WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center
ADMINISTRATIVE PANEL DECISION
Puma SE v. Bridgette Limones
Case No. D2019-0818
1. The Parties
The Complainant is Puma SE of Herzogenaurach, Germany, represented by Göhmann Rechtsanwalte, Germany.
The Respondent is Bridgette Limones of El Mont, California, United States of America (“United States”).
2. The Domain Name and Registrar
The disputed domain name <pumasingapore.com> is registered with NameSilo, LLC (the “Registrar”).
3. Procedural History
The Complaint was filed with the WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center (the “Center”) on April 10, 2019. On April 10, 2019, the Center transmitted by email to the Registrar a request for registrar verification in connection with the disputed domain name. On April 10, 2019, 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 April 18, 2019. In accordance with the Rules, paragraph 5, the due date for Response was May 8, 2019. The Respondent did not submit any response. Accordingly, the Center notified the Respondent’s default on May 10, 2019.
The Center appointed Edoardo Fano as the sole panelist in this matter on May 15, 2019. 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.
The Panel has not received any requests from the Complainant or the Respondent regarding further submissions, waivers or extensions of deadlines, and the Panel has not found it necessary to request any further information from the Parties.
Having reviewed the communication records in the case file provided by the Center, the Panel finds that the Center has discharged its responsibility under the Rules, paragraph 2(a), “to employ reasonably available means calculated to achieve actual notice to Respondent”. Therefore, the Panel shall issue its Decision based upon the Complaint, the Policy, the Rules and the Supplemental Rules and without the benefit of a response from the Respondent.
The language of the proceeding is English, being the language of the Registration Agreement, as per paragraph 11(a) of the Rules.
4. Factual Background
The Complainant is Puma SE, a German company operating worldwide in different fields and owning several trademark registrations for PUMA all over the world, including the International Trademark No. 175859, registered on March 26, 1954.
The Complainant provided evidence in support of the above.
The disputed domain name <pumasingapore.com> was registered on February 27, 2019, according to the WhoIs records, and when the Complaint was filed the website at the disputed domain name was advertising and trading Puma shoes, reproducing the trademark and logo of the Complainant.
5. Parties’ Contentions
The Complainant states that the disputed domain name <pumasingapore.com> is confusingly similar to its trademark PUMA, as the word “singapore” is descriptive and not distinctive.
Moreover, the Complainant asserts that the Respondent has no rights or legitimate interests in respect of the disputed domain name since it has not been authorized by the Complainant to register the disputed domain name or to use its trademark within the disputed domain name, nor is the Respondent commonly known by the disputed domain name. The Complainant asserts the Respondent is offering for sale fake goods on the website at the disputed domain name, therefore not making either a bona fide offering of goods or services or a legitimate noncommercial or fair use of the disputed domain name.
The Complainant contends that use of the disputed domain name to intentionally attract, for commercial gain, Internet users by creating a likelihood of confusion with the Complainant’s famous trademark as to the source, sponsorship, affiliation and/or endorsement of the Respondent’s associated website qualifies as bad faith registration and use.
The Respondent has made no reply to the Complainant’s contentions and is in default. In reference to paragraphs 5(e) and 14 of the Rules, no exceptional circumstances explaining the default have been put forward or are apparent from the record.
A respondent is not obliged to participate in a proceeding under the Policy, but if it fails to do so, reasonable facts asserted by a complainant may be taken as true, and appropriate inferences, in accordance with paragraph 14(b) of the Rules, may be drawn (see, e.g., Reuters Limited v. Global Net 2000, Inc., WIPO Case No. D2000-0441; Microsoft Corporation v. Freak Films Oy, WIPO Case No. D2003-0109; SSL International PLC v. Mark Freeman, WIPO Case No. D2000-1080; Altavista Company v. Grandtotal Finances Limited et. al., WIPO Case No. D2000-0848; Confédération Nationale du Crédit Mutuel, Caisse Fédérale du Crédit Mutuel Nord Europe v. Marketing Total S.A., WIPO Case No. D2007-0288).
6. Discussion and Findings
Paragraph 4(a) of the Policy lists three elements, which the Complainant must satisfy in order to succeed:
(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
The Panel finds that the Complainant is the owner of the trademark PUMA both by registration and acquired reputation and that the disputed domain name <pumasingapore.com> is confusingly similar to the trademark PUMA.
Regarding the addition of the word “singapore”, the Panel notes that it is now well established that the addition of descriptive terms or letters to a domain name does not prevent a finding of confusing similarity between the domain name and the trademark (see, e.g., Aventis Pharma SA., Aventis Pharma Deutschland GmbH v. Jonathan Valicenti, WIPO Case No. D2005-0037; Red Bull GmbH v. Chai Larbthanasub, WIPO Case No. D2003-0709; America Online, Inc. v. Dolphin@Heart, WIPO Case No. D2000-0713). The addition of the word “singapore” does not therefore prevent the disputed domain name from being confusingly similar to the Complainant’s trademark.
