WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center

ADMINISTRATIVE PANEL DECISION

Philip Morris Products S.A. v. Shenzhen Jiuyao Technology Co., Ltd.

Case No. D2019-1442

1. The Parties

The Complainant is Philip Morris Products S.A., Switzerland, represented by D.M. Kisch Inc., South Africa.

The Respondent is Shenzhen Jiuyao Technology Co., Ltd., China.

2. The Domain Name and Registrar

The disputed domain name <iqos-usa.com> is registered with Alibaba Cloud Computing (Beijing) Co., Ltd. (the “Registrar”).

3. Procedural History

The Complaint in English was filed with the WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center (the “Center”) on June 21, 2019. On June 21, 2019, the Center transmitted by email to the Registrar a request for registrar verification in connection with the disputed domain name. On June 25, 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 June 25, 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 in English on June 28, 2019.

On June 25, 2019, the Center transmitted an email in English and Chinese to the Parties regarding the language of the proceeding. The Complainant confirmed its request that English be the language of the proceeding on June 28, 2019. 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 proceeding commenced on July 1, 2019. In accordance with the Rules, paragraph 5, the due date for Response was July 21, 2019. The Respondent did not submit any response. Accordingly, the Center notified the Respondent’s default on July 22, 2019.

The Center appointed Sebastian M.W. Hughes as the sole panelist in this matter on July 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

A. Complainant

The Complainant is a company incorporated in Switzerland and is part of the group of companies affiliated with Philip Morris International Inc. (“PMI”).

The Complainant is the owner of registrations in jurisdictions worldwide for the word and device trade mark IQOS (the “Trade Mark”), including international trade mark registration No. 1218246, with a registration date of July 10, 2014; and Chinese trade mark registration No. 16314286, with a registration date of May 14, 2016.

PMI has used the Trade Mark since its launch in Japan in 2014 and to date in 44 countries in respect of its products, specifically precisely controlled heating devices into which specially designed tobacco products are inserted and heated to generate a flavourful nicotine-containing aerosol.

B. Respondent

The Respondent is apparently a company located in China.

C. The Disputed Domain Name

The disputed domain name was registered on April 28, 2018.

D. Use of the Disputed Domain Name

The disputed domain name has been used in respect of a Chinese language website under the prominent banner “IQOS商城” (IQOS Mall) which purportedly offers for sale the Complainant’s products under the Trade Mark as well as third party products of other commercial origin (the “Website”).

5. Parties’ Contentions

A. Complainant

The Complainant contends that the disputed domain name is identical or confusingly similar to the Trade Mark, the Respondent has no rights or legitimate interests in respect of the disputed domain name, and the disputed domain name was registered and is being used in bad faith.

B. Respondent

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

6. Discussion and Findings

6.1 Language of the Proceeding

The language of the Registration Agreement for the disputed domain name is Chinese. Pursuant to the Rules, paragraph 11, in the absence of an agreement between the parties, or unless specified otherwise in the Registration Agreement, the language of the administrative proceeding shall be the language of the Registration Agreement.

Paragraph 11(a) of the Rules allows the panel to determine the language of the proceeding having regard to all the circumstances. In particular, it is established practice to take paragraphs 10(b) and (c) of the Rules into consideration for the purpose of determining the language of the proceeding, in order to ensure fairness to the parties and the maintenance of an inexpensive and expeditious avenue for resolving domain name disputes. Language requirements should not lead to undue burdens being placed on the parties and undue delay to the proceeding.

The Complainant has requested that the language of the proceeding be English, for several reasons, including the following:

(i) The disputed domain name is in Latin script and not in Chinese script, indicating that the Website is directed to, at the very least, an English speaking public;

(ii) The Complainant being a Swiss entity has no knowledge of Chinese and, in light of the Respondent’s knowledge of English, decided to file the Complaint in English being a common language in global business and obviously also a language in which the Respondent is doing business;

(iii) The website of the privacy registration service used by the Respondent for the disputed domain names is a multi-language website, which includes English; and

(iv) Taking into account all relevant circumstances of the case, including matters such as the Parties’ ability to understand and use the proposed language, time and costs, the language of the proceeding should be English.

The Respondent did not file a response and did not file any submissions with respect to the language of the proceeding.

