WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center
ADMINISTRATIVE PANEL DECISION
Philip Morris Products S.A. v. Hasrat Shaikh
Case No. D2021-0855
1. The Parties
The Complainant is Philip Morris Products S.A., Switzerland, represented by D.M. Kisch Inc., South Africa.
The Respondent is Hasrat Shaikh, India.
2. The Domain Name and Registrar
The disputed domain name <iqosdubai.org> 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 March 23, 2021. On March 23, 2021, the Center transmitted by email to the Registrar a request for registrar verification in connection with the disputed domain name. On March 24, 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 March 26, 2021 providing the registrant and contact information disclosed by the Registrar, and inviting the Complainant to submit an amendment to the Complaint. On the same day, the Respondent sent an informal email to the Center. The Complainant filed an amended Complaint on March 29, 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 March 31, 2021. In accordance with the Rules, paragraph 5, the due date for Response was April 20, 2021. The Respondent did not submit any formal response.
The Center appointed Kaya Köklü as the sole panelist in this matter on April 26, 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 part of the Philip Morris International Inc. group, which is a group of companies active in the field of tobacco and smoke-free products.
The Complainant owns various word and figurative IQOS trademark registrations around the world, including various registrations in the United Arab Emirates, whose emirate Dubai is indicated in the dispute domain name. According to the provided documents in the case file, the Complainant is, among other, the registered owner of the United Arab Emirates Registration No. 211139 for IQOS (registered on March 16, 2016) for products covered in classes 34 (Annex 6 to the Complaint).
The Complainant also owns and operates various domain names, which incorporate the IQOS trademark, such as <iqos.com>.
The Respondent appears to be an individual from India.
The disputed domain name was registered on March 6, 2021.
The screenshots, as provided by the Complainant, show that the disputed domain name resolved to a website in the English language, which was used for offering various kinds of IQOS smoke-free products and further competing third-party products (Annex 8 to the Complaint). On the website at the disputed domain name, the Respondent prominently used the IQOS word trademark as well as various original product images of the Complainant. At the very bottom of the website, there was a brief disclaimer indicating that “IQOS Dubai have no affiliation with Philip Morris International (PMI). This is not official website of PMI and IQOS”.
At the time of the decision, the disputed domain name does no longer resolve to an active website.
5. Parties’ Contentions
The Complainant requests the transfer of the disputed domain name.
The Complainant is of the opinion that the disputed domain name is confusingly similar to its IQOS trademark.
Furthermore, the Complainant argues that the Respondent has no rights or legitimate interests in respect of the disputed domain name. It is rather argued that the disputed domain name falsely suggests that there is some official or authorized link with the Complainant and the Respondent.
Finally, it is argued that the Respondent has registered and is using the disputed domain name in bad faith. The Complainant particularly argues that the Respondent must have been well aware of the Complainant’s IQOS trademark, when registering the disputed domain name, particularly as the Respondent uses the Complainant’s IQOS trademark on the website linked to the disputed domain name and its product images without authorization and sufficient disclosure of the missing relationship between the Complainant and the Respondent.
The Respondent did not reply to the Complainant’s contentions. In his short email communication of March 26, 2021, the Respondent just indicated that he “already deleted this domain” and that he does not “have the domain anymore”.
6. Discussion and Findings
According to paragraph 15(a) of the Rules, the Panel shall decide the Complaint in accordance with the Policy, the Rules and any rules and principles of law that it deems applicable.
In accordance with paragraph 4(a) of the Policy, the Complainant must prove that each of the three following elements is satisfied:
(i) the disputed domain name is identical or confusingly similar to a trademark in which the Complainant has rights; and
(ii) the 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(a) of the Policy states that the Complainant bears the burden of proving that all these requirements are fulfilled, even if the Respondent has not replied to the Complainant’s contentions. Stanworth Development Limited v. E Net Marketing Ltd., WIPO Case No. D2007-1228.
However, concerning the uncontested information provided by the Complainant, the Panel may, where relevant, accept the provided reasonable factual allegations in the Complaint as true. See section 4.3 of the WIPO Overview of WIPO Panel Views on Selected UDRP Questions, Third Edition (“WIPO Overview 3.0”).
It is further noted that the Panel has taken note of the WIPO Overview 3.0 and, where appropriate, will decide consistent with the consensus views captured therein.
A. Identical or Confusingly Similar
The Panel finds that the Complainant has registered trademark rights in the mark IQOS by virtue of various trademark registrations, including trademark registrations covering protection in United Arab Emirates, and in India, where the Respondent appears to be located.
