WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center
ADMINISTRATIVE PANEL DECISION
Allianz SE v. Withheld for Privacy Purposes, Privacy service provided by Withheld for Privacy ehf / Arinze Obiakor, SystemGram Communications Limited
Case No. D2021-1562
1. The Parties
Complainant is Allianz SE, Germany, internally represented.
Respondent is Withheld for Privacy Purposes, Privacy service provided by Withheld for Privacy ehf, Iceland / Arinze Obiakor, SystemGram Communications Limited, Nigeria.
2. The Domain Name and Registrar
The disputed domain name <allianzinvestmentgi-ny.com> is registered with NameCheap, Inc. (the “Registrar”).
3. Procedural History
The Complaint was filed with the WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center (the “Center”) on May 19, 2021. On May 19, 2021, the Center transmitted by email to the Registrar a request for registrar verification in connection with the disputed domain name. On May 20, 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 June 3, 2021, providing the registrant and contact information disclosed by the Registrar, and inviting Complainant to submit an amendment to the Complaint. Complainant filed an amendment to the Complaint on June 4, 2021.
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 Respondent of the Complaint, and the proceedings commenced on June 4, 2021. In accordance with the Rules, paragraph 5, the due date for Response was June 24, 2021. Respondent did not submit any response. Accordingly, the Center notified Respondent’s default on June 26, 2021.
The Center appointed Scott R. Austin as the sole panelist in this matter on July 28, 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 states in its Complaint and provides evidence in the respective annexes sufficient to support that Complainant is the parent of a group of companies comprising one of the oldest and largest international insurance and financial services providers in the world (the “Allianz Group”). Founded in 1890 in Germany and expanding internationally in 1893, Complainant has since its inception continuously operated under the trademark ALLIANZ (the “ALLIANZ Mark”) in connection with its insurance, healthcare and financial services products. One of the world’s leading integrated financial services providers, Complainant manages approximately 147,000 employees worldwide to serve approximately 100 million customers in more than 70 countries and had third-party financial assets of EUR 1,686 billion under management as of year-end 2019. In its Best Global Brands 2020 study, the international marketing agency Interbrand ranked Complainant’s brand ALLIANZ as No. 39 worldwide.
Complainant and its subsidiaries and affiliates which comprise the Allianz Group is the registered owner of a portfolio of numerous trademark applications and registrations containing the ALLIANZ Mark covering a range of insurance, healthcare and financial services products in jurisdictions around the world, such as International Trademark Registration No. 447 004 for the mark ALLIANZ, registered on December 9, 1979, Germany Trademark Registration No. 39927827 for ALLIANZ registered on July 16, 1999, and European Union Trade Mark Registration No. 000013656 for ALLIANZ, registered on July 22, 2002.
Since May 21, 1997, Complainant has continuously used its domain name <allianz.com> from which it operates its official ALLIANZ website at “www.allianz.com”, to promote the activities of the ALLIANZ Group and its businesses (the “Official ALLIANZ Website”) and owns variations of the mark ALLIANZ as domain names in numerous generic Top-Level Domains and country-code Top-Level Domains, including the domain name <allianzgi.com> owned by Allianz Global Investors, USA, which operates the official ALLIANZ Global Investors website at “www.allianzgi.com” (“Official ALLIANZ Global Investors Website”).
The disputed domain name was registered on April 20, 2021. The Whois record submitted for the disputed domain name shows it is registered with the privacy protection service, “Withheld for Privacy Purposes, Privacy service provided by Withheld for Privacy ehf” which is in Iceland, but the Registrar has revealed the Respondent resides in Nigeria.
As of the date of filing of the Complaint, the disputed domain name resolves to a website with image content of consumers engaged in a meeting with a business professional, and providing a user login, chat screen, and other information to support a phishing scheme, encouraging consumers who visit the site to provide sensitive information and providing a warning crawling across the bottom of the screen suggesting that visitors who may not trust the disputed domain name website to contact Respondent and provide their information: “Welcome The Company has implemented certain controls and procedures to further protect your funds against online fraud. To this end, any transaction our system considers unusual will be held temporarily for review. You may also be required to provide additional validation on such transactions. For more information, please email us at [...]@allianzinvestmentgi-ny.com.”
5. Parties’ Contentions
Complainant contends that the disputed domain name is identical or confusingly similar to Complainant’s trademark; that 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.
Respondent did not reply to Complainant’s contentions.
6. Discussion and Findings
To succeed, Complainant must demonstrate that all the elements listed in paragraph 4(a) of the Policy have been satisfied: (i) the disputed domain name is identical or confusingly similar to a trademark or service mark in which Complainant has rights; (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.
