WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center
ADMINISTRATIVE PANEL DECISION
Solvay S.A. v. Joe Biden
Case No. D2020-0058
1. The Parties
Complainant is Solvay S.A., Belgium, represented by Petillion, Belgium.
Respondent is Joe Biden, United States of America (“United States”).
2. The Domain Name and Registrar
The disputed domain name <solvayllc.com> is registered with PDR Ltd. d/b/a PublicDomainRegistry.com (the “Registrar”).
3. Procedural History
The Complaint was filed with the WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center (the “Center”) on January 13, 2020. On January 13, 2020, the Center transmitted by email to the Registrar a request for registrar verification in connection with the disputed domain name. On January 14, 2020, the Registrar transmitted by email to the Center its verification response confirming that Respondent is listed as the registrant and providing the contact details.
The Center verified that 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 Respondent of the Complaint, and the proceedings commenced on January 15, 2020. In accordance with the Rules, paragraph 5, the due date for Response was February 4, 2020. Respondent did not submit any response. Accordingly, the Center notified Respondent’s default on February 6, 2020.
The Center appointed Stephanie G. Hartung as the sole panelist in this matter on February 18, 2020. 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
Complainant is a company organized under the laws of Belgium that is active in the chemical industry.
Complainant has provided evidence that it is the registered owner of numerous trademarks relating to Complainant’s company name and brand “Solvay”, including the following with protection, inter alia, for the United States:
- Word mark SOLVAY, International registration number 1171614, registration date: February 28, 2013, status: active.
Respondent, according to the WhoIs information for the disputed domain name, is a resident of the United States who registered the disputed domain name on November 18, 2019. Neither by the time of the filing of the Complaint nor at the point of the rendering of this Decision, the disputed domain name resolved to any active website on the Internet.
On November 29, 2019, as well as on December 9, 2019, Complainant contacted Respondent by emails directed to the WhoIs information for the disputed domain name requesting to transfer the latter to which Respondent did not reply.
Complainant requests that the disputed domain name be transferred to Complainant.
5. Parties’ Contentions
Complainant contends to be a global leader in chemicals founded back in 1863 with its SOLVAY trademark nowadays being well-known all over the world, both thanks to Complainant’s international presence and to its marketing investments.
Complainant submits that the disputed domain name is confusingly similar to Complainant’s SOLVAY trademark as it incorporates the latter in its entirety, simply added by the descriptive term “llc”. Moreover, Complainant asserts that Respondent has no rights or legitimate interests in respect of the disputed domain name since (1) Respondent is not commonly known by the disputed domain name, and perhaps even uses a fake name to hide its true identity, (2) Respondent has not been given any license or other permission to use Complainant’s SOLVAY trademark and apparently has not acquired such rights on its own, and (3) the disputed domain name is not linked to any active website, but given that the disputed domain name incorporates Complainant’s entire SOLVAY trademark, any good faith use of the disputed domain name by Respondent is inconceivable. Finally, Complainant argues that Respondent has registered the disputed domain name in bad faith since (1) given the well-known character of Complainant’s SOLVAY trademark, Respondent could not reasonably have been unaware of Complainant’s rights in the term “Solvay” when registering the disputed domain name, (2) it is more than likely that Respondent uses the name of the former Vice President of the United States and possible candidate for the presidency 2020 Joe Biden as a fake name to hide its true identity, and (3) it is difficult to imagine any plausible future active use of the disputed domain name by Respondent that would be legitimate and not infringing upon Complainant’s rights.
Respondent did not reply to Complainant’s contentions.
6. Discussion and Findings
Under paragraph 4(a) of the Policy, Complainant carries the burden of proving:
(i) that the disputed domain name is identical or confusingly similar to a trademark or service mark in which Complainant has rights; and
(ii) that Respondent has no rights or legitimate interests in respect of the disputed domain name; and
(iii) that the disputed domain name has been registered and is being used in bad faith.
Respondent’s default in the case at hand does not automatically result in a decision in favor of Complainant, however, paragraph 5(f) of the Rules provides that if Respondent does not submit a response, in the absence of exceptional circumstances, the Panel shall decide the dispute solely based upon the Complaint. Further, according to paragraph 14(b) of the Rules, the Panel may draw such inferences from Respondent's failure to submit a Response as it considers appropriate.
A. Identical or Confusingly Similar
The Panel concludes that the disputed domain name <solvayllc.com> is confusingly similar to the SOLVAY trademark in which Complainant has rights.
