WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center
ADMINISTRATIVE PANEL DECISION
Confederation Nationale du Credit Mutuel v. Jochen Beyer, Daniela Süß, and Joachim Nast
Case No. D2020-0500
1. The Parties
Complainant is Confederation Nationale du Credit Mutuel, France, represented by MEYER & Partenaires, France.
Respondents are Jochen Beyer, Daniela Süß, and Joachim Nast, Germany.
2. The Domain Names and Registrar
The disputed domain names <creditmutuel-confirmation.info>, <creditmutuel-confirmation.org>, <creditmutuel-confirmation.top>, and <creditmutuelservices.info> are registered with PSI-USA, Inc. dba Domain Robot (the “Registrar”).
3. Procedural History
The Complaint was filed with the WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center (the “Center”) on March 2, 2020. On March 2, 2020, the Center transmitted by email to the Registrar a request for registrar verification in connection with the disputed domain names. On March 3, 2020, the Registrar transmitted by email to the Center its verification response disclosing registrant and contact information for the disputed domain names which differed from the named Respondent and contact information in the Complaint. The Center sent an email communication to Complainant on March 4, 2020, providing the registrant and contact information disclosed by the Registrar, and inviting Complainant to submit an amendment to the Complaint. Complainant filed an amended Complaint on March 6, 2020.
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 Respondents of the Complaint, and the proceedings commenced on March 9, 2020. In accordance with the Rules, paragraph 5, the due date for Response was March 29, 2020. Respondents did not submit any response. Accordingly, the Center notified Respondents’ default on March 30, 2020.
The Center appointed Georges Nahitchevansky as the sole panelist in this matter on April 2, 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, Confederation Nationale du Credit Mutuel, is an entity that is part of the French banking and insurance group known as Crédit Mutuel. Complainant owns and uses the mark CRÉDIT MUTUEL in connection with its banking and insurance related products and services. Complainant owns trademark registrations for the mark CRÉDIT MUTUEL as both a word mark and as part of a logo mark, including, inter alia, a registration for CRÉDIT MUTUEL in the European Union (Registration No. 09943135) which issued to registration on October 20, 2011. Complainant also owns and uses the domain names <creditmutuel.com> and <creditmutuel.fr> to provide information regarding Complainant and its services, and to provide online banking services.
The disputed domain names were all registered in December 2019 and were registered under the names of three individuals. The disputed domain names <creditmutuel-confirmation.info> and <creditmutuelservices.info> are registered under the name of Respondent Jochen Beyer, the disputed domain name <creditmutuel-confirmation.org> is registered under the name of Respondent Daniela Süß, and the disputed domain name <creditmutuel-confirmation.top> is registered under the name of Respondent Joachim Nast. The disputed domain names at one point resolved to an under construction page with the title “GMX Homepage & Mail”. Currently, the disputed domain names do not resolve to an active website or web page.
5. Parties’ Contentions
Complainant argues that the three Respondents are actually aliases for one individual or entity and for purposes of this proceeding should be treated as one Respondent. Complainant also maintains that Respondent has concealed its identity by using multiple aliases and false contact information.
Complainant contends that the CRÉDIT MUTUEL mark is well-known on account of its longstanding use in the financial and insurance industries, and that Complainant has exclusive rights in the CRÉDIT MUTUEL mark by virtue of its use and trademark registrations, all of which predate Respondent’s registration of the disputed domain names.
Complainant asserts that the disputed domain names are confusingly similar to Complainant’s CRÉDIT MUTUEL mark as they wholly incorporate the CRÉDIT MUTUEL mark at the head of each disputed domain name. Complainant maintains that the addition of the terms “confirmation” or “services” do not distinguish the disputed domain names and that the use of the generic Top-Level Domain (“gTLD”) extensions “.top”, “info”, and “.org” are likewise non-distinguishing.
Complainant contends that Respondent has no rights or legitimate interests in the disputed domain names as Respondent (i) is not related to Complainant’s or Complainant’s business, (ii) is not a licensee of Complainant and has received no authorization from Complainant to use the CRÉDIT MUTUEL mark, and (iii) has not made any bona fide or legitimate use of the disputed domain names.
Lastly, Complainant asserts that Respondent has registered and used the disputed domain names in bad faith as Respondent registered multiple domain names that fully incorporate the well-known CRÉDIT MUTUEL mark. Complainant argues that Respondent could only have registered the disputed domain names that suggest a connection to Complainant and its services in order to knowingly take advantage of Complainant’s rights in the CRÉDIT MUTUEL mark. In that regard, Complainant notes that the disputed domain names have been set up for email use, thereby suggesting that Respondent’s intent is to use the disputed domain names for phishing or some other scam, particularly as Respondent has concealed its identity by using aliases and false contact information.
Respondents did not reply to Complainant’s contentions.
6. Preliminary Issue Regarding the Consolidation of Respondents
Complainant maintains that Respondents are essentially aliases for the same party and should be treated as one Respondent. In determining whether a single consolidated complaint can be brought against multiple respondents, UDRP panels typically look at whether (i) the disputed domain names or the corresponding websites are subject to common control, and (ii) the consolidation would be fair and equitable to all parties. See section 4.11.2, WIPO Overview of WIPO Panel Views on Selected UDRP Questions, Third Edition (“WIPO Overview 3.0”).
