WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center
ADMINISTRATIVE PANEL DECISION
Philip Morris Products S.A. v. Nguyen Minh Tuan, HO KINH DOANH NGUYEN MINH TUAN TUAN BLACKBERRY
Case No. D2021-0383
1. The Parties
The Complainant is Philip Morris Products S.A., Switzerland, represented by D.M. Kisch Inc., South Africa.
The Respondent is Nguyen Minh Tuan, HO KINH DOANH NGUYEN MINH TUAN TUAN BLACKBERRY, Viet Nam.
2. The Domain Name and Registrar
The disputed domain name <iqosnhatrang.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 8, 2021. On February 8, 2021, the Center transmitted by email to the Registrar a request for registrar verification in connection with the disputed domain name. On February 9, 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 the Complainant on February 10, 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 in English on February 15, 2021.
On February 10, 2021, the Center transmitted an email communication to the Parties in English and Japanese regarding the language of the proceeding. On February 15, 2021, the Complainant submitted a 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 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 in English and Japanese of the Complaint, and the proceedings commenced on February 16, 2021. In accordance with the Rules, paragraph 5, the due date for Response was March 8, 2021. The Respondent did not submit a formal response. However, the Center received informal communications from the Respondent by email on February 18, 2021, February 19, 2021 and April 9, 2021. On April 4, 2021, the Center informed the Parties that it would proceed to panel appointment.
The Center appointed Teruo Kato as the sole panelist in this matter on April 13, 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
According to the Complainant, the Complainant, Philip Morris Products S.A., is a company which is part of the group of companies affiliated to Philip Morris International Inc., one of the leading international tobacco companies, with products sold in approximately 180 countries. The Complainant’s portfolio includes certain products branded as “IQOS System” first launched in Japan in 2014, which is “available in key cities in around 61 markets across the world”.
The Complainant owns, inter alia, International trademark No. 1218246 for IQOS (word), registered on July 10, 2014, International trademark No. 1461017 for IQOS (device), registered on January 18, 2019, and International trademark No. 1329691 for IQOS (device), registered on August 10, 2016, as set out in section 6.2 A. below.
The disputed domain name <iqosnhatrang.com> was registered on December 15, 2020.
The Respondent is Nguyen Minh Tuan, HO KINH DOANH NGUYEN MINH TUAN TUAN BLACKBERRY, whose address is given as being in Viet Nam.
According to the Complaint and evidence provided by the Complainant, the disputed domain name resolves to a website which details the provider of the website as “IQOS NHA TRANG”, offering the Complainant’s IQOS System products.
5. Parties’ Contentions
The Complainant contends that it is the owner of various trademarks including IQOS.
The Complainant also contends that the disputed domain name identically adopts the IQOS trademark and that the disputed domain name is confusingly similar to the Complainant’s IQOS trademark.
The Complainant further contends that the Respondent is not a licensee, an authorized agent of the Complainant, or in any other way authorized to use the Complainant’s trademark IQOS, and that the Respondent is not commonly known by the disputed domain name as an individual, business, or other organization, and that the Respondent does not make any bona fide use or trade under the disputed domain name.
The Complainant also contends that the Respondent has registered and is using the disputed domain name in bad faith.
The Complainant requests that the disputed domain name be transferred to the Complainant.
The Respondent did not submit a formal Response. The Respondent sent three emails to the Center as set out in paragraph 6.1 A. below.
6. Discussion and Findings
6.1 Preliminary Issue: Language of the Proceeding
A. Language of the Proceeding
Pursuant to paragraph 11(a) of the Rules, the language of the administrative proceeding shall be the language of the Registration Agreement, subject to authority of the Panel to determine otherwise having regard to the circumstances of the administrative proceeding. The Panel notes that in the present case the Registrar confirmed that the language of the Registration Agreement is Japanese.
The Complainant has filed the Complaint in English and requests that the language of the proceeding be English and contends, among others, that, if Japanese were the language of the proceeding, it would cause an unnecessary burden to the Complainant and would unnecessarily delay the proceedings.
Further, the Complainant contends that the website under the disputed domain name appears to be a multi-language website, as a visitor is able to select “English” at the Language plugin located at the top left of the website. The Panel notes that, where such selection is made, the English version of the entire pages appear in place of the Vietnamese version.