The disputed domain name incorporates Complainant’s SOLVAY trademark in its entirety. Numerous UDRP panels have recognized that incorporating a trademark in its entirety can be sufficient to establish that the disputed domain name is at least confusingly similar to a registered trademark (see, e.g., PepsiCo, Inc. v. PEPSI, SRL (a/k/a P.E.P.S.I.) and EMS Computer Industry (a/k/a EMS), WIPO Case No. D2003-0696). Moreover, it has been held in many UDRP decisions and has become a consensus view among UDRP panels (see WIPO Overview of WIPO Panel Views on Selected UDRP Questions, Third Edition (“WIPO Overview 3.0”), section 1.8), that the addition of another term (whether, e.g., descriptive or meaningless) to a trademark in a domain name would not prevent a finding of confusing similarity under the first element of the UDRP. Accordingly, the addition of the term “llc” (being the abbreviation of the legal term “limited liability company”) does not dispel the confusing similarity arising from the incorporation of Complainant’s SOLVAY trademark in the disputed domain name.
Therefore, Complainant has established the first element under the Policy set forth by paragraph 4(a)(i).
B. Rights or Legitimate Interests
The Panel is further convinced on the basis of Complainant’s undisputed contentions that Respondent has not made use of the disputed domain name in connection with a bona fide offering of goods or services, nor has Respondent been commonly known by the disputed domain name, nor can it be found that Respondent has made a legitimate noncommercial or fair use thereof without intent for commercial gain.
Respondent has not been authorized to use Complainant’s SOLVAY trademark, either as a domain name or in any other way. Also, there is no reason to believe that Respondent’s name somehow corresponds with the disputed domain name and Respondent does not appear to have any trademark rights associated with the term “Solvay” on its own; instead, it is rather likely that Respondent used the name of the former Vice President of the United States and possible candidate for the presidency 2020 Joe Biden as a fake name to hide its true identity. Finally, Respondent so far does not seem to have ever used the disputed domain name to resolve it to any valid content on the Internet. UDRP panels, however, have recognized that the mere registration of a domain name, even one that is comprised of a confirmed dictionary word or phrase, does not by itself automatically confer rights or legitimate interests in the disputed domain name (see WIPO Overview 3.0, section 2.10.1).
Accordingly, Complainant has established a prima facie case that Respondent has no rights or legitimate interests in the disputed domain name. Now, the burden of production shifts to Respondent to come forward with appropriate allegations or evidence demonstrating to the contrary (see WIPO Overview 3.0, section 2.1). Given that Respondent has defaulted, Respondent has not met that burden.
Therefore, the Panel finds that Complainant has also satisfied paragraph 4(a)(ii) and, thus, the second element of the Policy.
C. Registered and Used in Bad Faith
The Panel finally holds that the disputed domain name was registered and is being used by Respondent in bad faith.
As a general rule, UDRP panels have found that the non-use of a domain name (including a blank or “coming soon” page) would not prevent a finding of bad faith under the doctrine of passive holding (see WIPO Overview 3.0, section 3.3). While UDRP panels will look at the totality of the circumstances in each case, factors that have been considered relevant in applying the passive holding doctrine include e.g.: the degree of distinctiveness or reputation of Complainant’s mark, the failure of Respondent to submit a response or to provide any evidence of actual or contemplated good faith use, or the implausibility of any good faith use to which the domain name may be put.
In the case at hand, it is undisputed between the parties that Complainant’s SOLVAY trademark enjoys considerable recognition throughout the world, including in the United States where Respondent apparently is domiciled. Against this background and given that Respondent has failed to reply not only to the Complaint, but also to Complainant’s pre-procedural email communication of November 29, 2019, as well as December 9, 2019, it is more likely than not – regardless of the fact that the disputed domain name so far at no point resolved to any active website on the Internet – that Respondent has registered and is using the disputed domain name in a way to take unfair advantage of or otherwise abuse Complainant’s SOLVAY trademark, thus acting in bad faith within the larger meaning of paragraph 4(b) of the Policy (see WIPO overview 3.0, section 3.3). In connection with this finding, it also carries weight in the eyes of the Panel that Respondent obviously provided false or incomplete contact information in the WhoIs register for the disputed domain name since, according to the email correspondence between the Center and the postal courier DHL, the Written Notice on the Notification of Complaint dated January 15, 2020, could not be delivered. These facts at least throw a light on Respondent’s behavior which supports the Panel’s bad faith finding.
Therefore, the Panel concludes that Complainant has also satisfied the third element under the Policy as set forth by paragraph 4(a)(iii).
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 <solvayllc.com> be transferred to Complainant.
Stephanie G. Hartung
Date: February 28, 2020