WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center

ADMINISTRATIVE PANEL DECISION

Société Air France v. WhoisGuard, Inc. / Thierry Alexis

Case No. D2019-0953

1. The Parties

The Complainant is Société Air France, France, represented by MEYER & Partenaires, France.

The Respondent is WhoisGuard, Inc., Panama / Thierry Alexis, Malta.

2. The Domain Name and Registrar

The disputed domain name <air-france-reservation.review> is registered with NameCheap, Inc. (the “Registrar”).

3. Procedural History

The Complaint was filed with the WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center (the “Center”) on April 26, 2019. On April 26, 2019, the Center transmitted by email to the Registrar a request for registrar verification in connection with the disputed domain name. On April 26, 2019, 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 May 17, 2019 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 May 20, 2019.

By email of May 17, 2019 the Center asked the Registrar to confirm that the disputed domain name was set to expire on June 25, 2019 and that the necessary measures would be taken to keep it in Registrar Lock status until the UDRP proceedings are concluded. The Registrar confirmed the same day that it would be doing so provided that certain action be taken including payment of a renewal/registration fee in order to ensure that the disputed domain name remains active. The relevant steps were taken by the Complainant and the disputed domain name has been renewed for one year until May 24, 2020.

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 of the Complaint, and the proceedings commenced on May 23, 2019. In accordance with the Rules, paragraph 5, the due date for Response was June 12, 2019. The Respondent did not submit any response. Accordingly, the Center notified the Respondent’s default on June 20, 2019.

The Center appointed Theda König Horowicz as the sole panelist in this matter on June 25, 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.

4. Factual Background

The Complainant is a well-known French airline passenger and freight company which was founded in 1933 and which is active worldwide.

The Complainant uses “AIR FRANCE” in its trade name and is also the owner of many trademark registrations, in France and internationally, including:

- International Trademark Registration AIR FRANCE No 828334, of October 20, 2003;

- European Union Trademark Registration AIR FRANCE No 2528461, of October 7, 2003.

The Complainant has been operating an official website through the domain name <airfrance.com> since 2004 where Internet users find information about the Complainant’s services. The Complainant also owns several other domain names including “airfrancereservation”, such as <airfrancereservation.com> and <airfrance-reservation.com>.

The disputed domain name was registered on June 25, 2018 through a privacy proxy provider. After the filing of the Complaint, the Registrar disclosed the identity of the Respondent who is based in Malta.

The disputed domain name is linked to a webpage entitled “air france reservation” which promotes reservation services with Air France in French language.

5. Parties’ Contentions

A. Complainant

The Complainant alleges to have trademark rights in AIR FRANCE which has been recognized as well‑known in several WIPO UDRP decisions. The Complainant claims that the disputed domain name is confusingly similar to its trademark. In particular, the prefix of the disputed domain name “air-france”, which reproduces letter-by-letter the Complainant’s trademarks, with only additional hyphens is identical to the to the said trademarks. Furthermore, the suffix “reservation” is evocative for the Complainant’s business. The combination of AIR FRANCE with “reservation” accentuates the risk of confusion with the Complainant’s well-known trademark. The disputed domain name is also confusingly similar to the Complainant’s domain names notably with <airfrance.com>, <airfrance-reservations.com> and <airfrance-reservation.com>.

The Complainants states that the Respondent has no rights or legitimate interests in the disputed domain name since (i) it did not authorize the Respondent to register for the disputed domain name, (ii) the Respondent is not known by the disputed domain name, (iii) the disputed domain name is linked to a webpage in French language reproducing the Complainant’s name and trademark.

The Complainant alleges that its mark is well-known worldwide and that the Respondent thus must have known it when registering the disputed domain name. The addition of the mention “reservation” to the well‑known AIR FRANCE trademark is further evidence of bad faith registration since the term is related to the core activity of the Complainant. The use of a proxy service is also an evidence of bad faith and identity concealment has been considered as such in WIPO UDRP decisions. The Complainant underlines in this frame that the Respondent has been part (as the Respondent) in a few UDRP cases showing that he is engaged in a pattern of bad faith registration. The Complainant also underlines that the Respondent’s use of the disputed domain name is of bad faith. Indeed, the disputed domain name resolves to a website displaying in French information regarding the so-called “Air France Réservation”. Many of the information contained on the said webpage is either wrong or incomplete. Such use tarnishes the activities and good reputation of the Complainant. In the absence of a disclaimer on the unauthorized webpage, the Internet users might believe that it has been endorsed or registered by the Complainant. The illicit webpage allows the Internet users to enter their contact details which could then be used for fraudulent purposes.

