WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center
ADMINISTRATIVE PANEL DECISION
Confederation Nationale du Credit Mutuel v. WhoisGuard Protected, WhoisGuard, Inc. / Paul Sebastien
Case No. DCO2019-0009
1. The Parties
The Complainant is Confédération Nationale du Crédit Mutuel of Paris, France, represented by MEYER & Partenaires, France.
The Respondent is WhoisGuard Protected, WhoisGuard, Inc. of Panama, Panama / Paul Sebastien of Coex, France.
2. The Domain Name and Registrar
The disputed domain name <creditm-mutuel.co> is registered with NameCheap, Inc. (the “Registrar”).
3. Procedural History
The Complaint was filed with the WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center (the “Center”) on March 7, 2019. On March 8, 2019, the Center transmitted by email to the Registrar a request for registrar verification in connection with the disputed domain name. On March 8, 2019, 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 March 14, 2019 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 March 15, 2019.
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 March 20, 2019. In accordance with the Rules, paragraph 5, the due date for Response was April 9, 2019. The Respondent did not submit any response. Accordingly, the Center notified the Respondent’s default on April 10, 2019.
The Center appointed Marie-Emmanuelle Haas as the sole panelist in this matter on May 3, 2019. 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
Confederation Nationale Du Credit Mutuel (the Complainant) is the political and center body of the French banking and insurance services group Credit Mutuel.
Credit Mutuel has millions of clients, individual and professional, and more than 3,000 offices congregated in 18 regional federations in France.
The Complainant operates the web portals “www.creditmutuel.com” and “www.creditmutuel.fr”. The last one, “www.creditmutuel.fr”, notably provides an online access to the client’s bank accounts.
The Complainant is the owner of many trademarks consisting or including the wording “Credit Mutuel”, such as:
- The semi-figurative French trademark CREDIT MUTUEL No. 1475940 registered on July 8, 1988, in classes 35 and 36, and renewed on August 27, 2008;
- The semi-figurative French trademark CREDIT MUTUEL No. 1646012 registered on November 20, 1990, in classes 16, 35, 36, 38 and 41, and renewed on September 15, 2010;
- The nominative European Union trademark CREDIT MUTUEL No. 9943135 registered on October 20, 2011, in classes 9, 16, 35, 36, 38, 41, 42 and 45;
- The semi-figurative International trademark CREDIT MUTUEL No. 570182 designating Benelux, Italy, and Portugal, registered on May 17, 1991, in classes 16, 35, 36, 38 and 41, and renewed on February 28, 2011.
The Complainant contends that it is also, with its IT-dedicated subsidiary Euro Information, the owner of several domain names consisting of CREDIT MUTUEL and redirecting to its official web portal:
- <creditmutuel.com> registered on October 28, 1995, and renewed;
- <creditmutuel.org> registered on June 3, 2002, and renewed;
- <creditmutuel.fr> registered on August 10, 1995, and renewed;
- <creditmutuel.info> registered on September 13, 2001, and renewed;
- <creditmutuel.net> registered on October 3, 1996, and renewed.
The disputed domain name <creditm-mutuel.co> was registered on January 14, 2019 by Paul Sebastien, identified on the WhoIs as an individual located in France.
The disputed domain name <creditm-mutuel.co> was used in the address of a copycat website of the Complainant’s official website “www.creditmutuel.fr”, until its suspension by the holding provider.
5. Parties’ Contentions
The Complainant contends that the well-known character of the CREDIT MUTUEL trademarks has already been recognized by panelists in prior UDRP decisions. It relies on a decision rendered in 2010 which is cited as example, to assert that the CREDIT MUTUEL trademark is undoubtedly well-known.
The Complainant highlights first an order of the French Ministry saying that the use of the wording CREDIT MUTUEL is reserved to the Confederation Nationale Du Credit Mutuel and its branches, and explains that it was one of the first French banking group to offer online banking services.
To the Complainant, the disputed domain name <creditm-mutuel.co> is identical or at least confusingly similar to the CREDIT MUTUEL trademark, and this similarity is not affected by the generic Top-Level Domain (“gTLD”) “.co”, according to the jurisprudence.
