WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center
ADMINISTRATIVE PANEL DECISION
Veolia Environnement SA v. Chantell Holden
Case No. D2019-1555
1. The Parties
The Complainant is Veolia Environnement SA, France, internally represented.
The Respondent is Chantell Holden, United States of America (“US”).
2. The Domain Name and Registrar
The disputed domain name <veoliagrp.com> is registered with Domain.com, LLC (the “Registrar”).
3. Procedural History
The Complaint was filed with the WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center (the “Center”) on July 3, 2019. On July 5, 2019, the Center transmitted by email to the Registrar a request for registrar verification in connection with the disputed domain name. On July 8, 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 July 16, 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 July 16, 2019.
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 July 22, 2019. In accordance with the Rules, paragraph 5, the due date for Response was August 11, 2019. The Respondent did not submit any response. Accordingly, the Center notified the Respondent’s default on August 12, 2019.
The Center appointed Cherise Valles as the sole panelist in this matter on September 2, 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 the holding company of Veolia group, a 160-year old group of companies with a revenue of EUR 25.91 billion. The Veolia group operates across three core businesses – water, waste and energy – and assists cities and industries in managing and optimizing their resources. In addition to these three core activities, the Complainant has other key growth markets in sectors with significant potential to generate revenue, including the circular economy, pollution treatment and decommissioning services for oil rigs, ships, aircraft and nuclear plants. It has more than 171,000 employees over five continents.
The Complainant has launched various advertising campaigns in the past years, the most recent of which focuses on the Complainant’s role in the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference.
The Complainant owns a number of trademarks in jurisdictions around the world for the term VEOLIA, including the following:
- International trademark no. 814678 for VEOLIA, registered on September 11, 2003, in classes 1, 6, 9, 11, 17, 19, 32, 35, 36, 37, 39, 40, 41, and 42;
- International trademark No. 919580 for VEOLIA, registered on March 10, 2006, in classes 9, 11, 16, 35, 36, 37, 38, 39, 40, 41, and 42;
- European Union trademark No. 0910325 for VEOLIA, registered on March 10, 2006, in classes 9, 11, 16, 35, 36, 37, 38, 39, 40, 41, 42, and 44;
- US trademark No. 3543738 for VEOLIA, registered on December 9, 2008, in classes 16, 35, 37, 39, 40, and 42;
- International trademark No. 1224691 for the VEOLIA logo, registered on July 28, 2014, in classes 16, 35, 36, 37, 38, 39, 40, and 42;
- International trademark No. 1234397 for the VEOLIA logo, registered on October 2, 2014, in classes 16, 35, 36, 37, 38, 39, 40, and 42; and
- International trademark No. 914460 for the VEOLIA logo, registered on February 2, 2007, in classes 9, 16, 35, and 41.
The Complainant also owns and operates the domain name <veolia.com>, registered on December 30, 2002.
The disputed domain name was registered on May 21, 2019. The disputed domain name was used for a phishing attempt, in which the email address “[...]@veoliagrp.com” was used to send an email from an address that was very similar to the legitimate email address “[…]@veolia.com” belonging to the Complainant’s Chief Financial Officer. That email attempted to fraudulently induce a staff member of the Complainant to provide banking information.
5. Parties’ Contentions
The Complainant asserts that each of the elements enumerated in paragraph 4(a) of the Policy and the corresponding provisions in the Rules have been satisfied. In particular, the Complainant asserts that:
The disputed domain name is identical or confusingly similar to a trademark in which the Complainant has rights.
- The disputed domain name is confusingly similar to the Complainant’s registered trademark, VEOLIA, in light of the fact that it wholly incorporates the Complainant’s mark.
The Respondent lacks rights or legitimate interests in the disputed domain name.
- The Complainant states that the Respondent should be considered as having no rights or legitimate interests in the disputed domain name. The Complainant has never licensed or otherwise permitted the Respondent to use its trademarks or to register any domain name that included its trademarks.
