WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center
ADMINISTRATIVE PANEL DECISION
Confederation Nationale du Credit Mutuel v. WhoisGuard Protected, WhoisGuard, Inc. / Laurent Martinet
Case No. D2020-3044
1. The Parties
The Complainant is Confederation Nationale du Credit Mutuel, France, represented by MEYER & Partenaires, France.
The Respondent is WhoisGuard Protected, WhoisGuard, Inc., Panama, / Laurent Martinet, France.
2. The Domain Name and Registrar
The disputed domain name <espacepersonnelcreditmutuel.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 November 16, 2020. On November 16, 2020, the Center transmitted by email to the Registrar a request for registrar verification in connection with the disputed domain name. On November 16, 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 November 18, 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 November 18, 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 November 23, 2020. In accordance with the Rules, paragraph 5, the due date for Response was December 13, 2020. The Respondent did not submit any response. Accordingly, the Center notified the Respondent’s default on December 15, 2020.
The Center appointed Isabelle Leroux as the sole panelist in this matter on December 29, 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 association registered under the law of the July 1, 1901, acting as the political and central body for the banking group CREDIT MUTUEL in France and is one of the largest French banking and insurance services groups.
The Complainant owns a portfolio of registered trademarks consisting of the sign CREDIT MUTUEL, including, inter alia, the following registrations:
- French combined trademark CREDIT MUTUEL, No. 1475940, applied for on July 8, 1988, and duly renewed, designating services in classes 35 and 36;
- French combined trademark CREDIT MUTUEL, No. 1646012, applied for on November 20, 1990, and duly renewed, designating products and services in classes 16, 35, 36, 38 and 41;
- European Union semi-figurative trademark CREDIT MUTUEL, No. 016130403, registered on June 1, 2017, designating products and services in classes 7, 9, 16, 35, 36, 38, 41 and 45;
- European Union semi-figurative trademark CREDIT MUTUEL LA BANQUE A QUI PARLER, No. 5146162 registered on August 23, 2007, in classes 9, 16, 35, 36, 38, 41 and 45 (together the “Trademarks”).
The Complainant also registered the following domain names:
- <creditmutuel.info> registered on September 13, 2001;
- <creditmutuel.org> registered on June 3, 2002;
- <creditmutuel.fr> registered on August 10, 1995;
- <creditmutuel.com> registered on October 28, 1995;
- <creditmutuel.net> registered on October 3, 1996.
The disputed domain name <espacepersonnelcreditmutuel.com> was registered on September 23, 2020, under the privacy service WhoisGuard Protected, Panama.
According to the information provided by the Registrar following to the request for verification of the Center, the real registrant is an individual called Laurent Martinet, located in France.
The disputed domain name used to resolve to a page of safety warning notice indicating “the website you are going to open is misleading”. It currently resolves to an inactive website.
5. Parties’ Contentions
(i) The Complainant contends that the disputed domain name is confusingly similar to the Trademarks. Firstly, it contends that the generic Top-Level Domain (“gTLD”) extension “.com” is not relevant and shall not be taken into account when considering the similarity.
The Complainant further contends that the Trademarks are imitated in the disputed domain name since it consists of the trademark CREDIT MUTUEL as the distinctive and dominant element, preceded by the French descriptive wording “espace personnel”, which can be translated into English as “personal space”.
The Complainant argues that the addition of the descriptive wording “espace personnel” does not eliminate the confusion with the Trademarks. On the contrary, it only increases the risk of confusion by referring to the common designation of the online personal spaces of the Complainant’s clients, which may make Internet user believe that the disputed domain name is associated with the Complainant.
(ii) The Complainant indicates that it has never given any license or authorization to any third party to register the disputed domain name.
It further contends that the truthfulness of the contact details as registered with the Registrar are doubtful, as the email address does not give any result.
In any case, the Registrant who is actually an individual located in France, is not commonly known under the disputed domain name and there is no known relationship of any kind between the Complainant and the Respondent.
The Complainant adds that the disputed domain name used to resolve to a webpage indicating “the website you are going to open is misleading”with a notification that it is advised to return to a safe page. Therefore, the Respondent does not make any bona fide use nor does it have any rights or legitimate interests in respect of the disputed domain name.
(iii) The Complainant finally contends that the disputed domain name was registered and is being used in bad faith. The registration was made in bad faith since the choice of wording of the disputed domain name was not coincidental but was deliberate and in full knowledge of the Complainant’s Trademarks.
In particular, the use of the descriptive term “espace personnel”, a French expression commonly used to designate a space reserved for the clients of a company, more precisely that of a bank, demonstrates the knowledge of the Respondent regarding the Complainant and its activities in France.
Further, the Complainant points out that the fact that the disputed domain name used to resolve to a page with safety warning of Google shows that the associated website was believed to be part of a fraudulent scheme and demonstrates a fraudulent behavior and a passive use that reveal the lack of serious intention of use or good faith use.
