The Complainant is Confédération Nationale du Crédit Mutuel, France, represented by MEYER & Partenaires, France.
The Respondent is c/o WHOIStrustee.com Limited, Registrant of creditmutuel-espace.com, United Kingdom / Fabric Tripper, Freemob, Germany.
The disputed domain name <creditmutuel-espace.com> is registered with 1API GmbH (the “Registrar”).
The Complaint was filed with the WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center (the “Center”) on February 20, 2020. On February 20, 2020, the Center transmitted by email to the Registrar a request for registrar verification in connection with the disputed domain name. On February 21, 2020, 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 February 21, 2020 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 February 24, 2020.
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 February 25, 2020. In accordance with the Rules, paragraph 5, the due date for Response was March 16, 2020. The Respondent did not submit any response. Accordingly, the Center notified the Respondent’s default on March 18, 2020.
The Center appointed Alfred Meijboom as the sole panelist in this matter on March 27, 2020. 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 political and central body for the banking group Credit Mutuel. Credit Mutuel is the second French banking and insurance services group, consisting of a network of 3,178 offices in France, congregated in 18 regional federations and providing services to over 12 million clients.
The Complainant operates a web portal under the domain names <creditmutuel.com> and <creditmutuel.fr>, offering online banking services to Credit Mutuel’s clients.
The Complainant owns a trademark portfolio that includes the following trademark registrations for CREDIT MUTUEL:
European Union Trade Mark CREDIT MUTUEL (word mark), registered under number 009943135 on October 20, 2011 for goods and or services in classes 9, 16, 35, 36, 38, 41, 42, 45;
French combined word and stylized trademark CREDIT MUTUEL, registered under number 1646012 of November 20, 1990 for goods and services in classes 16, 35, 36, 38, 41;
International registration for the combined word and stylized mark CREDIT MUTUEL, registered under number 570182 on May 17, 1991 for goods and services in classes 16, 35, 36, 38 and designating, among other, Benelux, Italy, and Portugal.
The disputed domain name was registered on January 2, 2020 and does not resolve to an active website.
The Complainant asserts that that the disputed domain name is very similar to its trademarks CREDIT MUTUEL. The terms “credit mutuel” are incorporated into the disputed domain name in its entirety. The term ”espace”, which translates to English as “space” is often used in France in the context of banking activities and is a generic term that refers to an online platform or space for the clients of a company. As such, the addition of the term does not distinguish the disputed domain name from the Complainant’s trademarks, but instead enhances the confusion, as the public will believe that the disputed domain name will direct them to one of the Complainant’s online platforms.
The Complainant further contends that it has provided no license or authorization to the Respondent for the use of its trademarks, that it has no relationship with the Respondent whatsoever and that the Respondent is not commonly known by the disputed domain name.
Finally, the Complainant asserts that the Respondent registered the disputed domain name in bad faith. Previous UDRP panels have found that the Complainant’s trademark registrations are well known and that the Respondent must have had the Complainant’s trademarks in mind when registering the disputed domain name. The addition of the word “espace” is also indicative of this, as it is a term specifically used for banking activities and indicates that the Respondent was aware of the Complainants activities. The Respondent also uses the disputed domain name in bad faith. Although it does not resolve to any active website, the use of the disputed domain name qualifies as “passive holding”, which constitutes use in bad faith. Finally, the Complainant points out that it, as a banking group, continually faces counterfeiting and phishing attempts and needs to be able to adequately take measures to prevent imitations of its website(s) for fraudulent purposes.
The Respondent did not reply to the Complainant’s contentions.
The Respondent did not file a response. However, as set out in section 4.3 of the WIPO Overview of WIPO Panel Views on Selected UDRP Questions, Third Edition (“WIPO Overview 3.0”), the Respondent’s default does not automatically result in a decision in favor of the Complainant. The Complainant must still establish each of the three elements required by paragraph 4(a) of the Policy. Although the Panel may draw appropriate inferences from the Respondent’s default, paragraph 4 of the Policy requires the Complainant to support its assertions with actual evidence in order to succeed in these proceedings. Paragraph 14(b) of the Rules provides that, in the absence of exceptional circumstances, the Panel shall draw such inferences, as it considers appropriate from a failure of a party to comply with a provision or requirement of the Rules. The Panel finds that in this case there are no such exceptional circumstances.
