WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center

ADMINISTRATIVE PANEL DECISION

Société Air France v. Sunil Kumar

Case No. D2021-0071

1. The Parties

Complainant is Société Air France, France, represented by Meyer & Partenaires, France.

Respondent is Sunil Kumar, India.

2. The Domain Name and Registrar

The Disputed Domain Name <airfrance-reservationss.com> 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 January 11, 2021. On January 11, 2021, the Center transmitted by email to the Registrar a request for registrar verification in connection with the Disputed Domain Name. On January 12, 2021, 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 January 12, 2021, 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 January 14, 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 Respondent of the Complaint, and the proceedings commenced on January 15, 2021. In accordance with the Rules, paragraph 5, the due date for Response was February 4, 2021. Respondent did not submit any response. Accordingly, the Center notified Respondent’s default on February 5, 2021.

The Center appointed Jordan S. Weinstein as the sole panelist in this matter on February 15, 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

Complainant is the owner of the following registrations for the trademark AIR FRANCE:

- International trademark AIR FRANCE, Registration No. 828334, was registered on October 20, 2003, in classes 6, 8, 9, 12, 14, 16, 18, 19, 20, 21, 24, 25, 28, 29, 30, 31, 32, 33, 34, 35, 36, 37, 38, 39, 41, 42, 43, 44, and 45;
- European Union trademark AIR FRANCE, Registration No. 2528461, was registered on January 9, 2002, in classes 06, 08, 09, 12, 14, 16, 18, 19, 20, 21, 24, 25, 28, 29, 30, 31, 32, 33, 34, 35, 36, 37, 38, 39, 41, 42, 43, 44, and 45;
- International trademark Registration No. 1123935 for the trademark AIRFRANCE was registered on May 25, 2003, in classes 09, 16, 18, 35, 36, 37, 38, and 39; and
- Indian trademark AIR FRANCE, registered under No. 1276424 on April 2, 2004, in classes 35, 38 and 39.

Each of the aforementioned trademark registrations covers air transport services and transport reservation services, among others.

The Disputed Domain Name was registered on October 26, 2020.

5. Parties’ Contentions

A. Complainant

Complainant asserts that it is one of the largest airline passenger and air freight companies in the world, with a fleet of 302 airplanes with which it serves 308 cities in 116 countries with 2300 flights every day. Complainant asserts that it was formed in 1933 from the merger of five airlines as “Compagnie Nationale Air France”, and became “Société Air France” as a result of another merger in 1997. Complainant asserts that in 2019 alone, Société Air France – together with its alliance partner KLM group – carried over 104 million passengers and received revenue of over EUR 27 billion.

Complainant asserts that the Disputed Domain Name is identical to or confusingly similar with Complainant’s AIR FRANCE trademark because the “airfrance” portion of the Disputed Domain Name reproduces Complainant’s trademark letter by letter, omitting only the space between the words. Furthermore, Complainant asserts the term “reservations” in the Disputed Domain Name refers immediately to the sphere of airline travel in which Complainant operates, either in the French or in the English language. Complainant asserts that the combination of the word “reservations” with the trademark AIR FRANCE accentuates the risk of confusion between Complainant’s trademark and the Disputed Domain Name.

Complainant asserts that Respondent has no rights or legitimate interests in respect of the Disputed Domain Name, because Complainant has granted no license or authorization to anyone or any company to make any use or seek to register the Disputed Domain Name, and that to the best of Complainant’s knowledge, Respondent is not currently and has never been known under the wording “airfrance”, “air france”, or “reservations”. Furthermore, Complainant asserts that the Disputed Domain Name is linked to a website that reproduces Complainant’s trademark without Complainant’s authorization in a manner that suggests that the website offers group booking with “air france Reservations”. However, Complainant asserts that there is no way to buy tickets for groups on the website; its only visible feature is to collect email addresses, names and phone numbers which would allow Respondent to contact the users who enter this information.

Further, Complainant asserts that the wording “air france reservations” on the website linked to the Disputed Domain Name cannot be considered a reference to any business or noncommercial activity other than that of Complainant. For this reason, Complainant asserts that the website linked to the Disputed Domain Name can be neither a bona fide offering of goods or services nor a legitimate noncommercial or fair use.

Complainant asserts that Respondent has registered and is using the Disputed Domain Name in bad faith because Complainant’s trademark has a strong reputation and is well known throughout the world for a long time, and that the notoriety of its trademark creates a prima facie presumption that Respondent registered the Disputed Domain Name for the purpose of selling it to Complainant or a competitor, or that it was intended to be used in some way to attract for commercial gain users to the website by creating a likelihood of confusion with Complainant’s mark. Complainant asserts that Respondent could not have been unaware of Complainant’s international reputation at the time Respondent registered the Disputed Domain Name. Rather, Complainant asserts that Respondent has registered the Disputed Domain Name precisely because Respondent knew the well-known character of Complainant’s trademark. Further, Complainant asserts that the addition of “reservation” to Complainant’s well-known trademark is further evidence of bad faith registration because the term is related to the core activity of Complainant.