On February 10, 2021 the Respondent was invited by the Center, in both Japanese and English, to indicate any objection to the proceeding being conducted in English by February 15, 2021. The Respondent did not respond to this by this deadline nor later, so far as the language of proceeding is concerned.
On February 16, 2021 the Center informed the Respondent that the Center has decided to “1) accept the Complaint as filed in English; 2) accept a Response in either English or Japanese; 3) appoint a Panel familiar with both languages mentioned above, if available.” Accordingly, the Panel would have accepted a response in Japanese, but no substantive reply was submitted by the Respondent.
On February 18, 2021 the Center received an email communication from the Respondent which stated “I have received information. I will update the product and the image again. thanks for reminding. if there are any incorrect errors please remind me to correct them Thanks !!!”, which communication was written entirely in English.
On February 19, 2021 the Center received a further email communication from the Respondent which stated “I updated my logo and image. If there are still errors, I would like to receive guidance from the center so I can correct them. thanks everyone”, which communication was written entirely in English.
On April 9, 2021 the Center received another email communication from the Respondent which stated “Dear Parties, We are sorry about this issue. Currently, we have updated our website and changed our logo instead of using your logo. Would you please check and close this feedback for me. Thanks Best regard.”, which communication was written entirely in English.
In the circumstances, in accordance with paragraph 11(a) of the Rules, the Panel decides that English be the language of the proceeding.
6.2 Substantive Issues
A. Identical or Confusingly Similar
The Panel must determine whether (a) the Complainant has a trademark or service mark; and (b) whether the disputed domain name is identical or confusingly similar to that trademark or service mark.
The Complainant submitted evidence of various trademark registrations and the Panel is satisfied that the Complainant is the owner of IQOS registered trademarks, including inter alia:
- International trademark No. 1218246 for IQOS (word), registered on July 10, 2014, designating multiple jurisdictions, including Viet Nam, covering goods in classes 9, 11 and 34; and
- International trademark No. 1461017 for IQOS (device), registered on January 18, 2019, designating multiple jurisdictions, including Viet Nam, covering goods in classes 9 and 34.
- International trademark No. 1329691 for IQOS (device), registered on August 10, 2016, designating multiple jurisdictions, including Japan and Viet Nam, covering goods in classes 9, 11 and 34.
As to the confusing similarity element for the purposes of the Policy, the Panel has proceeded to compare the disputed domain name to the IQOS trademark in which the Complainant has rights.
Section 1.11.1 of the WIPO Overview of WIPO Panel Views on Selected UDRP Questions, Third Edition (“WIPO Overview 3.0”) states that “[t]he applicable Top Level Domain (‘TLD’) in a domain name (e.g., ‘.com’, ‘.club’, ‘.nyc’) is viewed as a standard registration requirement and as such is disregarded under the first element confusing similarity test”, and the Panel finds no reason why this established practice should not be applied to the present case.
Apart from the generic TLD, the disputed domain name consists of the Complainant’s trademark IQOS and the term “nhatrang”. The Panel notes that “Nha Trang” is the name of a coastal city and capital of Khánh Hòa Province on the South Central Coast of Viet Nam. The Panel finds that the term “iqos”, which is identical to the Complainant’s trademark, is recognizable in the disputed domain name.
It is well established that, where a disputed domain name incorporates, as here, the entirety of a complainant’s trademark, the addition of additional terms does not prevent a finding of confusing similarity. (See Salvatore Ferragamo S.p.A v. Ying Chou, WIPO Case No. D2013-2034; Salvatore Ferragamo S.p.A. v. Haonan Hong, WIPO Case No. D2013-2040; Salvatore Ferragamo S.p.A. v. Brian E. Nielsen, WIPO Case No. D2014-1123; and Salvatore Ferragamo S.p.A. v. Wei Huan, WIPO Case No. D2014-1290).
The Panel concludes that the disputed domain name is confusingly similar to the Complainant’s trademarks and therefore finds that the requirement of paragraph 4(a)(i) of the Policy is satisfied.
