WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center
ADMINISTRATIVE PANEL DECISION
Sanofi v. WhoisGuard, Inc. / James Plante
Case No. D2020-0797
1. The Parties
The Complainant is Sanofi, France, represented by Selarl Marchais & Associés, France.
The Respondent is WhoisGuard, Inc., Panama / James Plante, United States of America (“United States”).
2. The Domain Name and Registrar
The disputed domain name <plaquenil.club> (“Domain Name”) is registered with NameCheap, Inc. (the “Registrar”).
3. Procedural History
The Complaint was filed with the WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center (the “Center”) on April 2, 2020. On April 2, 2020, the Center transmitted by email to the Registrar a request for registrar verification in connection with the Domain Name. On April 3, 2020, the Registrar transmitted by email to the Center its verification response disclosing registrant and contact information for the Domain Name which differed from the named Respondent and contact information in the Complaint. The Center sent an email communication to the Complainant on April 7, 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 amendment to the Complaint on April 9, 2020.
The Center verified that the Complaint together with the amendment to the Complaint (hereafter “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 April 14, 2020. In accordance with the Rules, paragraph 5, the due date for Response was May 4, 2020. The Respondent did not submit any response. Accordingly, the Center notified the Respondent’s default on May 6, 2020.
The Center appointed Nicholas Smith as the sole panelist in this matter on May 10, 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
The Complainant is a French multinational pharmaceutical company that, ranked by prescription sales, is the 4th largest pharmaceutical company in the world. The Complainant trades in over than 100 countries and employs over 100,000 people. One of its medicinal products is the drug hydroxychloroquine, which is used for various purposes and has recently been approved by European authorities to treat patients with COVID-19. The Complainant has sold this product for over 30 years under a trade mark consisting of the word “Plaquenil” (the “PLAQUENIL Mark”).
The Complainant holds a number of registered trade marks for the PLAQUENIL Mark including French trade mark registration number 881480756 filed on May 27, 1988 for pharmaceutical products in class 5.
The Domain Name <plaquenil.club> was registered on March 22, 2020 and is presently inactive. Prior to the commencement of the proceedings the Domain Name redirected to a website (the “Respondent’s Website”) that offered sponsored listings (often referred to as pay-per-click advertisements) relating to the hydroxychloroquine product offered by the Complainant under the PLAQUENIL Mark.
5. Parties’ Contentions
The Complainant makes the following contentions:
(i) the Domain Name is identical or confusingly similar to the Complainant’s PLAQUENIL Mark;
(ii) the Respondent has no rights nor any legitimate interests in respect of the Domain Name; and
(iii) the Domain Name has been registered and is being used in bad faith.
The Complainant is the owner of the PLAQUENIL Mark having registered the PLAQUENIL Mark in the European Union, France and China. The Domain Name wholly reproduces the PLAQUENIL Mark along with the “.club” Top-Level Domain.
There are no rights or legitimate interests held by the Respondent in respect of the Domain Name. The Complainant has not granted any license or authorization for the Respondent to use the PLAQUENIL Mark. The Respondent does not use the Domain Name for a bona fide purpose or legitimate noncommercial purpose. Rather the Domain Name resolves to a page with various links to advertisements targeted at the Complainant’s consumers; which does not provide the Respondent with rights or legitimate interests.
The Domain Name was registered and is being used in bad faith. Given the reputation of the PLAQUENIL Mark, which is a coined and distinctive word, the registration of the Domain Name can only be taken as an attempt by the Respondent to gain an unfair benefit from the Complainant’s reputation. The Respondent is using the Domain Name for a pay-per-click site which amounts to bad faith use.
The Respondent did not reply to the Complainant’s contentions.
6. Discussion and Findings
A. Identical or Confusingly Similar
To prove this element the Complainant must have trade or service mark rights and the Domain Name must be identical or confusingly similar to the Complainant’s trade or service mark.
The Complainant is the owner of the PLAQUENIL Mark, having registrations for the PLAQUENIL Mark as a trade mark in France, the European Union and China.
Disregarding for the purposes of comparison the generic Top-Level Domain (“gTLD”) “.club” (being a technical requirement for the registration of a domain name) the Domain Name is identical to the PLAQUENIL Mark. Consequently, the requirement of paragraph 4(a)(i) of the Policy is satisfied.
