WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center

ADMINISTRATIVE PANEL DECISION

Kamer Van Koophandel (Dutch Chamber Of Commerce) v. Sjoukje de Vries

Case No. DNU2020-0005

1. The Parties

The Complainant is Kamer Van Koophandel (Dutch Chamber Of Commerce), the Netherlands, represented by Bright advocaten, the Netherlands.

The Respondent is Sjoukje de Vries, the Netherlands.

2. The Domain Name and Registrar

The disputed domain name <handelsregister.nu> (the “Domain Name”) 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 November 20, 2020. On November 23, 2020, the Center transmitted by email to the Registrar a request for registrar verification in connection with the Domain Name. On November 24, 2021, 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 December 10, 2020. In accordance with the Rules, paragraph 5, the due date for Response was December 30, 2020. The Respondent did not submit any response. Accordingly, the Center notified the Respondent’s default on January 5, 2021.

The Center appointed Wolter Wefers Bettink as the sole panelist in this matter on January 21, 2021. 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 the Dutch Chamber of Commerce (Kamer van Koophandel or KVK), a legal entity under public law, tasked by law with the registration of companies in the Dutch Commercial Register (Handelsregister), informing and advising of entrepreneurs, as well as the management of the Handelsregister. The Handelsregister provides up to date trade information on registered companies in the Netherlands. Companies are by law required to register and to inform the Complainant forthwith in case of a change in the registered information, such as contact details of the company, the trade name or a change of directors. Anyone can obtain an extract of a company’s registration from the Handelsregister (both online and offline) which ensures that entrepreneurs can rely on up to date information in the course of trade.

The Complainant is the holder of the Benelux trade mark HANDELSREGISTER.NL registered on December 22, 2016, under No. 1004620 (hereafter the “Trade Mark”).

The Domain Name was registered on August 25, 2020. On the website to which the Domain Name resolves services are offered that involve the provision of business information by means of an extract from the Handelsregister and services for online registration of a company in the Handelsregister.

5. Parties’ Contentions

A. Complainant

According to the Complainant, the Domain Name is identical to the Trade Mark as the word “Handelsregister”, which is the distinctive part of the Trade Mark, has been incorporated in the Domain Name. The Complainant submits that the element “.nu”, which refers to the country code Top-Level Domain (“ccTLD”) of the Domain Name, has no meaning in itself. Therefore, the Complainant contends, the Domain Name creates a likelihood of confusion with the Trade Mark.

The Complainant states that the Respondent has no right or legitimate interest in the Domain Name, since the Respondent does not have any trade mark or trade name right to the sign “Handelsregister”, nor has the Complainant given the Respondent permission to use the Trade Mark in relation to the Domain Name or the website to which it resolves. The Complainant also points out that it does not appear that the Domain Name is or will be used for offering products or services in good faith, since registration on the website under the Domain Name (for which a company has to pay EUR 24,95) does not lead to registration in the Handelsregister, as is suggested. Therefore, the Complainant submits, the Respondent uses the Domain Name to try to profit from the reputation of the Complainant by misleading Internet users and falsely creating the impression that they are dealing with a website that is originating from or cooperating with the Complainant.

With respect to bad faith registration and bad faith use, the Complainant contends that the Respondent uses the Domain Name to gain commercial advantage by directing Internet users to the website under the Domain Name, using the confusion that may arise with the Trade Mark. The Complainant points out that on the website one can order an extract of company data from the Handelsregister, while the Complainant is the only entity offering official extracts from the Handelsregister. In addition, the Complainant submits, the website falsely suggests that it is possible to register enterprises with the Handelsregister through the website, whereas the Complainant is the only entity empowered to register enterprises in the Handelsregister. According to the Complainant users of this service on the website receive an email with a link to the website of the Complainant where a company can make an appointment for their registration in the Handelsregister. Therefore, the Complainant states, the service on the website under the Domain Name does not provide any benefit for users thereof, since registration on the website does not (assist to) fulfill steps of the registration process of a company in the Handelsregister. The Complainant submits that by offering identical services (to those offered by the Complainant) under the Domain Name, without clearly disclosing that there is no link with the Complainant, the Respondent creates a risk of confusion regarding the origin of the website and the services offered, in that the public associates the Domain Name with the Trade Mark. According to the Complainant, such confusion has in fact already occurred, as the Complainant has received several complaints from entrepreneurs who were under the impression that they had registered their company in the Handelsregister by registering through the website under the Domain Name or that, by paying for the service on the website under the Domain Name, they had already paid an amount of the fee required for the registration with the Handelsregister.