Under the Policy, the Complainant must prove that:
- the disputed domain name is identical or confusingly similar to a trademark or service mark in which the Complainant has rights; and
- the Respondent has no rights or legitimate interests in respect of the disputed domain name; and
- the disputed domain name has been registered and is being used in bad faith.
The Panel finds that the disputed domain name is confusingly similar to the Complainants trademark registrations.
It is well established that the Top-Level Domain may typically be disregarded in the assessment under paragraph 4(a)(i) of the Policy. The disputed domain name further incorporates the (word element of the) Complainant’s trademark registrations CREDIT MUTUEL in their entirety. The Complainant has sufficiently demonstrated, for instance by referring to Credit Industriel et Commercial S.A. v. Zabor Mok, WIPO Case No. D2015-1432, that the addition of the word “espace” is a term commonly used in France to indicate an online space for clients or users of a company’s products or services. The addition of this term does not prevent a finding of confusing similarity between the disputed domain name and the Complainant’s trademarks.
Consequently, the first element of paragraph 4(a) of the Policy is met.
The Complainant must show a prima facie case that the Respondent lacks rights or legitimate interests in the disputed domain name, which the Respondent may rebut (e.g., Croatia Airlines d.d. v. Modern Empire Internet Ltd., WIPO Case No. D2003-0455).
The Panel takes note of the various allegations of the Complaint and in particular, that no authorization has been given by the Complainant to the Respondent to use its trademarks or to register the disputed domain name and that the Respondent has not been commonly known by the disputed domain name. These allegations of the Complainant remain unchallenged. There is no evidence before the Panel to show that the Respondent has rights or legitimate interests in the disputed domain name.
The Panel finds that the Complainant has satisfied the requirements of paragraph 4(a)(ii) of the Policy.
The Complainant has sufficiently demonstrated that its trademarks enjoy a certain level of notoriety. They are used in the course of a business that offers services to millions of people. The trademark registrations show that they were registered decades before the disputed domain name. The fact that the Respondent has included the Complainant’s well-known trademarks in their entirety and has added a dictionary term that merely further enhances the likelihood of confusion between the trademarks and the disputed domain name leads the Panel to believe that the Respondent was or must have been aware of the Complainant’s trademarks when registering the disputed domain name. The Panel is therefore satisfied that the disputed domain name was registered in bad faith.
The Complainant must also prove that the Respondent has used the disputed domain name in bad faith. Under the circumstances at hand, the Panel finds that the passive holding of the disputed domain name constitutes use in bad faith. Section 3.3. of the WIPO Overview 3.0 states the following on this issue:
“From the inception of the UDRP, panelists have found that the non-use of a domain name (including a blank or “coming soon” page) would not prevent a finding of bad faith under the doctrine of passive holding.
While panelists will look at the totality of the circumstances in each case, factors that have been considered relevant in applying the passive holding doctrine include: (i) the degree of distinctiveness or reputation of the complainant’s mark, (ii) the failure of the respondent to submit a response or to provide any evidence of actual or contemplated good-faith use, (iii) the respondent’s concealing its identity or use of false contact details (noted to be in breach of its registration agreement), and (iv) the implausibility of any good faith use to which the domain name may be put.”
In this case, the Panel concludes that the following cumulative circumstances are indicative of passive holding in bad faith: (i) the fact that the Complainant has sufficiently asserted that its trademarks enjoy a certain level of notoriety, and that the Respondent is found to have likely had the trademarks of the Complainant in mind when registering the disputed domain name; (ii) the lack of a response from the Respondent; (iii) the fact that the Respondent has not provided clear identifiable information when registering the disputed domain name, apparently providing a fake address; and (iv) the use of a privacy service in an attempt to conceal its identity.
The Panel therefore finds that the Complainant has satisfied the third and final requirement of paragraph 4(a) 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 <creditmutuel-espace.com> be transferred to the Complainant.
Date: April 10, 2020
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