B. Respondent

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

6. Discussion and Findings

Under the Policy, in order to prevail, a complainant must prove the following three elements for obtaining the transfer of a domain name:

(i) that the 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 the domain name; and

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

A. Identical or Confusingly Similar

The Complainant has shown to have trademark rights over the name AIR FRANCE which is a well-known trademark thus benefitting from a large protection.

The disputed domain name differs from the AIR FRANCE trademark only by the addition of the dictionary term “reservation” and does not prevent confusing similarity. The said term undoubtedly refers to the core activity of the Complainant which is to provide reservation for its airline services.

The Panel therefore concludes that the disputed domain name is confusingly similar to the Complainant’s marks.

B. Rights or Legitimate Interests

Paragraph 4(c) of the Policy contains a non-exhaustive list of circumstances that may demonstrate when a respondent has rights or legitimate interests in the use of a domain name. The list includes:

(i) the use of the domain name in connection with a bona fide offering of goods and services;

(ii) being commonly known by the domain name; or

(iii) the making of a legitimate noncommercial or fair use of the domain name, without intent for commercial gain to misleadingly divert consumers.

The Complainant has made a prima facie case showing that the Respondent has no rights or legitimate interests in the disputed domain name, notably by

(i) providing strong evidence on the famous character of its AIR FRANCE trademark which supports the fact that the Respondent has no interest in the said marks;

(ii) stating that the Respondent has not been authorized by the Complainant to use it or to use to the disputed domain name;

(iii) underlining that the Respondent is not known by the disputed domain name.

Consequently, the burden of production shifts to the Respondent to rebut the showing by providing concrete evidence that it has rights or legitimate interests in the disputed domain name. See Croatia Airlines d.d. v. Modern Empire Internet Ltd., WIPO Case No. D2003-0455; Belupo d.d. v. WACHEM d.o.o., WIPO Case No. D2004-0110.

The Respondent submitted no reply to the case against it. No evidence is contained in the case file which would evidence that the Respondent has rights or legitimate interests in the disputed domain name, in particular that he would be known by the disputed domain name.

The Panel thus finds that the Complainant has satisfied the requirements of paragraph 4(a)(ii) of the Policy.

C. Registered and Used in Bad Faith

The third element requires that the respondent registered and is using the disputed domain name in bad faith. See the Policy, paragraph 4(a)(iii). Paragraph 4(b) of the Policy enumerates non-exhaustive circumstances in which evidence of bad faith registration and use can be found:

(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 that complainant, for valuable consideration in excess of respondent’s documented out-of-pocket costs directly related to the domain name; or

(ii) 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 he has engaged in a pattern of such conduct; or

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

(iv) by using the domain name, the respondent has intentionally attempted to attract, for commercial gain, Internet users to his web site or other online location, by creating a likelihood of confusion with the complainant’s trademark as to the source, sponsorship, affiliation, or endorsement of his web site or location or of a product or service on his web site or location.

It is undoubtful that the Complainant’s trademark and name AIR FRANCE is well-known which means that the Respondent must obviously have known it when registering the disputed domain name, particularly since he combined the said trademark with the dictionary word “reservation” which refers to an important part of the Complainant’s activity (reservation of air fares to the public). Moreover, the combination of the Complainant’s mark and the word “reservation” in the disputed domain name, considering that the Complainant owns several domain names containing this specific combination in order to promote its own services, may create a likelihood of confusion among Internet users and is further evidence of bad faith.

The fact that the disputed domain name is linked to a webpage which promotes fictive reservations and which unduly collects email of addresses of Internet users for unknown purposes constitutes also bad faith use. The fact that the Respondent chose to use a privacy proxy service when registering the disputed domain name is an indication that its intentions were not to run a public and licit business under the disputed domain name but most likely to use the disputed domain name with the sole goal to gather information on potential clients of the Complainant.

The Complainant has also shown and evidenced that the Respondent was cited as Respondent in a few other WIPO UDRP proceedings in relation to domain names he registered without prior authorization of the concerned trademark holder. He thus seems to be engaged in a pattern of bad faith registration of domain names.

Considering the above-mentioned circumstances, the Panel finds that the Complainant has also satisfied the requirements of paragraph 4(a)(iii) 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 <air-france-reservation.review> be transferred to the Complainant.

Theda König Horowicz
Sole Panelist
Date: July 12, 2019