Finally, the Complainant contends that, since the Complainant has no control over the information provided through the Respondent’s website under the Domain Name, the services offered may affect legal certainty, as there is no guarantee that the information provided by the Respondent is correct and up-to-date.

B. Respondent

The Respondent did not reply to the Complainant’s contentions.

6. Discussion and Findings

A. Identical or Confusingly Similar

The Complainant has shown that it has registered rights in the Trade Mark. The Domain Name is confusingly similar to the Trade Mark as it incorporates the Trade Mark almost in its entirety. The Panel notes that in this case, the Trade Mark includes the term “.nl”. The omission of the term “.nl” in the Domain Name does not prevent the dominant feature of Trade Mark from being recognizable in it. The ccTLD “.nu” is typically disregarded under the confusing similarity test, since it is a technical registration requirement (see WIPO Overview of WIPO Panel Views on Selected UDRP Questions, Third Edition (“WIPO Overview 3.0”), section 1.11). However, even if the ccTLD “.nu” is included in the comparison, the difference between Trade Mark and Domain Name is only one letter (“Handelsregister.nl” versus <handelsregister.nu>).

Therefore, the Panel finds that the Domain Name is confusingly similar to the Trade Mark in which the Complainant has rights.

B. Rights or Legitimate Interests

Under paragraph 4(c) of the Policy, the second element a complainant has to prove is that a respondent lacks rights or legitimate interests in a domain name. This may result in the often impossible task of proving a negative, requiring information that is often primarily within the knowledge or control of the respondent. In order to satisfy the second element, the complainant has to make out a prima facie case that the respondent does not have rights or legitimate interests in the domain name. If the complainant succeeds in doing so, the burden of production on this element shifts to the respondent to come forward with relevant evidence demonstrating rights or legitimate interests in the domain name. If the respondent fails to come forward with such relevant evidence, the complainant is deemed to have satisfied the second element (See WIPO Overview 3.0, section 2.1).

Based on the evidence and the undisputed submissions of the Complainant, the Panel concludes that the Respondent has not received the Complainant’s consent to use the Trade Mark in the Domain Name, is not commonly known by the Domain Name, and has not acquired trade mark rights in the Domain Name. As the Domain Name resolves to a website where services are offered against payment that involve the provision of business information by means of an extract from the Handelsregister and services for online registration of a company in the Handelsregister, the Respondent is not making a legitimate noncommercial or fair use of the Domain Name. Furthermore, it is falsely suggested on the website to which the Domain Name resolves that registration of a company on the website is in fact the official registration of the company in the Handelsregister, or is a part of that registration process. Therefore, the Respondent is not using the Domain Name for a bona fide offer of goods or services.

Accordingly, the Complainant has put forward a prima facie case that the Respondent lacks rights or legitimate interests in the Domain Name, which has not been rebutted by the Respondent.

In view of the above, the Panel concludes that the Complainant has established that the Respondent has no rights or legitimate interests in the Domain Name.

C. Registered and Used in Bad Faith

Based on the information and the evidence provided by the Complainant, the Panel finds that the Respondent, by using the Domain Name, has intentionally attempted to attract, for commercial gain, Internet users to its website or other online location, by creating a likelihood of confusion with the Trade Mark as to the source, sponsorship, affiliation, or endorsement of the Respondent’s website and/or of services on the Respondent’s website.

The following circumstances, taken together, are evidence of such behavior:

- the Complainant is by law the entity in charge of the Handelsregister which is the official Commercial Register in the Netherlands;

- the Complainant offers a service to obtain (online and offline) extracts from a company’s information in the Handelsregister, upon which companies and entities may rely in their business;

- companies in the Netherlands are required by law to register and keep up to date their registered information in the Handelsregister, such as contact details, directors and various other information, depending on the type and size of the company;

- the Respondent has adopted a Domain Name which contains the word “Handelsregister”, suggesting an affiliation with the Complainant which does not exist;

- on the website under the Domain Name, the Respondent offers a paid registration service for companies, falsely suggesting that this is (part of) the official registration process of a company in the Handelsregister;

- this website does not contain a disclaimer clarifying that the Respondent is not affiliated or cooperating with the Complainant;

- the Complainant has received complaints from companies which registered their particulars on the website under the Domain Name, believing that thereby they were registering their company in the Handelsregister.

Based on the above, the Panel finds that the Respondent registered and uses the Domain Name in bad faith.

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 disputed domain name, <handelsregister.nu> be transferred to the Complainant.

Wolter Wefers Bettink
Sole Panelist
Date: February 4, 2021