WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center

ADMINISTRATIVE PANEL DECISION

Belfius Bank S.A. / Belfius Bank N.V. v. Esteban Amigo Pazoi, Esteban company

Case No. D2021-0029

1. The Parties

The Complainant is Belfius Bank S.A. / Belfius Bank N.V., Belgium, represented internally.

The Respondent is Esteban Amigo Pazoi, Esteban company, Spain.

2. The Domain Names and Registrar

The disputed domain names <belfius-review.com> and <mybelfius.net> are registered with Tucows Inc. (the “Registrar”).

3. Procedural History

The Complaint was filed with the WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center (the “Center”) on January 6, 2021. On January 7, 2021, the Center transmitted by email to the Registrar a request for registrar verification in connection with the disputed domain names. On January 7, 2021, the Registrar transmitted by email to the Center its verification response disclosing registrant and contact information for the disputed domain names, which differed from the named Respondent and contact information in the Complaint. The Center sent an email communication to the Complainant on January 8, 2021, 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 January 11, 2021.

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 January 14, 2021. In accordance with the Rules, paragraph 5, the due date for Response was February 3, 2021. The Respondent did not submit any response. Accordingly, the Center notified the Respondent’s default on February 4, 2021.

The Center appointed Anne-Virginie La Spada as the sole panelist in this matter on February 12, 2021. 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 Belgian bank and a provider of financial services. It has more than 5,000 employees and over 650 agencies as well as 100 percent government shareholder ship.

The Complainant’s group is the owner of numerous trademarks for BELFIUS. In particular, the Complainant is the owner of the following trademark registration:

- European Union Trade Mark registration number 010581205 for BELFIUS, registered on May 24, 2012, in classes 9, 16, 35, 36, 41, and 45.

The Complainant is the registrant of the domain name <belfius.be> that resolves to its official website where it offers banking and insurance services. The Complainant is also the registrant of the domain name <belfius.com>, which redirects to a website intended for institutional partners and journalists, as well as of many other domain names that include the mark BELFIUS and redirect to its official website.

The disputed domain names <belfius-review.com> and <mybelfius.net> were registered on October 20, 2020. At the time of filing of the Complaint, they do not resolve to an active webpage.

5. Parties’ Contentions

A. Complainant

The Complainant contends that its trademark BELFIUS is an invented word composed of “bel” as in Belgium, “fi” as in finance and the English word “us”. The disputed domain names are confusingly similar to the Complainant’s trademark because the addition of the words “review” and “my” does not lessen the inevitable confusion of the disputed domain names with the Complainant’s trademark.

The Complainant further contends that the Respondent lacks any rights or legitimate interests in respect of the disputed domain names. Indeed, the Respondent is in no way associated with the Complainant and the Complainant has not licensed, approved or in any way consented to the Respondent’s registration and use of the trademark in the disputed domain names. The Complainant also contends in this respect that the Respondent has no trademark rights on BELFIUS and does not seem to carry out any activity. Moreover, the Complainant points out that the Respondent is not making any use of the disputed domain names in connection with an active website or even indicating demonstrable preparations to use the disputed domain names.

Finally, the Complainant contends that the disputed domain names have been used and registered in bad faith. The Complainant has established a substantial presence on the Internet so that the Respondent had or should have knowledge of the Complainant’s trademark. According to the Complainant, the Respondent concealed its identity and provided incomplete contact details, and it is difficult to conceive any plausible actual or contemplated use of the disputed domain names that would be in good faith. The Complainant concludes that the Respondent is passively holding the disputed domain names in bad faith.

B. Respondent

The Respondent did not reply to the Complainant’s contentions.

6. Discussion and Findings

According to paragraph 4(a) of the Policy, a complainant must assert and prove each of the following:

(i) the domain name registered by the respondent 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 registered by the respondent has been registered and is being used in bad faith.

A. Identical or Confusingly Similar

The Complainant owns trademark registrations for BELFIUS.

The disputed domain names reproduce the Complainant’s trademark BELFIUS in its entirety with no alteration, and combine this trademark with a descriptive term, namely with the term “review” for the disputed domain name <belfius-review.com> and with the term “my” for the disputed domain name <mybefius.net>.

As a rule, UDRP panels consider that the addition of a descriptive term does not prevent a finding of confusing similarity (see section 1.8 of the WIPO Overview of WIPO Panel Views on Selected UDRP Questions, Third Edition (“WIPO Overview 3.0”) and Deutsche Lufthansa AG v. Transure Enterprise Ltd / Above.com Domain Privacy, WIPO Case No. D2012-1742).

