WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center
ADMINISTRATIVE PANEL DECISION
Inter-Continental Hotels Corporation v. Nibah Perfect Fondikum
Case No. D2018-1824
1. The Parties
The Complainant is Inter-Continental Hotels Corporation of Atlanta, Georgia, United States of America (“United States”), represented by The GigaLaw, Douglas M. Isenberg, Attorney at Law, LLC, United States.
The Respondent is Nibah Perfect Fondikum of Bamenda, Cameroon, internally represented.
2. The Domain Name and Registrar
The disputed domain name <intercontinentalhotelaustin.com> is registered with GoDaddy.com, LLC (the “Registrar”).
3. Procedural History
The Complaint was filed with the WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center (the “Center”) on August 9, 2018. On August 10, 2018, the Center transmitted by email to the Registrar a request for registrar verification in connection with the disputed domain name. On August 13, 2018, 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 August 14, 2018, 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 amendment to the Complaint on August 14, 2018.
The Center verified that the Complaint together with the amendment to 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 August 15, 2018. In accordance with the Rules, paragraph 5, the due date for Response was September 4, 2018. An informal email communication from the Respondent was received by the Center on August 15, 2018. No further Response was submitted. The Center notified the Parties that it would proceed to panel appointment on September 5, 2018.
The Center appointed Martin Michaus-Romero as the sole panelist in this matter on September 17, 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
The Complainant is one of a number of companies collectively known as InterContinental Hotels Group (“IHG”). Companies within IHG own, manage, lease or franchise through various subsidiaries, 5,431 hotels and 809,889 guest rooms in about 100 countries and territories around the world.
IHG has global presence and its InterContinental hotel brand was founded in 1948. Is represented by 196 hotels with 66,387 guest rooms, with an additional 64 hotels in the pipeline.
The Complainant (or its affiliates) own at least 287 registrations in at least 176 jurisdictions thorough the world for trademarks that consist of or contain the mark INTERCONTINENTAL. For instance, the Complainant is the owner of the following trademarks:
A) Trademark Registration No. 890,271 INTERCONTINENTAL (word mark) granted by the United States Patent and Trademark Office (“USPTO”). It was filed on May 14, 1969, granted on April 28, 1970, and with a claim of “First Use in Commerce” of 1948, for hotel services.
B) Trademark Registration No. 2,005,852 I INTERCONTINENTAL HOTELS AND RESORT (figurative mark) granted by the USPTO. It was filed on July 24, 1995, granted on July 16, 1996, and with a claim of “First Use in Commerce” of 1995, for hotel, restaurant, bar and cocktail lounge services, concierge services planning and designing conference centers, hotel and meeting facilities for others making hotel reservations for others.
The Complainant is known worldwide under its INTECONTINENTAL trademark for its offering of hotel services.
The disputed domain name was registered on June 14, 2018, long after the INTERCONTINENTAL trademark has been used in commerce and registered in different jurisdictions. The disputed domain name resolves to a website showing information about the “Intercontinental Hotel Austin” and purporting to offer hotel reservations.
5. Parties’ Contentions
The Complainant states in its Complaint that the Respondent:
1) Registered the disputed domain name <intercontinentalhotelaustin.com>, incorporating the well-known INTERCONTINENTAL mark without the Complainant’s knowledge or authorization.
2) Has registered the disputed domain name <intercontinentalhotelaustin.com> which includes and reproduces the INTERCONTINENTAL trademark with the terms “hotel” and “Austin”, to create confusion in the consumers.
3) Has been involved in a previous dispute regarding the INTERCONTINENTAL trademark (Inter-Continental Hotels Corporation v. nibah fondikum, WIPO Case No. D2016-1786).
4) Has created a website for a fictitious hotel that falsely appears to be associated with the Complainant. In addition, the Respondent is using the disputed domain name in connection with an identity-theft scam, by impersonating the Complainant to obtain personal information from job seekers.
