The Complainant is Société Anonyme des Bains de Mer et du Cercle des Etrangers à Monaco, Monaco, represented by De Gaulle Fleurance & Associés, France.
The Respondent is Registration Private, Domains By Proxy, LLC, United States / Starvegas Betting and Myawaddy Complex, Thailand.
The disputed domain name <montecarlo88.com> (the “Domain Name”) is registered with GoDaddy.com, LLC (the “Registrar”).
The Complaint was filed with the WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center (the “Center”) on September 24, 2019. On September 24, 2019, the Center transmitted by email to the Registrar a request for registrar verification in connection with the Domain Name. On September 24, 2019, the Registrar transmitted by email to the Center its verification response disclosing registrant and contact information for the Domain Name which differed from the named Respondent and contact information in the Complaint. The Center sent an email communication to the Complainant on September 30, 2019, 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 4, 2019.
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 11, 2019. In accordance with the Rules, paragraph 5, the due date for Response was October 31, 2019. The Respondent did not submit any response. Accordingly, the Center notified the Respondent’s default on November 1, 2019.
The Center appointed W. Scott Blackmer as the sole panelist in this matter on November 20, 2019. 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 a limited liability company organized under the laws of the Principality of Monaco, originally by a sovereign decree in 1863. Chiefly owned by the Principality and its ruling Grimaldi family, the Complainant is the largest employer in the Principality and holds a monopoly on casino gaming services. In addition to the world-famous Casino de Monte-Carlo, the Complainant operates the Hotel de Paris Monte‑Carlo, the Thermes Marins Monte-Carlo spa, the Monte-Carlo Beach Club, and other casinos, hotels, palaces, spas, restaurants, bars, sports clubs, and entertainment venues in Monaco. The Complainant operates a website in six languages at “www.montecarlosbm.com”.
The Complainant holds numerous trademark registrations consisting of or including MONTE-CARLO or CASINO DE MONTE-CARLO, including the following:
CASINO DE MONTE-CARLO (standard characters)
August 13, 1996
CASINO DE MONTE-CARLO (standard characters)
December 31, 2013
CASINO DE MONTE-CARLO (standard characters)
January 21, 2002
CASINO DE MONTE-CARLO (standard characters)
December 26, 2018
MONTE-CARLO (standard characters)
September 11, 2018
The Complaint includes substantial evidence regarding advertising and media recognition of the CASINO DE MONTE CARLO marks associated with elite gambling, resort, hotel, and entertainment services, including recognition as a famous or well-known mark by courts in France, England, and the United States of America, as well as by previous UDRP panels. The Casino de Monte Carlo itself is an enduring cultural icon that frequently appears as a locale or reference in songs, books, films, television programs, and video games. Examples include the 1890s British music hall staple, “The Man Who Broke the Bank at Monte Carlo” (which inspired a romantic comedy film with that title in 1935), Daphne du Maurier’s bestselling 1938 gothic novel Rebeccaand its movie adaptation by Alfred Hitchcock in 1940, Alfred Hitchcock’s 1954 To Catch a Thiefwith Cary Grant and Grace Kelly (the future Princess Grace of Monaco), the James Bond films Never Say Never Again (1983) and Goldeneye(1995), the 2004 “heist” film Oceans Twelve, the superhero movie Iron Man 2 (2010), the popular animated films Cars 2 (2011) and Madagascar 3(2012), 2016 and 2017 episodes of the American “soap opera” television series The Bold and the Beautiful, and the Gran Turismovideo game series (1997-2017). Thus, while Monte Carlo is a geographic term signifying one of the four quartiers of the Principality of Monaco, it is probably best known around the world as the site of the Complainant’s trademarked casino.
The Registrar reports that the Domain Name was registered on September 1, 2019, using a domain privacy service. After receiving notice of this dispute, the Registrar identified the registrant as the Respondent, but the identifying details are inconsistent. The Registrant is listed as Starvegas Betting and the registrant organization as Myawaddy Complex. The postal address matches that of the Myawaddy Complex Casino in Myawaddy, Kayin State, Myanmar, which has a Facebook page and is found in online directories of casinos and tourist attractions. The Registrar, however, lists “Burma” in the address and then shows “TH,” the ISO abbreviation for Thailand, as the country. The Panel notes that Myawaddy is situated across the Moei River from the Thai border town of Mae Sot, which also hosts the Star Complex Casino, so it is possible that the Respondent “Starvegas Betting” is involved in these facilities on both sides of the border. With the limited information available, and in the absence of a Response, the Panel will treat both entities named in the registration, Starvegas Betting and Myawaddy Complex, collectively as the “Respondent”.
The website associated with the Domain Name (the “Respondent’s website”) is predominantly displayed in the Thai language and offers online sports and casino gambling via the website and mobile apps. Each page of the website is headed with the name, in English, “MONTECARLO88”, followed by a tagline in English, “Sport & Casino Online”. The website operator is not identified as such, and “Monte Carlo” is not presented as an entity name or trademark. The Complainant found no relevant trademark registration. Rather, the name seems intended to evoke the activity of gambling, as it appears in a logo in gold and silver lettering with images of coins or casino chips. The numbers “88” in the Domain Name are not explained on the website, but as documented by search engine queries and a New York Timesarticle attached to the Complaint, the numbers 88 or 888 often appear in the names of online gambling sites, because they signify good fortune (in Chinese numerology, the number 8 is traditionally considered lucky). Clicking on each page link on the Respondent’s website first produces a large popup advertising “MONTECARLO88” promotions and encouraging users, in English, to “Add Friends”.
