WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center
ADMINISTRATIVE PANEL DECISION
Merial v. Prince, RST Technologies
Case No. DCO2016-0007
1. The Parties
The Complainant is Merial of Lyon, France, represented by Cabinet Regimbeau, France.
The Respondent is Prince, RST Technologies of Abuja, Nigeria.
2. The Domain Name and Registrar
The disputed domain name <merial.co> 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 February 18, 2016. On February 18, 2016, the Center transmitted by email to the Registrar a request for registrar verification in connection with the disputed domain name. On February 19, 2016, 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 verified that 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 February 24, 2016. In accordance with the Rules, paragraph 5, the due date for Response was March 15, 2016. The Respondent did not submit any response. Accordingly, the Center notified the Respondent’s default on March 16, 2016.
The Center appointed Mihaela Maravela as the sole panelist in this matter on March 23, 2016. 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 Merial, a French company, a world leading, innovation-driven animal health company, providing a comprehensive range of products to enhance the health, well-being and performance of a wide range of animals. The Complainant employs approximately 6,600 people and operates in more than 150 countries worldwide. The annual sales of the Complainant in 2014 were more than USD 2 billion.
The Complainant owns numerous trademark registrations for MERIAL, including French trademark number 96646056, registered on October 10, 1996, and Community Trademark number 00050796, registered on January 19, 1999.
The Complainant operates its official website under the domain name <merial.com>.
The disputed domain name <merial.co> was registered by the Respondent on December 9, 2015 and does not resolve to an active website.
5. Parties’ Contentions
The Complainant contends that the disputed domain name reproduces identically the word “merial” which is a registered trademark of the Complainant.
Also, the Complainant states that the Respondent has no rights or legitimate interests in the disputed domain name. The disputed domain name is not directed to any website. According to the Complainant, the Respondent has the intention to benefit from the well-known MERIAL trademark in an illegitimate manner and to perpetrate fraud. As such, the Complainant shows that the Respondent used the disputed domain name to pretend that it is the Complainant by creating false e-mails pretending that they are genuine-mails coming from the Complainant to reroute payments for the Complainant’s goods to an unauthorized bank account in Slovakia.
In addition, the Complainant contends that the disputed domain name was registered and is being used in bad faith since the Respondent has registered the disputed domain name 19 years after the registration of the MERIAL trademark and since the Complainant is a world-leading company in the animal health field, the Respondent knew about the trademark MERIAL of the Complainant. The Respondent has registered the disputed domain name to perpetrate a fraud, pretending that it is the Complainant in order to obtain the payment from a client of the Complainant, who falsely believed that he made the payment on the Complainant’s bank account.
The Respondent did not reply to the Complainant’s contentions.
6. Discussion and Findings
Noting the fact that the Respondent has not filed a Response, the Panel shall consider the issues referred to it, based on the statements and documents submitted to the Panel.
“A Panel shall decide a complaint on the basis of the statements and documents submitted and in accordance with the Policy, these Rules and any rules and principles of law that it deems applicable”, paragraph 15(a) of the Rules.
Applied to this case, paragraph 4(a) of the Policy directs that the Complainant must prove each of the following:
(i) that the disputed domain name is identical or confusingly similar to a trademark or service mark in which the Complainant has rights; and
(ii) that the Respondent has no rights or legitimate interests in respect of the disputed domain name; and
(iii) that the disputed domain name has been registered and is being used in bad faith.
A. Identical or Confusingly Similar
The Panel must find that the Complainant has a trademark or service mark and that the disputed domain name is identical or confusingly similar to that trademark or service mark.
Here, the Complainant has demonstrated ownership of various trademark registrations for MERIAL. The Complainant’s trademark registrations predate the registration of the disputed domain name (December 9, 2015).
As regards the question of identity or confusing similarity for the purpose of the Policy, it requires a comparison of the disputed domain name to the trademark rights which have been proved. Here, the disputed domain name <merial.co> incorporates entirely the Complainant’s trademark MERIAL. It is well accepted by UDRP panels that a generic Top-Level Domain (“gTLD”) such as “.co”, is typically ignored when assessing identity or confusing similarity between a trademark and a domain name.
The Panel therefore finds that the requirement of paragraph 4(a)(i) of the Policy is satisfied.
B. Rights or Legitimate Interests
Under paragraph 4(c) of the Policy, any of the following circumstances, if found by the Panel, may demonstrate a respondent’s rights or legitimate interests in a disputed domain name:
(i) before any notice to it of the dispute, the respondent’s use of, or demonstrable preparations to use, the disputed domain name or a name corresponding to the disputed domain name in connection with a bona fide offering of goods or services; or
(ii) the respondent has been commonly known by the disputed domain name, even if it has acquired no trademark or service mark rights; or
(iii) the respondent is making a legitimate noncommercial or fair use of the disputed domain name, without intent for commercial gain to misleadingly divert consumers or to tarnish the trademark or service mark at issue.
