The Complainant is Association des Centres Distributeurs E. Leclerc - A.C.D. Lec., France, represented by Inlex IP Expertise, France.
The Respondent is Chance Ray, United Kingdom.
The disputed domain name <neudis-leclerc.com> (hereafter the “Disputed Domain Name”) is registered with NETIM SARL (the “Registrar”).
The Complaint was filed with the WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center (the “Center”) on July 31, 2020. On July 31, 2020, the Center transmitted by email to the Registrar a request for registrar verification in connection with the Disputed Domain Name. On August 4, 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 August 5, 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 August 7, 2020.
The Registrar also indicated that the language of the Registration Agreement was English. The Complaint was filed in French. The Center sent an email communication to the Complainant on August 5, 2020, inviting the Complainant to provide sufficient evidence of an agreement between the Parties for French to be the language of proceeding, a Complaint translated into English, or a request for French to be the language of proceedings. The Complainant submitted an amended Complaint translated into English.
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 August 14, 2020. In accordance with the Rules, paragraph 5, the due date for Response was September 3, 2020. The Respondent did not submit any response. Accordingly, the Center notified the Respondent’s default on September 7, 2020.
The Center appointed Flip Jan Claude Petillion as the sole panelist in this matter on September 15, 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, Association des Centres Distributeurs E. Leclerc - A.C.D. Lec., operates supermarkets and hypermarkets in France as well as in several other European Union countries.
The Complainant is the owner of several trademarks including the term “LECLERC”, such as:
- French word mark LECLERC number 1307790 registered since May 2, 1985, in classes 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31, 32, 33, 34, 35 and 39;
- European Union word mark LECLERC number 002700656 registered since February 26, 2004, in all classes.
The Disputed Domain Name <neudis-leclerc.com> was registered on March 4, 2020 and appears to be inactive.
The Complainant considers the Disputed Domain Name to be confusingly similar to a trademark in which it claims to have rights. The Complainant further claims that the Respondent has no rights or legitimate interests in respect of the Disputed Domain Name. According to the Complainant, the Respondent has not used the Disputed Domain Name in connection with a legitimate use. Also, according to the Complainant, the Respondent has not been commonly known by the Disputed Domain Name and is in no way affiliated with the Complainant. Finally, the Complainant claims that the Disputed Domain Name was registered and is being used in bad faith. According to the Complainant, the Respondent could not be unaware of the Complainant’s trademarks, activities and organization.
The Respondent did not reply to the Complainant’s contentions.
Paragraph 15 of the Rules provides that the Panel is to decide the Complaint on the basis of the statements and documents submitted in accordance with the Policy, the Rules and any rules and principles of law that it deems applicable.
The onus is on the Complainant to make out its case and it is apparent, both from the terms of the Policy and the decisions of past UDRP panels, that the Complainant must show that all three elements set out in paragraph 4(a) of the Policy have been established before any order can be made to transfer the Disputed Domain Name. As the UDRP proceedings are administrative, the standard of proof is the balance of probabilities.
Thus, for the Complainant to succeed it must prove, within the meaning of paragraph 4(a) of the Policy, that:
(i) the Disputed 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 Disputed Domain Name; and
(iii) the Disputed Domain Name has been registered and is being used in bad faith.
The Panel will therefore deal with each of these requirements.
To prove this element, the Complainant must first establish that there is a trademark or service mark in which it has rights. The Complainant has clearly established that there are trademarks in which it has rights. The Complainant’s LECLERC trademarks have been registered and used in various countries in connection to the Complainant’s operation of supermarkets and hypermarkets.
The Disputed Domain Name incorporates the Complainant’s trademark in its entirety, preceding it with the term “neudis” and a hyphen. Where the relevant trademark is recognizable within the Disputed Domain Name, the addition of other terms would not prevent a finding of confusing similarity under the first element (see section 1.8 of the WIPO Overview of WIPO Panel Views on Selected UDRP Questions, Third Edition (“WIPO Overview 3.0”)).
Additionally, it is well established that the generic Top-Level Domain (“gTLD”), here “.com”, may be disregarded when considering whether the Disputed Domain Name is confusingly similar to a trademark in which the Complainant has rights.
In light of the above, the Panel considers the Disputed Domain Name to be confusingly similar to the Complainant’s LECLERC trademark.
Under paragraph 4(a)(ii) of the Policy, the Complainant has the burden of establishing that the Respondent has no rights or legitimate interests in respect of the Disputed Domain Name.
As established by previous UDRP panels, it is sufficient for the Complainant to make a prima facie showing that the Respondent has no rights or legitimate interests in the Disputed Domain Name in order to place the burden of production on the Respondent (see section 2.1 of the WIPO Overview 3.0).
The Panel notes that the Respondent has not apparently been commonly known by the Disputed Domain Name and that the Respondent does not seem to have acquired trademark or service mark rights. According to the information provided by the Registrar, the Respondent is “Chance Ray”. The Respondent’s use and registration of the Disputed Domain Name was not authorized by the Complainant. There are no indications that a connection between the Complainant and the Respondent exists or existed.
