The Complainant is Confederation Nationale Du Credit Mutuel of Paris, France, represented by MEYER & Partenaires, France.
The Respondent is Registration Private, Domains By Proxy, LLC of Scottsdale, Arizona, United States of America (“United States”) / Sylvie Morel of Le Mans, France.
The disputed domain name <creditmutuel-sablons.com> is registered with GoDaddy.com, LLC (the “Registrar”).
The Complaint was filed with the WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center (the “Center”) on October 10, 2018. On October 10, 2018, the Center transmitted by email to the Registrar a request for registrar verification in connection with the disputed domain name. On October 11, 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 October 11, 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 amended Complaint on October 16, 2018.
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 October 17, 2018. In accordance with the Rules, paragraph 5, the due date for Response was November 6, 2018. On October 17, 2018, the Center received an email communication in French from an individual asserting that the person does not own the disputed domain name. The Center emailed the Parties on October 18, 2018, notifying them of the Respondent identity issue. The Respondent did not submit any formal response. On November 7, 2018, the Center notified the Parties that it would proceed to Panel Appointment.
The Center appointed Isabelle Leroux as the sole panelist in this matter on November 21, 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.
The Complainant is the central body of the French second largest banking and insurance services group CREDIT MUTUEL, providing services to 12 million clients since more than a century. The Complainant operates a network named “CREDIT MUTUEL” with 3178 offices in France, including notably an agency located in Les Sablons at the city of Le Mans in France.
The Complainant owns numerous trademark registrations consisting of or including the term “CREDIT MUTUEL”, in particular the following:
- French semi-figurative trademark “CREDIT MUTUEL” No.1475940, registered on July 8, 1988, duly renewed, designating services in classes 35 and 36;
- French semi-figurative trademark “CREDIT MUTUEL” No.1646012, registered on November 20, 1990, duly renewed, designating products and services in classes 16, 35, 36, 38 and 41;
- European Union verbal trademark CREDIT MUTUEL No.9943135, registered on May 5, 2011, duly renewed, designating products and services in classes 9, 16, 35, 36, 38, 41, 42 and 45;
- International semi-figurative trademark “CREDIT MUTUEL” No.570182, registered on May 17, 1991, duly renewed, designating products and services in classes 16, 35, 36, 38 and 41, covering Benelux, Italy and Portugal.
The Complainant and its subsidiaries own, among others, the following domain names:
- <creditmutuel.info>, registered on September 13, 2001 and duly renewed since then;
- <creditmutuel.org>, registered on June 3, 2002 and duly renewed since then;
- <creditmutuel.fr>, registered on August 10, 1995 and duly renewed since then;
- <creditmutuel.com>, registered on October 28, 1995 and duly renewed since then;
- <creditmutuel.net>, registered on October 3, 1996 and duly renewed since then.
The Complainant operates notably two web portals offering online banking services to its clients under the domain names <creditmutuel.com> and <creditmutuel.fr>.
According to the information provided by the Registrar, the disputed domain name was registered on June 19, 2018, by a proxy company located in Arizona, through a privacy service offered by the Registrar, and the final beneficiary appears to be an individual located in Le Mans, France.
The disputed domain name resolves to a 404-error page and the website appears to be inactive.
(i) The Complainant contends that the disputed domain name is confusingly similar to the CREDIT MUTUEL trademarks in which the Complainant has rights.
The Complainant further submits that the additional term “sablons” does not prevent the risk of confusion since it creates a specific link with the trademark CREDIT MUTUEL by referring to one of the Complainant’s agencies, at Les Sablons in the city of Le Mans.
(ii) The Complainant contends that the Respondent has no rights or legitimate interests in respect of the disputed domain name. The Complainant submits that the Respondent is not in any way related to the Complainant or its group, nor authorized by the Complainant to use its trademarks.
Besides, the Complainant contends that the Respondent does not make any use of the disputed domain name in connection with a bona fide offering of goods or services.
(iii) The Complainant contends that the disputed domain name was registered in bad faith, given the well-known character of the Complainant’s CREDIT MUTUEL trademarks.
The Complainant underlines as further evidence of bad faith that the Respondent’s alleged address is untrue since it is the same as the address of the Complainant’s Le Mans Les Sablons agency.
The Complainant also contends that the disputed domain name is being used in bad faith, as demonstrated by the “non-use” of the disputed domain name and the configuration and the use of an email server on the disputed domain name at [email protected]
(iv) The Complainant requests that the disputed domain name be transferred to the Complainant.
The Respondent did not reply to the Complainant’s contentions.
The Panel notes that the Respondent is formally in default pursuant to paragraphs 5(f) and 14(a) of the Rules because no response was received from the Respondent within the time limit set by the Policy and the Rules.
However, the Panel finds that this does not mean that the remedies requested should automatically be awarded. The Panel will have to establish whether the Complainant’s prima facie case meets the requirements of paragraph 4(a) of the Policy which will be examined in turn below.
The Complainant provided evidence that it has rights in CREDIT MUTUEL trademarks, well before the Respondent registered the disputed domain name. This satisfies the Panel that the Complainant has registered trademark rights in the CREDIT MUTUEL marks for the purposes of the Policy.
