WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center
ADMINISTRATIVE PANEL DECISION
Allianz SE v. Domain Admin, Privacy Protect, LLC / Benson Goh, CHANNEL SOFT PLT
Case No. D2021-1957
1. The Parties
The Complainant is Allianz SE, Germany, represented internally.
The Respondent is Domain Admin, Privacy Protect, LLC, United States of America / Benson Goh, CHANNEL SOFT PLT, Malaysia.
2. The Domain Name and Registrar
The disputed domain name, <gold-allianze.com> (the “Domain Name”), is registered with Shinjiru Technology Sdn Bhd (the “Registrar”).
3. Procedural History
The Complaint was filed with the WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center (the “Center”) on June 22, 2021. On June 22, 2021, the Center transmitted by email to the Registrar a request for registrar verification in connection with the Domain Name. On June 24, 2021, the Registrar transmitted by email to the Center its verification response disclosing registrant and contact information for the 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 25, 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 June 28, 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 the Respondent of the Complaint, and the proceedings commenced on July 2, 2021. In accordance with the Rules, paragraph 5, the due date for Response was July 22, 2021. The Respondent did not submit any response. Accordingly, the Center notified the Respondent’s default on July 26, 2021.
The Center appointed Tony Willoughby as the sole panelist in this matter on August 3, 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.
The Respondent used a privacy service when registering the Domain Name. The Respondent’s identity was disclosed by the Registrar in response to the Center’s registrar verification request. The Center’s invitation to the Complainant to amend the Complaint followed on from that disclosure. In response to that invitation, the Complainant added the Respondent as an additional respondent to the Complaint. For the purposes of this decision, the Panel treats the underlying registrant as the Respondent and all references herein to the “Respondent” are references to Benson Goh.
On August 4, 2021, the Panel issued Procedural Order No. 1 inviting the Complainant to clarify its evidence in relation to the Respondent’s use of the Domain Name. The Complainant did not respond. The Panel then conducted an online investigation within the parameters set out in section 4.8 of the WIPO Overview of WIPO Panel Views on Selected UDRP Questions, Third Edition (“WIPO Overview 3.0”). On August 10, 2021, the Panel issued Procedural Order No. 2 drawing to the parties’ attention the information resulting from that investigation and inviting the parties to file submissions thereon. Neither party responded. The matter is addressed further in sections 4 and 6.B below.
4. Factual Background
The Complainant is a company organized under the laws of Germany and the European Union. It is the ultimate parent company of the Allianz group of companies, which has been engaged in the field of insurance and other financial services for well over 100 years. It is the registered proprietor of numerous trade mark registrations covering its name and primary trade mark ALLIANZ, one of which is German Registration No. 987481 ALLIANZ (word) dated July 11, 1979 in class 36 for insurance services.
The Domain Name was registered on May 18, 2021, and is not currently connected to an active website. The Complainant asserts that prior to the filing of the Complaint, the Domain Name was connected to a website claiming “We Are Professional Financial Specialist [sic] in Singapore (Licensed No.: 50/2021”. The Complainant asserts that the website invited visitors to apply for financial assistance online by completing an application form requiring the applicant to provide personal information such as names and contact details, level of salary and level of finance required.
However, the Complainant’s evidence purporting to support the assertions as to the use being made of the Domain Name by the Respondent were screenshots from the Respondent’s website cropped to exclude anything linking the website to the Domain Name. For the reason set out in 6.B below, the Panel nonetheless accepts as fact that those screenshots are, as the Complainant contends, screenshots of the Respondent’s website connected to the Domain Name prior to the filing of the Complaint.
5. Parties’ Contentions
The Complainant contends that the Domain Name is confusingly similar to the Complainant’s ALLIANZ registered trade mark; that the Respondent has no rights or legitimate interests in respect of the Domain Name; and that the Domain Name has been registered and is being used in bad faith for the purpose of “phishing”.
The Respondent did not reply to the Complainant’s contentions.
6. Discussion and Findings
According to paragraph 4(a) of the Policy, for this Complaint to succeed in relation to the Domain Name, the Complainant must prove each of the following, namely that:
(i) the Domain Name is identical or confusingly similar to a trade mark or service mark in which the Complainant has rights; and
(ii) the Respondent has no rights or legitimate interests in respect of the Domain Name; and
(iii) the Domain Name has been registered and is being used in bad faith.
B. Preliminary Issue – independent research by the Panel
The Complainant’s case relies heavily on the fame of its ALLIANZ trade mark and the use that the Respondent has been making of the Domain Name. The Panel has had no problem in accepting the Complainant’s evidence supporting the fame of its trade mark, but as indicated in section 4 above the Complainant’s evidence as to the use that the Respondent has been making of the Domain Name (Annex B) is insufficient.
Recognising the possibility that the absence of a link to the Domain Name in the Annex B screenshots might be the result of a mere oversight, the Panel issued Procedural Order No. 1 inviting the Complainant to remedy the situation. The Complainant did not respond to the Order.
In assessing the case merits following the issue of Procedural Order No. 1 and in the absence of a response to that Order, the Panel performed independent research, the purpose being to see whether, despite the lack of a Response, the Respondent might nonetheless have a legitimate interest in respect of the Domain Name. Section 4.8 of WIPO Overview 3.0 addresses the circumstances under which it may be appropriate for a panel to perform independent research. Section 4.8 reads as follows:
“Noting in particular the general powers of a panel articulated inter alia in paragraphs 10 and 12 of the UDRP Rules, it has been accepted that a panel may undertake limited factual research into matters of public record if it would consider such information useful to assessing the case merits and reaching a decision.
