WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center

ADMINISTRATIVE PANEL DECISION

Accor v. Amin Amin

Case No. DIR2017-0026

1. The Parties

Complainant is Accor of Issy-Les-Moulineaux, France, represented Dreyfus & Associés, France.

Respondent is Amin Amin of Hormozgan, Iran (Islamic Republic of) (“Iran”).

2. The Domain Name and Registrar

The disputed domain name <accorgroup.ir> (the “Domain Name”) is registered with IRNIC.

3. Procedural History

The Complaint was filed with the WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center (the “Center”) on December 26, 2017. On the same date, the Center transmitted by email to IRNIC a request for registrar verification in connection with the Domain Name. On December 30, 2017, IRNIC transmitted by email to the Center its verification response confirming that Respondent is listed as the registrant and providing Respondent’s contact details. Hard copies of the Complaint were received by the Center on December 26, 2017.

The Center verified that the Complaint satisfied the formal requirements of the .ir Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy (the “Policy” or “irDRP”), the Rules for .ir Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy (the “Rules”), and the WIPO Supplemental Rules for .ir Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy (the “Supplemental Rules”).

In accordance with the Rules, paragraphs 2(a) and 4(a), the Center formally notified Respondent of the Complaint, and the proceedings commenced on January 5, 2018. In accordance with the Rules, paragraph 5(a), the due date for Response was January 25, 2018. Respondent did not submit any response. On January 26, 2018, the Center notified Respondent’s default.

The Center appointed Clive L. Elliott Q.C. as the sole panelist in this matter on February 9, 2018. 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 company registered in France and founded in 1967. It operates more than 4,100 hotels in 95 countries, under more than 20 different brands including Raffles, Sofitel, OneFineStay, Fairmont, MGallery, Pullman, Swissotel, Grand Mercure, Novotel, Mama Shelter, Mercure and IBIS (“Complainant’s Brands”).

Complainant has an extensive presence in the Middle East, operating in every market segment, from luxury to budget, through management and franchise agreements. Complainant is also present in 28 Asian countries where it has 628 hotels, and Iran where it operates 2 hotels.

Complainant is the registered owner of the following trademarks, among others:

- Iranian Trademark ACCOR No. 120046, registered on May 7, 2005;

- International Trademark ACCOR No. 480492, registered on November 10, 1983;

- International Trademark ACCOR No. 953507, covering Iran, registered on August 16, 2007

(“Complainant’s Trademark”).

Complainant also operates domain names reflecting its trademarks in order to promote its services as follows, among others:

- <accorhotels.com> registered on April 30, 1998;

- <accor.com> registered on February 23, 1998;

- <accor.fr> registered on March 27, 1997.

The Domain Name was registered on October 5, 2016. It does not resolve to an active website.

5. Parties’ Contentions

A. Complainant

Complainant advises that when it became aware of the registration of the Domain Name, and before starting these proceedings, it made efforts to resolve the matter with Respondent amicably. On January 10, 2017, Complainant sent a cease-and-desist letter to Respondent requesting Respondent transfer the Domain Name to Complainant free of charge.

Respondent replied saying that he was the legal owner of the Domain Name and that if Complainant wanted to own the domain name, Complainant needed to pay the price.

On January 17, 2017, Complainant sent a further email requesting the transfer of the Domain Name, to which Respondent reiterated his reply declaring he would consent to sell the Domain Name for a certain price which he would disclose if Complainant expressed an interest in purchasing it.

Complainant states that it owns and operates several hotels under Complainant’s Trademark, which is a well-known trademark, protected worldwide in particular in relation to hotels and restaurants services.

Complainant contends that the Domain Name is confusingly similar to Complainant’s Trademark as it reproduces Complainant’s Trademark in its entirety, with the addition of the generic term “group”. As Complainant is an International Group, it believes the addition of this word to Complainant’s Trademark only increases the likelihood of confusion and could mislead Internet users into thinking that the Domain Name is in some way associated with Complainant. Complainant notes that the Domain Name resolves to an inactive page.