The consensus view of UDRP panels on the burden of proof under paragraph 4(a)(ii) of the Policy is summarized in paragraph 2.1 of the WIPO Overview of WIPO Panel Views on Selected UDRP Questions, Second Edition (“WIPO Overview 2.0”), which states: “[…] a complainant is required to make out a prima facie case that the respondent lacks rights or legitimate interests. Once such prima facie case is made, the burden of production shifts to the respondent to come forward with appropriate allegations or evidence demonstrating rights or legitimate interests in the domain name. If a respondent fails to come forward with such appropriate allegations or evidence, a complainant is generally deemed to have satisfied paragraph 4(a)(ii) of the UDRP […]”.
In the present case the Complainant has established a prima facie case that the Respondent has no rights or legitimate interests in respect of the disputed domain name and the Respondent has failed to assert any such rights. As such, the Complainant has established that it is the owner of the MERIAL trademark and claims that the Complainant has not licenced or otherwise authorised the Respondent to use the MERIAL trademark. There is no evidence indicating that the Respondent is commonly known by the disputed domain name or the name “Merial” (see for a similar finding ALDI GmbH & Co. KG v. zhou xiaolei, WIPO Case No. D2014-0957).
By not submitting a Response, the Respondent has failed to invoke any circumstances, which could demonstrate any rights or legitimate interests in the disputed domain name. See for similar finding KOC Holding A.S. v. VistaPrint Technologies Ltd, WIPO Case No. D2015-1910.
Further, as discussed in section C below, the Panel also finds that the Respondent is not engaged in a bona fide offering of goods or services. There is also no evidence in the record that the Respondent’s use of the disputed domain name is a legitimate noncommercial or fair use, or that the Respondent is commonly known by the disputed domain name.
The Complainant has submitted evidence of emails sent to its client from an email address created at the disputed domain name, impersonating the Complainant and requesting the payment of invoices to a bank account in Slovakia. The Panel does not see that the Respondent could claim any plausible rights or legitimate interests in the disputed domain name.
Accordingly, the Panel finds that the Respondent has no rights or legitimate interests in respect of the disputed domain name.
C. Registered and Used in Bad Faith
According to paragraph 4(a)(iii) of the Policy, the Complainant must establish that the disputed domain name has been registered and is being used in bad faith. The Policy indicates that certain circumstances specified in paragraph 4(b) of the Policy may, “in particular but without limitation”, be evidence of the disputed domain name’s registration and use in bad faith.
However, the requirement of the Policy of a domain name “being used in bad faith” is not limited to positive actions (see, e.g., Beiersdorf AG v. Web4comm Srl Romania, WIPO Case No. DRO2005-0002). Applied to this case, even if the disputed domain name does not resolve to an active website, the Panel notes that passive holding does not preclude a finding of bad faith (see, Telstra Corporation Limited v. Nuclear Marshmallows, WIPO Case No. D2000-0003).
In this particular case, the following actions may be considered as use in bad faith:
- the Respondent has provided no evidence whatsoever of any actual or contemplated good faith use by it of the domain name; on the contrary, the Respondent seems to have registered the disputed domain name in order to illegally obtain amounts of money destined to the Complainant. As such, the Complainant adduced as evidence a copy of a report of an initial offence transmitted to the prosecutor of Lyon Tribunal of Grande Instance, where it is stated on the facts, that the authors pirated the Complainant’s system and using a false e-mail address have obtained the payment of an invoice in a large amount destined to the Complainant. As held by other panels in similar situations “[t]he evidence on file shows that the Domain Name was used to commit fraud against the Complainant. This shows the registration and use of the Domain Name in bad faith”. See Haas Food Equipment GmbH v. Usman ABD, Usmandel, WIPO Case No. D2015-0285 and Graybar Services Inc. v. Graybar Elec, Grayberinc Lawrenge, WIPO Case No. D2009-1017, cited therein.
- the Respondent has not contested any of the allegations made by the Complainant;
- any use of the disputed domain name would lead the public to the conclusion that it is associated with the Complainant;
- the Complainant apparently provided false contact details at registration of the disputed domain name.
Also, the fact that the disputed domain name wholly incorporates the Complainant’s trademark MERIAL indicates not only that the Respondent was aware of the Complainant’s business but also that it registered the disputed domain name to mislead Internet users into thinking it is some way connected, sponsored, endorsed by or affiliated with the Complainant’s services.
The Respondent provided no explanations for which he registered the disputed domain name.
In the Panel’s view these circumstances represent evidence of registration and use in bad faith of the disputed domain name. The Respondent failed to bring evidence as to the contrary. Consequently, the Panel ascertains that the disputed domain name was registered and used 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 <merial.co> be transferred to the Complainant.
Date: April 6, 2016