B. Rights or Legitimate Interests
To succeed on this element, a complainant must make out a prima facie case that the respondent lacks rights or legitimate interests in the domain name. If such a prima facie case is made out, then the burden of production shifts to the respondent to demonstrate rights or legitimate interests in the domain name.
Paragraph 4(c) of the Policy enumerates several ways in which a respondent may demonstrate rights or legitimate interests in a domain name:
“Any of the following circumstances, in particular but without limitation, if found by the Panel to be proved based on its evaluation of all evidence presented, shall demonstrate your rights or legitimate interests to the domain name for purposes of Paragraph 4(a)(ii):
(i) before any notice to you of the dispute, your use of, or demonstrable preparations to use, the domain name or a name corresponding to the domain name in connection with a bona fide offering of goods or services; or
(ii) you (as an individual, business, or other organization) have been commonly known by the domain name, even if you have acquired no trademark or service mark rights; or
(iii) you are making a legitimate noncommercial or fair use of the domain name, without intent for commercial gain to misleadingly divert consumers or to tarnish the trademark or service mark at issue.”
The Respondent is not affiliated with the Complainant in any way. The Respondent has not been authorized by the Complainant to register or use the Domain Name or to seek the registration of any domain name incorporating the PLAQUENIL Mark or a mark similar to the PLAQUENIL Mark. There is no evidence that the Respondent is commonly known by the Domain Name or any similar name. There is no evidence that the Respondent has used or made demonstrable preparations to use the Domain Name in connection with a legitimate noncommercial fair use or a bona fide offering of goods and services; the use of the Domain Name for what appears to be a parking page with pay-per-click links related to the Complainant’s pharmaceutical products does not amount to use for a bona fide offering of goods and services.
The Complainant has established a prima facie case that the Respondent lacks rights or legitimate interests in the Domain Name. The Respondent has had the opportunity to put on evidence of its rights or legitimate interests, including submissions as to why its conduct amounts to a right or legitimate interest in the Domain Name under the Policy. In the absence of such a Response, the Panel finds that the Respondent has no rights or legitimate interests in respect of the Domain Name under paragraph 4(a)(ii) of the Policy.
C. Registered and Used in Bad Faith
For the purposes of paragraph 4(a)(iii) of the Policy, the following circumstances, in particular but without limitation, if found by the Panel to be present, shall be evidence of the registration and use of a domain name in bad faith:
(i) circumstances indicating that the Respondent has registered or has 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 trade mark or service mark or to a competitor of the Complainant, for valuable consideration in excess of its documented out-of-pocket costs directly related to the Domain Name; or
(ii) the Respondent has registered the Domain Name in order to prevent the owner of the trade mark or service mark from reflecting the mark in a corresponding domain name, provided that the Respondent has engaged in a pattern of such conduct; or
(iii) the Respondent has registered the Domain Name primarily for the purpose of disrupting the business of a competitor; or
(iv) by using the Domain Name, the Respondent has intentionally attempted 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 the Respondent’s website or location. (Policy, paragraph 4(b)).
The Panel finds that the Respondent must have been aware of the Complainant and its reputation in the PLAQUENIL Mark at the time the Respondent acquired the Domain Name. The PLAQUENIL Mark consists of a coined word that has been in use by the Complainant for over 30 years to refer to the drug hydroxychloroquine. The Respondent has provided no explanation, and none is immediately obvious, why an entity would register a domain name identical to the PLAQUENIL Mark and redirect it to a website containing links referring to the drug hydroxychloroquine unless there was an awareness of and an intention to create a likelihood of confusion with the Complainant and its PLAQUENIL Mark. In these circumstances, the Respondent’s conduct in registering the Domain Name when it was aware of the Complainant’s rights and lacked rights or legitimate interests of its own amounts to registration in bad faith.
The Respondent’s Website offers what appear to be pay-per-click links purporting to sell hydroxychloroquine in direct competition with the Complainant. In these circumstances where the Respondent has offered no plausible explanation for the registration of the Domain Name the Panel finds that that the Respondent is using the Domain Name to intentionally attempt to attract, for commercial gain, Internet users to its website by creating a likelihood of confusion with the PLAQUENIL Mark as to the source, sponsorship, affiliation, or endorsement of the Respondent’s Website. As such the Panel finds that the Domain Name is being used in bad faith.
Accordingly, the Panel finds that the Respondent has registered and is using the Domain Name in bad faith under paragraph 4(a)(iii) 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 Domain Name <plaquenil.club> be transferred to the Complainant.
Date: May 12, 2020