WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center
ADMINISTRATIVE PANEL DECISION
Allianz SE v. 周层辉 (Zhou Ceng Hui)
Case No. D2021-2223
1. The Parties
The Complainant is Allianz SE, Germany, internally represented.
The Respondent is 周层辉 (Zhou Ceng Hui), China.
2. The Domain Name and Registrar
The disputed domain name <allianzbt.com> is registered with DNSPod, Inc. (the “Registrar”).
3. Procedural History
The Complaint was filed in English with the WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center (the “Center”) on July 9, 2021. On July 9, 2021, the Center transmitted by email to the Registrar a request for registrar verification in connection with the disputed domain name. On July 13, 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 July 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 amendment to the Complaint in English on July 19, 2021.
On July 17, 2021, the Center transmitted an email communication to the Parties in English and Chinese regarding the language of the proceeding. On July 19, 2021, the Complainant submitted a request that English be the language of the proceeding. The Respondent did not comment on the language of the proceeding.
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 in English and Chinese of the Complaint, and the proceedings commenced on July 29, 2021. In accordance with the Rules, paragraph 5, the due date for Response was August 18, 2021. The Respondent did not submit any response. Accordingly, the Center notified the Respondent’s default on September 13, 2021.
The Center appointed Rachel Tan as the sole panelist in this matter on September 17, 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 the parent company of an international insurance and financial services group, the Allianz Group. The first company of the Allianz Group, Allianz Versicherungs-AG, was founded in 1890 in Germany. The Allianz Group has approximately 147,000 employees worldwide, and it serves approximately 100 million customers in more than 70 countries.
The Allianz Group has continuously operated under the ALLIANZ name, and used the ALLIANZ mark in connection with its insurance, healthcare, and financial services products since its inception. The Complainant owns a number of trade mark registrations incorporating the ALLIANZ mark, including International Registration No. 714618 for registered on May 4, 1999, designating, inter alia, China in classes 16, 35, and 36; International Registration No. 713841 for registered on May 3, 1999, designating, inter alia, China in classes 16, 35, and 36; and German Registration No. 987481 for ALLIANZ registered on July 11, 1979, in class 36.
The Allianz Group is also the owner of a range of domain names which incorporate the ALLIANZ mark, such as <allianz.de>, <allianz.com>, and <allianz.us>.
The Respondent is 周层辉 (Zhou Ceng Hui), China.
The disputed domain name was registered on July 4, 2021. At the date of this decision, Internet browsers block access to the disputed domain name with a warning page containing these words: “Deceptive site ahead Attackers on allianzbt.com may trick you into doing something dangerous like installing software or revealing your personal information (for example, passwords, phone numbers or credit cards).” According to the screen capture of the resolved website of the disputed domain name, users were directed to an active website featuring multiple ALLIANZ marks, which appears to offer different financial products.
5. Parties’ Contentions
The Complainant contends that the disputed domain name is confusingly similar to the Complainant’s ALLIANZ mark. Through the disputed domain name, customers will expect to reach one of the websites belonging to the Complainant or its subsidiaries. The use of the disputed domain name for financial services implies that the Respondent belongs to the Allianz Group and deludes potential customers into thinking that the Respondent is part of the Allianz Group.
The Complainant further alleges that the Respondent has no rights or legitimate interests in the ALLIANZ mark. The Respondent is not commonly known by the disputed domain name. The Respondent has never received a license or any other form of authorization or consent from the Complainant to make use of the ALLIANZ mark. The Respondent is trying to take unfair advantage of the well-known trade mark of the Complainant. The Respondent did not use the disputed domain name in connection with a bona fide offering of goods or services.
The Complainant finally asserts that the ALLIANZ mark is a very well-known mark in many countries all over the world. It cannot be reasonably argued that the Respondent could have been unaware of the ALLIANZ mark when registering the disputed domain name. The Respondent clearly sought to register the disputed domain name because of its association with the Complainant and hoped to capitalise on the Complainant’s reputation. It is inevitable that the Respondent acted in bad faith when registering the disputed domain name and continues to do so by using the website to phish private data from individuals interested in the faked financial services.
The Respondent did not reply to the Complainant’s contentions.
6. Discussion and Findings
6.1. Procedural Issue: Language of the Proceeding
Initially, the Panel must address the language of the proceeding. Paragraph 11(a) of the Rules provides that the language of the administrative proceeding shall be the language of the Registration Agreement unless otherwise agreed by the parties, subject to the authority of the panel to determine otherwise, having regard to the circumstances of the administrative proceeding. The panel may choose to write a decision in either language, or request translation of either party’s submissions.
In this case, the Registrar has confirmed to the Center that the language of the Registration Agreement is Chinese. However, the Complainant has requested that English be adopted as the language of the proceeding for the reasons summarized below:
(a) The information made on the resolved website of the disputed domain name, including the registered trade mark logos that the Complainant have filed in their companies’ name are shown in English;
(b) The Complainant previously filed a UDRP Complaint against the domain <allianzse1890.com> which had the exact same website layout as this current Complaint against <allianzbt.com> and it was successfully allowed to proceed with the Complaint in English; and
(c) The disputed domain name was clearly registered in bad faith and should proceed in the language where the Complainant is able to respond to such fraudulent behavior.
It is established practice to take paragraphs 10(b) and (c) of the Rules into consideration for the purpose of determining the language of the proceeding, in order to ensure fairness to the parties and the maintenance of an inexpensive and expeditious avenue for resolving domain name disputes. Language requirements should not lead to undue burdens being placed on the parties and undue delay to the proceeding.
