WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center
ADMINISTRATIVE PANEL DECISION
Equinor ASA v. WhoisGuard Protected, WhoisGuard, Inc. / micheal scotthan, OZ PTY LTD
Case No. D2020-2431
1. The Parties
Complainant is Equinor ASA, Norway, represented by Valea AB, Sweden.
Respondent is WhoisGuard Protected, WhoisGuard, Inc., Panama, / micheal scotthan, OZ PTY LTD, Nigeria.
2. The Domain Name and Registrar
The disputed domain name <equinors.com> is registered with NameCheap, Inc. (the “Registrar”).
3. Procedural History
The Complaint was filed with the WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center (the “Center”) on September 18, 2020. On September 18, 2020, the Center transmitted by email to the Registrar a request for registrar verification in connection with the disputed domain name. On September 18, 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 Complainant on September 21, 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 September 21, 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 Respondent of the Complaint, and the proceedings commenced on September 23, 2020. In accordance with the Rules, paragraph 5, the due date for Response was October 13, 2020.
Respondent sent an informal Response on September 23, 2020, indicating the possibility to settle the dispute. The Center sent the Parties a Possible Settlement email on September 24, 2020, and Complainant requested a Suspension of the proceeding on September 24, 2020. The Center confirmed on September 24, 2020, that the proceeding will be suspended until October 24, 2020. On October 23, 2020, the proceeding was reinstituted on the request of Complainant and commencement of Panel Appointment was sent to the Parties.
The Center appointed Lynda J. Zadra-Symes as the sole panelist in this matter on November 6, 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 is a broad international energy company, based in Norway, founded as The Norwegian State Oil Company (Statoil) in 1972. Complainant has operations in more than 30 countries around the world developing oil, gas, wind and solar energy. In 2018, Complainant changed its name to EQUINOR and the name change was widely publicized in the international media. As reported in the media, Complainant changed its name to EQUINOR to reflect its transition from being a pure oil and gas company to becoming a broad energy company, with focus on developing wind and solar power in addition to oil and gas.
In conjunction with its official name change, Complainant obtained numerous trademark registrations worldwide for the mark EQUINOR. For example European Union Trademark Registration number 017900772, registered on January 18, 2019, for the mark EQUINOR. Complainant submitted evidence that its worldwide trademark portfolio for the mark EQUINOR is extensive.
In addition, Complainant owns more than 100 domain name registrations containing the mark EQUINOR, including <equinor.com>.
The disputed domain name was registered on September 17, 2020, and appears to have been registered for the purpose of engaging in a fraudulent “phishing” scam.
5. Parties’ Contentions
Complainant contends that the disputed domain name is confusingly similar to Complainant’s trademark, that Respondent has no rights or legitimate interests in respect of the disputed domain name and that the disputed domain name was registered and is being used in bad faith.
Respondent did not reply to Complainant’s contentions.
6. Discussion and Findings
In order to succeed in its claim, Complainant must demonstrate that all of the elements enumerated in paragraph 4(a) of the Policy have been satisfied:
(i) the disputed domain name is identical or confusingly similar to a trademark or service mark in which Complainant has rights; and
(ii) Respondent has no rights or legitimate interests with respect to the disputed domain name; and
(iii) the disputed domain name has been registered and is being used in bad faith.
Paragraph 15(a) of the Rules instructs the Panel to 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
Complainant has shown that it has strong trademark rights in the mark EQUINOR. The disputed domain name incorporates the entirety of Complainant’s trademark and company name, and simply adds the letter "s". This addition does not prevent confusing similarity, as the mark is recognizable in the disputed domain name. Accordingly, the Panel finds that the disputed domain name is confusingly similar to Complainant’s trademark.
B. Rights or Legitimate Interests
Complainant contends that Respondent is not affiliated or related to Complainant in any way, or licensed or otherwise authorized to use Complainant’s mark in connection with a website or for any other purpose. There is no evidence in the record indicating that Respondent is using the disputed domain name in connection with a legitimate business, or that Respondent is using the disputed domain name in a noncommercial or fair use manner without intent for commercial gain. There is no evidence in the record that Respondent is generally known by the disputed domain name or has acquired any trademark or service mark rights in the disputed domain name. Indeed, as discussed below, the disputed domain name redirects to a fraudulent website which impersonates Complainant's website.
The Panel finds that that Respondent has no rights or legitimate interests in respect of the disputed domain name.
C. Registered and Used in Bad Faith
The record indicates that Respondent has intentionally registered and is using the disputed domain name in bad faith. Respondent's registration and use of the disputed domain name indicates Respondent’s deliberate attempt to deceive Internet users into believing that Respondent’s website is associated with, authorized by or connected to Complainant. The website at the disputed domain name displays Complainant’s Equinor logo and large portions of Complainant’s “www.equinor.com” website. Respondent’s website also offers shortcuts to social media accounts (lnstagram, YouTube, Twitter). However, when a user clicks on the icons, the website redirects to the genuine social media accounts of Complainant, thereby deliberately deceiving Internet users.
In addition, the website offers investment in cryptocurrencies, which are not offered by Complainant:
"Equinor 's goal is to fully provide sustainable leadership in crypto, gas and oil infrastructure for development of the AU, US and European economy. Equinors is a vertically integrated oil company, whose main activity is trading crypto currencies. " [ .. ] Equinor 's goal is to fully provide sustainable leadership in crypto gas and oil infrastructure for development of the AU, US and European economy. Oz Energy is a> vertically integrated oil company, whose main activity is trading crypto currencies, oil and gas fields exploration and development, as well as production and marketing of Ozcopty products like gold. "
This indicates that Respondent’s intent is to fraudulently obtain personal information or even payment from Internet users who are deceived into believing that the website at the disputed domain name is associated with Complainant. Such evidence of criminal and fraudulent activity demonstrates bad faith. There is a high risk that fraudulent emails are being distributed from the disputed domain name in the name of Complainant for the purpose of “phishing” to obtain personal or financial information.
Furthermore, Complainant submitted evidence that, when a user visits the website at the disputed domain name, a malicious program tries to attack the visitor's computer.
Finally, Respondent’s use of a privacy or proxy service which is known to block or intentionally delay disclosure of the identity of the actual registrant may also be considered as an indication of bad faith (WIPO Overview 3.0, Section 3.6).
The Panel finds that the disputed domain name has been registered and is being used in bad faith.
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, <equinors.com> be transferred to Complainant.
Lynda J. Zadra-Symes
Date: November 20, 2020