The standard of proof under the Policy is often expressed as the “balance of the probabilities” or “preponderance of the evidence” standard. Under this standard, an asserting party needs to establish that it is more likely than not that the claimed fact is true. See, WIPO Overview of WIPO Panel Views on Selected UDRP Questions, Third Edition (“WIPO Overview 3.0”), section 4.2.
A. Identical or Confusingly Similar
Ownership of a trademark registration is generally sufficient evidence that a complainant has the requisite rights in a mark for purposes of paragraph 4(a)(i) of the Policy. WIPO Overview 3.0, section 1.2.1. Complainant has demonstrated its rights because it has shown that it is the holder of multiple valid and subsisting trademark registrations for the ALLIANZ Mark. See Advance Magazine Publishers Inc., Les Publications Conde Nast S.A. v. Voguechen, WIPO Case No. D2014-0657.
Prior UDRP panels have held “the fact that a domain name wholly incorporates a complainant’s registered mark is sufficient to establish identity or confusing similarity for purposes of the Policy despite the addition of other words to such marks”. Oki Data Americas, Inc. v. ASD, Inc., WIPO Case No. D2001-0903.
The disputed domain name incorporates Complainant’s ALLIANZ Mark, the additional common term “investment” (descriptive of Complainant’s business), the letters “gi” (the designation for Complainant’s “Global Investor” service as used in Complainant’s domain name <allianzgi.com>), and the geographically descriptive term “-ny”. The disputed domain name, therefore, incorporates in its entirety Complainant’s registered ALLIANZ Mark.
Furthermore, the addition of the Top-Level domain (“TLD”) “.com” is irrelevant in determining whether the disputed domain name is confusingly similar. See, Research in Motion Limited v thamer Ahmed Alfarshooti, WIPO Case No. D2012-1146; WIPO Overview 3.0, section 1.11.
The Panel finds therefore, that the disputed domain name is confusingly similar because it incorporates Complainant’s registered ALLIANZ Mark in its entirety and remains recognizable within the disputed domain name. Complainant has satisfied paragraph 4(a)(i) of the Policy.
B. Rights or Legitimate Interests
Under the second element of the Policy, a complainant is first required to make out a prima facie case that the respondent lacks rights or legitimate interests in the disputed domain name. If a complainant makes that showing, the burden of production on this element shifts to the respondent to come forward with relevant evidence of such rights or legitimate interests in the domain name. If the respondent fails to come forward with such evidence, a complainant is generally, deemed to have satisfied the second element. WIPO Overview 3.0, section 2.1. See also, Malayan Banking Berhad v. Beauty, Success & Truth International, WIPO Case No. D2008-1393. Respondent is in default and thus has not attempted to come forward to show any rights or legitimate interests in the disputed domain name under the Policy at paragraph 4(c).
Complainant has established, prima facie, that Respondent lacks rights or legitimate interests in the disputed domain name. Complainant asserts that Respondent has never received a license or any other form of authorization or consent from Complainant to make use of the ALLIANZ Mark or Complainant’s trademarks in any manner, including in the disputed domain name.
Prior UDRP panels have held, that in the absence of any license or permission from a complainant to use its trademark, no actual or contemplated bona fide or legitimate use of a disputed domain name incorporating a well‑known trademark could reasonably be claimed. See Sportswear Company S.P.A. v. Tang Hong, WIPO Case No. D2014-1875.
Complainant also shows that Respondent is not commonly known by the disputed domain name because the pertinent WhoIs information identifies the Registrant as “ Arinze Obiakor, SystemGram Communications Limited” which does not resemble the disputed domain name in any manner. The original Respondent listed in the WhoIs record submitted with the initial Complaint is a privacy service “Withheld for Privacy Purposes, Privacy service provided by Withheld for Privacy ehf”, which also does not resemble the disputed domain name. A respondent not commonly known by the disputed domain name evinces a lack of rights or legitimate interests. See World Natural Bodybuilding Federation, Inc. v. Daniel Jones TheDotCafe, WIPO Case No. D2008-0642. Since there is no evidence here, including the WhoIs record for the disputed domain name, suggesting that Respondent is commonly known by the disputed domain name, Respondent cannot be regarded as having acquired rights to or legitimate interests in the disputed domain name within the meaning of 4(c)(ii). See Moncler S.p.A. v. Bestinfo, WIPO Case No. D2004-1049.
It is generally regarded as prima facie evidence of no rights or legitimate interests if a complainant shows that the disputed domain name is identical or confusingly similar to a complainant’s trademark, that the respondent is not commonly known by the disputed domain name, and that a complainant has not authorized the respondent to use its mark (or an expression which is confusingly similar to its mark), whether in the disputed domain name or otherwise. See, Roust Trading Limited v. AMG LLC, WIPO Case No. D2007-1857.
