WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center

ADMINISTRATIVE PANEL DECISION

Equinor ASA v. Trond Jacobsen

Case No. D2021-0042

1. The Parties

The Complainant is Equinor ASA, Norway, represented by Valea AB, Sweden.

The Respondent is Trond Jacobsen, Norway.

2. The Domain Name and Registrar

The disputed domain name <equinor.today> (the “Domain Name”) is registered with Domeneshop AS dba domainnameshop.com (the “Registrar”).

3. Procedural History

The Complaint was filed with the WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center (the “Center”) on January 7, 2021. On January 7, 2021, the Center transmitted by email to the Registrar a request for registrar verification in connection with the Domain Name. On January 8, 2021, 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 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 12, 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 13, 2021. In accordance with the Rules, paragraph 5, the due date for Response was February 2, 2021. The Respondent did not submit any response. The Center received the Complainant’s supplemental filing by email on January 18, 2021. The Center received the Respondent’s communications by email on January 19, 2021, on January 20, 2021, on January 21, 2021, on February 3, 2021, and on March 21, 2021. On February 3, 2021, the Center informed the Parties that it would proceed to panel appointment.

The Center appointed Mathias Lilleengen as the sole panelist in this matter on March 29, 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 Norwegian corporation, formerly known as Statoil ASA. The Complainant is an international energy company with operations in more than 30 countries around the world developing oil, gas, wind and solar energy. The Complainant was founded as The Norwegian State Oil Company (Statoil) in 1972 and the Norwegian State holds 67 per cent of the shares. The Complainant changed its name to Equinor in 2018. In parallel to the name change, EQUINOR trademark applications have been filed worldwide, among them Norwegian trademark registration No. 298811, registered on June 12, 2018.

The Complainant is the owner of more than 100 domain name registrations throughout the world containing the EQUINOR mark distributed among generic Top-Level Domains (“gTLDs”) and country code Top-Level Domains (“ccTLDs”).

According to the Registrar, the Respondent registered the Domain Name on December 11, 2020. At the time of drafting the Decision, the Domain Name resolved to a “parking page” by the Registrar.

5. Parties’ Contentions

A. Complainant

The Complainant provides evidence of trademark registrations. The Complainant argues that the Domain Name is identical to the Complainant’s trademark and company name EQUINOR.

The Complainant argues that the Respondent has no rights or legitimate interests in respect of the Domain Name. The Complainant asserts that the Respondent is not affiliated with the Complainant. The Respondent has not been granted any license to use the EQUINOR trademark nor was the Respondent otherwise authorized by the Complainant to use the trademark. There is no evidence of the Respondent’s use of, or 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. The Domain Name redirects to a parked webpage.

The Complainant believes it is evident from the composition of the Domain Name that the Respondent, a Norwegian citizen, chose to register a name that is identical to the Complainant’s trademark and registered company name. There is a risk that fraudulent emails may be distributed through email accounts created from the Domain Name. The Complainant has experienced numerous phishing attacks from similar domain names in the last year. The use of a privacy service is further indication of bad faith.

B. Respondent

The Respondent has not filed a formal Response, but communicated with the Complainant by email, January 15, 2021 as follows: “Mitt språk er Norsk, så jeg ber om at all kommunikasjon med meg foregår på Norsk skriftlig. Dette for at evt misforståelser kan unngås”. It translates: “My language is Norwegian, so I ask that all communication with me takes place in Norwegian in writing. This is so that any misunderstandings can be avoided”. The same email text was sent to the Center on January 19, 2021, January 20, 2021, January 21, 2021, February 3, 2021 and March 21, 2021.

C. Supplemental filing

As a response to the Respondent’s email, the Complainant filed a supplemental filing on January 18, 2021, arguing that substantial additional expense and delay would likely be incurred if the Complaint had to be translated into Norwegian, the Respondent probably understands English as English skills of a person from Norway is high, and the Respondent has chosen a gTLD which consists of the English word “today”.

6. Discussion and Findings

A. The language of proceedings

Pursuant to paragraph 11 of the UDRP Rules, the language of the administrative proceeding shall be the language of the Registration Agreement. The Respondent requests Norwegian to be the language because Norwegian is the mother tongue of the Respondent and conducting it in the Respondent’s mother tongue may according to the Respondent avoid “any misunderstandings”.

Even if the Panel may choose a different language of the proceedings than the language of the Registration Agreement, see WIPO Overview of WIPO Panel Views on Selected UDRP Questions, Third Edition (“WIPO Overview 3.0”), section 4.5, the main rule is that the language of the administrative proceeding shall be the language of the Registration Agreement. There is no evidence in the case file suggesting that it would be appropriate to change from the language the Respondent chose when he registered the Domain Name. On the contrary, it would constitute an unnecessary burden and delay to request the Complaint to be translated into Norwegian. Moreover, it is likely the Respondent has sufficient English skills to respond to the Complaint, in particular to give an explanation of why he has chosen to register a domain name identical to one of Norway’s most famous trademarks.

Based on the above, the Panel determines the language of the proceedings to be English.

B. Identical or Confusingly Similar

The Complainant has established that it has rights in the trademark EQUINOR.

For the purpose of assessing under paragraph 4(a)(i) of the Policy, the Panel may ignore the gTLD “.today”; see WIPO Overview 3.0, section 1.11.

The Panel finds that the Domain Name is identical to a trademark in which the Complainant has rights in accordance with paragraph 4(a)(i) of the Policy.

C. Rights or Legitimate Interests

The Complainant has not granted any authorization to the Respondent to register the Domain Name containing the Complainant’s trademark or otherwise make use of its mark. Based on the evidence, the Respondent is not affiliated or related to the Complainant in any way. There is no evidence that the Respondent has registered the Domain Name as a trademark or acquired trademark rights. There is no evidence of 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. The Panel finds that the composition of the Domain Name carries a high risk of implied affiliation with the Complainant.

The Panel finds that the Respondent has no rights or legitimate interests in respect of the Domain Name in accordance with paragraph 4(a)(ii) of the Policy.

D. Registered and Used in Bad Faith

The Domain Name is identical to the well-known trademark EQUINOR. It is particularly well-known in Norway where also the Respondent is situated. The Panel finds it likely that the Respondent was aware of the Complainant when he registered the Domain Name.

Moreover, considering the fame of the Complainant’s trademark, the Panel cannot see any plausible legitimate reason for the Respondent to have registered the Domain Name without any association with or authorization from the Complainant, and cannot conceive any good faith use the Respondent may make of the Domain Name.

For the reasons set out above, the Panel concludes that the Domain Name was registered and is being used in bad faith, within the meaning of 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 Domain Name <equinor.today> be transferred to the Complainant.

Mathias Lilleengen
Sole Panelist
Date: April 12, 2021