In summary, in its Complaint, the Complainant asserts that the disputed domain name is confusingly similar to its INTERCONTINENTAL trademark. The Respondent has no rights or legitimate interests in the disputed domain name, which was registered and is used in bad faith.
The Respondent did not file a substantive Response in reply to the Complainant’s contentions. The Respondent only sent an email communication to the Center on August 15, 2018, with the following content: “Please what are all these emails about .If you can't explain to me in one clear sentence then by all means stop sending them to me [sic]”.
6. Discussion and Findings
Paragraph15(a) of the Rules instructs the Panel as to the principles the Panel is to use in determining the dispute: “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”.
Considering that the Respondent did not reply to the Complainant’s contentions, in order to determine whether the Complainant has met its burden as stated in paragraph 4(a) of the Policy, the Panel bases its decision on the statements and documents submitted and in accordance with the Policy and Rules:
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 the trademark or service mark in which the Complainant has rights; (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 Complainant has submitted evidence of its rights in the INTERCONTINENTAL trademark. The disputed domain name is confusingly similar to the Complainant’s INTERCONTINENTAL trademark. The disputed domain name <intercontinetalhotelaustin.com> reproduces the Complainant’s trademark INTERCONTINENTAL in its entirety with the addition of the terms “hotel” and “austin”. The addition of such terms, does not prevent the finding of confusingly similarity.
The generic Top-Level Domain (“gTLD”), “.com” can be disregarded for the assessment of the first element of the Policy.
The Panel finds that the Complainant satisfies paragraph 4(a)(i) of the Policy.
B. Rights or Legitimate Interests
The Respondent has not received permission or authorization to use the Complainant’s trademark. The Respondent did not reply to the Complainant’s contentions, and therefore has not provided any evidence or arguments to demonstrate anything to the contrary. It should be pointed out, that nothing in the available record indicates that the Respondent is an individual, business or corporation known by the name “intercontinentalhotelaustin”. Furthermore, the Respondent is not using the disputed domain name for a bona fide offering of good or services, nor for a legitimate or noncommercial fair use that might give rise to rights or legitimate interests in the disputed domain name.
The Complainant has submitted evidence from victims of what appears to be an employment-related phishing scheme. By using the disputed domain name in connection with an employment/phishing scam the Respondent cannot be considered to be making a bona fide offering of goods and services. Such activity has a clear commercial purpose to deceive Internet users, using a well-known trademark such as INTERCONTINENTAL, as part of the disputed domain name.
The Panel finds that the Complainant satisfies paragraph 4(a)(ii) of the Policy.
C. Registered and Used in Bad Faith
According to the statements submitted, it is clear to the Panel that the registration and the use of the disputed domain name has been in bad faith, by including the well-known INTERCONTINENTAL trademark, to intentionally attract for commercial gain Internet users. In this regard, the inclusion of the term “hotel” in the disputed domain name not only describes Complainant’s business activities, but also it increases the likelihood of confusion with the Complainant and its activities. Likewise, the inclusion of the term “Austin”, where the Complainant operates a hotel, also compounds the confusion among Internet users, who can be deceived or be led to believe, that the website and the disputed domain name are operated by the Complainant.
The Panel also notes that, in accordance with the evidence in the Complaint, the Respondent uses the disputed domain name to show information about a fictitious hotel that falsely appears to be associated with the Complainant and in connection with an employment/phishing scam, in an attempt to attract Internet users for potential gain. These activities constitute, in view of the Panel, clear evidence of use of the disputed domain name in bad faith.
The above creates a likelihood of confusion with the Complainant’s trademark as to the source, sponsorship, affiliation and /or endorsement of the Respondent’s website. This also negatively affects the Complainant’s online presence. See paragraph 4(b)(iv) of the Policy.
The Panel finds that the Complainant satisfies paragraph 4(a)(iii) of the Policy.
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, <intercontinentalhotelaustin.com>, be transferred to the Complainant.
Martin Michaus- Romero
Date: October 1, 2018