It asserts that the disputed domain name <creditm-mutuel.co> is entirely consisting of its CREDIT MUTUEL trademark and that the adjunction of the letter “m” is not sufficient to make a difference. It rather constitutes a typosquatting of its CREDIT MUTUEL trademark, leading to a confusing similarity.
The Complainant contends that the Respondent has no rights or legitimate interests in respect of the disputed domain name <creditm-mutuel.co>. It claims that it does not sponsor the Respondent, that the Respondent is neither an affiliate nor a licensee, and that the Respondent has not been authorized to use its CREDIT MUTUEL trademark in any manner.
To the Complainant, the Respondent is not commonly known under the name CREDIT MUTUEL.
It asserts that the disputed domain name <creditm-mutuel.co> is not active and provides an “account suspended” webpage set up by the hosting provider, and that, before this suspension, the disputed domain name <creditm-mutuel.co> was redirecting to a website reproducing its own official website.
To the Complainant, this fake website is a phishing attempt that does not constitute rights or legitimate interests.
The Complainant adds that considering its core banking activity, it is impossible that the Respondent might have used this typosquatting disputed domain name <creditm-mutuel.co> legally, and that this use is neither a bona fide offering of goods or services, nor a legitimate noncommercial or fair use.
The Complainant contends that the disputed domain name <creditm-mutuel.co> was registered in bad faith, considering its strong reputation and its well-known CREDIT MUTUEL trademark in France.
Considering this, the Complainant asserts that the Respondent could not have ignored its well-known CREDIT MUTUEL trademark at the time of the registration, and that all this creates a prima facie presumption of bad faith, according to prior UDRP decisions.
The Complainant adds that the Respondent is located in France, where it has its main activity, and that one of its agency is located in the city where the Respondent is supposed to be established, and only one minute away from this agency.
The Complainant affirms that the registration of the disputed domain name <creditm-mutuel.co> as a typosquatting conducts to a similarity attracting the Internet users. This confusing similarity is undoubtedly intentional and aims at attracting and diverting the Internet users.
The Complainant explains that the disputed domain name <creditm-mutuel.co> is inactive and provides an “account suspended” webpage set up by the hosting provider, but that before this suspension, this disputed domain name <creditm-mutuel.co> was redirecting to a website reproducing identically its website: it is impossible that it has been made in good faith.
The disputed domain name and the infringing copycat website were used to obtain confidential information from the Internet users, for illegitimate purposes, i.e. to illegally collect personal data.
The Complainant contends that the disputed domain name <creditm-mutuel.co> might be used for email purposes, since the activation of email servers has been verified. It means that the Respondent can use email addresses “…@creditm-mutuel.co”, incorporating its well-known CREDIT MUTUEL trademark for commercial emailing, spamming, or phishing, to the detriment of the Complainant. This non-public use is recognized as bad faith by prior UDRP decisions.
At last, the Complainant highlights that, as a banking group, it is facing a lot of counterfeiting and phishing attempts, what means that the protection of its website and its client is particularly important.
It requests the transfer of the disputed domain name <creditm-mutuel.co>.
The Respondent did not reply to the Complainant’s contentions.
6. Discussion and Findings
A. Identical or Confusingly Similar
Paragraph 4(a)(i) of the Policy requires the Complainant to show that the disputed domain name is identical or confusingly similar to a trademark or service mark in which the Complainant has rights.
The Complainant has submitted evidence of its prior registered CREDIT MUTUEL trademarks which are protected in France and in other countries.
The Complainant’s CREDIT MUTUEL trademarks are well-known in France for banking services.
The disputed domain name <creditm-mutuel.co> incorporates entirely the Complainant’s CREDIT MUTUEL well-known trademark.
The addition of the letter “m” constitutes a typosquatting of the Complainant’s CREDIT MUTUEL trademark and does not exclude the confusing similarity.
Therefore, the Panel finds that the disputed domain name is confusingly similar to the Complainant’s CREDIT MUTUEL trademark.
The condition of paragraph 4(a)(i) of the Policy has therefore been satisfied.
B. Rights or Legitimate Interests
Pursuant to paragraph 4(c) of the Policy, the Respondent may establish rights or legitimate interests in the disputed domain name by demonstrating any of the following:
(i) before any notice to it of the dispute, the respondent’s 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) the respondent has been commonly known by the 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 domain name, without intent for commercial gain, to misleadingly divert consumers, or to tarnish the trademark or service mark at issue.