In exercising its discretion to use a language other than that of the Registration Agreement, the Panel has to exercise such discretion judicially in the spirit of fairness and justice to both Parties, taking into account all relevant circumstances of the case, including matters such as the Parties’ ability to understand and use the proposed language, time and costs.

The Panel does not find the first three grounds relied upon by the Complainant in support of its language request convincing. In respect of the first ground, the Panel notes that the Website is a Chinese language website which (as contended by the Complainant elsewhere in the Complaint) targets consumers in China. In respect of the second ground, the Panel notes that the Complainant operates globally, including in Chinese speaking jurisdictions. In respect of the third ground, the Panel considers the fact the privacy service operator operates a multi-language website which includes English does not demonstrate the likely possibility the Respondent is conversant in English.

The Panel notes however that the Respondent has chosen not to contest this proceeding; and is mindful of the need to ensure the proceeding is conducted in a timely and cost effective manner.

In all the circumstances, the Panel therefore finds it is not foreseeable that the Respondent would be prejudiced, should English be adopted as the language of the proceeding.

Having considered all the matters above, the Panel determines under paragraph 11(a) of the Rules that the language of the proceeding shall be English.

6.2 Substantive Elements of the Policy

The Complainant must prove each of the three elements in paragraph 4(a) of the Policy in order to prevail.

A. Identical or Confusingly Similar

The Panel finds that the Complainant has rights in the Trade Mark acquired through use and registration.

The disputed domain name incorporates the entirety of the Trade Mark (see section 1.7 of the WIPO Overview of WIPO Panel Views on Selected UDRP Questions, Third Edition (“WIPO Overview 3.0”)) together with the commonly used abbreviation for the United States of America, “usa”.

Where a relevant trade mark is recognisable within a disputed domain name, the addition of other terms (whether descriptive, geographical, pejorative, meaningless, or otherwise) does not prevent a finding of confusing similarity under the first element (see WIPO Overview 3.0, section 1.8).

The Panel therefore finds that the disputed domain name is confusingly similar to the Trade Mark.

B. Rights or Legitimate Interests

Paragraph 4(c) of the Policy provides a list of non-exhaustive circumstances any of which is sufficient to demonstrate that a respondent has rights or legitimate interests in a disputed domain name:

(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 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.

The Complainant has not authorised, licensed, or permitted the Respondent to register or use the disputed domain name or to use the Trade Mark. The Panel finds on the record that there is therefore a prima facie case that the Respondent has no rights or legitimate interests in the disputed domain name, and the burden is thus on the Respondent to produce evidence to rebut this presumption.

The Respondent has failed to show that it has acquired any trade mark rights in respect of the disputed domain name or that the disputed domain name has been used in connection with a bona fide offering of goods or services. To the contrary, the disputed domain name has been used in connection with the Website, in order to offer for sale the alleged Complainant’s products under the Trade Mark without authorisation, as well as other third party products.

The Complainant contends that the Complainant’s IQOS system is not currently sold in China and points out that the currency used on the Website is the currency used in China.

According to the undisputed evidence of the Complainant, the Website is further using a number of the Complainant’s official product images and marketing materials without the Complainant’s authorisation, thereby strengthening the impression of an affiliation with the Complainant.

The Complainant contends further that the Website does not show any details regarding the provider of the Website, nor does it acknowledge the Complainant as the real owner of the Trade Mark, leaving the Internet user under the false impression that the online shop provided under the Website is that of the Complainant or one of its official distributors.

There has been no evidence adduced to show that the Respondent has been commonly known by the disputed domain name.

There has been no evidence adduced to show that the Respondent is making a legitimate noncommercial or fair use of the disputed domain name.

In addition, the Panel notes the nature of the disputed domain name, which carries a risk of implied association (see WIPO Overview 3.0, section 2.5.1).

In all the circumstances, the Panel finds that the Respondent has no rights or legitimate interests in the disputed domain name.

C. Registered and Used in Bad Faith

In light of the manner of use of the disputed domain name highlighted in Section 6.2B above, the Panel finds that the requisite element of bad faith has been made out, under paragraph 4(b)(iv) of the Policy.

The Panel therefore finds that the disputed domain name has been registered and is being used in bad faith.

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 <iqos-usa.com> be transferred to the Complainant.

Sebastian M.W. Hughes
Sole Panelist
Dated: August 8, 2019