WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center
ADMINISTRATIVE PANEL DECISION
Natixis v. Whois Privacy Protection Foundation / Nat International Funds
Case No. D2020-0580
1. The Parties
The Complainant is Natixis, France, represented by Inlex IP Expertise, France.
The Respondent is Whois Privacy Protection Foundation, the Netherlands / Nat International Funds, United Kingdom.
2. The Domain Name and Registrar
The disputed domain name <natixisintfunds.com> is registered with Hosting Concepts B.V. d/b/a Openprovider (the “Registrar”).
3. Procedural History
The Complaint was filed with the WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center (the “Center”) on March 9, 2020. On March 9, 2020, the Center transmitted by email to the Registrar a request for registrar verification in connection with the disputed domain name. On March 10, 2020, 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 March 16, 2020, 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 March 19, 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 the Respondent of the Complaint, and the proceedings commenced on March 25, 2020. In accordance with the Rules, paragraph 5, the due date for Response was April 14, 2020. The Respondent did not submit any response. Accordingly, the Center notified the Respondent’s default on April 16, 2020.
The Center’s email of Notification of the Complaint was sent to the registrant’s email contact link listed in the publicly available WhoIs database on April 29, 2020, and an additional five day period (i.e.., through May 4, 2020) was granted to the Respondent by the Center to indicate whether it would like to participate in the proceeding. No email communication was received from the Respondent.
The Center appointed Zoltán Takács as the sole panelist in this matter on May 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.
The language of this administrative proceeding is English, that being the language of the Registration Agreement.
4. Factual Background
With more than 17,000 employees in 38 countries the Complainant is the corporate, investment and financial services arm of BPCE Group, France’s second largest banking player.
The Complainant’s portfolio of trademarks consisting of or comprising the NATIXIS trademark, include:
- French Trademark Registration No. 3416315 for the word mark NATIXIS, registered on March 14, 2006 for goods and services of classes 9, 16, 35, 36 and 38 of the Nice Agreement Concerning the International Classification of Good and Services for the Purpose of the Registration of Marks (the “Nice Classification”), and
- European Union Trade Mark Registration (“EUTM”) No. 005129176 for the word mark NATIXIS, registered on June 21, 2007 for goods and services of classes 9, 16, 35, 36 and 38 of the Nice Classification.
Since February 3, 2005 the Complainant owns the domain name <natixis.com>, which links to its principal website.
The disputed domain name <natixisintfunds.com> was registered on March 2, 2020 and has been inactive since registration. The disputed domain name points to an error page.
5. Parties’ Contentions
The Complainant contends that the disputed domain name <natixisintfunds.com> is confusingly similar to its NATIXIS trademark since it is composed of the NATIXIS trademark and descriptive terms “int” (common abbreviation for “international”) and “funds”.
The Complainant further alleges that the Respondent has no rights or legitimate interests in respect of the disputed domain name and is unable to rely on any of the circumstances set out in paragraphs 4(c)(i), (ii) or (iii) of the Policy.
The Complainant claims that the Respondent was most likely aware of the Complainant and its activities and has registered the disputed domain name to take unfair advantage of the Complainant’s prior NATIXIS trademark and reputation attached to it. Although the disputed domain name is inactive, the passive holding of a domain name does not prevent a finding of bad faith use.
The Complainant requests that the disputed domain name <natixisintfunds.com> be transferred from the Respondent to the Complainant.
The Respondent did not reply to the Complainant’s contentions.
6. Discussion and Findings
Paragraph 15(a) of the Rules requires that the Panel’s decision be made “on the basis of the statements and documents submitted and in accordance with the Policy, these Rules and any rules and principles of law that it deems applicable”.
It has been a consensus view in UDRP decisions that a respondent’s default (i.e., failure to submit a response) would not by itself mean that the complainant is deemed to have prevailed; a respondent’s default is not necessarily an admission that the complainant’s claims are true. See section 4.3 of the WIPO Overview of WIPO Panel Views on Selected UDRP Questions, Third Edition (“WIPO Overview 3.0”).
A complainant must evidence each of the three elements required by paragraph 4(a) of the Policy in order to succeed on the complaint, namely that:
(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
Under paragraph 4(a)(i) of the Policy, there are two requirements which the Complainant must establish, first that it has rights in a trademark or service mark, and second that the disputed domain name is identical or confusingly similar to the trademark or service mark.
It has been a consensus view among UDRP panels that if the complainant owns a trademark, then it generally satisfies the threshold requirement of having trademark rights.
The Complainant submitted proper evidence of having registered rights in the NATIXIS trademark. For the purpose of this proceeding, the Panel establishes that the French Trademark Registration No. 3416315 and EUTM No. 005129176 for the word mark NATIXIS satisfy the requirement of having trademark rights for the purpose of the Policy.
Having determined the presence of the Complainant’s trademark rights, the Panel next assessed whether the disputed domain name <natixisintfunds.com> is identical or confusingly similar to the Complainant’s NATIXIS trademark.
According to section 1.7 of the WIPO Overview 3.0, the standing (or threshold) test for confusing similarity involves a reasoned but relatively straightforward comparison between the complainant’s trademark and the disputed domain name. This test typically involves a side-by-side comparison of the disputed domain name and the textual components of the relevant trademark to assess whether the mark is recognizable within the disputed domain name.