The Panel further finds that the disputed domain name is confusingly similar to the Complainant’s registered IQOS trademark, as it fully incorporates the Complainant’s trademark. As stated at section 1.8 of the WIPO Overview 3.0, where the relevant trademark is recognizable within the disputed domain name, the addition of other terms would not prevent a finding of confusing similarity. The mere addition of the emirate’s name “Dubai” does, in view of the Panel, not serve to avoid a finding of confusing similarity between the disputed domain name and the Complainant’s IQOS trademark.
Accordingly, the Panel finds that the Complainant has satisfied the requirement under paragraph 4(a)(i) of the Policy.
B. Rights or Legitimate Interests
The Panel further finds that the Respondent has failed to demonstrate any rights or legitimate interests in the disputed domain name.
While the burden of proof on this element remains with the complainant, previous UDRP panels have recognized that this would result in the often impossible task of proving a negative, in particular as the evidence in this regard is often primarily within the knowledge of the respondent. Therefore, the Panel agrees with prior UDRP panels that the Complainant is required to make out a prima facie case before the burden of production shifts to the Respondent to show that it has rights or legitimate interests in the disputed domain name in order to meet the requirements of paragraph 4(a)(ii) of the Policy. See, Croatia Airlines d.d. v. Modern Empire Internet Ltd., WIPO Case No. D2003-0455.
The Panel finds that the Complainant has satisfied this requirement, while the Respondent has failed to file any evidence or make any convincing argument to demonstrate rights or legitimate interests in the disputed domain name according to the Policy, paragraphs 4(a)(ii) and 4(c).
In its Complaint, the Complainant has provided uncontested prima facie evidence that the Respondent has no rights or legitimate interests to use the Complainant’s trademark IQOS in a confusingly similar way within the disputed domain name.
There is also no indication in the current record that the Respondent is commonly known by the disputed domain name. In the absence of a substantial response, the Respondent has particularly failed to demonstrate any of the other non-exclusive circumstances evidencing rights or legitimate interests under the Policy, paragraph 4(c) or other evidence of rights or legitimate interests in the disputed domain name.
In this regard, the Panel particularly believes that the Respondent cannot be assessed as a legitimate dealer for the Complainant’s products in light of Oki Data Americas, Inc. v. ASD, Inc., WIPO Case No. D2001-0903 (“Oki Data”) and thus is not entitled to use the disputed domain name accordingly. The criteria as set forth in Oki Data are apparently not fulfilled in the present case. The Panel inter alia notes that the Respondent offered not only products of the Complainant but also competing third party products of other commercial origin. Additionally, the Panel believes that the Respondent did not adequately disclose the relationship, or rather the lack thereof, between the Respondent and the Complainant, thus creating the false impression that the Respondent might be an official and authorized reseller/distributor for the Complainant’s genuine products in Dubai. This assessment is particularly supported by the nature of the disputed domain name, which in view of the Panel carries a risk of implied affiliation or association, as stated in section 2.5.1 of the WIPO Overview 3.0 . In this context, the Panel believes that the brief and small sized disclaimer located at the very bottom of the website linked to the disputed domain name was not presented in a sufficiently clear, prominent and, hence, effective manner to avoid the confusion with the Complainant. In view of the Panel, all this takes the Respondent out of the Oki Data safe harbour for purposes of the second element.
As a conclusion, the Panel finds that the Complainant has also satisfied the requirements of paragraph 4(a)(ii) of the Policy.
C. Registered and Used in Bad Faith
In the Panel’s view, the Respondent has registered and is using the disputed domain name in bad faith.
The Panel is convinced that the Respondent must have had the Complainant’s trademark in mind when registering the disputed domain name. It even appears that the Respondent has registered the disputed domain name solely for the purpose of creating an association with the Complainant and its smoke-free products.
After having reviewed the Complainant’s screenshots of the website linked to the disputed domain name, the Panel is convinced that the Respondent intentionally registered the disputed domain name in order to generate traffic to its own website. The prominent use of the IQOS trademark, the overall design of the website which was linked to the disputed domain name, the use of product images of the Complainant and the nature of the disputed domain name is, in view of the Panel, sufficient evidence that the Respondent intentionally tries to attract, for commercial gain, Internet users to its website by creating a likelihood of confusion with the Complainant and its IQOS trademark as to the source, sponsorship, affiliation or endorsement of its website.
The fact that the disputed domain name does not currently resolve to an active website does not change the Panel’s findings in this respect.
The Panel therefore concludes that the disputed domain name was registered and is used in bad faith and that the Complainant has also satisfied the third element of the Policy, namely, paragraph 4(a)(iii) 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 <iqosdubai.org> be transferred to the Complainant.
Date: May 10, 2021