WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center
ADMINISTRATIVE PANEL DECISION
Veolia Environnement SA v. Hartford Vehicle
Case No. D2021-3821
1. The Parties
The Complainant is Veolia Environnement SA, France, represented by IP Twins, France.
The Respondent is Hartford Vehicle, United States of America (“United States”).
2. The Domain Name and Registrar
The disputed domain name <veoiia.com> is registered with Wild West Domains, LLC (the “Registrar”).
3. Procedural History
The Complaint was filed with the WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center (the “Center”) on November 10, 2021. On November 16, 2021, the Center transmitted by email to the Registrar a request for registrar verification in connection with the disputed domain name. On November 16, 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 November 18, 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 November 19, 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 November 30, 2021. In accordance with the Rules, paragraph 5, the due date for Response was December 20, 2021. The Respondent did not submit any response. Accordingly, the Center notified the Respondent’s default on December 28, 2021. On the same day, the Center received an email from the third party.
The Center appointed Dr. Clive N.A. Trotman as the sole panelist in this matter on January 20, 2022. 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 holding company of a long-established group of companies based in France and having recently an annual revenue in the region of EUR 26 billion, concerned with water supplies, waste recovery, energy distribution, and other broadly related industries. The Veolia group has more than 179,000 employees world-wide. The Complainant is also prominent in the fields of climate change, carbon pricing, and recycling.
In March 2020, the Complainant became aware of the use of the disputed domain name coupled with the actual name of an authentic purchasing manager of the Complainant, without authority. After a cease and desist letter to the registrant at that time and a complaint to the registrar, the disputed domain name was suspended but became generally available. The disputed domain name was then acquired under different registrant details and has been used again in September 2021 in a similar manner, relying on confusion between the upper-case “i” (I) and lower-case “L” (l), such that the disputed domain name <veoiia.com> can be made to look like <veolia.com>. A cease and desist letter has been sent to the present Respondent.
The Complainant is the registrant of trademarks for VEOLIA including:
VEOLIA, international trademark, registered on September 11, 2003, registration number 814678, in classes 1, 6, 9, 11, 17, 19, 32, 35, 36, 37, 39, 40, 41, and 42;
VEOLIA, international trademark, registered on March 10, 2006, registration number 0910325, in classes 9, 11, 16, 32, 35, 36, 37, 38, 39, 40, 41, 42, and 44; and
VEOLIA, United States Patent and Trademark Office, registered on September 27, 2005, registration number 3000764, in classes 1, 9, 11, 35, 36, 37, 39, 40, 41, and 42.
The Complainant has also owned the domain name <veolia.com> since December 30, 2002.
Background information about the Respondent is not available except for such contact details as were provided to the Registrar for the purpose of registration of the disputed domain name on August 31, 2021. The disputed domain has not resolved to an active website but has been used as the basis of an email address.
5. Parties’ Contentions
The Complainant contends that the disputed domain name is identical or confusingly similar to a trademark in which the Complainant has rights. In particular the confusion derives from the disputed domain name being used with the first letter “i” being in its upper case form “I”, making the disputed domain name look like the Complainant’s trademark as it appears in the Complainant’s own domain name <veolia.com>. The presence of the generic Top-Level Domain (gTLD) “.com” conventionally should not impinge on a finding of confusing similarity of the disputed domain name to the Complainant’s trademark.
The Complainant says the Respondent has no rights or legitimate interests in respect of the disputed domain name, is not affiliated with the Complainant, and has not been authorised or licensed to use the Complainant’s trademark. Some of the Complainant’s trademarks are several years older than the disputed domain name. The Respondent cannot reasonably claim any intent to use the disputed domain name for any legitimate purpose and is unlikely to have been commonly known by the disputed domain name or similar. The Respondent has not replied to or contested the Complainant’s cease and desist letter.
The Complainant further contends that the disputed domain name was registered and is being used in bad faith. Registration was in bad faith because it is implausible that the Respondent was unaware of Complainant’s well-known trademark. In previous cases under the Policy it has been held that the registration of a domain name so obviously connected with a well-known trademark by someone having no connection with that trademark suggests opportunistic bad faith. A simple search of the Internet for the Complainant’s trademark would have found it. The registration of a domain name for the purpose of a cyber attack constitutes registration in bad faith.
In terms particularly of use in bad faith, the Complainant says the disputed domain name, incorporating a well-known trademark, is passively held in the various circumstances that, in previous cases under the Policy, have been held to be sufficient for a finding of registration and use in bad faith. The Complainant also says that, most probably, the Respondent’s primary motive was to take advantage of the Complainant’s trademark rights by creating confusion with the disputed domain name, at least initially.
The Complainant has cited previous decisions under the Policy, including concerning itself, that it considers to be helpful to the Panel.
The Complainant requests the transfer of the disputed domain name.
The Respondent did not reply to the Complainant’s contentions.
An email dated December 28, 2021, was received by the Center from a third party referencing the relevant Notification of Respondent Default. The essence of the email was that the sender had replied twice previously, stating that the disputed domain name “does not currently resolve to an IP address at this time”, and related matters. The Center replied on December 29, 2021, to the effect that the sender was different from the Respondent and was asked to establish his or her relationship to the Respondent. There was no reply.
