WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center
ADMINISTRATIVE PANEL DECISION
Belfius Bank S.A. / Belfius Bank N.V v. Privacy service provided by Withheld for Privacy ehf / Raymond Stephen
Case No. D2021-2271
1. The Parties
The Complainant is Belfius Bank S.A. / Belfius Bank N.V, Belgium, internally represented.
The Respondent is Privacy service provided by Withheld for Privacy ehf, Iceland / Raymond Stephen, Philippines.
2. The Domain Name and Registrar
The disputed domain name <belfiusbank.online> (“Disputed Domain Name”) is registered with NameCheap, Inc. (the “Registrar”).
3. Procedural History
The Complaint was filed with the WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center (the “Center”) on July 9, 2021. On July 14, 2021, the Center transmitted by email to the Registrar a request for registrar verification in connection with the Disputed Domain Name. On July 14, 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 27, 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 July 30, 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 August 2, 2021. In accordance with the Rules, paragraph 5, the due date for Response was August 22, 2021. The Respondent did not submit any response. Accordingly, the Center notified the Respondent’s default on August 23, 2021.
The Center appointed Nicholas Weston as the sole panelist in this matter on August 27, 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 operates a major bank and a financial services business based in Belgium with more than 5,000 employees and over 650 agencies. The Complainant holds a portfolio of registrations for the trademark BELFIUS including European Union trademark No. 010581205 registered on May 24, 2012 and Benelux trademark No. 914650 registered on January 23, 2012.
The Complainant owns several domain names that incorporate its trademark including <belfius.be> and <belfius.com>.
The Disputed Domain Name <belfiusbank.online> was registered on April 2, 2021 and resolves to an inactive webpage.
5. Parties’ Contentions
The Complainant cites its European Union trademark No. 010581205 registered on May 24,2012 and other registrations in European and Benelux countries, for the mark BELFIUS as prima facie evidence of ownership.
The Complainant submits that the mark BELFIUS is well known in Belgium and that its rights in that mark predate the Respondent’s registration of the Disputed Domain Name <belfiusbank.online>. It submits that the Disputed Domain Name is confusingly similar to its trademark, because the Disputed Domain Name incorporates in its entirety the BELFIUS trademark and that the similarity is not removed by the addition of the word “bank”, or the addition of the generic Top-Level Domain (“gTLD”) “.online”.
The Complainant contends that the Respondent has no rights or legitimate interests in respect of the Disputed Domain Name because it resolves to an inactive webpage.
Finally, the Complainant alleges that the registration and use of the Disputed Domain Name was, and currently is, in bad faith, contrary to the Policy and Rules and submits that “bad faith registration, combined with the concealment of the Respondent identity and the passive holding constitutes a bad faith use (citing Virgin Enterprises Limited v. Cesar Alvare, WIPO Case No. D2016-2140).
The Respondent did not reply to the Complainant’s contentions.
6. Discussion and Findings
Under paragraph 4(a) of the Policy, the Complainant has the burden of proving the following:
(i) that the Disputed Domain Name is identical or confusingly similar to a trademark or service mark in which the Complainant has rights; and
(ii) that the Respondent has no rights or legitimate interests in respect of the Disputed Domain Name; and
(iii) that the Disputed Domain Name has been registered and is being used in bad faith.
A. Identical or Confusingly Similar
The Complainant has produced sufficient evidence to demonstrate that it has registered trademark rights in the mark BELFIUS in numerous jurisdictions including France. The requirements of the first element for purposes of the Policy may be satisfied by a trademark registered in any country (see Thaigem Global Marketing Limited v. Sanchai Aree, WIPO Case No. D2002-0358).
Turning to whether the Disputed Domain Name is identical or confusingly similar to the BELFIUS trademark, the Panel observes that the Disputed Domain Name comprises: (a) an exact reproduction of the Complainant’s trademark BELFIUS; (b) followed by the word “bank”; (c) followed by the gTLD “.online”.
It is well-established that the gTLD used as part of a domain name is generally disregarded unless the gTLD takes on special significance where it has relevance to the analysis (see Autodesk v. MumbaiDomains, WIPO Case No. D2012-0286; Alstom v. WhoisGuard Protected, WhoisGuard, Inc. / Richard Lopez, Marines Supply Inc, WIPO Case No. D2021-0859). The gTLD chosen appears to have no special significance in this proceeding. The relevant comparison to be made is with the second-level portion of the Disputed Domain Name, specifically: “belfiusbank”.
It is also well established that where a domain name incorporates a complainant’s well-known and distinctive trademark in its entirety, it may be confusingly similar to that mark despite the addition of a word, in this case, the word “bank”: (see Oki Data Americas, Inc. v. ASD, Inc., WIPO Case No. D2001-0903; Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. v. Kuchora, Kal, WIPO Case No. D2006-0033.