According to section 1.8 of the WIPO Overview 3.0, where the relevant trademark is recognizable within the disputed domain name, the addition of other terms (whether descriptive, geographical, pejorative, meaningless, or otherwise) would not prevent a finding of confusing similarity under the first element.
According to section 1.11.1 of the WIPO Overview 3.0, the applicable Top-Level Domain (“TLD”) in a domain name (e.g., “.com”, “.club”, “.nyc”) is viewed as a standard registration requirement and as such is generally disregarded under the first element confusingly similar test.
The Complainant’s NATIXIS trademark is evidently recognizable within the disputed domain name <natixisintfunds.com>, which differs from the Complainant’s NATIXIS trademark only in the additional descriptive terms “int”, which is a common abbreviation for “international”, and “funds”.
It is well established in previous UDRP cases that the addition of a descriptive word to a trademark in a domain name does not avoid a finding of confusing similarity.
The Panel finds that the disputed domain name <natixisintfunds.com> is confusingly similar to the Complainant’s NATIXIS trademark and that requirement of paragraph 4(a)(i) of the Policy is satisfied.
B. Rights or Legitimate Interests
Under paragraph 4(c) of the Policy, a respondent may demonstrate its rights or legitimate interests in a domain name by showing any of the following circumstances, in particular but without limitation:
(i) its use of, or demonstrable preparation to use the domain name or a name corresponding to the domain name in connection with a bona fide offering of goods and services;
(ii) it has been commonly known by the domain name;
(iii) it is making a legitimate noncommercial or fair use of the domain name, without intent for commercial gain to misleadingly divert customers or to tarnish the trademark or service mark at issue.
In the present case, the Complainant has submitted sufficient and uncontested evidence that it holds well-established rights in the NATIXIS trademark.
The Complainant has never authorized the Respondent to use its NATIXIS trademark in any way, and its prior rights in the NATIXIS trademark long precede the date of registration of the disputed domain name.
According to section 2.1 of the WIPO Overview 3.0, while the overall burden of proof in UDRP proceedings is on the complainant, panels have recognized that proving a respondent lacks rights or legitimate interests in a domain name may result in the often impossible task of “proving a negative”, requiring information that is often primarily within the knowledge or control of the respondent.
As such, where a complainant makes out a prima facie case that the respondent lacks rights or legitimate interests, the burden of production on this element shifts to the respondent to come forward with the relevant evidence demonstrating rights or legitimate interests in the domain name. If the respondent fails to come forward with such relevant evidence, the complainant is deemed to have satisfied the second element.
The Respondent defaulted and failed to respond, and by doing so, failed to offer the Panel any type of evidence set forth in paragraph 4(c) of the Policy, or otherwise counter the Complainant’s prima facie case.
The Panel finds that the Respondent has no rights or legitimate interests in the disputed domain name in accordance with paragraph 4(a)(ii) of the Policy.
C. Registered and Used in Bad Faith
Paragraph 4(b) of the Policy lists a number of factors which, if found by the Panel to be present, shall be evidence of registration and use of a domain name in bad faith. This non-exclusive list includes:
(i) circumstances indicating that you have registered or you have acquired the domain name primarily for the purpose of selling, renting or otherwise transferring the domain name registration to the complainant who is the owner of the trademark or service mark or to a competitor of that complainant, for valuable consideration in excess of your documented out-of-pocket costs directly related to the domain name; or
(ii) you have 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 you have engaged in a pattern of such conduct; or
(iii) you have registered the domain name primarily for the purpose of disrupting the business of a competitor; or
(iv) by using the domain name, you have intentionally attempted to attract, for commercial gain, Internet users to your 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 your website or location or of a product or service on your website or location.
The disputed domain name has been inactive since its registration.
According to section 3.3 of the WIPO Overview 3.0, from the inception of the UDRP, UDRP panels have found that the non-use of a domain name would not prevent a finding of bad faith under the doctrine of passive holding. Factors that have been considered relevant in applying the passive holding doctrine include: (i) the degree of distinctiveness or reputation of the complainant’s mark, (ii) the failure of the respondent to submit a response or to provide any evidence or actual or contemplated good-faith use, (iii) the respondent’s concealing its identity or use of false contact details (noted to be in breach of its registration agreement), and (iv) the implausibility of any good faith use to which the domain name may be put.
The Complainant’s NATIXIS trademark has no meaning, it is inherently distinctive and the disputed domain name is reproducing it in its entirety. Further, the additional term “funds” in the disputed domain name refers to one of the Complainant’s business areas. This leads this Panel to conclude that the Respondent must have been aware of the Complainant’s trademark at the time of obtaining the disputed domain name and choose to register it in order to exploit the reputation behind the Complainant’s NATIXIS trademark without any authorization or rights to do so.
The Respondent’s lack of any rights to or legitimate interests in the disputed domain name, absence of any conceivable good-faith use of the disputed domain name by the Respondent, its failure to react and respond to the compelling evidence submitted by the Complainant and use of the privacy service concealing its identity in view of this Panel further supports presumption of the Respondent’s bad faith.
In view of the above, the Panel finds that the Respondent has registered and used the disputed domain name in bad faith, and requirement of paragraph 4(a)(iii) of the Policy is satisfied.
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 <natixisintfunds.com> be transferred to the Complainant.
Date: May 28, 2020