Complainant states that Respondent is not affiliated with it in any way, nor has he been authorized or licensed by Complainant to use and register its trademarks, or to seek registration of any domain name incorporating its trademarks. Respondent also has no prior rights or legitimate interest in the Domain Name. Complainant notes that the registration of Complainant’s Trademark preceded the registration of the Domain Name by many years.

Complainant claims that Respondent is not commonly known by the name “Accor”, he has not made any reasonable and demonstrable preparations to use the Domain Name and has failed to show any intention of noncommercial or fair use of the Domain Name.

Complainant submits that according to the online Persian Dictionary Farsi (“www.farsidictionary.net”), the term “Accor” has no meaning in Persian, the language of the registration agreement and the official language of the country in which Respondent resides.

Complainant also believes that it is unlikely that Respondent was unaware of Complainant when the Domain Name was registered as Complainant is well-known throughout the world, including in Iran where Respondent resides and a Google or trademark search of Accor would have revealed the existence of Complainant’s Trademark.

Complainant submits that Respondent’s immediate offer to sell the Domain Name without giving any reasons why he had registered the Domain Name or without contesting Complainant’s Trademark, are clear indications that he was aware of Complainant’s trademark rights when he registered the Domain Name.

B. Respondent

Respondent did not reply to Complainant’s contentions.

6. Discussion and Findings

A. Identical or Confusingly Similar

Complainant has established to the satisfaction of the Panel that Complainant’s Trademark has been used and registered (relevantly in this case, Iranian Trademark ACCOR No. 120046 registered on May 7, 2005) and has operated a hotel in Iran under Complainant’s Trademark.

Complainant contends that the Domain Name reproduces Complainant’s Trademark in its entirety, with the addition of the descriptive word “group”. The word “group” could connote Complainant’s Accor Group.

There is clear merit in these submissions and in the absence of any attempt to refute them it is found that:

a) Complainant has rights in respect of Complainant’s Trademark.

b) The Domain Name is not identical to but for the reasons set out above confusingly similar to Complainant’s Trademark.

Accordingly, the Panel is satisfied that the first element of the Policy has been met.

B. Rights or Legitimate Interests

In terms of whether Respondent has rights or legitimate interests in the Domain Name Complainant argues that the term “Accor” has no meaning in Persian, the language of the registration agreement and the official language of the country in which Respondent resides.

It is apparent from the record that Respondent has engaged in efforts to sell the Domain Name to Complainant. It is not unreasonable to infer that this is his main purpose for having registered the Domain Name. The Panel infers that Respondent lacks rights or legitimate interests in the Domain Name and that it was registered, at least in part, for purposes of resale to Complainant at an amount in excess of the registration cost of the Domain Name. As previous panels have found, such conduct is not legitimate.

On this basis, it is found that Respondent has no rights or legitimate interests in the Domain Name.

The Panel is satisfied that the second element of the Policy has been met.

C. Registered or Used in Bad Faith

Given Complainant’s use and registration of Complainant’s Trademark, internationally and in Iran, the Panel infers that Respondent knew of Complainant’s Trademark when registering the Domain Name.

The Panel concludes that Respondent has registered and used the Domain Name for purpose of making a commercial gain, through the resale of the Domain Name, if possible, back to Complainant.

The Panel thus finds that Respondent registered and is using the Domain Name to take bad faith advantage of Complainant’s long-standing interest in Complainant’s Trademark, at the time of registration of the Domain Name and since. Indeed, the Domain Name consists of the Complainant’s Trademark and the word “group”. As a result, Internet users might wrongly believe that the Domain Name is associated with Complainant or endorsed by Complainant, the Accor Group and/or its hotel in Iran.

The Panel thus finds that the third limb of the Policy has been met.

7. Decision

For the foregoing reasons, in accordance with paragraphs 4(i) of the Policy and 15 of the Rules, the Panel orders that the Domain Name <accorgroup.ir> be transferred to Complainant.

Clive L. Elliott QC
Sole Panelist
Date: February 23, 2018