WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center

ADMINISTRATIVE PANEL DECISION

Societe d’Exploitation d’un Service d’Information v. Strebkov Igor Nikolaevitch

Case No. D2020-1257

1. The Parties

The Complainant is Societe d’Exploitation d’un Service d’Information, France, represented by Nameshield, France.

The Respondent is Strebkov Igor Nikolaevitch, Russian Federation.

2. The Domain Name and Registrar

The disputed domain name <c-news.site> is registered with Registrar of Domain Names REG.RU, LLC (the “Registrar”).

3. Procedural History

The Complaint was filed with the WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center (the “Center”) on May 19, 2020. On May 19, 2020, the Center transmitted by email to the Registrar a request for registrar verification in connection with the disputed domain name. On May 20, 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 May 28, 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 May 28, 2020.

The Registrar confirmed that the language of the Registration Agreement for the disputed domain name was Russian. On May 28, 2020, the Center sent an email communication in both English and in Russian to the Parties and invited the Complainant to respond by May 31, 2020 and the Respondent to comment on the Complainant’s response by June 2, 2020. On May 28, 2020, the Complainant sent an email, requesting for English to be the language of the proceeding. The Respondent did not file any comments on the language of the proceeding.

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 June 4, 2020. In accordance with the Rules, paragraph 5, the due date for Response was June 24, 2020. The Respondent sent three email communications to the Center on June 4, 2020 and June 8, 2020. On June 25, 2020, the Center informed the Parties that it will proceed to Panel appointment.

The Center appointed Assen Alexiev as the sole panelist in this matter on July 3, 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 subsidiary of the GROUP CANAL+, and is the holder of the broadcasting authorizations and concessions granted by the French Superior Council of Audiovisual (“CSA”) for the French television channel CNews – a free-to-air news channel launched in 1999 and providing 24-hour national and global news coverage.

The Complainant owns the following trademark registrations for C NEWS (the “C NEWS trademark”):

- the French Trademark C NEWS with registration No. 4308347, registered as of October 18, 2016 for goods and services in International Classes 9, 14, 16, 18, 25, 28, 35, 38, 41, and 42; and

- the International Trademark C NEWS with registration No. 1358557, registered on March 29, 2017, for goods and services in International Classes 9, 14, 16, 18, 25, 28, 35, 38, 41, and 42.

The disputed domain name was registered on March 29, 2020 and resolves to a landing page of the Registrar.

5. Parties’ Contentions

A. Complainant

According to the Complainant, the disputed domain name is confusingly similar to the Complainant’s C NEWS trademark and the addition of the hyphen to it is not sufficient to avoid the likelihood of confusion with the trademark.

The Complainant claims that the Respondent has no rights or legitimate interests in respect of the disputed domain name, as it is not related to the Complainant, the Parties do not carry any business together, and the Complainant has not authorized the Respondent to use the Complainant’s C NEWS trademark. The Complainant also points out that the disputed domain name has not been used for an active website since its registration.

The Complainant claims that the Respondent has registered and is using the disputed domain name in bad faith. According to the Complainant, the Respondent could not have ignored the Complainant’s C NEWS trademark when it registered the disputed domain name, and its registration was not a coincidence. Following the Complainant’s cease and desist letter dated March 30, 2020, the Respondent offered the disputed domain name for sale to the Complainant for a price of USD 350, thus indicating that the Respondent has registered the disputed domain name for commercial gain, primarily for the purpose of selling, renting, or otherwise transferring its registration to the Complainant or to a competitor of the Complainant.

The Complainant requests the transfer of the disputed domain name.

B. Respondent

With its email communication of June 4, 2020, the Respondent made the following statements:

“I believe that this complaint is inappropriate in this case.
Buying and selling domain names is free.
I spent my money on this domain, and did not count on any selfish goals.
In this case, I suggest that the applicant purchase this domain from me.”

With its email communications of June 8, 2020, the Respondent rejected the amount of USD 10, offered by the Complainant for the transfer of the disputed domain name, and indicated the amount of USD 300 as sale price, which it later the same day increased to USD 1,000.

6. Discussion and Findings

6.1. Procedural issue – Language of the Proceeding

According to the information provided by the Registrar, the language of the Registration Agreement for the disputed domain name is Russian. Under paragraph 11 of the Rules, unless otherwise agreed by the Parties, or specified otherwise in the Registration Agreement, the language of the administrative proceeding shall be the language of the Registration Agreement, subject to the authority of the Panel to determine otherwise, having regard to the circumstances of the administrative proceeding.

The Complainant requests that the language of the proceedings be English, stating that in order to proceed in Russian, the Complainant would have to retain specialized translation services at a cost very likely to be higher than the overall cost of these proceedings, so the use of Russian in this case would impose a significant burden on the Complainant.

The Center has sent all its communications to the Respondent in both English and Russian, and has invited the Respondent to express its views on the language of the proceeding. The Respondent has not submitted a Response or any objections to the Complainant’s request that the proceedings be held in English. At the same time, the Respondent has sent three email communications to the Center in English.