Where a domain name consists of a trademark plus an additional term, UDRP panels have largely held that such composition cannot constitute fair use if it effectively impersonates or suggests sponsorship or endorsement by the trademark owner (see section 2.5.1 of the WIPO Overview 3.0). The Disputed Domain Name incorporates the Complainant’s LECLERC trademark and adds the term “neudis”. The Complainant has provided evidence showing that one of the independent storekeepers of the Complainant’s LECLERC group relies on the company name “Neudis” and runs a “Leclerc” supermarket in the city of Genay in France. Therefore, the Panel finds that the Disputed Domain Name carries a high risk of implied affiliation with the Complainant and cannot constitute fair use.
Beyond looking at the domain name and the nature of any additional terms appended to it, UDRP panels assess whether the overall facts and circumstances of the case, such as the content of the website linked to the disputed domain name and the absence of a response, support a fair use or not (see sections 2.5.2 and 2.5.3 of the WIPO Overview 3.0).
The Panel finds no signs of a legitimate noncommercial or fair use of the Disputed Domain Name, as it appears to be inactive.
The Respondent had the opportunity to demonstrate its rights or legitimate interests, but did not do so. In the absence of a Response from the Respondent, the prima facie case established by the Complainant has not been rebutted.
Therefore, the Panel finds that the Complainant has established that the Respondent has no rights or legitimate interests in the Disputed Domain Name. In light of the above, the Complainant succeeds on the second element of the Policy.
The Complainant must prove on the balance of probabilities both that the Disputed Domain Name was registered in bad faith and that it is being used in bad faith (see section 4.2 of the WIPO Overview 3.0 and, for example, Telstra Corporation Limited v. Nuclear Marshmallows, WIPO Case No. D2000-0003 and Control Techniques Limited v. Lektronix Ltd, WIPO Case No. D2006-1052).
Paragraph 4(b) of the Policy provides a non-exclusive list of factors, any one of which may demonstrate bad faith. Among these factors demonstrating bad faith registration and use is the use of a domain name to intentionally attempt to attract, for commercial gain, Internet users to a 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 website or location or of a product or service on the website or location.
In the present case, the Panel finds that it is inconceivable that the Respondent was unaware of the Complainant and its trademark rights when it registered the Disputed Domain Name. The Disputed Domain Name includes the Complainant’s distinctive trademark in its entirety and adds the distinctive term “neudis”, which is the company name of a supermarket linked to the Complainant’s group. The term “neudis” has no descriptive meaning in English or French, so the Panel finds no reasonable explanation for the Respondent’s registration of the Disputed Domain Name other than to refer to the Complainant’s business. In the Panel’s view, the Respondent’s awareness of the Complainant’s trademark rights at the time of registration suggests bad faith (see Red Bull GmbH v. Credit du Léman SA, Jean-Denis Deletraz, WIPO Case No. D2011-2209; BellSouth Intellectual Property Corporation v. Serena, Axel, WIPO Case No. D2006-0007, where it was held that the respondent acted in bad faith when registering the disputed domain name, because widespread and long-standing advertising and marketing of goods and services under the trademarks in question, the inclusion of the entire trademark in the domain name, and the similarity of products implied by addition of a telecommunications services suffix (“voip”) suggested knowledge of the complainant’s rights in the trademarks).
The Panel observes that the Disputed Domain Name is inactive. The passive holding of a domain name may amount to bad faith when it is difficult to imagine any plausible future active use of a domain name by the respondent that would be legitimate and would not interfere with the complainant’s well-known mark (see Inter-IKEA v. Polanski, WIPO Case No. D2000-1614; Inter-IKEA Systems B.V. v. Hoon Huh, WIPO Case No. D2000-0438; Telstra Corporation Limited v. Nuclear Marshmallows, supra). Additional factors to support a finding of bad faith in relation to the passive holding of a domain name include the degree of distinctiveness or reputation of the Complainant’s mark and the failure of the Respondent to submit a response or to provide any evidence of actual or contemplated good-faith use (see section 3.3 of WIPO Overview 3.0).
In the present case, the Panel finds that the Complainant has sufficiently proven the reputation of its LECLERC trademark. The combination of the LECLERC mark with a non-descriptive term linked to the Complainant’s business makes it difficult to conceive any plausible legitimate future use of the Disputed Domain Name by the Respondent.
Moreover, the Complainant provides evidence showing that the email function of the Disputed Domain Name was enabled. In the circumstances of this case, the Panel finds that the use of the Disputed Domain Name for fraudulent activity cannot be excluded, e.g. by profiting of the likelihood of confusion with the Complainant’s trademark for phishing activities through the sending of emails.
By failing to respond to the Complaint, the Respondent did not take any initiative to contest the foregoing. Pursuant to paragraph 14 of the Rules, the Panel may draw the conclusions it considers appropriate.
Therefore, the Panel finds that, on the balance of probabilities, it is sufficiently shown that the Disputed Domain Name was registered and is being used in bad faith. In light of the above, the Complainant also succeeds on the third and last element 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 <neudis-leclerc.com> be transferred to the Complainant.
Flip Jan Claude Petillion
Date: September 29, 2020
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