The Panel having considered the circumstances finds that English shall be the language of this proceeding. The reasons are set out below:
(a) The Complainant is a company based in Germany. Requiring the Complainant to submit documents in Chinese would lead to delay and cause the Complainant to incur translation expenses;
(b) The Respondent’s choice of Roman letters for the disputed domain name indicates some familiarity with the English language;
(c) The disputed domain name previously resolved to a webpage that is in English language;
(d) Even if the Respondent does not possess a sufficient command of English to understand the Complaint, there were ample opportunities for the Respondent to raise an objection. The Center notified the Parties in English and Chinese of the Complainant’s request for English to be the language of the proceeding, but the Respondent did not protest against this request; and
(e) The Respondent has failed to participate in the proceeding even though the Center sent the notification of the Complaint in English and Chinese, and has been notified of its default.
The Complaint has been submitted in English. No foreseeable procedural benefit may be served by requiring Chinese to be used. On the other hand, the proceeding may proceed expeditiously in English.
6.2. Substantive Issues
A. Identical or Confusingly Similar
The Panel is satisfied that the Complainant has adduced evidence to demonstrate its established rights in the ALLIANZ mark.
The Panel notes the disputed domain name <allianzbt.com> encompasses the ALLIANZ trade mark in its entirety. 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 addition of “bt”, a meaningless two letter combination does not preclude a finding of confusing similarity between the ALLIANZ trade mark and the disputed domain name. See section 1.7 of the WIPO Overview of WIPO Panel Views on Selected UDRP Questions, Third Edition (“WIPO Overview 3.0”).
Lastly, it is permissible for the Panel to ignore the generic Top-Level Domain (“gTLD”) suffix, in this case “.com”. See section 1.11.1 of the WIPO Overview 3.0.
Accordingly, the Complainant has satisfied the first element under paragraph 4(a) of the Policy.
B. Rights or Legitimate Interests
In circumstances where the Complainant possesses exclusive rights to the ALLIANZ trade mark, whereas the Respondent seems to have no trade mark rights, the Panel is satisfied that the Complainant has established a prima facie case that the Respondent lacks rights or legitimate interests in the disputed domain name, and the burden of production shifts to the Respondent. See section 2.1 of the WIPO Overview 3.0.
The Respondent has not provided evidence of a legitimate use of the disputed domain name or reasons to justify the choice of the term “allianz”. Further, there is no indication to show that the Respondent is commonly known by the disputed domain name or otherwise has rights or legitimate interests in it. In addition, the Complainant has not granted the Respondent a license or authorization to use the Complainant’s ALLIANZ trade mark or register the disputed domain name. None of the circumstances in paragraph 4(c) of the Policy are present in this case.
The disputed domain name consists of the Complainant’s mark in its entirety and in the circumstances, creates a risk of implied affiliation with the Complainant that prior UDRP panels have consistently found cannot constitute fair use as it effectively impersonates or suggests sponsorship or endorsement by the trademark owner, i.e., the Complainant. See section 2.5.1 of the WIPO Overview 3.0.
For these reasons, the Panel finds that the Respondent has no rights or legitimate interests in the disputed domain name.
Accordingly, the Complainant has satisfied the second element under paragraph 4(a) of the Policy.
C. Registered and Used in Bad Faith
The Complainant’s ALLIANZ trade mark had been registered well before the registration of the disputed domain name. Through extensive use and advertising, the Complainant’s ALLIANZ mark is known throughout the world, including in China where the Respondent is located. Search results using the key word “allianz” on the search engines direct Internet users to the Complainant and its products/services, which indicates that an exclusive connection between the ALLIANZ mark and the Complainant has been established. As such, the Respondent either knew or should have known of the Complainant’s ALLIANZ mark when registering the disputed domain name or has exercised “the kind of willful blindness that numerous panels have held support a finding of bad faith”. See eBay Inc. v. Renbu Bai, WIPO Case No. D2014-1693; Barclays Bank PLC v. Andrew Barnes, WIPO Case No. D2011-0874.
Section 3.1.4 of the WIPO Overview 3.0 states that “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 famous or widely-known trade mark by an unaffiliated entity can by itself create a presumption of bad faith”. In this case, the disputed domain name incorporates the Complainant’s famous ALLIANZ mark creating a presumption of bad faith.
The Panel notes that the disputed domain name previously resolved to website displaying the Complainant’s ALLIANZ marks and offering different financial products, which are competing with the Complainant’s business. The Panel is of the view that the Respondent intentionally created a likelihood of confusion with the Complainant’s ALLIANZ mark as to the source, sponsorship, affiliation, or endorsement of the Respondent’s website. This demonstrates bad faith registration and use of the disputed domain name, as provided in paragraph 4(b)(iv) of the Policy.
The Respondent has kept silent in the face of the Complainant’s allegations of bad faith. Taking into account these circumstances, the Panel finds that the Respondent must have known of the Complainant before registering the disputed domain name and, considering the Respondent’s lack of rights or legitimate interests and by continuing to hold the disputed domain name, the Panel is led to conclude that the disputed domain name was registered and is being used in bad faith.
Accordingly, the Panel finds that the Complainant has satisfied the third element under paragraph 4(a) 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 <allianzbt.com> be transferred to the Complainant.
Date: October 1, 2021