This may include visiting the website linked to the disputed domain name in order to obtain more information about the respondent or its use of the domain name, consulting historical resources such as the Internet Archive (www.archive.org) in order to obtain an indication of how a domain name may have been used in the relevant past, reviewing dictionaries or encyclopedias (e.g., Wikipedia), or accessing trade mark registration databases.
In some circumstances, a panel may also rely on personal knowledge (e.g., to take “judicial notice” of the reputation of a well-known mark, or a corporate affiliation/structure).
Where a panel intends to rely on information outside the pleadings, in certain limited scenarios, e.g., where such information may not be general public knowledge or at least readily accessible, it may consider issuing a procedural order to give the parties an opportunity to comment on such information as it relates to the proceedings.”
The Panel conducted a Google search using the telephone number appearing on the screenshots of the Respondent’s website in Annex B to the Complaint. On its own the telephone number produced nothing of relevance, but by following it with “Singapore”, two entries of interest appeared, namely:
(i) ”www.veracapitalsg.com” - Vera Capital – Easy Get Fund Today – With the lowest rates in Singapore, let’s fill up the loan application form and apply online now! … [followed by the Respondent’s telephone number appearing in Annex B];
(ii) “www.veracapitals-sg.com” – Gold Allianze – ModernCash2U – Trusted Financial Solution Provider in Singapore. Fast Online Apply & Approval in 15 Minutes … [followed by the Respondent’s telephone number appearing in Annex B].
The Panel attempted to visit those websites but without success. Believing the results of that Google search to be of potential relevance to the issues in this case, the Panel issued Procedural Order No. 2 to alert the parties to the information so obtained and inviting the parties to file further submissions addressing that information. Neither party responded.
The references in (ii) above to “Gold Allianze” and “ModernCash2U” (the latter appearing in the Complainant’s screenshots) in combination with the service offering and the telephone number featuring in Annex B to the Complaint satisfies the Panel that the screenshots in Annex B to the Complaint are, as the Complainant contends, screenshots of the Respondent’s website connected to the Domain Name prior to the filing of the Complaint.
C. Identical or Confusingly Similar
The Domain Name comprises the word “gold”, a hyphen, the Complainant’s registered trade mark ALLIANZ with an additional “e” and the “.com” generic Top Level Domain identifier.
Section 1.7 of WIPO Overview 3.0 explains the test for identity or confusing similarity under the first element of the Policy and includes the following passage:
“While each case is judged on its own merits, in cases where a domain name incorporates the entirety of a trade mark, or where at least a dominant feature of the relevant mark is recognizable in the domain name, the domain name will normally be considered confusingly similar to that mark for purposes of UDRP standing.”
The Complainant’s ALLIANZ registered trade mark is readily recognizable in its entirety in the Domain Name.
The Panel finds that the Domain Name is confusingly similar to a trade mark in which the Complainant has rights.
D. Rights or Legitimate Interests
The Complainant contends that the Respondent has no rights or legitimate interests in respect of the Domain Name. The Complainant points to the worldwide fame of the name “Allianz” in the field of financial services and particularly insurance services. The Complainant asserts that it has no connection with the Respondent and has not granted the Respondent any permission to use its ALLIANZ trade mark. The Complainant observes that “allianz” is a German term and that, apart from the strong association that the word has with the Complainant, it has no obvious relevance to the website to which the Domain Name was originally attached. Indeed, the word “allianz” does not appear (with or without the additional “e”) on any of the screenshots of the Respondent’s website annexed to the Complaint in Annex B. Nor does the Domain Name bear any resemblance to the name of the Respondent. The Complainant contends that the Respondent has set out to impersonate the Complainant with a view to attracting visitors to its website for the purpose of “phishing” (i.e., seeking personal information from those visitors with intent to defraud them).
The Panel is satisfied that the Complainant has made out a prima facie case under this element of the Policy; in other words, a case calling for an answer from the Respondent. The Respondent has elected not to provide an answer.
In the absence of any explanation from the Respondent the Panel concludes on the balance of probabilities that the Respondent has no rights or legitimate interests in respect of the Domain Name.
E. Registered and Used in Bad Faith
The Complainant’s evidence supported by the information set out in Procedural Order No. 2 (see section 6.B above) satisfies the Panel that, more likely than not, the Respondent is in the business of purporting to offer financial services under third party names with which he has no connection and for nefarious purposes. In this case the name taken is the Complainant’s ALLIANZ trade mark.
The Complainant contends that the Respondent registered the Domain Name for the purpose of “phishing”, hoping and anticipating that Internet users would be deceived by the Domain Name into believing that they were communicating with the Complainant and would be induced into supplying personal information to the Respondent, which they would not have otherwise provided. The Panel notes that the Respondent has not challenged the Complainant’s contentions and based on the facts and related arguments (notably the fame in its industry of the Complainant’s mark) believes it to be more likely than not that the Complainant’s contentions are well-founded.
The Panel finds that the Domain Name has been registered and is being used in bad faith within the meaning of paragraphs 4(a)(iii) and 4(b)(iv) 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 Domain Name, <gold-allianze.com>, be transferred to the Complainant.
Date: August 17, 2021