It is also well accepted that a generic Top-Level Domain (“gTLD”), in this case “.com”, may be ignored when assessing the similarity between a trademark and a domain name (see, e.g., VAT Holding AG v. Vat.com, WIPO Case No. D2000-0607).
The Panel finds that the Complainant has therefore met its burden of proving that the disputed domain name is confusingly similar to the Complainant’s trademark, pursuant to the Policy, paragraph 4(a)(i).
B. Rights or Legitimate Interests
The Respondent has failed to file a Response in accordance with the Rules, paragraph 5.
The Complainant asserts that the Respondent is not using the disputed domain name for a legitimate noncommercial or fair use or in connection with a bona fide offering of goods or services because the Respondent is offering for sale fake goods.
In the present case, the Complainant is stating that the products sold on the website at the disputed domain name are fake, without providing any evidence in order to substantiate its assertion.
“Panels are generally not prepared however to accept merely conclusory or wholly unsupported allegations of illegal activity, including counterfeiting, even when the respondent is in default. (…)”
Should the shoes sold on the website to which the disputed domain name is redirecting Internet users be genuine products, legitimately acquired by the Respondent, the question that would arise is whether the Respondent would therefore have a legitimate interest in using the disputed domain name that is confusingly similar to the Complainant’s trademark in circumstances that are likely to give rise to confusion.
According to the current state of UDRP decisions in relation to the issue of resellers as summarized in the WIPO Overview of WIPO Panel Views on Selected UDRP Questions, Third Edition (“WIPO Overview 3.0”), section 2.8.1:
“(...) resellers, distributors, or service providers using a domain name containing the complainant’s trademark to undertake sales or repairs related to the complainant’s goods or services may be making a bona fide offering of goods and services and thus have a legitimate interest in such domain name. Outlined in the ‘Oki Data test’, the following cumulative requirements will be applied in the specific conditions of a UDRP case:
(i) the respondent must actually be offering the goods or services at issue;
(ii) the respondent must use the site to sell only the trademarked goods or services;
(iii) the site must accurately and prominently disclose the registrant’s relationship with the trademark holder; and
(iv) the respondent must not try to ‘corner the market’ in domain names that reflect the trademark.”
This summary is based on the UDRP decision in Oki Data Americas, Inc. v. ASD, Inc., WIPO Case No. D2001-0903.
However, the website at the disputed domain name is not only making no reference whatsoever to a relationship, or the lack of a relationship, between the Respondent and the Complainant, but it is also showing the logo of NIKE, one of the main Complainant’s competitors, at the bottom of each page: the Panel is of the opinion that this is sufficient to support the allegation of the lack of rights or legitimate interests of the Respondent in relation to this disputed domain name.
Moreover, the Panel finds that the disputed domain name carries a risk of implied affiliation as it effectively impersonates or suggests sponsorship or endorsement by the Complainant. See WIPO Overview 3.0, section 2.5.1.
Based on the facts of this case, the Panel finds that the Respondent has no rights or legitimate interests in the disputed domain name.
The Panel therefore finds that paragraph 4(a)(ii) of the Policy has been satisfied.
C. Registered and Used in Bad Faith
Paragraph 4(b) of the Policy provides that “for the purposes of paragraph 4(a)(iii) of the Policy, 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 [the respondent has] registered or has 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 the complainant, for valuable consideration in excess of its documented out-of-pocket costs directly related to the domain name; or
(ii) that [the respondent has] 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 [the respondent has] engaged in a pattern of such conduct; or
(iii) that [the respondent has] registered the domain name primarily for the purpose of disrupting the business of a competitor; or
(iv) that by using the 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”.
Regarding the registration in bad faith of the disputed domain name, the reputation of the Complainant’s trademark PUMA is clearly established and the Panel finds that the Respondent likely knew of the Complainant and deliberately registered the disputed domain name, <pumasingapore.com>, especially because the website at the disputed domain name is displaying the Complainant’s trademark as well its logo and is purporting to advertise and trade Puma shoes.
The Panel further notes that the disputed domain name is also used in bad faith since on the relevant website the Complainant’s distinctive trademark and logo are displayed in an attempt to pass off as an agent of the Complainant, and also the logo of one of the most important competitors of the Complainant is displayed.
The above suggests to the Panel that the Respondent intentionally registered and is using the disputed domain name in order to create confusion with the Complainant’s trademark and attract, for commercial gain, Internet users to its website in accordance with paragraph 4(b)(iv) of the Policy.
The Panel finds that the Complainant has presented evidence to satisfy its burden of proof with respect to the issue of whether the Respondent has registered and is using the disputed domain name in bad faith.
The Panel therefore finds that paragraph 4(a)(iii) of the Policy has been satisfied.
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 <pumasingapore.com> be transferred to the Complainant.
Date: May 27, 2019