The Respondent’s website advertises that it is the “leader in online casinos and gambling”, with “slots games, roulette, horse racing, baccarat and more than 100 new games”, where players can win “100% real money”. Deposits for wagers are taken in Thai currency (Baht), but the website claims that it is “internationally renowned” and “popular with players in many countries” and that “the system is located in leading casinos in foreign countries”. Thus, the reference to “Monte Carlo” in the Domain Name may lend credence to these claims of association with well-known foreign casinos, an association which the Complainant, for its part, denies.
The Complainant asserts that the Domain Name is confusingly similar to its MONTE-CARLO and CASINO DE MONTE-CARLO marks, which the Respondent has used without permission and without other evident rights or legitimate interests.
The Complainant argues that, given the international fame of its marks, the Respondent must have been aware of them, particularly as it used the Domain Name for a gambling enterprise, which is precisely the field in which the Complainant is best known.
The Respondent did not reply to the Complainant’s contentions.
Paragraph 4(a) of the Policy provides that in order to divest a respondent of a domain name, a complainant must demonstrate each of the following:
(i) the domain name is identical or confusingly similar to a trademark or service mark in which the complainant has rights; and
(ii) the respondent has no rights or legitimate interests in respect of the domain name; and
(iii) the domain name has been registered and is being used in bad faith.
Under paragraph 15(a) of the Rules, “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”.
The first element of a UDRP complaint “functions primarily as a standing requirement” and entails “a straightforward comparison between the complainant’s trademark and the domain name”. See WIPO Overview of WIPO Panel Views on Selected UDRP Questions, Third Edition (“WIPO Overview 3.0”), section 1.7.
The Domain Name consists of the Complainant’s registered European Union trademark MONTE-CARLO in its entirety, together with the numerals “88”. As the trademark is clearly recognizable within the Domain Name, the Panel finds the Domain Name to be confusingly similar to the Complainant’s trademark. The addition of the numerals “88” do not dispel this confusing similarity, nor does the generic Top-Level Domain (“gTLD”) “.com”, which is generally disregarded.
The Panel finds, therefore, that the Complainant has established the first element of the Complaint.
Paragraph 4(c) of the Policy gives non-exclusive examples of instances in which the Respondents may establish rights or legitimate interests in the Domain Name, by demonstrating any of the following:
(i) before any notice to it of the dispute, the Respondent’s use of, or demonstrable preparations to use, the Domain Name or a name corresponding to the Domain Name in connection with a bona fide offering of goods or services; or
(ii) that the Respondent has been commonly known by the Domain Name, even if it has acquired no trademark or service mark rights; or
(iii) the Respondent is making a legitimate noncommercial or fair use of the Domain Name, without intent for commercial gain to misleadingly divert consumers or to tarnish the trademark or service mark at issue.
Since a respondent in a UDRP proceeding is in the best position to assert rights or legitimate interests in a domain name, it is well established that after a complainant makes a prima facie case, the burden of production on this element shifts to the respondent to come forward with relevant evidence of its rights or legitimate interests in the domain name. See WIPO Overview 3.0, section 2.1.
Here, the Complainant makes a prima facie case with evidence of trademark rights, confusing similarity, lack of permissive use, and commercial use not corresponding to any known personal or business name or mark. The Respondent has not come forward with evidence of rights or legitimate interests, and none are evident on this record. Accordingly, the Panel concludes that the Complainant has established the second element of the Complaint.
The Policy, paragraph 4(b), furnishes a non-exhaustive list of circumstances that “shall be evidence of the registration and use of a domain name in bad faith”, including the following cited by the Complainant (in which “you” refers to the registrant of the domain name):
“(iv) by using the domain name, you have intentionally attempted to attract, for commercial gain, Internet users to your web site or other online location, by creating a likelihood of confusion with the complainant's mark as to the source, sponsorship, affiliation, or endorsement of your web site or location or of a product or service on your web site or location.”
The facts in this proceeding accord with this example of bad faith. The Complainant’s marks are indeed well known, long established, and strongly associated with gambling, precisely the Respondent’s commercial enterprise. The Respondent, as a casino operator in a tourist locale as well as an online gambling entrepreneur, could hardly fail to be aware of the Casino de Monte-Carlo. The Respondent’s website claims an international reputation and even asserts that its “system is located in leading foreign casinos”. The Respondent places the Complainant’s mark prominently throughout the Respondent’s website while it obscures its own identity on the website and in the Domain Name’s registration. These facts all point to a Respondent that knowingly targeted the Complainant’s marks, misleading Internet users as to source or affiliation for commercial gain.
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, <montecarlo88.com>, be transferred to the Complainant.
W. Scott Blackmer
Date: December 2, 2019
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