The above satisfies the Panel that the Respondent can communicate in English, and that the Respondent would not be disadvantaged if the language of the proceeding is English, and is satisfied that using the English language in this proceeding would be fair and efficient. Therefore, in exercise of its powers under paragraph 11 of the Rules, the Panel decides that the language of this administrative proceeding will be English.

6.2. Substantive issues

Pursuant to the Policy, paragraph 4(a), the Complainant must prove each of the following to justify the transfer of the disputed domain name:

(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 Respondent has registered and is using the disputed domain name in bad faith.

In this case, the Center has employed the required measures to achieve actual notice of the Complaint to the Respondent, in compliance with the Rules, paragraph 2(a), and the Respondent was given a fair opportunity to present its case.

By the Rules, paragraph 5(c)(i), it is expected of a respondent to: “[r]espond specifically to the statements and allegations contained in the complaint and include any and all bases for the Respondent (domain name holder) to retain registration and use of the disputed domain name …”

The Respondent generally rejected the Complaint, but did not address specifically the statements and allegations of the Complainant and did not submit any arguments or evidence in support of its position.

A. Identical or Confusingly Similar

The Complainant has provided evidence and has thus established its rights in the C NEWS trademark.

The Panel notes that a common practice has emerged under the Policy to disregard in appropriate circumstances the Top-Level Domain (“gTLD”) section of domain names for the purposes of the comparison under the Policy, paragraph 4(a)(i). See section 1.11.1 of the WIPO Overview of WIPO Panel Views on Selected UDRP Questions, Third Edition (“WIPO Overview 3.0”). The Panel sees no reason not to follow the same approach here, so it will disregard the “.site” gTLD section of the disputed domain name.

The relevant part of the disputed domain name for purposes of the first element is therefore the sequence “c-news”. It consists of the letter “c” and the word “news”, separated by a hyphen. The combination of these two elements reproduces the dominating word element of the C NEWS trademark, which is easily recognizable in the disputed domain name, while the hyphen separating them is a punctuation symbol with no distinctiveness or evident meaning. As discussed in section 1.8 of the WIPO Overview 3.0, where the relevant trademark is recognizable within the disputed domain name, the addition of dictionary or meaningless words would not prevent a finding of confusing similarity under the first element.

In view of the above, the Panel finds that the disputed domain name is confusingly similar to the C NEWS trademark in which the Complainant has rights.

B. Rights or Legitimate Interests

While the overall burden of proof in UDRP proceedings is on the complainant, UDRP 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 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. See section 2.1 of the WIPO Overview 3.0.

The Complainant contends that the Respondent has no rights or legitimate interests in the disputed domain name, stating that the Respondent is not commonly known by the disputed domain name, is not a licensee of the Complainant, and is not affiliated with it. The Complainant submits that the Respondent has not used the disputed domain name since its registration, but has offered it for sale to the Complainant following the receipt of the Complainant’s cease and desist letter. Thus, the Complainant has established a prima facie case that the Respondent lacks rights or legitimate interests in the disputed domain name.

The Panel understands the Respondent’s statements in this proceeding to mean that anyone may freely register domain names and possibly also that it did not register the disputed domain name with an intent for commercial gain. However, the Respondent has not informed the Panel of the reasons why it has chosen to register the disputed domain name nor what it may plan to use it for.

The disputed domain name is confusingly similar to the C NEWS trademark and has not been used since its registration. The Respondent has repeatedly offered the Complainant to purchase the disputed domain name indicating sale prices in the range of USD 300 to USD 1,000, which (without any contrary evidence from the Respondent on this point) exceeds the normal out-of-pocket costs related to the disputed domain name.

In view of the above and in the lack of any contrary evidence, the Panel is satisfied that it is more likely than not that the Respondent, being aware of the goodwill of the Complainant’s C NEWS trademark, has registered the disputed domain name in view of its confusing similarity to the C NEWS trademark in an attempt to receive financial gain from its sale. To the Panel, such conduct is not legitimate and does not give rise to rights and legitimate interests of the Respondent in the disputed domain name.

Therefore, the Panel finds that the Respondent does not have rights or legitimate interests in the disputed domain name.

C. Registered and Used in Bad Faith

Paragraph 4(b) of the Policy lists four illustrative alternative circumstances that shall be evidence of the registration and use of a domain name in bad faith by a respondent, namely:

“(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 is confusingly similar to the C NEWS trademark and has not been used for an active website. The Respondent has not explained to the Panel why it has registered the disputed domain name, and has offered it for sale to the Complainant immediately after receiving a cease and desist letter, indicating a range of sale prices that readily exceed the normal out-of-pocket costs for a domain name registration.

In view of this and in the lack of any evidence to the contrary, the Panel finds that the circumstances of this case indicate that is more likely than not that the Respondent has registered the disputed domain name primarily for the purpose of selling it to the Complainant who is the owner of the C NEWS trademark for valuable consideration in excess of the Respondent’s documented out-of-pocket costs directly related to the disputed domain name.

Therefore, the Panel finds that the disputed domain name was registered and has been used in bad faith.

7. Decision

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 <c-news.site> be transferred to the Complainant.

Assen Alexiev
Sole Panelist
Date: July 18, 2020