Additionally, Complainant asserts that Respondent has previously been found responsible for bad faith registration and use of a domain name similar to another famous trademark in a prior UDRP decision, and that Respondent registered two other domain names at the same time as the Disputed Domain Name, which also correspond to the names of airlines: <deltaairlinesreservations.us>, and <americanairlinesreservations.us>. Complainant asserts that there is no possible legitimate ground for these domain name registrations, especially because the first is linked to a commercial pay-per-click parking page while the second is passively held.

Complainant asserts that Respondent’s use of the Disputed Domain Name is in bad faith because the Disputed Domain Name resolves to a website displaying information regarding Complainant and invites Internet users to fill in their personal information so as to “experience the grandeur with united airlines”, which is a direct competitor of Complainant. To the extent this the information displayed on Respondent’s website was intended and not a typo, the personal data of Internet users might be collected and used to divert Complainant’s customers to a competitor’s competing offers.

Furthermore, Complainant asserts that the website link to the Disputed Domain Name displays no disclaimer to help Internet users realize that the website is not operated or endorsed by Complainant.

Yet further, Complainant asserts that Respondent chose images and colors for its website that were inspired from Complainant’s official website, including the white, red, and deep blue colors that have been used for decades on Complainant’s official website. Finally, Complainant asserts that Respondent targeted Complainant at the time the Disputed Domain Name was registered and when the website linked to the Disputed Domain Name was created. Complainant asserts that there is no legitimate relation between the services proposed on the linked website and the use of the Disputed Domain Name, which includes the well-known trademark AIR FRANCE.

B. Respondent

Respondent did not reply to the Complainant’s contentions.

6. Discussion and Findings

A. Applicable Policy Provisions

Paragraph 4(a) of the Policy requires Complainant to prove each of the following three elements in order to prevail in this proceeding:

(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 in respect of the Disputed Domain Name; and

(iii) the Disputed Domain Name has been registered and is being used in bad faith.

Paragraph 4(b) of the Policy states that the following circumstances shall be evidence of the registration and use of a domain name in bad faith:

(i) circumstances indicating that [respondent has] registered or acquired the Disputed Domain Name primarily for the purpose of selling, renting or otherwise transferring the domain name registration to complainant who is the owner of the trademark or service mark or to a competitor of that complainant, for valuable consideration in excess of documented out-of-pocket costs directly related to the Disputed Domain Name; or

(ii) [respondent has] registered the Disputed Domain Name in order to prevent the owner of the trademark or service mark from reflecting the mark in a corresponding domain name, provided that [Respondent has] engaged in a pattern of such conduct; or

(iii) [respondent has] registered the Disputed Domain Name primarily for the purpose of disrupting the business of a competitor; or

(iv) by using the Disputed Domain Name, [respondent has] intentionally attempted to attract, for commercial gain, Internet users to [its] website or other online location, by creating a likelihood of confusion with complainant’s trademarks as to the source, sponsorship, affiliation, or endorsement of [its] website or location or of a product or service on [its] website or location.

These circumstances are non-exhaustive, and a UDRP panel may consider other circumstances as constituting registration and use of a domain name in bad faith.

According to paragraph 4(c) of the Policy, a respondent may demonstrate rights in or legitimate interests to a domain name by any of the following, without limitation:

“(i) before any notice to you of the dispute, your 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) you, as an individual, business, or other organization have been commonly known by the domain name, even if you have acquired no trademark or service mark rights; or

(iii) you are making a legitimate noncommercial or fair use of the domain name, without intent for commercial gain to misleadingly divert customers or to tarnish the trademark or service mark at issue.”

Where a respondent is in default, a UDRP panel may draw such inferences as it considers appropriate. Rules, paragraph 14(b).

B. Findings

1. Identical or Confusingly Similar

The Panel finds that the Disputed Domain Name <airfrance-reservationss.com> is confusingly similar to Complainant’s registered AIR FRANCE trademark. The Disputed Domain Name reproduces the AIR FRANCE mark in its entirety, missing only a space between the words (and the Panel notes that the wording “airfrance” in the Disputed Domain Name is identical to the wording in Complainant’s International trademark Registration No. 1123935 for the mark AIRFRANCE), and adding a misspelling of the descriptive term “reservations” and the generic Top-Level Domain (“gTLD”) “.com”. The Panel finds that combining Complainant’s entire mark with a misspelling of the descriptive term “reservations” does not prevent a finding of confusing similarity. See WIPO Overview of WIPO Panel Views on Selected UDRP Questions, Third Edition (“WIPO Overview 3.0”), section 1.8(“Where the relevant trademark is recognizable within the disputed domain name, the addition of other terms (whether descriptive, geographical, pejorative, meaningless, or otherwise) would not prevent a finding of confusing similarity under the first element. The nature of such additional term(s) may however bear on assessment of the second and third elements”).