The disputed domain name has been registered and is being used in bad faith.
- The Complainant asserts that the disputed domain name was registered and is being used in bad faith. The mere fact of registration of a domain name that is confusingly similar or identical to a famous trademark by an entity that has no relationship to that mark is itself evidence of bad faith registration and use.
The Complainant requests the Panel to issue a decision finding that the disputed domain name be transferred to the Complainant, in accordance with paragraph 4(i) of the Policy.
The Respondent did not reply to the Complainant’s contentions.
6. Discussion and Findings
The Policy provides specific remedies to trademark owners against registrants of domain names where the owner of the mark (a complainant) establishes each of the following elements:
(i) the domain name is identical or confusingly similar to a trademark in which the complainant has rights;
(ii) the respondent has no rights or legitimate interests in respect of the domain name; and
(iii) the domain name was registered and is being used in bad faith.
The Complainant has the burden of proof in establishing each of these elements.
The Respondent has failed to file a Response in this proceeding. The Panel may draw appropriate inferences from the available evidence submitted by the Complainant.
A. Identical or Confusingly Similar
To prove this element, the Complainant must have trademark rights and the disputed domain name must be identical or confusingly similar to the Complainant’s trademark.
The Complainant is the sole and exclusive owner of multiple registrations worldwide for the term VEOLIA and the VEOLIA logo, as indicated in Section 4 above.
The disputed domain name is confusingly similar to the trademark VEOLIA. Indeed, it reproduces the Complainant’s VEOLIA trademark in its entirety with the addition of the element “grp”, which appears to refer to “group”. This addition does not prevent a finding of confusing similarity. Previous UDRP panels have held that abbreviations that follow a clearly and easily identifiable mark in a disputed domain name serve a descriptive function, and do not prevent a finding of confusing similarity with a complainant’s mark. See OSRAM GmbH v. wangjin, WIPO Case No. D2013-1570.
Previous UDRP panels have found that the incorporation of a trademark in its entirety may be sufficient to establish that a disputed domain name is identical or at least confusingly similar to a complainant’s registered mark. See, e.g., The Coca Cola Company v. PrivacyProtect.org / Acosta Jose Julian, WIPO Case No. D2010-0335.
Moreover, the mere adjunction of a generic Top-Level Domain (“gTLD”) such as “.com” is irrelevant as it is well established that the gTLD may be disregarded in the determination of confusing similarity. See Alfred Dunhill, Inc. v. Registration Private, Domains By Proxy, LLC / Abdullah Altubayieb, WIPO Case No. D2017-0209.
In the light of the foregoing, the Panel finds that the disputed domain name <veoliagrp.com> is confusingly similar to the Complainant’s registered trademark and that paragraph 4(a)(i) of the Policy is satisfied.
B. Rights or Legitimate Interests
Paragraph 4(c) of the Policy enumerates three non-exclusive ways in which a respondent may demonstrate rights or legitimate interests in a domain name (with “you” referring to the respondent):
“[a]ny of the following circumstances, in particular but without limitation, if found by the panel to be proved based on its evaluation of all evidence presented, shall demonstrate your rights or legitimate interests to the domain name for purposes of paragraph 4(a)(ii):
(i) before any notice to you of the dispute, your use of, or demonstrable preparations to use, the domain name or a name corresponding to the domain name in connection with a bona fide offering of goods or services; or
(ii) you (as an individual, business or other organization) have been commonly known by the domain name, even if you have acquired no trademark or service mark rights; or
(iii) you are making a legitimate noncommercial or fair use of the domain name, without intent for commercial gain to misleadingly divert consumers or to tarnish the trademark or service mark at issue.”
The Respondent did not submit a Response or attempt to demonstrate any rights or legitimate interests in the disputed domain name, and the Panel draws adverse inferences from this failure, where appropriate, in accordance with the Rules, paragraph 14(b).