Respondent’s use of the Domain Name at the filing of the Complaint is to redirect Internet users to a website that resolves to a page with content that appears to relate to financial services. This financial services content added to the nature of the disputed domain name, incorporating Complainant’s trademark and related terms, implies that the Respondent belongs to Allianz Group and deludes potential customers into thinking that the Respondent is part of the Allianz Group. Internet users will foremost recognize the ALLIANZ Mark in the disputed domain name. Thereby, the nature of the disputed domain name carries a risk of implied affiliation and cannot constitute fair use as it effectively impersonates or suggests sponsorship or endorsement by Complainant. See WIPO Overview 3.0, section 2.5.1.
Complainant next contends and has provided evidence in the Annexes to its Complaint showing Respondent’s use of the disputed domain name in connection with fraudulent email activity to impersonate Complainant as part of a phishing scheme to extract payment and financial information from Complainant’s customers. This evidence submitted supports Complainant’s argument that by utilizing the entirety of Complainant’s ALLIANZ Mark along with the geographical term “ny”, inserting only a hyphen in between them, Respondent is clearly attempting to mislead Complainant’s business associates into believing that the emails sent from the disputed domain name are associated with Complainant.
Prior UDRP panels have held that the use of a domain name for illegal activity (e.g., phishing, unauthorized account access/hacking, impersonation/passing off, or other types of fraud) can never confer rights or legitimate interests on a respondent. See WIPO Overview 3.0, section 2.13. See also, Springer Nature Limited v. Registration Private, Domains By Proxy, LLC / Collections Springer Nature, WIPO Case No. D2020-0955.
In view of the above, the Panel finds that Complainant has made out a prima facie case that Respondent has no rights or legitimate interests in the disputed domain name. Respondent has not submitted any argument or evidence to rebut Complainant’s prima facie case. The Panel determines, therefore, that Respondent does not have rights or legitimate interests in the disputed domain name and that Complainant has successfully met its burden under paragraph 4(a)(ii) of the Policy.
C. Registered and Used in Bad Faith
Complainant contends that because Respondent has created a domain name that is confusingly similar to Complainant’s ALLIANZ Mark, its domain name <allianz.com>, as well as its <allianzgi.com> domain name, as found in section 6.A. above, it is implausible to believe that Respondent was not aware of Complainant’s mark when it registered its confusingly similar disputed domain name. UDRP panels have consistently found that the mere registration of a domain name that is identical or confusingly similar (particularly domain names comprising typos or incorporating the mark plus a descriptive term) to a widely-known trademark by an unaffiliated entity can by itself create a presumption of bad faith. See, WIPO Overview 3.0, section 3.1.4; see also, Allianz SE v. Well Domains are either owned by us or Client Managed, WIPO Case No. D2008-0535.
The Panel also notes here additional factors under section 3.1.4 and its cases from which the Panel may infer bad faith registration: (i) Respondent’s incorporation of the suffix “ny” in the disputed domain where “NY” is a geographically descriptive abbreviation for New York, a leading financial and investment banking center; (ii) Complainant’s Official Website for Complainant’s financial services being accessed at “www.allianz.com”, a strikingly similar string, which suggests Respondent targeted Complainant’s mark when it picked the disputed domain name inserting only descriptive terms related to Complainant’s business, such as “gi” representing a designation for another member of the Allianz Group, Allianz Global Investors, USA, and used in the domain name <allianzgi.com>, which operates the Official ALLIANZ Global Investors Website at “www.allianzgi.com”; and (iii) the lack of Respondent’s rights or legitimate interests in the disputed domain name, registered to engage in per se illegitimate activity for commercial gain. Given the circumstances of this case, such a showing is sufficient to establish bad faith registration. See, WIPO Overview 3.0, section 3.2.1.
Bad faith use is also clear from Respondent’s illegal conduct as discussed in detail in section 6.B. above, providing content to encourage emails and user registrations and logins under the disputed domain name suggesting an affiliation with Complainant to solicit sensitive, financial information from Complainant’s unsuspecting prospective and existing customers for Respondent’s commercial gain. See, WIPO Overview 3.0, sections 3.1.4 and 3.4; see also, Accenture Global Services Limited v. Yankee, Yankees, WIPO Case No. D2018-0217 and BHP Billiton Innovation Pty Ltd v. Domains By Proxy LLC / Douglass Johnson, WIPO Case No. D2016-0364.
For these reasons, the Panel finds bad faith registration and use, and Complainant has met its burden under 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 <allianzinvestmentgi-ny.com> be transferred to Complainant.
Scott R. Austin
Date: August 11, 2021