WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center
ADMINISTRATIVE PANEL DECISION
Compagnie Générale des Etablissements Michelin v. Imai Satoshi (), Web Hurricane Group, Inc.
Case No. D2021-0333
1. The Parties
The Complainant is Compagnie Générale des Etablissements Michelin, France, represented by Dreyfus & associés, France.
The Respondent is Imai Satoshi (), Web Hurricane Group, Inc., Japan.
2. The Domain Name and Registrar
The disputed domain name <h-michelin.com> is registered with GMO Internet, Inc. d/b/a Discount‑Domain.com and Onamae.com (the “Registrar”).
3. Procedural History
The Complaint was filed in English with the WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center (the “Center”) on February 3, 2021. On February 3, 2021, the Center transmitted by email to the Registrar a request for registrar verification in connection with the disputed domain name. On February 4, 2021, the Registrar transmitted by email to the Center its verification response confirming that the Respondent is listed as the registrant and providing the contact details.
On February 6, 2021, the Center transmitted an email communication to the Parties in English and Japanese regarding the language of the proceeding. On February 8, 2021, the Complainant confirmed its request that English be the language of the proceeding. The Respondent did not comment on the language of the proceeding.
The Center verified that the 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 in English and Japanese of the Complaint, and the proceedings commenced on February 12, 2021. In accordance with the Rules, paragraph 5, the due date for Response was March 4, 2021. The Respondent did not submit any response. Accordingly, the Center notified the Respondent’s default on April 4, 2021.
The Center appointed Haig Oghigian as the sole panelist in this matter on April 16, 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 Michelin name is a commercial entity comprising many activities aside from the original tire makers. In 2001, ViaMichelin was set up to develop digital services for travel assistance. These free services give users all the useful information they need to prepare their trips. The Complainant’s main website for its ViaMichelin services is available at “www.viamichelin.com”.
The Complainant owns numerous trademark registrations for MICHELIN, including the International trademark registration No. 771031 registered on June 11, 2001 and the Japanese trademark registration No. 4577279 registered on June 14, 2002.
The disputed domain name was registered on November 29, 2003 and resolves to a website presenting a company that provides different moving and transport services.
5. Parties’ Contentions
The Respondent registered the disputed domain name <h-michelin.com> on November 29, 2003 and the Complainant became aware of its existence and activity in June 2020. The Complainant made attempts to resolve matters amicably as early as October 2020 but received no response from the Respondent.
The Complainant argues that the disputed domain name is identical or confusingly similar to the Complainant’s MICHELIN trademark, that the 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.
The Respondent did not reply to the Complainant’s contentions.
6. Discussion and Findings
6.1. Preliminary Issue: Language of the Proceeding
The Registrar confirmed that the language of the Registration Agreement for the disputed domain name is in Japanese. The Complainant sets forth a number of convincing arguments as to why the proceedings should be held in English including fairness and unnecessary delay, as well as that the Registrar’s website displays the registration agreement in both English and Japanese. The Respondent did not comment on the language of the proceeding. For these reasons, the Panel finds that the proceedings should be held in English.
6.2. Substantive Issues
A. Identical or Confusingly Similar
It is clear that the Complainant has multiple trademark and domain name registrations incorporating the term “michelin” globally, including in Japan. The disputed domain name <h-michelin.com> doubtlessly contains the MICHELIN trademark owned by the Complainant in its entirety, which would certainly qualify as being confusingly similar to it. The dominant portion of the disputed domain name <h-michelin.com> is without doubt identical to the Complainant’s MICHELIN trademark. The addition of the letter “h” and “-” does not prevent a finding of confusing similarity. The generic Top-Level Domain (“gTLD”) “.com” is generally disregarded when considering the first element.
The Panel finds that the Complainant has therefore satisfied the first element under paragraph 4(a) of the Policy.
B. Rights or Legitimate Interests
The Respondent is neither affiliated with nor has been authorized to use the disputed domain name. Indeed, the Respondent’s commercial activities bear no relationship to the Complainant as such and appear simply to associate it with the Michelin name and reputation. Noting the facts and arguments set out above, the Panel finds that the Complainant has established an unrebutted prima facie case that the Respondent has no rights or legitimate interests in the disputed domain name.
The Panel finds that the Complainant has therefore satisfied the second element under paragraph 4(a) of the Policy.
C. Registered and Used in Bad Faith
The test of “knew or should have known” of the Complainant’s trademark rights is patently obvious in this dispute. The Complainant has a world wide reputation (including in Japan) and it is almost incredulous to believe that the Respondent did not know of its reputation. Therefore, the Respondent’s registration of and continued use of the disputed domain name was and continues to be in bad faith.
The Panel finds that the Complainant has therefore satisfied the third element under paragraph 4(a) of the Policy.
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 <h-michelin.com> be transferred to the Complainant.
Date: April 26, 2021