WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center
ADMINISTRATIVE PANEL DECISION
Compagnie Générale des Etablissements Michelin v. qin xian sheng
Case No. D2021-4418
1. The Parties
The Complainant is Compagnie Générale des Etablissements Michelin, France, represented by Dreyfus & associés, France.
The Respondent is qin xian sheng, Singapore.
2. The Domain Name and Registrar
The disputed domain name <michalintires.com> is registered with Key-Systems GmbH (the “Registrar”).
3. Procedural History
The Complaint was filed with the WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center (the “Center”) on December 31, 2021. On January 3, 2022, the Center transmitted by email to the Registrar a request for registrar verification in connection with the disputed domain name. On January 5, 2022, 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 January 13, 2022, 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 January 18, 2022.
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 January 27, 2022. In accordance with the Rules, paragraph 5, the due date for Response was February 16, 2022. The Respondent did not submit any response. Accordingly, the Center notified the Respondent’s default on March 3, 2022.
The Center appointed Adam Samuel as the sole panelist in this matter on March 8, 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 manufactures tires. The Complainant owns a number of trademarks for the name MICHELIN in a variety of countries including International trademark no. 771031, registered on June 11, 2001. The Complainant promotes its business using a number of domain names, notably <michelintires.com>, registered on May 20, 1999.
The disputed domain name was registered on June 21, 2021. The disputed domain name originally resolved to a website indicating “You are not authorized to view this page”. It later resolved to a betting website and is now inactive.
5. Parties’ Contentions
The disputed domain name misspells the Complainant’s trademark by replacing the letter “e” with the letter “a” thus increasing the chances of typing errors and the likelihood of confusion among Internet users that can be distracted and led to believe that the disputed domain name will direct them to the official website. This is “typosquatting”. The addition of the word “tires” heightens the likelihood of confusion because refers directly to the Complainant’s field of activity. The generic Top Level Domain (“gTLD”) is not be taken into consideration when considering whether the disputed domain name is confusingly similar to the Complainant’s trademark.
The Respondent is not affiliated with the Complainant in any way. The Complainant has not authorized the Respondent to use and register its trademark or seek the registration of any domain name incorporating it. The Respondent has no prior rights or legitimate interest in the disputed domain name. The Complainant registered its MICHELIN trademarks some years prior to the registration of the disputed domain name. The disputed domain is so confusingly similar to the Complainant’s famous trademark that the Respondent cannot reasonably pretend that it was intending to develop a legitimate activity through the disputed domain name.
The Respondent was clearly aware of the Complainant when he registered the disputed domain name. This is apparent from the addition of the word “tires” to a misspelling of the Complainant’s trademark in the composition of the disputed domain name. Typosquatting is in itself evidence of bad faith. Initially, the Respondent diverted Internet users to a Chinese betting site for commercial gain. The Respondent also failed to respond to a cease-and-desist letter sent to it by the Complainant.
The Respondent did not reply to the Complainant’s contentions.
6. Discussion and Findings
To succeed, the Complainant must demonstrate that all of the elements listed in paragraph 4(a) of the Policy have been satisfied:
(i) the disputed domain name is identical or confusingly similar to a trademark or service mark in which the Complainant has rights;
(ii) the Respondent has no rights or legitimate interests in respect of the disputed domain name; and
(iii) the disputed domain name has been registered and is being used in bad faith.
A. Identical or Confusingly Similar
The disputed domain name consists of the Complainant’s distinctive trademark MICHELIN with the letter “e” replaced by the letter “a”, followed by the word “tires”, and the gTLD “.com”.
The gTLD is irrelevant here as it is a standard registration requirement. See section 1.11 of the WIPO Overview of WIPO Panel Views on Selected UDRP Questions, Third Edition (“WIPO Overview 3.0”).
“Tires” reflects a major activity of the Complainant. Section 1.8 of the WIPO Overview 3.0 says:
“Where the relevant trademark is recognizable within the disputed domain name, the addition of other terms (whether descriptive … or otherwise) would not prevent a finding of confusing similarity under the first element.”
As to the misspelt version of the Complainant’s trademark section 1.9 of the WIPO Overview 3.0 says:
“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. […]
Examples of such typos include […] substitution of similar-appearing characters (e.g. […] numbers used to look like letters)”.
For all these reasons, the Panel concludes that the disputed domain name is confusingly similar to the Complainant’s trademark.
B. Rights or Legitimate Interests
The Respondent is not called “Michalintires” or anything similar. There is no evidence that the Complainant has ever authorized the Respondent to use its trademarks. The Respondent does not appear to have used the disputed domain name for any legitimate purpose.
Based on the available record, where the Complainant has made out a preliminary case that the Respondent lacks rights or legitimate interests, and in the absence of any response on this point, the Panel concludes that the Respondent has no rights or legitimate interests in respect of the disputed domain name. See section 2.1 of the WIPO Overview 3.0.
C. Registered and Used in Bad Faith
The substitution of “a” for “e” in the reproduction of the Complainant’s trademark in the disputed domain name suggests that this is a typosquatting case. This view is reinforced by the addition of the word “tires”, one of the Complainant’s best known products and the similarity between the disputed domain name and one of the Complainant’s domain names <michelintires.com>. The Respondent knew of the Complainant and its principal activity when the Respondent registered the disputed domain name.
Section 1.9 of the WIPO Overview 3.0 says:
“Under the second and third elements, panels will normally find that employing a misspelling in this way signals an intention on the part of the respondent (typically corroborated by infringing website content) to confuse users seeking or expecting the complainant.”
The Respondent appears to have registered the disputed domain name primarily to attract for commercial gain Internet users to its website by creating a likelihood of confusion with the Complainant’s mark as to the source, sponsorship, affiliation, or endorsement of the Respondent’s website. This is evidence of registration and use in bad faith: paragraph 4(b)(iv) of the Policy.
For all these reasons, the Panel concludes that the Respondent registered and is using the disputed domain name in bad faith.
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, <michalintires.com> be transferred to the Complainant.
Date: March 21, 2022