WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center
ADMINISTRATIVE PANEL DECISION
Groupe Adeo v. Registration Private, Domains By Proxy, LLC / Name Redacted1
Case No. D2021-0480
1. The Parties
The Complainant is Groupe Adeo, France, represented by Coblence & Associés, France.
The Respondent is Registration Private, Domains By Proxy, LLC, United States of America / Name Redacted, France.
2. The Domain Name and Registrar
The disputed domain name <leroymerlin-supply.net> is registered with Wild West Domains, LLC (the “Registrar”).
3. Procedural History
The Complaint was filed with the WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center (the “Center”) on February 17, 2021. On February 17, 2021, the Center transmitted by email to the Registrar a request for registrar verification in connection with the disputed domain name. On February 17, 2021, the Registrar transmitted by email to the Center its verification 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 18, 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 amendment to the Complaint on February 19, 2021.
On February 19, 2021, the Center informed the Parties that it has received information from the concerned Registrar indicating that it will ensure that “the domain name remains locked and does not expire during the course of the proceeding. The prevailing party may be responsible for the cost of the renewal upon the conclusion of the dispute.”
The Center verified that the Complaint together with the amendment to 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 of the Complaint, and the proceedings commenced on February 23, 2021. In accordance with the Rules, paragraph 5, the due date for Response was March 15, 2021. The Respondent did not submit any response. Accordingly, the Center notified the Respondent’s default on March 16, 2021.
The Center appointed Louis-Bernard Buchman as the sole panelist in this matter on March 19, 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
Groupe Adeo is a French company, which is a major “do-it-yourself” (“DIY”) retailer in France. It is a market leader operating 400 hardware and lifestyle improvement stores in 13 countries, with 21,000 employees in France.
The disputed domain name <leroymerlin-supply.net> does not resolve to an active website at the time of this decision.
The disputed domain name was initially registered in the name of a proxy service. The identity of the Respondent was disclosed by the Registrar in response to the Center’s request for registrar verification in connection with the disputed domain name.
The Complainant has submitted forensic evidence that the Respondent sent a fraudulent email to a third party in view of ordering their products, thus engaging in a phishing scheme.
The Complainant owns many registered trademarks containing the terms LEROY MERLIN, including, inter alia, the International trademark registration No. 591251, registered on July 15, 1992, and the European Union Trade Marks No 10843597, registered on December 7, 2012, and No. 11008281, registered on October 2, 2013 (together hereinafter referred to as: “the Mark”).
It also owns numerous domain names, including the <leroymerlin.net> domain name, registered on May 5, 2000.
The disputed domain name, <leroymerlin-supply.net>, was created on April 20, 2020.
5. Parties’ Contentions
(i) The Complainant submits that the disputed domain name reproduces the Mark, in which the Complainant has rights, and is confusingly similar to the Mark insofar as the disputed domain name, <leroymerlin-supply.net>, contains its two elements “leroy” and “merlin” in their entirety, and that the addition of the element “supply” is not capable of dispelling the confusing similarity.
(ii) The Complainant contends that the Respondent has no rights or legitimate interests in respect of the disputed domain name. Furthermore, the Complainant contends that it never authorized the Respondent to use the Mark in any manner and that the Respondent has never had any affiliation with the Complainant.
(iii) The Complainant submits that the Respondent has registered the disputed domain name in bad faith. The Complainant alleges that the Respondent had knowledge of the Mark when registering the disputed domain name.
(iv) The Complainant submits that the Respondent is using the disputed domain name in bad faith.
(v) The Complainant requests that the disputed domain name be transferred to the Complainant.
The Respondent did not reply to the Complainant’s contentions.
6. Discussion and Findings
6.1. Procedural Aspects - Failure to respond
As aforementioned, no Response was received from the Respondent.
Under the Rules, paragraphs 5(f) and 14(a), the effect of a default by the Respondent is that, in the absence of exceptional circumstances, the Panel shall proceed to a decision on the basis of the Complaint.
Under paragraph 4(a) of the Policy, it is the Complainant’s burden to establish that all three of the required criteria for a transfer of the disputed domain name have been met, even in the event of a default.
Under paragraph 14(b) of the Rules, the Panel is empowered to draw such inferences from the Respondent’s default as it considers appropriate under the circumstances.