B. Rights or Legitimate Interests
Under paragraph 4(c) of the Policy, any of the following circumstances, if found by the Panel, may demonstrate a respondent’s rights or legitimate interests in a domain name:
(i) before any notice to it of the dispute, 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; or
(ii) the respondent has been commonly known by the domain name, even if it has acquired no trademark or service mark rights; or
(iii) the respondent is making a legitimate noncommercial or fair use of the domain name, without intent for commercial gain to misleadingly divert consumers or to tarnish the trademark or service mark at issue.
The consensus view of UDRP panels is that the burden of proof in establishing no rights or legitimate interests in respect of a domain name rests with the complainant in as far as making out a prima facie case that the respondent lacks rights or legitimate interests. Once such prima facie case is made, the burden of production shifts to the respondent (see section 2.1 of the WIPO Overview 3.0).
In the present case, the Complainant contends that “the Respondent lacks any right or legitimate interest in the Disputed Domain Name. The Complainant has not licensed or otherwise permitted the Respondent to use any of its trademarks or to register a domain name incorporating its IQOS trademark (or a domain name which will be associated with this trademark)” and that “[t]he Respondent is not making a legitimate noncommercial or fair use of the Domain Name. On the contrary, the Respondent’s behaviour shows a clear intent to obtain an unfair commercial gain, with a view to misleadingly diverting consumers or to tarnish the trademarks owned by the Complainant”.
The Complainant submitted to the Panel documentary materials to support its contentions as above, and the Panel finds that the Complainant has established a prima facie case that the Respondent has no rights or legitimate interests in respect of the disputed domain name.
By not submitting a substantive response, the Respondent has failed to rebut such prima facie case and has also failed to invoke any of the defenses as set out in paragraph 4(c) of the Policy.
Accordingly, the Panel finds that the Respondent has no rights or legitimate interests in respect of the disputed domain name.
C. Registered and Used in Bad Faith
To fulfill the third requirement, the Complainant must prove that the disputed domain name was registered and is being used in bad faith.
In order to assess whether the Respondent registered and is using the disputed domain name in bad faith, paragraph 4(b) of the Policy provides non-exhaustive examples constituting evidence of bad faith, which includes the following:
(iv) by using the domain name, the 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 the complainant’s mark as to the source, sponsorship, affiliation, or endorsement of the respondent’s website or location or of a product or service on that website or location.
The Panel notes and accepts that the trademark IQOS was registered and is known internationally, including in Japan and Viet Nam, before the disputed domain name was registered on December 15, 2020. The Panel also accepts the Complainant’s contention that the term IQOS is purely an imaginative term and unique to the Complainant and that the term IQOS is not commonly used to refer to tobacco products or electronic devices other than those of the Complainant.
Therefore, the Panel holds that the Respondent is most likely to have known of the Complainant, its products, and trademarks prior to registering the disputed domain name.
As to the use in bad faith, the Complainant contends, among others, that “[t]he Respondent started offering the Complainant’s IQOS System immediately after registering the Disputed Domain Name. […] It is therefore beyond the realm of reasonable coincidence that the Respondent chose the Disputed Domain Name, without the intention of invoking a misleading association with the Complainant”.
The Complainant further contends that “[t]he Website further uses the Complainant’s official product images without authorization, while at the same time falsely claiming copyright in this material. This illegitimate and false claim of rights in the Complainant’s official copyright protected material further supports the false impression, that the Website is endorsed by the Complainant, which it is not” and that “the Complainant does not currently offer for sale its IQOS System in the territory of Vietnam, and the on-line shop provided under the Disputed Domain Name creates the false impression that the Complainant has officially introduced the IQOS System into the Vietnamese market”.
The Complainant submitted materials to support such contentions, including “Print-outs of the Website” at the disputed domain name which were dated January 29, 2021. The Respondent was given an opportunity to raise its objection to the contentions made by the Complainant but has not done so.
Under the circumstances, the Panel considers such registration and use to amount to bad faith registration and use of the disputed domain name under paragraph 4(b)(iv) of the Policy.
In the circumstances, the Panel concludes that the Respondent registered and is using the disputed domain name in bad faith. Therefore, the third requirement of the Policy has been 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 <iqosnhatrang.com> be transferred to the Complainant.
Date: April 20, 2021