WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center
ADMINISTRATIVE PANEL DECISION
GEA Group Aktiengesellschaft v. Bilal Yrtck
Case No. D2020-2062
1. The Parties
The Complainant is GEA Group Aktiengesellschaft, Germany, represented by Bardehle Pagenberg Partnerschaft mbB, Germany.
The Respondent is Bilal Yrtck, Turkey.
2. The Domain Name and Registrar
The disputed domain name <gea.ltd> (the “Domain Name”) is registered with GoDaddy.com, LLC (the “Registrar”).
3. Procedural History
The Complaint was filed with the WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center (the “Center”) on August 4, 2020. On August 4, 2020, the Center transmitted by email to the Registrar a request for registrar verification in connection with the Domain Name. On August 12, 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 August 13, 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 August 13, 2020.
The Center verified that the Complaint together with the amendment to 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 the Respondent of the Complaint, and the proceedings commenced on August 13, 2020. In accordance with the Rules, paragraph 5, the due date for Response was September 2, 2020. On August 13, 2020, the Center received an email from the Respondent including substantive arguments relevant to the Complaint; however, the Respondent did not submit any formal response. Accordingly, the Center notified to the Parties that it was proceeding to panel appointment on September 8, 2020.
The Center appointed W. Scott Blackmer as the sole panelist in this matter on September 15, 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 publicly traded German stock company headquartered in Duesseldorf, Germany. As described in the Complaint, the Complainant is one of the world’s largest suppliers of equipment and technology solutions for the food processing industry and other process industries, with 17,500 employees and annual revenues exceeding EUR 4 billion.
The Complainant has been operating under the GEA name since 1906 and holds several trademark registrations, including International Trademarks numbers 1001917 (letters with figurative elements, registered on October 23, 2008) and 1341160 (word mark, registered on September 2, 2015), both designated for Turkey as well as for many other countries. The Complainant uses several domain names incorporating the GEA mark for websites in multiple languages, including the domain names <gea.com>, <gea.app>, <gea.group>, <gea.com.tr>, and <geagroup.us>, as well as using the GEA mark for social media pages on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, and WeChat. The GEA mark has been long established and widely used in the food processing business. See, e.g. GEA Group Aktiengesellschaft v. Andrew Gonzalez, Ram International, Inc., WIPO Case No. D2019-0365.
The Registrar reports that the Domain Name was created on July 8, 2020 and is registered to the Respondent Bilal Yrtck of Turkey, with no organization listed.
The Complaint attaches a screenshot of the website to which the Domain Name resolved at the filing of the complaint (the “Respondent’s former website”). This was not fully developed but appears to be the landing page of a site advertising a financial services consultancy business called “Golden Euroasia Limited”, of which the general manager is Bilal Yurtçak. Apart from the company name and the title of the general manager, the site was in Turkish, with a photo of Mr. Yurtçak and text offering to consult on international investments, real estate, and import-export matters. Golden Euroasia Limited and Mr. Yurtçak (listed as its CEO) appear on the LinkedIn social media site as well.
At the time of this Decision, the Domain Name resolves to a parking page hosted by the Registrar, with pay-per-click (“PPC”) third-party advertising links.
5. Parties’ Contentions
The Complainant argues that the Domain Name is identical or confusingly similar to its registered GEA trademark and that the Respondent has no license to use the mark or evident rights or legitimate interests in the Domain Name, as its business does not use the name “GEA”.
The Complainant infers bad faith on the part of the Respondent, as the Complainant had previously registered trademark rights in Turkey, including trademark registration not only in its main fields of business but also for financial, consultancy, and real estate business. Because of this, the Complainant argues that “there is no doubt” that the Respondent must have been aware of the Complainant’s rights and registered and used the Domain Name to “bait and switch” Internet users, misdirecting them to the Respondent’s website to sell the Respondent’s competing financial consultancy services in Turkey.
The Respondent did not submit a formal Response. In an email to the Center, the Respondent stated:
“I’m Bilal Yurtcak from Golden Euroasia Limited. We have branches in Hong Kong, China and Turkey. gea.ltd is the initial letters of our organization and We have no relation with the complainant or intention to have any. Our company is 9 years old. And if requested by legal case, we are ready to provide every necessary documentation while I have no idea of who the complainant is and for what reason they complain.”
There is no further communication from the Respondent in the record. The Panel will take into account that this statement is not accompanied by the certification of accuracy and completeness required by Rule 5(c)(viii), as would be expected in the case of a formal Response.
6. Discussion and Findings
Paragraph 4(a) of the Policy provides that in order to divest a respondent of a domain name, a complainant must demonstrate each of the following:
(i) the domain name is identical or confusingly similar to a trademark or service mark in which the complainant has rights; and
(ii) the respondent has no rights or legitimate interests in respect of the domain name; and
(iii) the domain name has been registered and is being used in bad faith.
