WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center
ADMINISTRATIVE PANEL DECISION
Allianz SE v. Whois Agent, Domain Protection Services, Inc. / George Obiakor, Systemgram
Case No. D2021-3502
1. The Parties
The Complainant is Allianz SE, Germany, internally represented.
The Respondent is Whois Agent, Domain Protection Services, Inc., United States of America / George Obiakor, Systemgram, Viet Nam.
2. The Domain Name and Registrar
The disputed domain name <allianzglobalinvestment.com> (“Domain Name”) is registered with Name.com, Inc. (Name.com LLC) (the “Registrar”).
3. Procedural History
The Complaint was filed with the WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center (the “Center”) on October 21, 2021. On October 22, 2021, the Center transmitted by email to the Registrar a request for registrar verification in connection with the Domain Name. On October 26, 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 31, 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 November 2, 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 November 4, 2021. In accordance with the Rules, paragraph 5, the due date for Response was November 24, 2021. The Respondent did not submit any response. Accordingly, the Center notified the Respondent’s default on November 30, 2021.
The Center appointed Willem J. H. Leppink as the sole panelist in this matter on December 23, 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 following facts are undisputed.
The Complainant is a company organized under the laws of Germany and the European Union. It is the parent company of a large and well-established international insurance and financial services group. The earliest of Complainant’s predecessors was founded in 1890 in Berlin, Germany. In 1893, the first international branch, an office in London, was opened. Since its inception, the Complainant has continuously operated under the Allianz name, which it has used in connection with its insurance, healthcare, and financial services products.
Over the years, the Complainant has devoted substantial resources and efforts building goodwill in the ALLIANZ family of marks. The Complainant is the owner of various trademark registrations, including, but not limited to the International Registration ALLIANZ (word mark), with registration no. 447004, with a registration date of September 12, 1979, for services in class 36, and the European Union Trade Mark ALLIANZ, with registration no. 000013656, with a filing date of April 1, 1996, and a registration date of July 7, 2002, for goods and services in classes 16, 35, and 36 (hereinafter jointly and in singular referred to as the “Trademark”).
The Complainants also has registered many domain names incorporating the Trademark, e.g., <allianz.de>, <allianz.com>, <allianz.us>, <allianz.fr>, <allianzgi.com>, and <allianz-jobs.com>.
The Domain Name was registered on October 11, 2021. At the time of filing the Complaint, the Domain Name resolved to a webpage were the visitor could fill in login details for services to protect its financial funds against online fraud (the “Website”).
5. Parties’ Contentions
The Complainant contends the following:
The Domain Name is confusingly similar to the Trademark. The Internet user will recognize the famous corporate name and the Trademark in the Domain Name. Through the Domain Name, customers expect to reach one of the websites belonging to the Complainants or one of its subsidiaries. The same applies in a customer received email correspondence under the Domain Name. The Allianz Group is one of the largest providers of all kinds of financial products and services worldwide (e.g., insurance, asset management, assistance services). The use of the Domain Name for financial services implies that the Respondent belongs to, or is somehow related to, Allianz Group, which is clearly not the case.
The reputation and highly distinctive character of the Trademark has been confirmed by different authorities, such as courts, administrative agencies, and proceedings under the Policy. One example is a decision by the Oberlandesgericht München (Higher Regional Court of Munich) dated November 25, 1999. The court ruled that the hip-hop Group “Die Allianz” was infringing the Complainant’s Mark, which it found has an extraordinarily high level of recognition in the general public.
Every time the public reaches the Respondent’s website through the Domain Name results in damage to the Complainant’s image and it poses a threat to individuals that are potentially interested in a financial relationship with the Complainant.
The Complainant further contends that the Respondent has no rights or legitimate interests in the Domain Name. According to the Complainant, the Respondent has never received a license or any other form of authorization or consent from the Complainant to make use of the Trademark. The Respondent is not commonly known by the Domain Name. On the contrary, the Respondent is exploiting the fact that Internet users are hoping to access a website to communicate with someone who belongs to the Complainant’s Group of companies. The Respondent is thus trading on the fame of the Complainant’s mark, which is connected in public perception with insurance and financial services. Moreover, the Respondent is exploiting with the Website the good name of the Complainant. The Respondent is a “free-rider” and fraudster trying to take unfair advantage of the well-known trademark of the Complainant.
The Complainant further contends that the Respondent has no rights or legitimate interests in the Domain Name. According to the Complainant, it cannot be reasonably argued that the Respondent could have been unaware of the well-known trademark when registering the Domain Name. This conclusion is supported by the fact that the Domain Name wholly incorporates the Trademark. Moreover, the Respondent’s name refers to the German term “Allianz” without any other reference to Germany or the German language at all. Therefore, the Respondent acted in bad faith when registering the Domain Name.
The Respondent did not reply to the Complainant’s contentions.
6. Discussion and Findings
Pursuant to paragraph 4(a) of the Policy, the Complainant must prove each of the following three elements:
(i) the Domain Name is identical or confusingly similar to a trademark 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.