(iv) The Complainant therefore requests that the disputed domain name be transferred to the Complainant.
The Respondent did not reply to the Complainant’s contentions.
6. Discussion and Findings
Paragraph 4(a) of the Policy requires the Complainant to prove each of the following elements in order to obtain relief:
(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.
These elements will be examined in turn below.
A. Identical or Confusingly Similar
The disputed domain name incorporates the CREDIT MUTUEL Trademark in its entirety, which is typically considered sufficient to satisfy the requirements of the first element.
The addition of the descriptive term “espace personnel” associated with the Trademarks does not avoid a finding of confusing similarity. The Panel notes that this term refers to the services of the Complainant to its clients, in particular, the personal space of its clients’ user account.
Furthermore, the gTLD does not affect the identity between the disputed domain name and the Trademarks. Indeed, according to well-established consensus among UDRP panels, the addition of a gTLD such as “.com” is not to be taken into consideration when examining the identity or confusing similarity between a complainant’s trademarks and the disputed domain name. See Esselunga S.P.A.. v. Wang Lian Feng, WIPO Case No. D2018-0967; Volkswagen AG v. Wang Lian Feng, WIPO Case No. D2018-0881.
Consequently, the Panel finds that the disputed domain name to be confusingly similar to the Trademarks. The first element of the paragraph 4(a) of the Policy is thus fulfilled.
B. Rights or Legitimate Interests
Numerous UDRP panels have found that, even though the complainant bears the general burden of proof under paragraph 4(a)(ii) of the UDRP, the burden of production shifts to the respondent once the complainant makes a prima facie showing that the Respondent lacks rights or legitimate interests. See Croatia Airlines d.d. v. Modern Empire Internet Ltd., WIPO Case No. D2003-0455.
Hence after the Complainant has made a prima facie showing that the Respondent has no rights or legitimate interests in the disputed domain name, it will be deemed to have satisfied paragraph 4(a)(ii) of the UDRP when the Respondent fails to submit a response.
In this case, the Complainant brings forward the following elements:
- It has no relationship whatsoever with the Respondent;
- There is no indication that the Respondent is known under the disputed domain name;
- No license or authorization has been granted by the Complainant to the Respondent.
In addition, the Complainant has provided evidence on the fact that the website to which the disputed domain name used to resolve shows indeed a safety warning notice of Google safe browsing indicating that the navigator Firefox has blocked the access due to the risk that such page may contain malicious software or phishing schemes aiming at obtaining Internet users’ personal data such as bank details and password.
Therefore, the Panel finds that the Complainant has made a prima facie case that the Respondent lacks rights or legitimate interests in the disputed domain name.
The Respondent has not proved otherwise.
Given these circumstances, the Panel finds that the second element of the Policy has been satisfied.
C. Registered and Used in Bad Faith
The Trademarks have been recognized as well known by previous UDRP panels. Accordingly, the Panel considers that the Respondent could not plausibly ignore the existence of the Complainant’s Trademarks at the time the disputed domain name was registered and finds that the registration was made in bad faith. See Confederation Nationale du Crédit Mutuel v. DomainsByProxy/Gomes Paulo, WIPO Case No. DWS2008-0001; Confederation Nationale du Credit Mutuel v. Philippe Marie, WIPO Case No. D2010-1513; Confédération Nationale du Crédit Mutuel v. Whoisguard Protected, Whoisguard, Inc. / Isabelle Garcia, Credit Mutuel Fiable, WIPO Case No. D2017-0214.
Furthermore, the Panel finds that the Respondent’s efforts to conceal its identity through the use of a WhoIs proxy service with an address located in Panama can be construed as further evidence that the disputed domain name was registered in bad faith. See TTT Moneycorp Limited. v. Diverse Communications, WIPO Case No. D2001-0725.
As to the use of the disputed domain name in bad faith, the Complainant has provided evidence that the disputed domain name was used to resolve to a website with potential security risks, according to Google safety warning notice.
Even though the disputed domain name currently appears to be inactive, the Panel agrees with the Complainant that such use constitute a passive holding that has been constantly regarded as an indication of bad faith use. The UDRP panel has judged that the “the bad faith behavior of the Respondent […] results clearly of [its] lack of response […] to the complaint, and to the inaccuracy and incoherence of [its] addresses”. See Association Robert Mazars v. François Varin, Jerome Adrien, Laurent Bernard, Nicolas Mazars, WIPO Case No. D2014-0498.
Taking into account all of the above, it is not possible to conceive of any plausible actual or contemplated active use of the disputed domain name by the Respondent that would not be illegitimate.
Consequently, the Panel finds that the disputed domain name was registered and used in bad faith, so that the third and final element of the Policy is met.
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 <espacepersonnelcreditmutuel.com> be transferred to the Complainant.
Date: January 12, 2021