WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center
ADMINISTRATIVE PANEL DECISION
ABG-Nine West, LLC v. Name Redacted
Case No. D2021-3385
1. The Parties
The Complainant is ABG-Nine West, LLC, United States of America, represented by Authentic Brands Group, United States of America.
The Respondent is Name Redacted.
2. The Domain Name and Registrar
The disputed domain name <ninewest-romania.com> (the “Domain Name”) is registered with NameSilo, LLC (the “Registrar”).
3. Procedural History
The Complaint was filed with the WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center (the “Center”) on October 12, 2021. On October 13, 2021, the Center transmitted by email to the Registrar a request for registrar verification in connection with the Domain Name. On October 13, 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 October 14, 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 October 26, 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 October 28, 2021. In accordance with the Rules, paragraph 5, the due date for Response was November 17, 2021. The Respondent did not submit any response.
On October 31, 2021, the Center received an email communication from a third party, being the named Respondent, indicating that the named Respondent did not and had never owned the Domain Name and had no association with the name or email address used in the WhoIs registry for the Domain Name.
The Center appointed Nicholas Smith as the sole panelist in this matter on December 1, 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 a United States of America fashion, footwear and accessories brand established in 1978. The Complainant’s footwear and accessories are sold worldwide in stores operated by the Complainant, select department stores as well as on the Complainant’s website at “www.ninewest.com” (“Complainant’s Website”) all under the trademark NINE WEST (the “NINE WEST Mark”).
The Complainant is the owner of numerous trademark registrations for the NINE WEST Mark, including a European Union trademark registration registered on March 2, 2000, for goods in class 25 (No. 000906073).
The Domain Name <ninewest-romania.com> was registered on July 19, 2021 by the Respondent. The Domain Name resolves to a website (the “Respondent’s Website”) that reproduces the NINE WEST Mark and replicates aspects of the design of the Complainant’s Website. The Respondent’s Website is in the Romanian language and purports to offer the Complainant’s NINE WEST products, notwithstanding that it is not an official store or authorised distributor of the Complainant.
5. Parties’ Contentions
The Complainant makes the following contentions:
(i) that the Domain Name is identical or confusingly similar to the Complainant’s NINE WEST Mark;
(ii) that the Respondent has no rights nor any legitimate interests in respect of the Domain Name; and
(iii) that the Domain Name has been registered and is being used in bad faith.
The Complainant is the owner of the NINE WEST Mark, having registered the NINE WEST Mark in numerous jurisdictions, including in the European Union. The Domain Name reproduces the NINE WEST Mark along with the descriptive geographic term “-romania” that does not distinguish the Domain Name from the NINE WEST Mark.
There are no rights or legitimate interests held by the Respondent in respect of the Domain Name. The Respondent is not commonly known as the Domain Name nor does the Respondent have any authorization from the Complainant to register the Domain Name. The Respondent is not making a legitimate noncommercial or fair use of the Domain Name. Rather the Respondent is using the Domain Name to create a website that purports to sell the Complainant’s products (but actually sells counterfeited products) and reproduces the Complainant’s NINE WEST Mark, such use not being bona fide.
The Domain Name was registered and is being used in bad faith. By using the Domain Name for a website that purports be an official website of the Complainant but actually sells counterfeit products, the Respondent is clearly aware of the NINE WEST Mark and is using it to deceive consumers as to its affiliation with the Complainant. Such conduct amounts to registration and use of the Domain Name in bad faith.
The Respondent did not reply to the Complainant’s contentions.
6. Discussion and Findings
A. Preliminary Matter – Redaction of the Respondent’s Name
As can be seen from the factual background set out above (Section 3) this case appears to be a case where the individual identified on the Registrar’s WhoIs database is an innocent party unaware of the fraud being perpetrated in its name. In such cases, it is common practice for the Respondent’s name to be redacted from the published decision. The Panel proposes to follow the course of action adopted by the panel in Elkjøp Nordic A/S v. Name Redacted, WIPO Case No. D2013-1285 and set out as follows:
“As in Moncler S.r.l. v. Name Redacted, WIPO Case No. D2010-1677; Boehringer Ingelheim Pharma GmbH & Co. KG v. Name Redacted, WIPO Case No. D2012-0890 and Saudi Arabian Oil Company v. Name Redacted, WIPO Case No. D2013-0105, this is a case in which the Panel finds that the Domain Name was registered by a third-party without the involvement of the person identified in the WhoIs as the registrant of the Domain Name, against whom the Complaint was filed. The Panel has accordingly redacted the name of that person from the caption and body of this Decision. The Panel has attached as an Annexure to this Decision an instruction to the Registrar regarding transfer of the Domain Name that includes the name of that person so as to enable effect to be given to the Panel’s order. To this end, the Panel authorises the Center to transmit the Annexure to the Registrar and the parties, but further directs the Center and Registrar, pursuant to paragraph 4(j) of the Policy and paragraph 16(b) of the Rules, that the Annex to this Decision shall not be published in this exceptional case.”
