WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center

ADMINISTRATIVE PANEL DECISION

Philip Morris Products S.A. v. Julius Pavilonis, MB "Kaitink"

Case No. D2019-1214

1. The Parties

The Complainant is Philip Morris Products S.A., Switzerland, represented by Boehmert & Boehmert, Germany.

The Respondent is Julius Pavilonis, MB “Kaitink”, Lithuania.

2. The Domain Name and Registrar

The disputed domain name <heetup.com> is registered with Tucows Inc. (the “Registrar”).

3. Procedural History

The Complaint was filed with the WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center (the “Center”) on May 28, 2019. On May 28, 2019, the Center transmitted by email to the Registrar a request for registrar verification in connection with the disputed domain name. On May 28, 2019, the Registrar transmitted by email to the Center its verification response disclosing the registrant and contact information for the disputed domain name. The Center sent an email communication to the Complainant on May 29, 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 amendment to the Complaint on May 30, 2019.

The Center verified that the Complaint, together with the amendment to 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 May 31, 2019. In accordance with the Rules, paragraph 5, the due date for Response was June 20, 2019. The Respondent did not submit any response. Accordingly, the Center notified the Respondent’s default on June 21, 2019.

The Center appointed Edoardo Fano as the sole panelist in this matter on July 5, 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 Philip Morris Products S.A., a Swiss subsidiary company of Philip Morris International Inc. (“PMI”), operating as one of the international leaders in the field of tobacco and owning several trademark registrations for HEET and HEETS in relation to tobacco products to be inserted and heated in Reduced Risk Products (“RRPs”) cigarettes, like PMI’s IQOS branded ones.

Among the many trademark registrations for HEET and HEETS are the following ones:

- International Trademark Registration No. 1312086 for HEET, registered on May 17, 2016;

- International Trademark Registration No. 1326410 for HEETS, registered on July 19, 2016.

The Complainant provided evidence in support of the above.

The disputed domain name <heetup.com> was registered on January 17, 2019, according to the WhoIs records, and when the Complaint was filed the website at the disputed domain name was advertising and trading electric tobacco heating devices and relevant sticks, reproducing the trademark IQOS and logo of the Complainant.

5. Parties’ Contentions

A. Complainant

The Complainant states that the disputed domain name <heetup.com> is confusingly similar to its trademark HEET, as the word “up” 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 the Complainant’s trademark within the disputed domain name. The Complainant asserts the Respondent is offering for sale fake goods as well as competitor’s 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 submits that the Respondent has registered the disputed domain name in bad faith, since the Complainant’s trademark HEET is distinctive and not commonly used for tobacco products. Therefore, the Respondent targeted the Complainant’s trademark at the time of registration of the disputed domain name and the Complainant contends that the use of the disputed domain name to intentionally attract, for commercial gain, Internet users by creating a likelihood of confusion with the Complainant’s trademark as to the source, sponsorship, affiliation and/or endorsement of the Respondent’s associated website qualifies as bad faith registration and use.

B. Respondent

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 registered trademark HEET and that the disputed domain name <heetup.com> is confusingly similar to the trademark HEET.

Regarding the addition of the word, namely a preposition, “up”, the Panel notes that it is now well established that the addition of dictionary 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 preposition “up” 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 confusing 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.

According to the WIPO Overview of WIPO Panel Views on Selected UDRP Questions, Third Edition (“WIPO Overview 3.0”), section 2.13.2:

“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 electric tobacco heating devices and relevant sticks 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 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 offering for sale other electric tobacco heating devices and relevant sticks of Complainant’s competitors, like Healcier. Thus, 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 Panel finds that the Respondent likely knew of the Complainant’s registered trademark HEET and deliberately registered the disputed domain name, <heetup.com>, especially because the website at the disputed domain name is reproducing the IQOS trademark and logo of the Complainant and is offering for sale the same products as the Complainant, namely electric tobacco heating devices and relevant sticks.

The Panel further notes that the disputed domain name is also used in bad faith since on the relevant website the Complainant’s IQOS trademark and logo are displayed in an attempt to pass off as an agent of the Complainant, and also other electric tobacco heating devices and relevant sticks of the Complainant’s competitors are offered for sale.

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.

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 <heetup.com> be transferred to the Complainant.

Edoardo Fano
Sole Panelist
Date: July 13, 2019