WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center
ADMINISTRATIVE PANEL DECISION
Compagnie Générale des Etablissements Michelin v. Basak Cansun
Case No. D2021-4073
1. The Parties
Complainant is Compagnie Générale des Etablissements Michelin, France, represented by Dreyfus & associés, France.
Respondent Is Basak Cansun, United States of America (U.S.).
2. The Domain Name and Registrar
The disputed domain name <micheiin.com> is registered with Alibaba.com Singapore E-Commerce Private Limited (the “Registrar”).
3. Procedural History
The Complaint was filed with the WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center (the “Center”) on December 6, 2021. On December 6, 2021, the Center transmitted by email to the Registrar a request for registrar verification in connection with the disputed domain name. On December 8, 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 Complainant on December 16, 2021 providing the registrant and contact information disclosed by the Registrar, and inviting Complainant to submit an amendment to the Complaint. Complainant filed an amended Complaint on December 21, 2021.
The Center verified that the Complaint together with 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 Respondent of the Complaint, and the proceedings commenced on December 22, 2021. In accordance with the Rules, paragraph 5, the due date for Response was January 11, 2022. Respondent did not submit any response. Accordingly, the Center notified the Respondent’s default on January 14, 2022.
The Center appointed José M. Checa 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
Complainant is a leading tire company dedicated to enhancing its clients’ needs in terms of mobility and sustainably, designing and distributing the most suitable tires, services and solutions and providing digital services, maps and guides to help enrich travelling.
Complainant owns numerous trademark registrations for the MICHELIN mark across the world, including in the United States, the European Union and numerous other countries. Among others, Complainant owns the following registrations for the MICHELIN mark: U.S. trademark No. 892045, filed on June 5, 1969, registered on June 2, 1970, class 12; U.S. trademark No. 4126565, filed on January 19, 2011, registered on April 10, 2012, classes 36, 37, 39; U.S. Trademark No. 1399361, filed on May 28, 1985, registered on July 1, 1986, classes 16, 25, 28; U.S. Trademark Registration No. 3122052, registered on July 25, 2006, claiming first use in 2004, European Union Trademark Registration No. 013558366, registered on April 17, 2015, classes 9, 35, 38, 39, 41 and 42; and International Registration No. 771031, registered on June 11, 2001, classes 5, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 16, 17, 18, 20, 21, 24, 25, 39 and 42.
Complainant also owns, among others, the <michelin.com> domain name, registered on December 1, 1993.
The disputed domain name was registered on September 27, 2021 and it is currently inactive.
5. Parties’ Contentions
Complainant has provided evidence of trademark registrations for the MICHELIN mark around the world.
Complainant is a leading tire company dedicated to enhancing its clients’ needs in terms of mobility and sustainably, designing and distributing the most suitable tires, services and solutions and providing digital services, maps and guides to help enrich travelling. Numerous UDRP decisions acknowledge that Complainant’s mark is famous. Complainant does business in 171 countries and has 114,000 employees worldwide. Complainant started its business activity in 1889 and in 1920 created the “Michelin Guide”. More recently, Complainant has developed digital services for travel assistance.
According to the Complaint, the disputed domain name is confusingly similar to the trademark MICHELIN, the only difference being the substitution of the letter “L” by a letter “i” which results in a situation of typosquatting. The addition of the generic Top-Level-Domain (“gTLD”) “.com” to the disputed domain name is irrelevant to the confusingly similar analysis.
Respondent is neither affiliated with, nor has it been licensed or permitted to use Complainant’s MICHELIN mark. Complainant confirms that it has no legal relationship with Respondent and that Respondent is not commonly known by the disputed domain name. Complainant argues that Respondent is neither using the disputed domain name in connection with a bona fide offering of goods or services or making a legitimate noncommercial or fair use of the disputed domain name. Respondent is engaged in a phishing scheme, a practice intended to defraud consumers into revealing sensitive information. In particular, Respondent has sent fraudulent emails imitating a payment order and requesting to proceed with a payment of USD 1 500 215.38.
