WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center

ADMINISTRATIVE PANEL DECISION

VUR Village Trading No. 1 Limited v. Domain Admin, Privacy Protect, LLC (PrivacyProtect.org) / Syvester Abdulahi

Case No. D2021-1888

1. The Parties

The Complainant is VUR Village Trading No. 1 Limited, United Kingdom, represented by Gateley Legal, United Kingdom.

The Respondent is Domain Admin, Privacy Protect, LLC (PrivacyProtect.org), United States of America / Syvester Abdulahi, Nigeria.

2. The Domain Name and Registrar

The disputed domain name <villageurbanresort.com> is registered with Upperlink Limited (the “Registrar”).

3. Procedural History

The Complaint was filed with the WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center (the “Center”) on June 16, 2021. On June 16, 2021, the Center transmitted by email to the Registrar a request for registrar verification in connection with the disputed domain name. On June 17, 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 June 17, 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 on June 17, 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 June 21, 2021. In accordance with the Rules, paragraph 5, the due date for Response was July 11, 2021. The Respondent did not submit any response. Accordingly, the Center notified the Respondent’s default on July 13, 2021.

The Center appointed Andrew F. Christie as the sole panelist in this matter on July 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

The Complainant, established in 1995, owns and operates 32 hotels in the United Kingdom. For the 12 months to December 31, 2019, it generated sales of more than GBP 215 million. The Complainant’s trading names include “Village” and “Village Hotels”. When it was acquired by its current owners in 2014, the Complainant traded as “Village Urban Resorts”, and continued to do so afterwards before adopting the trading names “Village” and “Village Hotels” more consistently. The business is still often referred to as “Village Urban Resorts”, with each hotel being sometimes referred to as a “Village Urban Resort”.

The Complainant is the owner of a portfolio of trademarks registered in relation to hotel services and related services, including United Kingdom Trademark Registration No. 910751097 for the word trademark VILLAGE URBAN RESORTS (filed on March 22, 2012, and entered into the register on September 15, 2012).

The Complainant owns the domain name <villageurbanresorts.com>, which redirects to the Complainant’s website at “www.village-hotels.co.uk”.

The disputed domain name was registered on June 7, 2021. The Complainant has provided screenshots of the website resolving from the disputed domain name on June 10, 2021. This website contained, among other things, the words “VILLAGE URBAN RESORT” and “Welcome to Village Urban Resort”, and numerous photographs of buildings, rooms, facilities, and guests that are the same as photographs on the Complainant’s website. As at the date of this decision, it appears that the disputed domain name does not resolve to an active website.

5. Parties’ Contentions

A. Complainant

The Complainant contends that the disputed domain name is identical or confusingly similar to a trademark in which it has rights because it is almost identical to the Complainant’s VILLAGE URBAN RESORTS trademark, and one of its domain names, differing only by the omission of the last letter “s”.

The Complainant contends that the Respondent has no rights or legitimate interests in respect of the disputed domain name because: (i) until it was stopped by a complaint made to the website hosting company, the Respondent attempted to engage in fraud by falsely representing itself as the Complainant and purporting to offer the Complainant’s hotel services in the Complainant’s name, through using the disputed domain name to resolve to a website featuring trademarks, logos, text, and photographs copied from the Complainant’s website, with the only difference being the contact details; (ii) the Respondent is not commonly known by the disputed domain name; and (iii) the Respondent was not making a legitimate noncommercial or fair use of the disputed domain name.

The Complainant contends that the disputed domain name was registered and is being used in bad faith because: (i) it is beyond doubt that the Respondent was aware of the Complainant when it registered the disputed domain name, as demonstrated by its attempted fraud of falsely representing itself as the Complainant and appearing to offer the Complainant’s hotel services in the Complainant’s name; and (ii) the Respondent has used the disputed domain name to resolve to a website featuring trademarks, logos, text, and photographs copied from the Complainant’s website, with the only difference being the contact details.

B. Respondent

The Respondent did not reply to the Complainant’s contentions.

6. Discussion and Findings

A. Identical or Confusingly Similar

Once the generic Top-Level Domain (“gTLD”) “.com” is ignored (which is appropriate in this case), the disputed domain name consists of the Complainant’s registered word trademark VILLAGE URBAN RESORTS without the last letter “s”. The Complainant’s word trademark is clearly recognizable within the disputed domain name. The omission of the last letter “s” does not prevent a finding of confusing similarity of the disputed domain name with the Complainant’s word trademark. Accordingly, the Panel finds that the disputed domain name is confusingly similar to a trademark in which the Complainant has rights.

B. Rights or Legitimate Interests

The Respondent is not a licensee of the Complainant, is not otherwise affiliated with the Complainant, and has not been authorized by the Complainant to use its VILLAGE URBAN RESORTS word trademark. The Respondent has not provided any evidence that it has been commonly known by, or has made a bona fide use of, the disputed domain name, or that it has, for any other reason, rights or legitimate interests in the disputed domain name. The evidence provided by the Complainant shows that the disputed domain name was used to resolve to a website that purported to offer hotel services in the name of “Village Urban Resort”, using photographs and text that are the same as photographs and text found in the Complainant’s own website. Given the confusing similarity of the disputed domain name to the Complainant’s trademark and the absence of any relationship between the Respondent and the Complainant, such a use of the disputed domain name is neither a bona fide use nor a legitimate noncommercial or fair use of the disputed domain name. The Complainant has put forward a prima facie case that the Respondent lacks rights or legitimate interests in the disputed domain name, and the Respondent has not rebutted this. Accordingly, the Panel finds that the Respondent has no rights or legitimate interests in the disputed domain name.

C. Registered and Used in Bad Faith

The disputed domain name was registered many years after the Complainant first registered its VILLAGE URBAN RESORTS word trademark. It is inconceivable that the Respondent registered the disputed domain name ignorant of the existence of the Complainant’s VILLAGE URBAN RESORTS trademark, given that the disputed domain name consists of the Complainant’s trademark with the mere omission of the last letter “s” and that it has been used in an attempt to impersonate the Complainant. Furthermore, the evidence on the record provided by the Complainant indicates that the Respondent has used the disputed domain name in an attempt to attract, for commercial gain, Internet users to a website by creating confusion in the minds of the public as to an association between the website and the Complainant. Accordingly, the Panel finds that the disputed domain name has been registered and is being used in bad faith.

7. Decision

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, <villageurbanresort.com>, be transferred to the Complainant.

Andrew F. Christie
Sole Panelist
Date: August 2, 2021