WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center
ADMINISTRATIVE PANEL DECISION
Equinor ASA v. Flor Walden
Case No. D2019-2659
1. The Parties
The Complainant is Equinor ASA, Norway, represented by Valea AB, Sweden.
The Respondent is Flor Walden, France.
2. The Domain Name and Registrar
The disputed domain name <equinor-oil.club> is registered with NameCheap, Inc. (the “Registrar”).
3. Procedural History
The Complaint was filed with the WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center (the “Center”) on October 30, 2019. On October 30, 2019, the Center transmitted by email to the Registrar a request for registrar verification in connection with the disputed domain name. On October 30, 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 November 7, 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 November 8, 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 November 18, 2019. In accordance with the Rules, paragraph 5, the due date for Response was December 8, 2019. The Respondent did not submit any response. Accordingly, the Center notified the Respondent’s default on December 9, 2019.
The Center appointed Evan D. Brown as the sole panelist in this matter on December 16, 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 an energy company with operations in more than 30 countries, developing oil, gas, wind and solar energy. It has been in business since the early 1970s, previously doing business under the mark STATOIL. It announced the change of its name and adoption of the mark EQUINOR in March 2018. Since the announcement of the name change, the Complainant has sought to protect the trademarks used in the new branding, including obtaining the registration of the trademark EQUINOR in a number of jurisdictions. For example, the Complainant owns European Union Trademark Reg. No. 17900772, registered on January 18, 2019. The Respondent registered the disputed domain name on April 2, 2019. It has used the disputed domain name to redirect web users to the Complainant’s official website. The Complainant has asserted that there is a high risk that the Respondent is using the disputed domain name to send fraudulent emails.
5. Parties’ Contentions
The Complainant contends that the disputed domain name is identical or confusingly similar to the Complainant’s trademark; that the Respondent has no rights or legitimate interests in respect of the disputed domain name; and that the disputed domain name was registered and is being used in bad faith.
The Respondent did not reply to the Complainant’s contentions.
6. Discussion and Findings
To succeed, the Complainant must demonstrate that all of the elements listed in paragraph 4(a) of the Policy have been satisfied: (i) the disputed domain name is identical or confusingly similar to a trademark or service mark in which the Complainant has rights; (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
This element requires the Panel to consider two issues: first, whether the Complainant has rights in a relevant mark; and, second, whether the disputed domain name is confusingly similar or confusingly similar to that mark. The Panel finds that the disputed domain name is identical to a trademark in which the Complainant has rights. The Complainant owns registrations for the EQUINOR mark that predate the registration of the disputed domain name. The disputed domain name incorporates the EQUINOR mark in its entirety – this is sufficient here to establish confusing similarity. The presence of the additional generic word “oil” does not prevent a finding of confusing similarity.
B. Rights or Legitimate Interests
The Panel evaluates this element of the Policy by first looking to see whether the Complainant has made a prima facie showing that the Respondent lacks rights or legitimate interests in respect of the disputed domain name. If the Complainant makes that showing, the burden of demonstrating rights or legitimate interests shifts to the Respondent.
The Complainant has established, prima facie, that the Respondent lacks rights or legitimate interests in the disputed domain name. On this point, the Complainant asserts that:
1. The Respondent is not affiliated or related to the Complainant in any way.
2. The Complainant has not licensed or otherwise authorized the Respondent to use the EQUINOR mark in a connection with a website or for any other purpose.
3. The Respondent is not using the domain name in connection with any legitimate noncommercial or fair use without intent for commercial gain. The Complainant notes (in connection with its argument under the third element of the Policy) that MX-records are set up for the disputed domain name, and that there is accordingly a high risk that the disputed domain name was registered and being used to create fraudulent email messages.
4. The Respondent is not generally known by the disputed domain name and has not acquired any trademark or service mark rights in that name or mark.
These facts establish the Complainant’s prima facie showing. The Response does not introduce evidence or argument to rebut this prima facie showing. The Panel finds that the Complainant has established this second element under the Policy.
C. Registered and Used in Bad Faith
The Policy requires a complainant to establish that the disputed domain name was registered and is being used in bad faith. The facts of this case demonstrate that the Respondent registered the disputed domain name for commercial gain or otherwise to interfere in the business of the Complainant, and to trade on the Complainant’s goodwill and reputation. From the fact that the Respondent set the disputed domain name to automatically redirect to the Complainant’s official website, it is clear that the Respondent knew of and indeed targeted the Complainant. The Respondent has not responded to the Complainant’s assertion that the Respondent is probably using the disputed domain name to generate fraudulent emails. Accordingly, the Panel determines that such use of the disputed domain name is likely intended. These actions of the Respondent likely constitute fraud. Additionally, the Panel finds that the redirection of the disputed domain name to the Complainant’s official website is disruptive to the business of the Complainant. For these reasons, the Panel finds that the disputed domain name was registered and is being used in bad faith.
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 <equinor-oil.club> be transferred to the Complainant.
Evan D. Brown
Date: December 30, 2019