Given the fame of its MICHELIN mark, Complainant further adds that Respondent was or should have been aware of the MICHELIN trademark prior to registering the disputed domain name and also, that there are no circumstances under which Respondent’s use of the disputed domain name could plausibly be in good faith under the Policy. In addition, the registration of a confusingly similar domain name that is so obviously connected with a particular trademark owner by someone with no connection with the trademark owner suggests bad faith. As mentioned above, Complainant further argues that Respondent is using the disputed domain name in connection with fraudulent activities (phishing) which constitutes evidence of bad faith use of the disputed domain name. In view of these phishing activities, Complainant attempted to seek redresses of the situation by sending communications to the Registrar and the Host of the disputed domain name but neither of them provided any response to the request.
The Respondent did not reply to the Complainant’s contentions.
6. Discussion and Findings
A. Identical or Confusingly Similar
Complainant has provided evidence of its trademark registrations for MICHELIN establishing clear trademark rights in the mark.
The Panel finds that for the purpose of considering whether the disputed domain name is identical or confusingly similar to Complainant’s MICHELIN mark, the gTLD “.com” should be disregarded (WIPO Overview of WIPO Panel Views on Selected UDRP Questions, Third Edition (“WIPO Overview of 3.0”), section 1.11.1). Thus, on a side-by-side comparison of Complainant’s mark (“MICHELIN”) and the disputed domain name (“micheiin”), the Panel is of the view that, despite the substitution of the letter “L” for the letter “i”, there is still a great deal of similarity between the mark and the disputed domain name (WIPO Overview of 3.0, section 1.19). See also Compagnie Générale des Etablissements Michelin v. John Owens, WIPO Case No. D2021-3618 (<michelln.com>).
The Panel accordingly finds that the disputed domain name is confusingly similar to Complainant’s trademark as required by paragraph 4(a)(i) of the Policy.
B. Rights or Legitimate Interests
Complainant has put forward unrebutted assertions that it has not granted any license or authorization to Respondent to register the disputed domain name or otherwise make use of its trademark, or that Respondent is not commonly known by the disputed domain name.
Complainant has also provided evidence of at least one email, sent from an email address using the disputed domain name and impersonating one of Complainant’s employees, addressed to another company and requesting a payment for the amount of USD 1 500 215.38. UDRP panels have held that the use of a domain name for an illegal activity (e.g., phishing, impersonation/passing off, or other types of fraud) can never confer rights or legitimate interests on a respondent (WIPO Overview of 3.0, section 2.13).
The Panel considers that Complainant has made a prima facie case that Respondent lacks rights or legitimate interests to the disputed domain name (WIPO Overview 3.0, section 2.1). Respondent is in default and thus, it has not put forward any circumstance that would indicate any right or legitimate interest to the disputed domain name.
Accordingly, the Panel finds that Respondent has no rights or legitimate interests in respect of the disputed domain name in accordance with paragraph 4(a)(ii) of the Policy.
C. Registered and Used in Bad Faith
The Panel finds that the phishing activities carried out by Respondent are clear evidence of registration and use of the disputed domain name in bad faith. It also becomes clear that Respondent specifically targeted Complainant when registering a domain name identical to Complainant’s mark (conveniently altered by a slight typo) so that Respondent could engage in these fraudulent practices. The layout of the fraudulent email put forward as evidence by Complainant shows a calculated communication designed to deceive the addressee of the email.
Panels have held that the use of a domain name for purposes such as sending email, phishing, identity theft, or to send deceptive emails, e.g., to obtain sensitive or confidential personal information to solicit payment of fraudulent invoices by the complainant’s actual or prospective customers is evidence of registration and use of the domain name in bad faith (WIPO Overview of 3.0, section 3.4).
The Panel also finds the following factors supporting a bad faith registration and use of the disputed domain name: (i) Complainant’s widely used MICHELIN mark and its registration in numerous countries around the world predating the registration date of the disputed domain name, (ii) the nature of the disputed domain name i.e., a typo of the MICHELIN widely-known mark, (iii) Respondent’s failure to submit a response or to provide any evidence of actual or contemplated good-faith use, (iv) Respondent’s concealing its identity, and (v) the implausibility of any good faith use to which the domain name may be put. (WIPO Overview of 3.0, section 3.3).
Accordingly, the Panel finds that the disputed domain name has been registered and is being used in bad faith in accordance with 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, <micheiin.com> be transferred to the Complainant.
José M. Checa
Date: February 3, 2022