In this case, the Panel finds that as a result of the default, the Respondent has failed to rebut any of the reasonable factual assertions that are made and supported by evidence submitted by the Complainant. In particular, by defaulting and failing to respond, the Respondent has failed to offer the Panel any of the types of evidence set forth in paragraph 4(c) of the Policy or otherwise, from which the Panel might conclude that the Respondent has any rights or legitimate interests in the disputed domain name, such as making legitimate noncommercial or fair use of the disputed domain name.
Moreover, as discussed below, the Respondent has failed to provide any exculpatory information or reasoning that might have led the Panel to question the Complainant’s arguments that the Respondent has acted in bad faith.
6.2. Requirements of paragraph 4(a) of the Policy
A. Identical or Confusingly Similar
In comparing the Mark with the disputed domain name <leroymerlin-supply.net>, it is evident that the latter consists of the Mark, followed by a hyphen and the element “supply” and by the generic Top-Level Domain (“gTLD”) “.net”.
It is well established that a gTLD does not generally affect the assessment of a domain name for the purpose of determining identity or confusingly similarity.
The Panel finds that the disputed domain name <leroymerlin-supply.net> is confusingly similar to the Mark, which is incorporated in its entirety, and that the addition of the “supply” element in the disputed domain name does not dispel confusing similarity.
Thus, the Complainant has satisfied the requirement of paragraph 4(a)(i) of the Policy.
B. Rights or Legitimate Interests
Although a complainant bears the ultimate burden of establishing all three elements of paragraph 4(a) of the Policy, UDRP panels have recognized that with regard to paragraph 4(a)(ii) of the Policy, this could result in the often impossible task of proving a negative proposition, requiring information that is primarily, if not exclusively, within the knowledge of a respondent.
Thus, the consensus view of UDRP panels is that paragraph 4(c) of the Policy shifts the burden of production of evidence to the respondent to come forward with evidence of rights or legitimate interests in a domain name, once the complainant has made a prima facie showing, as the Panel believes the Complainant has made in this case. See Document Technologies, Inc. v. International Electronic Communications Inc., WIPO Case No. D2000‑0270.
As previously noted, the Respondent offered no reason for selecting the disputed domain name.
There is no evidence that the Respondent is known by the disputed domain name or uses (or has made bona fide preparations to use) the disputed domain name in a business.
The disputed domain name does not direct the public to any active website.
No information is provided on what rights or legitimate interests the Respondent may have in the disputed domain name.
To counter any notion that the Respondent has such rights or legitimate interests, the Complainant has argued that the Respondent (i) has no affiliation with the Complainant and (ii) received no authorization from the Complainant to register or use the disputed domain name.
In the circumstances, the Panel concludes that the Complainant has established the requirement of paragraph 4(a)(ii) of the Policy with respect to the disputed domain name.
C. Registered and Used in Bad Faith
As noted above, the Respondent has failed to provide any exculpatory information or persuasive reasoning that might have led the Panel to question the Complainant’s arguments that the Respondent acted in bad faith by creating confusion to the detriment of the Complainant by registering the disputed domain name confusingly similar to the Mark.
First, the registration of a domain name that is confusingly similar to a trademark by an entity that has no relationship to that mark may be, depending on the circumstances, evidence of opportunistic bad faith. See Ebay Inc. v. Wangming, WIPO Case No. D2006-1107; Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin, Maison Fondée en 1772 v. The Polygenix Group Co., WIPO Case No. D2000-0163.
Second, it is well established that the mere passive holding of a domain name may in appropriate circumstances be evidence not only of bad faith registration, but also of bad faith use. See Telstra Corporation Limited v. Nuclear Marshmallows, WIPO Case No. D2000‑0003; DCI S.A. v. Link Commercial Corporation, WIPO Case No. D2000-1232; Mary-Lynn Mondich and American Vintage Wine Biscuits, Inc. v. Shane Brown, doing business as Big Daddy’s Antiques, WIPO Case No. D2000‑0004; and Alitalia –Linee Aeree Italiane S.p.A v. Colour Digital, WIPO Case No. D2000‑1260.
Third, it is established in prior UDRP decisions that where the respondent knew or should have known of a trademark prior to registering the disputed domain name, such conduct may be, in certain circumstances, sufficient evidence of bad faith registration and use. See Weetabix Limited v. Mr. J. Clarke, WIPO Case No. D2001-0775.