All references in this decision to the Respondent (as opposed to the named Respondent) are to the unknown person or entity who registered the Domain Name.
B. Identical or Confusingly Similar
To prove this element the Complainant must have trade or service mark rights and the Domain Name must be identical or confusingly similar to the Complainant’s trade or service mark.
The Complainant is the owner of the NINE WEST Mark, having registrations for NINE WEST as a trademark in the European Union.
The Domain Name incorporates the NINE WEST Mark with the addition of the term “-romania”. The addition of a term (whether descriptive, geographical, pejorative, meaningless, or otherwise) to a complainant’s mark does not prevent a finding of confusing similarity; see section 1.8 of the WIPO Overview of WIPO Panel Views on Selected UDRP Questions, Third Edition (“WIPO Overview 3.0”) and Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. v. Henry Chan, WIPO Case No. D2004-0056.
The Panel finds that the Domain Name is confusingly similar to the Complainant’s NINE WEST Mark. Consequently, the requirement of paragraph 4(a)(i) of the Policy is satisfied.
C. Rights or Legitimate Interests
In general, to succeed on this element, a complainant must make out a prima facie case that the respondent lacks rights or legitimate interests in the domain names. If such a prima facie case is made out, then the burden of production shifts to the respondent to demonstrate rights or legitimate interests in the domain names.
Paragraph 4(c) of the Policy enumerates several ways in which a respondent may demonstrate rights or legitimate interests in a domain name:
“Any of the following circumstances, in particular but without limitation, if found by the panel to be proved based on its evaluation of all evidence presented, shall demonstrate your rights or legitimate interests to the domain name for purposes of paragraph 4(a)(ii):
(i) before any notice to you of the dispute, your use of, or demonstrable preparations to use, the domain name or a name corresponding to the domain name in connection with a bona fide offering of goods or services; or
(ii) you (as an individual, business, or other organization) have been commonly known by the domain name, even if you have acquired no trademark or service mark rights; or
(iii) you are making a legitimate noncommercial or fair use of the domain name, without intent for commercial gain to misleadingly divert consumers or to tarnish the trademark or service mark at issue.”
The Respondent is not affiliated with the Complainant in any way. It has not been authorized by the Complainant to register or use the Domain Name or to seek the registration of any domain name incorporating the NINE WEST Mark or a mark similar to the NINE WEST Mark. There is no evidence that the Respondent is commonly known by the Domain Name or any similar name. There is no evidence that the Respondent has used or made demonstrable preparations to use the Domain Name in connection with a legitimate noncommercial use.
The Respondent has used the Domain Name to operate a website to sell products that purport to be legitimate NINE WEST products. If the products sold on the Respondent’s Website are not genuine products produced by the Complainant (and given that the Respondent is not an authorized reseller of the Complainant, it is highly likely that such products are not genuine), the Respondent’s use of the Domain Name does not grant it rights or legitimate interests since it is using the Complainant’s NINE WEST Mark for a site selling counterfeit products (see WIPO Overview 3.0, section 2.13.1).
Even if the Respondent is offering genuine NINE WEST products from the Respondent’s Website, such use does not automatically grant it rights or legitimate interests. The principles that govern whether a reseller of genuine goods has rights or legitimate interests have been set out in a variety of UDRP decisions, starting with the case of Oki Data Americas, Inc. v. ASD, Inc., WIPO Case No. D2001-0903.