6. Discussion and Findings
Paragraph 4(a) of the Policy states that the Respondent is required to submit to a mandatory administrative proceeding in the event that the Complainant asserts to the applicable dispute-resolution provider, in compliance with the Rules, that:
“(i) your domain name is identical or confusingly similar to a trademark or service mark in which the complainant has rights; and
(ii) you have no rights or legitimate interests in respect of the domain name; and
(iii) your domain name has been registered and is being used in bad faith”.
The Complainant has made the relevant assertions as required by the Policy. The dispute is properly within the scope of the Policy and the Panel has jurisdiction to decide the dispute.
A. Identical or Confusingly Similar
The Panel has perused the trademark registration evidence produced by the Complainant and is satisfied that the Complainant has the requisite rights in the trademark VEOLIA.
The disputed domain name is <veoiia.com>, of which the gTLD “.com” may be disregarded in the determination of confusing similarity. On an objective comparison, the Panel finds the Complainant’s trademark readily recognizable in the disputed domain name as to constitute confusing similarity in the terms of paragraph 4(a)(i) of the Policy. Further to the WIPO Overview of WIPO Panel Views on Selected UDRP Questions, Third Edition (“WIPO Overview 3.0”), section 1.9, a domain name which consists of a common, obvious, or intentional misspelling of a trademark is considered by panels to be confusingly similar to the relevant mark for purposes of the first element.
The Panel finds that the Complainant has established paragraph 4(a)(i) of the Policy.
B. Rights or Legitimate Interests
The Complainant has stated that the Respondent has no rights or legitimate interests in respect of the disputed domain name. The Complainant states it has no connection with the Respondent, which has not been authorised to use the Complainant’s trademark in any way. The Complainant having established a prima facie case under paragraph 4(a)(ii) of the Policy, it is for the Respondent to contest the Complainant’s prima facie case and to establish rights or legitimate interests in the disputed domain name by demonstrating, without limitation:
“(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”.
There is no evidence the disputed domain name is in use for a website or for any bona fide commercial or noncommercial purpose, and there is no evidence the Respondent has been known by the disputed domain name. The Respondent has not responded formally to either the cease and desist letter or the Complaint and has not asserted rights or legitimate interests in the disputed domain name with reference to paragraphs 4(c)(i), (ii) or (iii) of the Policy or otherwise. Moreover, the evidence presented includes assertions of the use of the disputed domain name for a fraudulent email scheme. Panels have categorically held that the use of a domain name for illegal activity (e.g., phishing, impersonation/passing off, or other types of fraud) can never confer rights or legitimate interests on a respondent. See section 2.13 of the WIPO Overview 3.0.
The Panel finds that the Respondent does not have rights or legitimate interests in the disputed domain name and finds for the Complainant under paragraph 4(a)(ii) of the Policy.
C. Registered and Used in Bad Faith
The Complainant must prove under paragraph 4(a)(iii) of the Policy that the disputed domain name has been registered and is being used in bad faith. Paragraph 4(b) of the Policy lists four alternative circumstances that shall be evidence of the registration and use of a domain name in bad faith by a respondent, namely:
“(i) circumstances indicating that you have registered or you have 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 that complainant, for valuable consideration in excess of your documented out-of-pocket costs directly related to the domain name; or
(ii) you have 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 you have engaged in a pattern of such conduct; or
(iii) you have registered the domain name primarily for the purpose of disrupting the business of a competitor; or
(iv) by using the domain name, you have intentionally attempted to attract, for commercial gain, Internet users to your web site or other on-line location, by creating a likelihood of confusion with the complainant’s mark as to the source, sponsorship, affiliation, or endorsement of your website or location or of a product or service on your website or location”.
The provisions of paragraph 4(b) of the Policy are without limitation and bad faith may be found alternatively by the Panel.
Evidence produced by the Complainant shows the use of the disputed domain name by the Respondent for the basis of an email address. The email was received by another company that was due to make a payment to the Complainant, but the email provided the details of a bank account in Greece to which to send the payment, which appeared to be irregular. The company making payment checked with the Complainant, attaching a copy of the suspicious email.
Although at first glance the suspicious email appeared to have been sent from an address “[…]@veolia.com”, being the Complainant, on close inspection it came from an address connected to the disputed domain name, e.g.,“[…]@veoiia.com”.
On the totality of the evidence and on the balance of probabilities, in the terms of paragraph 4(b)(iv) of the Policy, the disputed domain name is found to have been used with intent to attract an Internet user by confusion with the Complainant, to the Respondent’s on-line location, namely its email address, for the purpose of commercial gain by the diversion of funds, constituting use in bad faith. On the evidence, the Panel further finds the disputed domain name to have been registered in order to impersonate and to target specifically the Complainant, constituting registration in bad faith.
The Respondent is further found to have registered and used the disputed domain name, intentionally incorporating a well-known and long established trademark of which the Respondent’s actions demonstrate that it was clearly aware, without any plausible or possible potential use in good faith, further constituting registration and use in bad faith.
Accordingly registration and use of the disputed domain name by the Respondent in bad faith are found in the terms 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 <veoiia.com> be transferred to the Complainant.
Dr. Clive N.A. Trotman
Date: February 2, 2022