Noting the burden of proof on the Complainant, the Respondent’s default (i.e., failure to submit a formal response) would not by itself mean that the Complainant is deemed to have prevailed. The Respondent’s default is not necessarily an admission that the Complainant’s claims are true. See in this regard WIPO Overview of WIPO Panel Views on Selected UDRP Questions, Third Edition (“WIPO Overview 3.0”), section 4.3, “In cases involving wholly unsupported and conclusory allegations advanced by the complainant, or where a good faith defense is apparent (e.g., from the content of the website to which a disputed domain name resolves), panels may find that – despite a respondent’s default – a complainant has failed to prove its case. Further to paragraph 14(b) of the UDRP Rules however, panels have been prepared to draw certain inferences in light of the particular facts and circumstances of the case e.g., where a particular conclusion is prima facie obvious, where an explanation by the respondent is called for but is not forthcoming, or where no other plausible conclusion is apparent.”
A. Identical or Confusingly Similar
The Complainant must demonstrate that it has rights in a trademark or service mark and, if so, the Domain Name must be shown to be identical or confusingly similar to that mark.
The Complainant has shown that it has rights in the Trademark, valid in various jurisdictions, including Germany and the European Union.
As set out in the WIPO Overview 3.0, section 1.7, the first element functions primarily as a standing requirement. The threshold test for confusing similarity between the Domain Name and the Trademark involves a side-by-side comparison of the domain name and the textual components of the relevant trademark to assess whether the mark is recognizable within the Domain Name.
In light of the foregoing, the Panel finds that the Domain Name is confusingly similar to the Trademark. The Domain Name consists of the elements “allianz” and the dictionary terms “global”, “investment”, and the gTLD “.com”. The element “allianz” is identical to the Trademark. The Panel finds that the Trademark is included in its entirety in the Domain Name and that the additional terms do not prevent a finding of confusing similarity.
In light of the foregoing, the Panel finds that the Domain Name is confusingly similar to the Trademark.
Therefore, the Panel is satisfied that the first element of the Policy is met.
B. Rights or Legitimate Interests
The Panel has carefully considered the factual allegations that have been made by the Complainant and are supported by the submitted evidence.
In particular, the Respondent has failed to offer the Panel any of the types of evidence set forth in paragraph 4(c) of the Policy from which the Panel might conclude that the Respondent has rights or legitimate interests in the Domain Name, such as:
(i) use or preparation to use the Domain Name or a name corresponding to the Domain Name in connection with a bona fide offering of goods or services prior to notice of the dispute; or
(ii) being commonly known by the Domain Name (as an individual, business or other organization) even if the Respondent has not acquired any trademark or service mark rights; or
(iii) making 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 does not seem to be affiliated with the Complainant in any way. There is no evidence that “Allianz Global Investment” is the Respondent’s name or that the Respondent is commonly known under this name. There is also no evidence that the Respondent is, or has ever been, a licensee of the Complainant or that the Respondent has ever asked, or has ever been permitted in any way by the Complainant to register or use the Trademark, or to apply for or use any domain name incorporating the Trademark.
In addition, UDRP panels have categorically held that the use of a domain name for illegal activity can never confer rights or legitimate interests on a respondent, e.g., impersonation/passing off, or other types of fraud (see WIPO Overview 3.0 at section 2.13.1 with further references). It results from the undisputed evidence before the Panel that the Domain Name resolved to a web page allegedly offering financial services for online protection of funds and for new online financial transactions via the Website. Furthermore, it allegedly allowed the visitors to log in on the Website, requesting said log in information, seemingly in order to retrieve sensitive information from unsuspecting Internet users misled by the confusingly similar Domain Name, highlighting the risk of implied affiliation. Finally, the Respondent has masked its identity to avoid being contactable.
For the Panel, it is also clear from the facts presented in this case that the Respondent is not making any legitimate noncommercial fair use of the Domain Name.
Noting further that the Respondent has failed to respond to the Complaint and thus has not taken any steps to rebut the Complainant’s arguments, the Panel finds that the Respondent lacks rights to or legitimate interest in the Domain Name.
Therefore, the Panel is satisfied that the second element of the Policy is met.
C. Registered and Used in Bad Faith
The Panel finds that the Domain Name was registered and is being used in bad faith.
The Panel refers to its considerations under section 6.B and adds the following:
In light of the evidence filed by the Complainant, the Panel finds that the Trademark and the Complainant’s activities are well known throughout the world. Accordingly, in the Panel’s view, also taking into account the suggested offering of financial services, the Respondent must have been aware of the existence of the Complainant’s activities and rights at the time the Respondent registered the Domain Name. The Panel’s finding is reinforced given the construction of the Domain Name, namely the addition of terms associated with, and descriptive of, the Complainant’s coverage and services.
In the Panel’s view, there is no plausible explanation why the Respondent registered the Domain Name other than the Respondent intending to trade off the goodwill and reputation associated with the Complainant. The Panel finds that the Respondent has intentionally attempted to attract Internet users to the Website by creating a likelihood of confusion with the Trademark.
Last, the Respondent uses a privacy shield to hide his contact details and did not avail itself of the opportunity to respond to the claims made by the Complainant, which are also additional factors for considering a registration in bad faith (see WIPO Overview 3.0, section 3.6).
Therefore, the Panel is satisfied that the third element of the Policy is met.
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, <allianzglobalinvestment.com> be transferred to the Complainant.
Willem J. H. Leppink
Date: January 6, 2022