Based on the evidence submitted, which is not contested by Respondent, the Panel accepts Complainant’s contention that the disputed domain names are subject to common control. The disputed domain names were all registered in or around the same period of time in December 2019 through the same Registrar and have all pointed to the same under construction page with the title “GMX Homepage & Mail”. In addition, the parties listed as the registrant for each of the disputed domain names share certain commonalities. Each individual registered a disputed domain name that consists of the format “creditmutuel-confirmation”, are based in Germany, and use the same email provider and an email address with the same “@gmx.com” extension. Simply put, the totality of the evidence before the Panel suggests that the disputed domain names are more likely than not controlled by one person or party. Under the circumstances, the Panel finds that consolidation would be fair and equitable to all parties. (Respondents in this proceeding will hereinafter be referred to collectively as “Respondent” in the singular form.)
7. Discussion and Findings
Under paragraph 4(a) of the Policy, to succeed Complainant must satisfy the Panel that:
(i) the disputed domain names are identical or confusingly similar to a trademark or service mark in which Complainant has rights;
(ii) Respondent has no rights or legitimate interests in respect of the disputed domain names; and
(iii) the disputed domain names were registered and are being used in bad faith.
Here, although Respondent has failed to respond to the Complaint, the default does not automatically result in a decision in favor of Complainant, nor is it an admission that Complainant’s claims are true. The burden remains with Complainant to establish the three elements of paragraph 4(a) of the Policy by a preponderance of the evidence. A panel, however, may draw appropriate inferences from a respondent’s default in light of the particular facts and circumstances of the case, such as regarding factual allegations that are not inherently implausible as being true. See WIPO Overview 3.0, section 4.3; see also The Knot, Inc. v. In Knot We Trust LTD, WIPO Case No. D2006-0340.
A. Identical or Confusingly Similar
Ownership of a trademark registration is generally sufficient evidence that a complainant has the requisite rights in a mark for purposes of paragraph 4(a)(i) of the Policy. WIPO Overview 3.0 at section 1.2.1. Complainant has provided evidence that it owns trademark registrations for the CRÉDIT MUTUEL trademark, including in the European Union, and that such issued to registration well before Respondent registered the disputed domain names.
With Complainant’s rights in the CRÉDIT MUTUEL mark established, the remaining question under the first element of the Policy is whether the disputed domain names (typically disregarding the gTLD such as “.com” or “.top”) are identical or confusingly similar with Complainant’s marks. See B & H Foto & Electronics Corp. v. Domains by Proxy, Inc. / Joseph Gross, WIPO Case No. D2010-0842. The threshold for satisfying this first element is low and generally UDRP panels have found that fully incorporating the identical mark in a disputed domain name is sufficient to meet the threshold.
In the instant proceeding, the disputed domain names are confusingly similar to Complainant’s CRÉDIT MUTUEL mark as they each incorporate the CRÉDIT MUTUEL mark in its entirety. The addition of common words such as “confirmation” or “services” in the disputed domain names does not distinguish the disputed domain names from Complainant’s CRÉDIT MUTUEL mark. The Panel therefore finds that Complainant has satisfied the requirements of paragraph 4(a)(i) of the Policy in establishing its rights in Complainant’s CRÉDIT MUTUEL mark and in showing that the disputed domain names are identical or confusingly similar to that trademark.
B. Rights or Legitimate Interests
Under paragraph 4(a)(ii) of the Policy, the complainant must make at least a prima facie showing that the respondent possesses no rights or legitimate interests in a disputed domain name. Malayan Banking Berhad v. Beauty, Success & Truth International, WIPO Case No. D2008-1393. Once the complainant makes such a prima facie showing, the burden of production shifts to the respondent, though the burden of proof always remains on the complainant. If the respondent fails to come forward with evidence showing rights or legitimate interests, the complainant will have sustained its burden under the second element of the UDRP.
Based on the evidence submitted in this proceeding, and Respondent’s failure to file a response, the Panel concludes that Respondent lacks rights or legitimate interests in the disputed domain names. Here, Respondent has registered multiple domain names based on the CRÉDIT MUTUEL mark and then set them up for email use. Given that Respondent has used multiple aliases and questionable contact information to register the disputed domain names, has not posted any active website or webpage at the disputed domain names, and has not contested Complainant’s contentions, suggests that Respondent may have registered the disputed domain names as part of some scheme to benefit Respondent and not for a legitimate purpose or bona fide use.
Given that Complainant has established with sufficient evidence that it owns rights in the CRÉDIT MUTUEL mark, and given Respondent’s above noted actions and failure to file a response, the Panel concludes that Respondent does not have rights or legitimate interests in the disputed domain names and that none of the circumstances of paragraph 4(c) of the Policy are evident in this case.
C. Registered and Used in Bad Faith
In view of Respondent’s actions, and failure to appear in this proceeding, it is easy to infer that Respondent’s registration and use of the disputed domain names, which are all based on Complainant’s CRÉDIT MUTUEL mark, has been done opportunistically and in bad faith. Respondent registered the disputed domain names well after Complainant established rights and reputation in the CRÉDIT MUTUEL mark in connection with its financial and insurance products and services. Moreover, as Respondent has used aliases and questionable contact information to register the four disputed domain names, which are likely to be seen by consumers as connected to Complainant and its services, it appears more probable than not that Respondent’s actions were in bad faith and knowingly meant to take advantage of the goodwill associated with Complainant’s CRÉDIT MUTUEL mark.
The Panel thus finds that Complainant succeeds under this element 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 names <creditmutuel-confirmation.info>, <creditmutuel-confirmation.org>, <creditmutuel-confirmation.top>, and <creditmutuelservices.info> be transferred to Complainant.
Date: April 16, 2020