inc. v. ASD, Inc., WIPO Case No. D2001-0903.

As regards the second circumstance above, the name of the underlying registrant is recorded in the Registrar’s WhoIs database as “Liu Chao, Jiang Xi Zhong Gui Jian She Gong Cheng You Xian Gong Si”, which does not resemble “iqos” or even abbreviate to “iqos”. There is no evidence indicating that the Respondent has been commonly known by the disputed domain name as envisaged by the second circumstance of paragraph 4(c) of the Policy.

As regards the third circumstance above, the disputed domain name resolves to an online store. That is not a legitimate noncommercial or fair use of the disputed domain name covered by the third circumstance of paragraph 4(c) of the Policy.

In summary, the Panel considers that the Complainant has made a prima facie case that the Respondent has no rights or legitimate interests in respect of the disputed domain name. The Respondent failed to rebut that case because it did not respond to the Complainant’s contentions.

Therefore, based on the record of this proceeding, the Panel finds that the Respondent has no rights or legitimate interests in respect of the disputed domain name. The Complainant has satisfied the second element in paragraph 4(a) of the Policy.

C. Registered and Used in Bad Faith

Paragraph 4(b) of the Policy provides that certain circumstances, if found by the Panel to be present, shall be evidence of the registration and use of a domain name in bad faith. The fourth circumstance is as follows:

“(iv) by using the [disputed] domain name, [the respondent has] intentionally attempted to attract, for commercial gain, Internet users to [the respondent’s] 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 [the respondent’s] web site or location or of a product or service on [the respondent’s] web site or location.”

The disputed domain name was registered in 2018, after the Complainant obtained its trademark registrations for IQOS and the IQOS logo, including in China, where the Respondent is located. The disputed domain name incorporates the Complainant’s IQOS trademark in its entirety. The website to which the disputed domain name resolves prominently displays the Complainant’s IQOS logo and images of the Complainant’s products and offers them for sale. This all gives the Panel reason to find that the Respondent was aware of the Complainant and its IQOS trademark at the time that it registered the disputed domain name and deliberately chose to register it as part of the disputed domain name in bad faith.

The Respondent uses the disputed domain name, which is confusingly similar to the Complainant’s IQOS trademark, in connection with a website that falsely claims to be an IQOS China official store operated by, or affiliated with, the Complainant. The disputed domain name operates by creating a likelihood of confusion with the Complainant’s trademark as to the source, sponsorship, affiliation or endorsement of the website. This use is intentional and for commercial gain as contemplated by paragraph 4(b)(iv) of the Policy.

Therefore, the Panel finds that the disputed domain name has been registered and is being used in bad faith. The Complainant has satisfied the third element in 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 <iqoscnn.com> be transferred to the Complainant.

Matthew Kennedy
Sole Panelist
Date: August 24, 2018