WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center
ADMINISTRATIVE PANEL DECISION
Compagnie Générale des Etablissements Michelin v. John Owens
Case No. D2021-3618
1. The Parties
The Complainant is Compagnie Générale des Etablissements Michelin, France, represented by Dreyfus & associés, France.
The Respondent is John Owens, United States of America (“United States”).
2. The Domain Name and Registrar
The disputed domain name <michelln.com> (the “Domain Name”) is registered with PDR Ltd. d/b/a PublicDomainRegistry.com (the “Registrar”).
3. Procedural History
The Complaint was filed with the WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center (the “Center”) on October 29, 2021. On November 1, 2021, the Center transmitted by email to the Registrar a request for registrar verification in connection with the Domain Name. On November 2, 2021, the Registrar transmitted by email to the Center its verification response confirming that the Respondent is listed as the registrant and providing the contact details. The Center sent an email communication to the Complainant on November 5, 2021 providing the registrant and contact information disclosed by the Registrar, and inviting the Complainant to submit an amendment to the Complaint.
The Center verified that the Complaint satisfy 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 17, 2021. In accordance with the Rules, paragraph 5, the due date for Response was December 7, 2021. The Respondent did not submit any response. Accordingly, the Center notified the Respondent’s default on December 8, 2021.
The Center appointed Mathias Lilleengen as the sole panelist in this matter on December 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 was founded in 1889 and is a tire company, designing and distributing tires, digital services, maps and guides. The Complainant is present in 170 countries, has more than 124,000 employees and operates 117 tire manufacturing facilities and sales agencies in 26 countries, including United States, where the Respondent is located.
The Complainant owns several trademarks registrations of the MICHELIN trademark in numerous countries around the world, such as United States trademark registration number 4126565, registered on April 10, 2012, and no. 0892045, registered on June 2, 1970. The Complainant is also the owner of the domain name <michelin.com>, registered on December 1, 1993.
The Domain Name was registered on June 15, 2021. At the time of drafting the Decision, the Domain Name redirected to an error page.
5. Parties’ Contentions
The Complainant argues that it has registered trademark rights in MICHELIN, and the trademark has developed public recognition and goodwill. The Complainant argues that the Domain Name is virtually identical or at least confusingly similar to its trademarks. The Domain Name imitates the trademark MICHELIN by replacing the letter “i” by the letter “l”. Thus, this does not significantly affect the appearance or pronunciation of the Domain Name.
The Complainant asserts that the Respondent is not affiliated with nor authorized by the Complainant in any way. The Complainant argues that the Respondent cannot establish rights in the Domain Name, as the Respondent has not made any use of, or demonstrable preparations to use, the Domain Name in connection with a bona fide offering of goods or services. The Complainant submits that the disputed domain name, which imitates Complainant’s trademark, resolves to a CentOS website representing the Community ENTerprise Operating System. There is no evidence that the Respondent is commonly known by the Domain Name or the name “MICHELIN”, or that the Respondent is making a legitimate noncommercial or fair use of the Domain Name. On the contrary, the Complainant asserts that the Respondent by registering the Domain Name is engaged in “typosquatting” and solely seeks to take advantage of Internet users. The Respondent’s lack of response further indicates that the Respondent does not have any legitimate interests with respect to the Domain Name.
Finally, the Complainant submits that it is evident that the Complainant is well known throughout the world, including United States, and the Respondent must have been aware of the Complainant’s trademark when the Respondent registered the Domain Name. Furthermore, the Complainant’s MICHELIN trademark registrations predate the registration date of the Domain Name. The Domain Name constitutes a typosquatting variant of Complainant’s trademark, and typosquatting is sufficient to establish use and registration in bad faith. The Complainant submits that the Respondent is using the Domain Name with the intention to attract, for commercial gain, Internet users to the website by creating a likelihood of confusion with the Complainant’s trademark as to the source, sponsorship, affiliation, or endorsement of its website.
The Respondent did not reply to the Complainant’s contentions.
6. Discussion and Findings
A. Identical or Confusingly Similar
The Complainant has established rights in its trademark MICHELIN. The test for confusing similarity involves a comparison between the trademark and the Domain Name. In this case, the Domain Name is identical to the Domain Name except that the letter “i” is replaced by the letter “l”. The alteration does not prevent a finding of confusing similarity. For the purposes of assessing confusing similarity under paragraph 4(a)(i) of the Policy, it is permissible for the Panel to ignore the generic Top-Level Domain (“gTLD”) as it is viewed as a standard registration requirement, see WIPO Overview of WIPO Panel Views on Selected UDRP Questions, Third Edition (“WIPO Overview 3.0”) section 1.11.
The Panel finds that the Domain Name is confusingly similar to a trademark in which the Complainant has rights in accordance with paragraph 4(a)(i) of the Policy.
B. Rights or Legitimate Interests
The Complainant asserts that the Respondent is not affiliated with nor authorized by the Complainant. There is no evidence suggesting that the Respondent has any rights or legitimate interests in the Domain Name. Further, there is no evidence that the Respondent is commonly known by the Domain Name. The Respondent cannot establish rights in the Domain Name, as it has not made use of, or demonstrable preparations to use, the Domain Name in connection with a bona fide offering. On the contrary, the registration appears to be “typosquatting”. This is not bona fide, but rather suggests bad faith.
The Panel finds that the Complainant has made out a prima facie case showing that the Respondent has no rights or legitimate interests in the Domain Name, which has been unrebutted by the Respondent. Accordingly, the Panel finds that the Respondent has no rights or legitimate interests in respect of the Domain Name in accordance with paragraph 4(a)(ii) of the Policy.
C. Registered and Used in Bad Faith
Based on the case file, it is likely that the Respondent was aware of the Complainant’s trademark when the Respondent registered the Domain Name. The Complainant’s trademarks were registered long before the registration of the Domain Name, and the trademark MICHELIN is well known. The Domain Name is a simple mistype of the Complainant’s trademark.
As the Domain Name constitutes a simple typosquatting variant of the Complainant’s trademark, it seems to be registered to attract Internet users by misleading them into believing that the website at the Domain Name is authorized by or somehow connected to the Complainant. Panels have consistently found that the mere registration of a domain name that is identical or confusingly similar (particularly domain names comprising typos) to a well-known trademark by an unaffiliated entity can by itself can create a presumption of bad faith, see WIPO Overview 3.0, section 3.1.4. The Respondent has not replied to the Complainant’s cease and desist letter, nor the Complaint, and not provided any evidence of good-faith use. The fact that the Domain Name redirected to an error page at the time of drafting the Decision does not prevent a finding of bad faith.
The Panel concludes that the Domain Name was registered and is being used in bad faith, within the meaning of the 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 <michelln.com> be transferred to the Complainant.
Date: January 10, 2022