The WIPO Overview 3.0, section 2.8 summarizes the consensus views of UDRP panels in assessing claims of nominative (fair) use by resellers or distributors in the following manner:
“[…] Panels have recognized that resellers, distributors, or service providers using a domain name containing the complainant’s trademark to undertake sales or repairs related to the complainant’s goods or services may be making a bona fide offering of goods and services and thus have a legitimate interest in such domain name. Outlined in the ‘Oki Data test’, the following cumulative requirements will be applied in the specific conditions of a UDRP case:
(i) the respondent must actually be offering the goods or services at issue;
(ii) the respondent must use the site to sell only the trademarked goods or services;
(iii) the site must accurately and prominently disclose the registrant’s relationship with the trademark holder; and
(iv) the respondent must not try to ‘corner the market’ in domain names that reflect the trademark.
The ‘Oki Data test’ does not apply where any prior agreement, express or otherwise, between the parties expressly prohibits (or allows) the registration or use of domain names incorporating the complainant’s trademark.”
In this case, the Respondent’s Website does not accurately or prominently disclose the Respondent’s relationship with the Complainant, in particular that it is not an authorized dealer or has any particular connection with the Complainant. Rather, the Respondent’s Website, through its use of the NINE WEST Mark and similar website design to the Complainant’s Website, provides the impression that it is the official online store of the Complainant in Romania. Even in the event that the Respondent is reselling genuine NINE WEST products, its use of the Domain Name for the Respondent’s Website does not grant it rights or legitimate interests in the Domain Name. In addition, the Panel notes the nature of the Domain Name which carries a risk of implied affiliation, see section 2.5.1 of the WIPO Overview 3.0.
The Complainant has established a prima facie case that the Respondent lacks rights or legitimate interests in the Domain Name. The Respondent has had the opportunity to put on evidence of its rights or legitimate interests, including submissions as to why its conduct amounts to a right or legitimate interest in the Domain Name under the Policy. In the absence of such a response the Panel finds that the Respondent has no rights or legitimate interests in respect of the Domain Name under paragraph 4(a)(ii) of the Policy.
D. Registered and Used in Bad Faith
For the purposes of paragraph 4(a)(iii), the following circumstances, in particular but without limitation, if found by the Panel to be present, shall be evidence of the registration and use of a domain name in bad faith:
(i) circumstances indicating that the respondent has registered or has acquired the domain name primarily for the purpose of selling, renting, or otherwise transferring the domain name registration to the complainant who is the owner of the trademark or service mark or to a competitor of the complainant, for valuable consideration in excess of its documented out-of-pocket costs directly related to the domain name; or
(ii) the respondent has registered the domain name in order to prevent the owner of the trademark or service mark from reflecting the mark in a corresponding domain name, provided that the respondent has engaged in a pattern of such conduct; or
(iii) the respondent has registered the domain name primarily for the purpose of disrupting the business of a competitor; or
(iv) by using the domain name, the respondent has intentionally attempted to attract, for commercial gain, Internet users to its website or other online location, by creating a likelihood of confusion with the complainant’s mark as to the source, sponsorship, affiliation, or endorsement of the respondent’s website or location or of a product or service on the respondent’s website or location (Policy, paragraph 4(b)).
The Panel finds that the Respondent was aware of the Complainant and its reputation in the NINE WEST Mark at the time the Domain Name was registered. The Respondent’s Website contains numerous references to the Complainant, including purporting to offer the Complainant’s products for sale and reproducing the Complainant’s name. The registration of the Domain Name in awareness of the NINE WEST Mark and in the absence of rights or legitimate interests amounts under these circumstances to registration in bad faith.
The Respondent registered the Domain Name for the purposes of operating a website specifically to sell either the Complainant’s products or counterfeit products that compete with the Complainant’s products. The Respondent is using the Domain Name that is confusingly similar to the NINE WEST Mark to sell products, be they genuine or otherwise, in competition with the Complainant and without the Complainant’s approval and without meeting the Oki Data test. Moreover, an individual viewing the Domain Name may be confused into thinking that the Domain Name refers to a website in some way connected to the Complainant. Consequently, the Panel finds that the Respondent has intentionally attempted to attract, for commercial gain, Internet users to its website by creating a likelihood of confusion with the Complainant and the Complainant’s NINE WEST Mark as to the source, sponsorship, affiliation, or endorsement of the Respondent’s Website.
Accordingly, the Panel finds that the Respondent has registered and used the Domain Name in bad faith 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 Domain Name, <ninewest-romania.com> be transferred to the Complainant.
Date: December 8, 2021