Previous UDRP panels have established that in order to shift the burden of production to the respondent, it is sufficient for the complainant to make a prima facie showing that the respondent has no rights or legitimate interests in the disputed domain name. The Panel finds that the Complainant has established a prima facie case and the Respondent has failed to produce any evidence to establish rights or legitimate interests in the disputed domain name. In the absence of a Response or an assertion that any such right or legitimate interest exists, this must lead to a presumption that the Respondent is unable to show that such a right or legitimate interest exists.
There has never been any relationship between the Complainant and the Respondent. The Respondent is not licensed, or otherwise authorized, be it directly or indirectly, to register or use, the Complainant’s trademarks in any manner whatsoever, including in or as part of the disputed domain name. The term “veolia” is not descriptive in any way, nor does the combination of words and numerals have any dictionary meaning. The name of the Respondent, Chantell Holden, does not correspond to the trademark VEOLIA and to the best of the Complainant’s knowledge, the Respondent is not commonly-known as “veolia”. Previous URDP panels have held that in the absence of any license or permission from a complainant to use such a widely-known trademark, no actual or contemplated bona fide or legitimate use of the domain name could reasonably be claimed. See, e.g., OSRAM GmbH. v. Mohammed Rafi/Domain Admin, Privacy Protection Service INC d/b/a PrivacyProtect.org, WIPO Case No. D2015-1149.
The Respondent must have been aware of the Complainant’s rights in the VEOLIA marks, since the Complainant’s registration of the trademarks mentioned in Section 4 above preceded the registration of the disputed domain name by a number of years, and since the Respondent used the disputed domain name to imitate the Complainant’s legitimate email address as part of a phishing scam.
There is no evidence to suggest that the Respondent has ever used, or demonstrated preparations to use, the disputed domain name in connection with a bona fide offering of goods or services. The disputed domain name <veoliagrp.com> has not apparently been used in connection with any active website, but has been used as part of a phishing scam, which can never confer rights or legitimate interests on the Respondent.
In the light of the foregoing, the Panel finds that the Complainant has established an unrebutted prima facie case and concludes that paragraph 4(a)(ii) of the Policy is satisfied.
C. Registered and Used in Bad Faith
Paragraph 4(b) of the Policy states that any of the following circumstances, in particular but without limitation, shall be considered evidence of the registration and use of a domain name in bad faith:
(i) circumstances indicating that the respondent registered or acquired the domain name primarily for the purpose of selling, renting or otherwise transferring the domain name registration to the complainant (the owner of the trademark or service mark) or to a competitor of that complainant, for valuable consideration in excess of documented out-of-pocket costs directly related to the domain name;
(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 the respondent has engaged in a pattern of such conduct;
(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 its 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 its website or location.
Previous UDRP decisions have held that the registration and the use of a domain name in connection with a fraudulent “phishing” scheme constitutes bad faith under the Policy. See, e.g., DeLaval Holding AB v. Registration Private, Domains By Proxy LLL / Craig Kennedy, WIPO Case No. D2015-2135.
The disputed domain name was registered well after the Complainant had used and registered its VEOLIA marks. Given the Complainant’s reputation worldwide, the Respondent must have been aware of the Complainant’s trademarks when the disputed domain name was registered.
Furthermore, the Respondent used an email address similar to that of the Complainant’s Chief Financial Officer in order to pass itself off as the Complainant, which indicates that the Respondent was aware of the Complainant’s existence. Previous UDRP panels have held that knowledge of a corresponding mark at the time of the registration of a disputed domain name suggests bad faith. See Compagnie Générale des Etablissements Michelin v. Cameron Jackson, WIPO Case No. D2016-2392. It appears that the Respondent’s primary motive in registering and using the disputed domain name was to capitalize on or otherwise take advantage of the Complainant’s trademark rights through the creation of confusion.
Accordingly, the Panel concludes that the Complainant has satisfied its burden of showing bad faith registration and use of the disputed domain name under paragraph 4(a)(iii) of the Policy.
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 <veoliagrp.com> be transferred to the Complainant.
Date: September 16, 2019