Under paragraph 15(a) of the Rules, “[a] Panel shall decide a complaint 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”.
A. Identical or Confusingly Similar
The first element of a UDRP complaint “functions primarily as a standing requirement” and entails “a reasoned but relatively straightforward comparison between the complainant’s trademark and the domain name”. See WIPO Overview of WIPO Panel Views on Selected UDRP Questions, Third Edition (“WIPO Overview 3.0”), section 1.7. The Domain Name is essentially identical to the Complainant’s GEA mark, as the generic Top-Level Domain (“gTLD”) “.ltd” “is viewed as a standard registration requirement” and is normally disregarded under the first element of the Policy. Id., section 1.11.2.
The Panel concludes, therefore, that the first element of the Complaint has been established.
B. Rights or Legitimate Interests
Paragraph 4(c) of the Policy gives non-exclusive examples of instances in which the Respondent may establish rights or legitimate interests in the Domain Name, by demonstrating any of the following:
(i) before any notice to it of the dispute, the Respondent’s 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) that the Respondent has been commonly known by the Domain Name, even if it has acquired no trademark or service mark rights; or
(iii) the Respondent is 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.
Because a respondent in a UDRP proceeding is in the best position to assert rights or legitimate interests in a domain name, it is well established that after a complainant makes a prima facie case, the burden of production on this element shifts to the respondent to come forward with relevant evidence of its rights or legitimate interests in the domain name. See WIPO Overview 3.0, section 2.1. The Complainant in this proceeding has demonstrated its trademark rights and a lack of permission for the Respondent to use the Complainant’s mark in the Domain Name.
The Respondent’s former website was a single page that advertised a financial consultancy business called Golden Euroasia Limited. The Respondent has suggested that the Domain Name was based on the initials of that consultancy (presumably taking the “a” from “asia”), which has operations in Turkey, China, and Hong Kong, China. A business with such a name has been registered in Hong Kong, China for nine years, but the Panel is not able to determine without more information whether it is associated with the Respondent, nor to confirm the establishment of such a business in Turkey or in China apart from Hong Kong, China.
In short, without a Response furnishing more detail, the Panel cannot find that the Respondent has established rights or legitimate interests as envisioned by the Policy, paragraph 4(c)(i) or (ii).
C. Registered and Used in Bad Faith
The Policy, paragraph 4(b), furnishes a non-exhaustive list of circumstances that “shall be evidence of the registration and use of a domain name in bad faith”, including the following (in which “you” refers to the registrant of the domain name):
“(iv) by using the domain name, you have intentionally attempted to attract, for commercial gain, Internet users to your web site or other on-line location, by creating a likelihood of confusion with the complainant's mark as to the source, sponsorship, affiliation, or endorsement of your web site or location or of a product or service on your web site or location.”
The Complainant assumes from the long tenure of its mark and the fact of its registration in Turkey, including registration in trademark classes covering financial, consultancy, and real estate services, that the Respondent must have been aware of the Complainant’s GEA mark and targeted it in registering the Domain Name to use for advertising “competing” financial services. The Respondent denies prior awareness of the Complainant or its mark. The Panel must determine which is the more plausible claim.
The Complainant’s mark is clearly long-established in the field of food processing, but at least based on the record before the Panel it is not a consumer mark or household word. From the Complaint and the Complainant’s website, it is clear that the Complainant’s products and services are sold to industrial customers. The record does not include examples of advertising apart from the Complainant’s website. The Complainant also does not furnish evidence of a “competing” financial services consultancy or real estate business. Rather, the Complainant’s website at “www.gea.com” advertises GEA Financial Services, which seem to have to do solely with leasing GEA equipment. Therefore, the Respondent’s denial of prior awareness seems plausible. Unlike the Gonzalez case cited above, where the confusingly similar domain name was used for fraudulent emails imitating the Complainant, there is no evidence here that the Respondent targeted the Complainant or interacted with the Complainant’s customers or employees. There is also no evidence that the Respondent mimicked the Complainant’s website or actually competed with the Complainant. Moreover, unlike the classically anonymous cybersquatter or fraudster, the Respondent is not hidden but has published a website with a relevant connection to the Domain Name string, as well as a LinkedIn site. The Respondent seems to have a Turkish and Chinese financial services business, with nothing obvious to gain from attracting persons aware of and seeking the Complainant’s food processing products.
The Complainant bears the burden of persuasion on this point, and based on the record before it, and on balance, the Panel finds it unlikely that the Respondent registered and used the Domain Name in an attempt to misdirect Internet users.
The Panel concludes that the Complainant fails to establish the third element of the Complaint, bad faith.
For the foregoing reasons, the Complaint is denied.
W. Scott Blackmer
Date: September 23, 2020