In this case, considering the fact that the Mark is well known, as prior UDRP panels have confirmed (See for instance Groupe Adeo v. Peter Garcia, Leroy Merlin, WIPO Case No. D2016-1451 and Groupe Adeo v. Emerson Arcanjo Do Carmo, WIPO Case No. D2017-1063), the Panel finds that it is impossible to believe that the Respondent chose to register the disputed domain name randomly with no knowledge of the Mark. See Barney’s Inc. v. BNY Bulletin Board, WIPO Case No. D2000‑0059; Kate Spade, LLC v. Darmstadter Designs, WIPO Case No. D2001‑1384, citing Cellular One Group v. Paul Brien, WIPO Case No. D2000‑0028; and Sembcorp Industries Limited v. Hu Huan Xin, WIPO Case No. D2001‑1092.
Furthermore, the WIPO Overview of WIPO Panel Views on Selected UDRP Questions, Third Edition (“WIPO Overview 3.0”), section 3.1.4, states that evidence that a disputed domain name has been used for phishing purposes may be considered evidence of bad faith use. The Complainant provided evidence that a phishing email using the disputed domain name was indeed sent, signed by an employee of the Complainant. The Panel draws from these circumstances an inference of bad faith use of the disputed domain name by the Respondent, all the more so since the Respondent also registered another domain name, <leroymerlin‑supply.info>, thus clearly demonstrating a pattern of targeting the Mark.
Besides, the Panel notes that many UDRP panels have held that bad faith use of a domain name by a respondent may result from the fact its good faith use is in no way plausible (see Audi AG v. Hans Wolf, WIPO Case No. D2001‑0148), considering the specificity of the activity. The Panel notes that the Respondent has submitted no evidence of any good faith use of the disputed domain name and finds it is not possible to imagine any plausible future active use of the disputed domain name that would not be illegitimate.
In addition, in this case, the Respondent took active steps to hide his identity. Although using a proxy service to hide the identity of the registrant is not per se conclusive of bad faith registration and use (see Trinity Mirror Plc and MGN Ltd. v. Piranha Holdings, WIPO Case No. D2008‑0004), the Panel notes that the fact that the Respondent used a proxy service to hide his identity and contact details prevented the Complainant from contacting him. Prior UDRP panels have held that deliberate concealment of identity and contact information may in certain circumstances be indicative of registration in bad faith (see TTT Moneycorp Ltd. v. Diverse Communications, WIPO Case No. D2001‑0725, and Schering Corporation v. Name Redacted, WIPO Case No. D2012‑0729).
Finally, some UDRP panels have held that in certain circumstances, registrants of domain names have an affirmative duty to abstain from registering and using a domain name which is either identical or confusingly similar to a prior trademark held by others and that contravening that duty may constitute bad faith. See Policy, paragraph 2(b); Nike, Inc. v. Ben de Boer, WIPO Case No. D2000-1397; Nuplex Industries Limited v. Nuplex, WIPO Case No. D2007-0078; Mobile Communication Service Inc. v. WebReg, RN, WIPO Case No. D2005-1304; BOUYGUES v. Chengzhang, Lu Ciagao, WIPO Case No. D2007‑1325; Media General Communications, Inc. v. Rarenames, WebReg, WIPO Case No. D2006-0964; and mVisible Technologies, Inc. v. Navigation Catalyst Systems, Inc., WIPO Case No. D2007‑1141.
The Panel concludes in the light of all these circumstances that the Respondent’s registration and use of the disputed domain name constitute bad faith, and that the requirement of paragraph 4(a)(iii) of the Policy is also satisfied in this case.
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 <leroymerlin-supply.net> be transferred to the Complainant.
Date: March 25, 2021
1 The Respondent appears to have used the name of a third party when registering the disputed domain name. In light of the potential identity theft, the Panel has redacted the Respondent’s name from this decision. However, the Panel has attached as Annex 1 to this decision an instruction to the Registrar regarding transfer of the disputed domain name, which includes the name of the Respondent. The Panel has authorized the Center to transmit Annex 1 to the Registrar as part of the order in this proceeding, and has indicated Annex 1 to this decision shall not be published due to the exceptional circumstances of this case. See Banco Bradesco S.A. v. FAST‑12785241 Attn. Bradescourgente.net / Name Redacted, WIPO Case No. D2009-1788.