The Respondent did not respond to the Complaint. Consequently, it did not provide any evidence or allege any circumstance to establish that it has rights or legitimate interests in the disputed domain name <creditm-mutuel.co>.
The Respondent is not known under the disputed domain name <creditm-mutuel.co> and has not been licensed or authorized to use the well-known CREDIT MUTUEL trademark or to register the disputed domain name <creditm-mutuel.co>.
The disputed domain name <creditm-mutuel.co> resolves to an “account suspended” webpage after its deactivation by the hosting provider. Before, as evidenced by a screenshot dated January 17, 2019, it was redirecting to a website reproducing identically the Complainant’s website “www.creditmutuel.fr”, and asking the Internet users’ personal data to access their Credit Mutuel online account. This is illegal and constitutes phishing.
Banking services are strictly regulated. Such practices are clearly very dangerous for the banks and for their customers and are totally illegitimate.
Therefore, this use is neither a bona fide offering of goods or services nor a legitimate noncommercial or fair use.
In the circumstances of this case, the Panel finds that the Complainant has established a prima facie case of the Respondent’s lack of rights or legitimate interests in relation to the disputed domain name, which the Respondent has not rebutted.
The condition of paragraph 4(a)(ii) of the Policy has therefore been satisfied.
C. Registered and Used in Bad Faith
Paragraph 4(b) of the Policy sets out examples of circumstances that will be considered by a Panel to be evidence of bad faith registration and use of a domain name. It provides that:
“For the purposes of paragraph 4(a)(iii), the following circumstances, in particular but without limitation, if found by the Panel to be present, shall be evidence of the registration and use of a domain name in bad faith:
(i) circumstances indicating that the respondent has registered or the respondent has 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 the respondent’s documented out-of-pocket costs directly related to the domain name; or
(ii) the respondent has 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 the respondent has engaged in a pattern of such conduct; or
(iii) the respondent has registered the domain name primarily for the purpose of disrupting the business of a competitor; or
(iv) by using the domain name, the respondent has intentionally attempted to attract, for commercial gain, Internet users to your website 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 the respondent’s website or location or of a product or service on the respondent’s website or location.”
Given the well-known character of the CREDIT MUTUEL trademark in France, and the fact that the Respondent is domiciled in France and located near a Credit Mutuel agency, the Panel finds that the Respondent could not ignore the Complainant’s rights in these trademarks when it registered the disputed domain name.
Furthermore, the entire reproduction of the Complainant’s well-known CREDIT MUTUEL trademark in the disputed domain name proves that the Respondent targeted the Complainant when it registered the disputed domain name.
The addition of the letter “m” is intentional. It’s typosquatting. Typosquatting relies on the mistakes of the Internet users when typing an address. Should the address be typed with the typo mistake, it will land on the litigious website. In this case, the typo mistake is to type twice the letter “m”.
Therefore, the Panel finds that the disputed domain name was registered in bad faith.
Before its suspension, the disputed domain name resolved to a website which was completely identical to the Complainant’s official website.
The Internet users were asked to log in with their individual passwords. This phishing practice is very dangerous, as already explained.
This demonstrates the intent to make a commercial gain, in the meaning of Paragraph 4(b)(iv) of the Policy.
The Panel also takes into consideration the fact that, as a banking group, the Complainant faces a lot of counterfeiting and phishing attempts, and that it must protect its clients on the Internet.
The Panel also takes into consideration, as above explained, that banking services are strictly regulated, to protect professionals as well as their customers. Therefore, it cannot be tolerated that an individual registers without any authorization, and uses, or even not uses, a domain name incorporating a trademark protected for banking services. It cannot even less be tolerated when the trademark at issue is well-known.
The existing MX servers enable the Respondent to use the disputed domain name for creating and using email addresses composed with the well-known CREDIT MUTUEL trademark.
Such email addresses are often used notably for spamming or phishing purposes, to obtain banking and personal data from the Complainant’s customers and to misuse these data.
For all the above reasons, the Panel is of the opinion that the disputed domain name satisfies the requirement of paragraph 4(a)(iii) that the disputed domain name was registered and is being used in bad faith by the Respondent.
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 <creditm-mutuel.co> be transferred to the Complainant.
Date: May 17, 2019