In the present case, the trademark BELFIUS is clearly recognizable in the disputed domain names. The mere addition of the descriptive term “review” and “my”, respectively, does not change the overall impression produced by the disputed domain names and does not prevent a finding of confusing similarity between the disputed domain names and the Complainant’s trademark (see for example DPDgroup International Services GmbH & Co. KG v. Whois Privacy Protection Foundation / Aurelius Mark, WIPO Case No. D2019-3141).

UDRP panels also accept that a generic Top-Level Domain (“gTLD”), such as “.com” or “.net”, may be disregarded when assessing whether a domain name is identical or confusing similar to a trademark (see section 1.11 of the WIPO Overview 3.0).

The Panel finds that the Complainant has thus satisfied the condition set forth in paragraph 4(a)(i) of the Policy.

B. Rights or Legitimate Interests

Based on the information submitted by the Complainant, the Respondent does not appear to have rights or legitimate interests in respect of the disputed domain names, nor has the Complainant granted to the Respondent an authorization to use the disputed domain names. Moreover, there is no evidence indicating that the Respondent is commonly known by the disputed domain names.

The Respondent does not appear to have operated any bona fide or legitimate business under the disputed domain names and is not making a noncommercial or fair use of the disputed domain names. There is no indication in the file that the Respondent has used the disputed domain names in connection with an active website.

Finally, the Respondent did not file a response to the Complaint. The Panel may draw from the lack of a Response the inferences that it considers appropriate, according to the Rules, paragraph 14(b). The Panel finds that the Complainant has established a prima facie case that the Respondent lacks rights or legitimate interests in the disputed domain names.

Accordingly, the Panel finds that the Complainant has made a prima facie case that the Respondent has no rights or legitimate interests in the disputed domain names, which has not been rebutted by the Respondent to avoid such a finding. Therefore, the Complainant has satisfied the condition set out in paragraph 4(a)(ii) of the Policy.

C. Registered and Used in Bad Faith

Paragraph 4(a)(iii) of the Policy requires the Complainant to prove both registration and use of the disputed domain names in bad faith.

Given the distinctive nature of the trademark BELFIUS, the Panel considers it likely that the Respondent knew of the existence of the Complainant and of its BELFIUS trademark at the time of the registration of the disputed domain names. As a consequence, the Panel finds it unlikely that the disputed domain names were chosen independently without reference to the Complainant’s trademark.

The Respondent does not appear to have used the disputed domain names in connection with an active website.

In certain circumstances, UDRP panels have held that passive holding of a domain name could amount to use in bad faith within the meaning of paragraph 4(a)(iii) of the Policy. Factors that have been considered relevant in applying the passive holding doctrine include: (i) the degree of distinctiveness or reputation of the complainant’s mark, (ii) the failure of the respondent to submit a response or to provide any evidence of actual or contemplated good-faith use, (iii) the respondent’s concealing its identity or use of false contact details (noted to be in breach of its registration agreement), and (iv) the implausibility of any good faith use to which the domain name may be put (section 3.3 of the WIPO Overview 3.0).

In the case at hand, the trademark BELFIUS is distinctive. The Respondent failed to submit a Response or to allege any actual or contemplated use of the disputed domain names. Also, it is difficult to imagine what legitimate use the Respondent could make of the disputed domain names, given the fact there is no relationship between the Respondent and the Complainant. If the disputed domain names were connected to an active website in the future, consumers would be likely to mistakenly assume that such website is operated or endorsed by the Complainant, when such is not the case.

On the other hand, the Respondent did not provide inaccurate contact details to the Registrar of the disputed domain names: Indeed, the DHL shipment of the Written Notice (as defined in paragraph 1 of the Rules), informing the Respondent of the commencement of an administrative proceeding under the Policy, could be delivered.

Weighing all the above factors, the Panel finds that the provision of accurate contact details to the Registrar is not, in itself, sufficient to avoid a finding of passive holding in bad faith. The Respondent was informed of the UDRP proceedings (as the delivery of the Written Notice by DHL was successful) but it chose to refrain from filing a Response. This corroborates the implausibility of a good faith use of the disputed domain names by the Respondent.

For the reasons set out above, the Panel finds that the Respondent has registered and is using the disputed domain names in bad faith, and that the Complainant has satisfied the condition set forth in paragraph 4(a)(iii) of the Policy.

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 names <belfius-review.com> and <mybelfius.net> be transferred to the Complainant.

Anne-Virginie La Spada
Sole Panelist
Date: February 26, 2021