The Panel finds that Complainant has provided sufficient evidence to establish paragraph 4(a)(i) of the Policy.

2. Rights or Legitimate Interests

Complainant has made a prima facie case under paragraph 4(a)(ii) of the Policy by showing that Complainant has granted no license or authorization to any person or company to use or register the Disputed Domain Name, and that Respondent is not commonly known by a name corresponding to the Disputed Domain Name, or any part thereof. Furthermore, Complainant has demonstrated that Respondent has not used or made demonstrable preparations to use the Disputed Domain Name in connection with a bona fide offering of goods or services or with a legitimate noncommercial or fair use. The website linked to the Disputed Domain Name mimics the colors of Complainant’s official website, and uses Complainant’s trademark without authorization to promote group booking of air travel tickets with “air france reservations” – a spelling that corresponds not to the Disputed Domain Name, but directly to Complainant’s trademark and services. Even assuming that Respondent had proven that it was offering for sale legitimate reservations for flights on Complainant’s airline – which it has not done, and which Complainant has contested, Respondent’s failure to accurately and prominently disclose on its website its (lack of a) relationship with Complainant forecloses such use from being a bona fide offering of goods or services. See WIPO Overview 3.0, section 2.8.1; Oki Data Americas, Inc. v. ASD, Inc., WIPO Case No. D2001-0903.

Once Complainant makes its prima facie case of no rights or legitimate interests, the burden of production shifts to Respondent to come forward with appropriate evidence demonstrating rights or legitimate interests in the Disputed Domain Name. See WIPO Overview 3.0, section 2.1; Adidas AG v. Domain Manager, WIPO Case No. D2014-1414. Respondent failed to come forward with allegations or evidence demonstrating either rights or legitimate interests in the Disputed Domain Name. As a result, the Panel finds that Complainant has established paragraph 4(a)(ii) of the Policy.

3. Registered and Used in Bad Faith

The Panel finds that Complainant has provided sufficient evidence to satisfy paragraph 4(a)(iii) of the Policy, namely that Respondent has registered and used the Disputed Domain Name in bad faith because it incorporates Complainant’s well-known mark in its entirety and is linked to a website that mimics Complainant’s official website and seeks the input of personally identifying information from Internet users seeking to purchase group flight reservations from Complainant.

As other UDRP Panels have found in the past, Complainant’s allegations and evidence here were a sufficient basis on which to conclude that Complainant’s AIR FRANCE mark is well known. See, e.g., Société Air France v. James Woods, WIPO Case No. D2018-1515 (AIR FRANCE is “an old and very-well-known mark”); Société Air France v. Vladimir Federov, WIPO Case No. D2003-0639 (“famous”); Société Air France v. Spiral Matrix, WIPO Case No. D2005-1337; Société AIR FRANCE v. Alvaro Collazo, WIPO Case No. D2003-0417 (“famous”); Air France v. Kitchkulture, WIPO Case No. D2002-0158 (“considerable fame and recognition”). “When a domain name is so obviously connected with a Complainant, its very use by a registrant with no connection to the Complainant suggests ‘opportunistic bad faith’”. Tata Sons Limited v. TATA Telecom Inc/Tatatelecom.com, Mr. Singh, WIPO Case No. D2009-0671. Such is the case here, particularly because the Disputed Domain Name resolves to a website that mimics Complainant’s website and appears to offer group reservations for Complainant’s AIR FRANCE air travel services.

The Panel also finds that Respondent registered the Disputed Domain Name in order to prevent the owner of the trademark from reflecting the mark in a corresponding domain name, under section 4(b)(iii) of the Policy. Specifically, Respondent’s registration of domain names corresponding to the names of two other well-known airlines within a minute of registering the Disputed Domain Name, and its abusive registration of the domain name <ebayindiasale.com>; see eBay Inc. v. Sunil Kumar, NAF case FA2001001878095, constitute a pattern of conduct of attempting to block the owners of well-known marks from reflecting them in domain names.

The Panel finds that Complainant has established 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 Name <airfrance-reservationss.com> be transferred to Complainant.

Jordan S. Weinstein
Sole Panelist
Date: February 24, 2021