The Complainants are Accor and SoLuxury HMC of Issy-les-Moulineaux, France, represented by Dreyfus & associés, France.
The Respondent is Kelvin Osas, Ke of Benin, Nigeria.
The disputed domain name <sofitelrecruithr.com> is registered with PDR Ltd. d/b/a PublicDomainRegistry.com (the “Registrar”).
The Complaint was filed with the WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center (the “Center”) on April 6, 2017. On April 6, 2017, the Center transmitted by email to the Registrar a request for registrar verification in connection with the disputed domain name. On April 7, 2017, 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 April 12, 2017. In accordance with the Rules, paragraph 5, the due date for Response was May 2, 2017. The Respondent did not submit any response. Accordingly, the Center notified the Respondent’s default on May 4, 2017.
The Center appointed Knud Wallberg as the sole panelist in this matter on May 15, 2017. 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.
The Complainants own and operate more than 4,200 hotels in 95 countries worldwide. The group includes notable hotel chains such as Pullman, Novotel, Grand Mercure, Ibis and Sofitel. The Complainants own numerous trademark registrations around the world for the said names (see, e.g., international trademark SOFITEL, registration number 863332, registered on August 26, 2005) just as the Complainants are the holders of inter alia the domain name <sofitel.com>.
The disputed domain name was registered on January 19, 2017. The disputed domain name does not resolve to an active website but appears to have been used in fraudulent emails.
The Complainants sent a cease-and-desist letter to the Respondent on February 3, 2017. The Respondent did not reply despite several consecutive reminders.
The disputed domain name <sofitelrecruithr.com> reproduces the trademark SOFITEL in its entirety with the addition of the generic terms “recruit” and “hr”, which is an abbreviation for “human resources”. The disputed domain name is thus confusingly similar to the trademark SOFITEL in which the Complainants have rights.
The Complainants further state that the Respondent has no prior rights or legitimate interests in the disputed domain name and that since the disputed domain name is so similar to the famous trademark of the Complainants, the Respondent cannot reasonably pretend it was intending to develop a legitimate activity through the disputed domain name.
Also, the Respondent is not commonly known by the name “Sofitel”, in any way affiliated with the Complainants, nor authorized or licensed to use the trademark SOFITEL, or to seek registration of any domain name incorporating said mark.
In addition, the Respondent did not demonstrate use of the disputed domain name, or demonstrable preparations to use the disputed domain name, in connection with a bona fide offering of goods or services. On the contrary, the Complainants have detected the existence of an email server being used by the Respondent to post false employment offers.
Finally, the Respondent never answered to Complainants’ letter despite the Complainants’ reminders, which has been found by previous UDRP panels to lead to the assumption that the respondent has no rights or legitimate interests in the disputed domain name.
The Respondent did not reply to the Complainants’ contentions.
According to paragraph 15(a) of the Rules the Panel shall decide the Complaint in accordance with the Policy, the Rules and any rules and principles of law that it deems applicable.
Paragraph 4(a) of the Policy directs that a complainant must prove each of the following:
(i) that the domain name registered by the respondent is identical or confusingly similar to a trademark or service mark in which the complainant has rights;
(ii) that the respondent has no rights or legitimate interests in respect of the domain name; and
(iii) that the domain name has been registered and is being used in bad faith.
Paragraph 4(a) of the Policy states that the burden of proving that all these elements are present lies with the complainant. At the same time, in accordance with paragraph 14(b) of the Rules, if a party, in the absence of exceptional circumstances, does not comply with any provision of, or requirement under, the Rules, or any request from the Panel, the Panel shall draw such inferences therefrom as it considers appropriate.
The Panel finds that the disputed domain name <sofitelrecruithr.com> is confusingly similar (in the sense of the Policy) to the Complainants’ registered trademark SOFITEL. The disputed domain name incorporates this mark in its entirety with the addition of the term “recruit” and the well-known acronym for “human resources” “hr”. The generic Top-Level Domain “.com” does not dispel a finding of confusing similarity in the present case.
The Panel finds that the conditions in paragraph 4(a)(i) of the Policy are therefore fulfilled in relation to the disputed domain name.
It is clear from the facts of the case that the Complainants have not licensed or otherwise permitted the Respondent to use their trademark.
Given the circumstances of this case, and in particular the way that the Respondent has been and is using the disputed domain name (discussed below) the Panel finds that the Complainants have established that the Respondent has no rights or legitimate interests in the disputed domain name. The Respondent has not produced, and indeed there is no other evidence of the types of circumstances set out in paragraph 4(c) of the Policy that might give rise to rights or legitimate interests in the disputed domain name on the part of the Respondent in these proceedings.
Consequently, the Panel finds that the conditions in paragraph 4(a)(ii) of the Policy are also fulfilled.
Paragraph 4(a)(iii) of the Policy requires the complainant to prove both registration and use of the disputed domain name in bad faith. Paragraph 4(b) of the Policy provides an example of circumstances which shall be evidence of registration and use in bad faith:
(i) circumstances indicating that the respondent has registered or 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 its website or other online 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.
Accordingly, for the Complainant to succeed, the Panel must be satisfied that the disputed domain name has been registered and is being used in bad faith.
Given the circumstances of the case including the evidence on record of the longstanding of use of the Complainants’ trademark, and the distinctive nature of the mark SOFITEL, it is inconceivable to the Panel in the current circumstances that the Respondent registered the disputed domain name without prior knowledge of the Complainants and the Complainants’ mark. Further, the Panel finds that the Respondent could not have been unaware of the fact that it chose a domain name which could attract Internet users in a manner that is likely to create confusion for such users.
The Panel therefore finds that the disputed domain name was registered in bad faith.
As to the use of the disputed domain name the Respondent is using the disputed domain name for what appears to be a phishing scam to deceive potential employees of the Complainants by creating a likelihood of confusion with the Complainant’s mark as to the source, sponsorship, affiliation, or endorsement of the Respondent’s activities. This constitutes bad faith use under the Policy, see, inter alia, National Westminster Bank plc v. Abdelilah Jadron, WIPO Case No. D2013-2232; NAS Rentals Holdings, Inc. v. Domains By Proxy LLC and Allison Mills, WIPO Case No. D2013-1812; and Valero Energy Corporation, Valero Marketing and Supply Company v. Maurine flavour seafoods, WIPO Case No. D2013-1849.
Noting that the disputed domain name incorporates a registered and widely-known trademark, that no Response has been filed, and that there appears to be no conceivable good faith use that could be made by the Respondent of the disputed domain name, and considering all the facts and evidence, the Panel therefore finds that the requirements of paragraph 4(a)(iii) of the Policy are also fulfilled in this case.
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 <sofitelrecruithr.com> be transferred to the Complainants.
Date: June 6, 2017
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