Pursuant to Section 1.11.1 of the WIPO Overview of WIPO Panel Views on Selected UDRP Questions, Third Edition (“WIPO Overview 3.0”), the generic Top-Level Domain (“gTLD”) “.com” shall be disregarded under the first element’s confusing similarity test.
In this case, the Panel notes that the relevant part of the disputed domain name is thus “creditmutuel-sablons” composed of the term “creditmutuel” which is the exact reproduction of the Complainant’s trademark CREDIT MUTUEL followed by the additional term “sablons” with a hyphen between the two.
The Complainant provided evidence that the additional term “sablons” is a geographical term referring to an area called Les Sablons in the city of Le Mans, France where the Complainant has an agency called “Crédit Mutuel Le Mans Les Sablons”.
In this regard, previous UDRP panels have found that where the complainant’s mark is entirely reproduced in the disputed domain name, the addition of geographic terms would do not distinguish the disputed domain name from the trademark. See, Crédit Industriel et Commercial v. Heng Zhong, WIPO Case No. D2014-1696, <cic-strasbourg.com>.
In addition, the use of the hyphen, a punctuation mark, does not alter the assessment of confusing similarity. Previous WIPO UDRP panels have regularly ruled that hyphenation in domain names would not prevent a finding of confusing similarity. See Carrefour v. Jean-Claude Bot / Albert Pierre,
WIPO Case No. D2017-0969, <carrefour-cadeau.com> and Crédit Agricole S.A. contre Tolo Romain,
WIPO Case No. D2016-0390, <creditagricole-paris.com>.
For the above reasons, the Panel finds that the additional elements, the geographical term “sablons” and the use of hyphen, do not prevent a finding of confusing similarity.
Thus, the Panel finds that the disputed domain name is confusingly similar to the trademark CREDIT MUTUEL in which the Complainant has rights, and the requirements under paragraph 4(a)(i) of the Policy are satisfied.
It is well established that, once a prima facie case is made by the Complainant, the burden of production shifts to the respondent to come forward with appropriate allegations or 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 (Section 2.1, WIPO Overview 3.0).
The Complainant has provided evidence that the Respondent is not the Complainant’s agent or employee, or in any way related to the Complainant or to its group. The Complainant also demonstrated with evidence that the Respondent does not hold any trademark on the wording of disputed domain name and there is nothing that indicates that the Respondent is commonly known by such name.
Accordingly, the Panel finds that the Complainant has therefore established a prima facie case that the Respondent does not have rights or legitimate interests in the disputed domain name.
Since the Respondent has not replied to the Complaint and, thus, has not presented any other evidence or elements to justify any rights or legitimate interests in connection with the disputed domain name, the Panel finds that the second element of paragraph 4(a) of the Policy is fulfilled.
The Complainant provided evidence that the CREDIT MUTUEL trademarks are widely known in France and have been registered well before the disputed domain name.
In addition, in accordance with the evidence provided by the Complainant, the Respondent’s alleged address is the same as the one of the Complainant’s bank agency “Crédit Mutuel Le Mans Les Sablons” at 55 Boulevard Winston Churchill 72100 Le Mans, FRANCE.
Given the above elements, the Panel accepts that the Respondent, whose alleged address is exactly the same as that of the Complainant’s agency at Le Mans, could not reasonably ignore the Complainant’s CREDIT MUTUEL trademarks and activities.
Thus, the Panel finds that the disputed domain name was registered in bad faith.
The Complainant has provided further evidence that an email server has been configured on the disputed domain name and an email address [email protected] has been created and has already sent several emails claiming to be from an employee of the Complainant and containing billing information.
In this respect, WIPO UDRP panels have held that the use of a domain name for purposes other than to host a website may constitute bad faith (Section 3.4, WIPO Overview 3.0). Bad faith has been found where the disputed domain name has been used with an email address to impersonate the complainant for a fraudulent scheme (See, Arla Foods Amba v. Michael Guthrie, M. Guthrie Building Solutions, WIPO Case No. D2016-2213; Minerva S.A. v. Whoisguard Protected, Whoisguard, Inc., / GREYHAT SERVICES, WIPO Case No. D2016-0385).
The above element indicates that the Respondent is using the disputed domain name in an attempt to attract, for commercial gain, Internet users by creating a likelihood of confusion with the Complainant.
Moreover, the Panel accepts that the use of a privacy protection service is also an indication of bad faith attempt to conceal the Respondent’s identity.
For the above reasons, it appears to the Panel that the disputed domain name is being used in bad faith.
Finally, pursuant to Section 3.3 of WIPO Overview 3.0, the non-use of a domain name would not prevent a finding of bad faith under the doctrine of passive holding. Therefore, the fact that the disputed domain name redirects to a 404-error would not prevent this Panel’s finding of bad faith use.
By not submitting a Response, the Respondent offered no information on any good faith attempt that might have led the Panel to question the Complainant’s arguments. The Panel thus finds that the condition of paragraph 4(a)(iii) of the Policy is met.
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 <creditmutuel-sablons.com> be transferred to the Complainant.
Date: December 5, 2018
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