WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center

ADMINISTRATIVE PANEL DECISION

Aareal Bank AG v. Domain Administrator, See PrivacyGuardian.org / Carl Max

Case No. D2019-2031

1. The Parties

The Complainant is Aareal Bank AG, Germany, represented by Squire Patton Boggs (US) LLP, Germany.

The Respondent is Domain Administrator, See PrivacyGuardian.org, United States of America (the “US”) / Carl Max, US.

2. The Domain Name and Registrar

The disputed domain name <aarealbn.com> (“the Disputed Domain Name”) is registered with NameSilo, LLC (the “Registrar”).

3. Procedural History

The Complaint was filed with the WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center (the “Center”) on August 20, 2019. On August 20, 2019, the Center transmitted by email to the Registrar a request for registrar verification in connection with the Disputed Domain Name. On August 22, 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 August 27, 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 August 29, 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 August 30, 2019. In accordance with the Rules, paragraph 5, the due date for Response was September 19, 2019. The Respondent did not submit any response. Accordingly, the Center notified the Respondent’s default on September 23, 2019.

The Center appointed Jacques de Werra as the sole panelist in this matter on September 26, 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 bank specialized in the real estate and property market, and which is headquartered in Germany. It is the owner of various trademarks incorporating the term “aareal” in many countries, including in the US, in which it owns a US trademark, registration No. 2838353, which was registered on August 3, 2004 for banking and financial services in class 36 (the “Trademark”).

The Disputed Domain Name was registered on February 3, 2019. It used to resolve to a website which replicates the official website of the Complainant at “www.aareal-bank.com”.

5. Parties’ Contentions

A. Complainant

The Complainant submits that the Disputed Domain Name is confusingly similar to the Trademark because it incorporates the Trademark and the letters “bn” which constitute an abbreviation of “bank”.

The Complainant submits that the Respondent has no rights or legitimate interests in the Disputed Domain Name and that in essence the Respondent is unable to invoke any of the circumstances set out in paragraph 4(c) of the Policy, in order to demonstrate rights or legitimate interests in the Disputed Domain Name. The Respondent rather appears to use the Disputed Domain Name in order to obtain sensitive personal information from customers of the Complainant (by mimicking the official website of the Complainant). The Complainant has thus made a prima facie case against the Respondent so that the burden shifts to the Respondent to establish its potential rights or legitimate interests in the Disputed Domain Name.

The Complainant submits that the Respondent registered and uses the Disputed Domain Name in bad faith in order to attract Internet users to its website based on a likelihood of confusion with the Trademark. The Respondent knew about the Complainant’s Trademark when registering the Disputed Domain Name, which was created in order to profit from the Trademark’s goodwill. The use of the Disputed Domain Name in association with a website which used to replicate the official website of the Complainant shows that the Respondent hoped that clients of the Complainant would think that they are using Complainant’s official website and thereby took advantage of the Complainant’s Trademark. This constitutes a fraudulent use of the Disputed Domain Name by which the Respondent was fishing for login information or sensitive data of customers of the Complainant.

B. Respondent

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

6. Discussion and Findings

Paragraph 4(a) of the Policy provides that the complainant must prove each of the following three elements in order to succeed in a UDRP proceeding:

(i) the respondent’s 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 domain name; and

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

A. Identical or Confusingly Similar

The Panel is satisfied that the Complainant has rights to a trademark or service mark as reflected in the Trademark.

A comparison between the Disputed Domain Name and the Trademark shows that the Disputed Domain Name is confusingly similar to the Trademark, whereby the generic Top Level Domain (i.e. “.com”) shall be disregarded. The Disputed Domain Name consists of the Trademark and of the letters “bn”, which can be connected to the banking activities conducted by the Complainant, given that “bn” can be understood as an abbreviation for “bank”. On this basis, the addition of the letters “bn” does not prevent a finding of confusing similarity between the Disputed Domain Name and the Trademark.

As a result, based on the rights of the Complainant in the Trademark and on the confusing similarity between the Trademark and the Disputed Domain Name, the Panel finds that the condition of paragraph 4(a)(i) of the Policy is met.

B. Rights or Legitimate Interests

Pursuant to paragraph 4(c) of the Policy, the Respondent may establish rights or legitimate interests in the Disputed Domain Name by demonstrating any of the following:

(i) before any notice to it 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 has been commonly known by the Disputed Domain Name, even if it has acquired no trademark 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 trademark or service mark at issue.

Although the complainant bears the ultimate burden of establishing all three elements of paragraph 4(a) of the Policy, a complainant is required to make out a prima facie case that the respondent lacks rights or legitimate interests, and once such prima facie case is made the burden of production shifts to the respondent to come forward with relevant evidence of rights or legitimate interests in the domain name. WIPO Overview 3.0, section 2.1.

In the Panel’s opinion, the Complainant has made a prima facie case against the Respondent. The Respondent indeed registered the Disputed Domain Name that reflects the Trademark owned by the Complainant without the authorization of the Complainant, in a way that can only reasonably be explained as a reference to the Complainant’s Trademark. The use of the Disputed Domain Name for phishing purposes by using the Disputed Domain Name in connection with a website that replicates the official website of the Complainant in order to obtain login information or sensitive data from customers of the Complainant cannot confer any rights or legitimate interests to the Respondent. See WIPO Overview 3.0, section 2.13.1.

The Complainant has thus established prima facie that the Respondent has no rights or legitimate interests in the Disputed Domain Name, which has not been challenged by the Respondent (even assuming that it could be challenged) who has not participated in the proceedings.

On this basis, the Panel finds that the Respondent has no rights or legitimate interests in the Disputed Domain Name and that paragraph 4(a)(ii) of the Policy is met.

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 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 the complainant, for valuable consideration in excess of documented out-of-pocket costs directly related to the domain name;

(ii) circumstances indicating that the respondent 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) circumstances indicating that the respondent registered the domain name primarily for the purpose of disrupting the business of a competitor; or

(iv) circumstances indicating that the respondent intentionally is using the domain name in an attempt 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.

The examples of bad faith registration and use set forth in paragraph 4(b) of the Policy are not meant to be exhaustive of all circumstances from which such bad faith may be found. See Telstra Corporation Limited v. Nuclear Marshmallows, WIPO Case No. D2000-0003. The overriding objective of the Policy is to curb the abusive registration of domain names in circumstances where the registrant is seeking to profit from and exploit the trademark of another. See Match.com, LP v. Bill Zag and NWLAWS.ORG, WIPO Case No. D2004-0230.

In this case, the Panel holds that the Respondent registered the Disputed Domain Name in bad faith because the Disputed Domain Name clearly targets the Complainant’s Trademark. Consequently, the choice of the Disputed Domain Name cannot be reasonably explained otherwise than as a reference to the Complainant’s Trademark. The use of the Disputed Domain Name for phishing purposes (by using the Disputed Domain Name in connection with a website that replicates the official website of the Complainant in order to obtain login information or sensitive data from customers of the Complainant) confirms that the Respondent intentionally targeted the Complainant and the Complainant’s Trademark by registering and using the Disputed Domain Name, it being noted that an illegal use of the Disputed Domain Name is manifestly considered evidence of bad faith of the Respondent. See WIPO Overview 3.0, section 3.1.4.

On this basis, the Panel finds that the Respondent registered and uses the Disputed Domain Name in bad faith pursuant to paragraph 4(b) of the Policy, so that the conditions of paragraph 4(a)(iii) of the Policy are met.

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, <aarealbn.com>, be transferred to the Complainant.

Jacques de Werra
Sole Panelist
Date: October 1, 2019