The Panel finds that the addition of the word “bank” does not avoid a finding of confusing similarity between the Disputed Domain Name and the Complainant’s trademark. “Where the relevant trademark is recognizable within the disputed domain name, the addition of other terms (whether descriptive, geographical, pejorative, meaningless, or otherwise) would not prevent a finding of confusing similarity under the first element. The nature of such additional term(s) may however bear on assessment of the second and third elements.” (see WIPO Overview of WIPO Panel Views on Selected URDP Questions, Third Edition (“WIPO Overview 3.0”), section 1.8).
The Panel finds that the Complainant has established paragraph 4(a)(i) of the Policy.
B. Rights or Legitimate Interests
Paragraph 4(c) of the Policy lists the ways that the Respondent may demonstrate rights or legitimate interests in the Disputed Domain Name. The Policy also places the burden on the Complainant to establish the absence of the Respondent’s rights or legitimate interests in the Disputed Domain Name. Because of the inherent difficulties in proving a negative, the consensus view is that the Complainant need only put forward a prima facie case that the Respondent lacks rights or legitimate interests. The burden of production then shifts to the Respondent to rebut that prima facie case (see World Wrestling Federation Entertainment, Inc. v. Ringside Collectibles, WIPO Case No. D2000-1306; WIPO Overview 3.0, section 2.1).
The Complainant contends that the Respondent has no rights or legitimate interests in respect of the Disputed Domain Name because (i) the Disputed Domain Name is parked; (ii) the Respondent has not acquired or owned any trademark or service mark rights in the name BELFIUS, and has not been commonly known by the name BELFIUS; and (iii) the Respondent is not making a legitimate noncommercial or fair use of the Disputed Domain Name without intent for commercial gain to misleadingly divert consumers or to tarnish the Complainant’s trademarks.
Where the composition of the Disputed Domain Name consists of a trademark and a generic word or abbreviation such as “bank”, the potential for phishing or fraud attendant on a payments service, in this Panel’s view carries “a risk of affiliation” that other UDRP panels have not considered fair use as it “effectively impersonates or suggests sponsorship or endorsement by the trademark owner” (see WIPO Overview 3.0, section 2.5.1).
The Panel notes the evidence that the Disputed Domain Name in this proceeding resolves to a dormant webpage. The Panel is satisfied that the Complainant has put forward a prima facie case that the Respondent lacks rights or legitimate interests. In the absence of a response, this Panel finds that the Respondent has no rights or legitimate interests in respect of the Disputed Domain Name.
The Panel finds for the Complainant on the second element of the Policy.
C. Registered and Used in Bad Faith
The third element of the Policy requires that the complainant must also demonstrate that the Disputed Domain Name has been registered and used in bad faith. Paragraph 4(b) of the Policy sets out certain circumstances to be construed as evidence of both of these conjunctive requirements.
The examples of bad faith registration and use in Policy, paragraph 4(b) are not exhaustive of all circumstances from which such bad faith may be found. The objective of the Policy is to curb the abusive registration of domain names in circumstances where the registrant is seeking to profit from and exploit the trademark of another. (See Match.com, LP v. Bill Zag and NWLAWS.ORG, WIPO Case No. D2004-0230; WIPO Overview 3.0, section 3.1).
The Panel finds that the evidence in the case shows the Respondent registered and has used the Disputed Domain Name in bad faith.
On the issue of registration, the trademark BELFIUS is so well known in Belgium that this Panel infers that the Respondent knew, or should have known, that its registration of the Disputed Domain Name would be identical or confusingly similar to the Complainant’s trademark (see Belfius Bank S.A. / Belfius Bank N.V. v. Name Redacted, WIPO Case No. D2019-2313 (“the Complainant is…well known in Belgium under its tradename and trademark BELFIUS.”); Belfius Bank S.A. / Belfius Bank N.V. v. Not disclosed Not disclosed, WIPO Case No. D2020-3282 (“the Complainant is well known for its financial services”).
On the issue of use, the Complainant’s evidence is that the Disputed Domain Name does not currently resolve to an active website. Previous UDRP panels have found that the non-use of a domain name would not prevent a finding of bad faith under the doctrine of passive holding. “While panelists will look at the totality of the circumstances in each case, factors that have been considered relevant in applying the ‘passive holding’ doctrine include: (i) the degree of distinctiveness or reputation of the complainant’s mark, (ii) the failure of the respondent to submit a response or to provide any evidence of actual or contemplated good-faith use, (iii) the respondent’s concealing its identity or use of false contact details (noted to be in breach of its registration agreement), and (iv) the implausibility of any good faith use to which the domain name may be put” (see WIPO Overview 3.0, section 3.3). This Panel notes that the evidence is that all four of these four factors are present in this proceeding.
This Panel finds that use of the Disputed Domain Name to resolve to a passive website is also evidence of bad faith. In the absence of any evidence to the contrary, this Panel accepts the Complainant’s evidence and finds that the Respondent has taken the Complainant’s trademark BELFIUS and incorporated it in the Disputed Domain Name along with the word “bank”, without the Complainant’s consent or authorization, for the very purpose of capitalizing on the reputation of the trademark to infringe upon the Complainant’s rights.
Accordingly, the Panel finds that the Complainant has satisfied the requirements of 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 <belfiusbank.online> be transferred to the Complainant.
Date: August 28, 2021