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WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center
ADMINISTRATIVE PANEL DECISION
Champagne Louis Roederer v. David Lloyd-Jones
Case No. D2001-0366
1. The Parties
The Complainant is Champagne Louis Roederer S.A., a French société anonyme, having its principal place of business in Reims, France.
The Respondent is David Lloyd-Jones, an individual with an address in Sandiway, Northwich, Cheshire, England.
2. The Domain Name and Registrar
The domain name at issue is <louis-roederer.com>. The domain name registrar is Register.com, Inc.
3. Procedural History
Complainant filed its Complaint with the World Intellectual Property Organization Arbitration and Mediation Center (the "Center") which was received by email on March 14, 2001, and in hard copy on March 20, 2001.
On March 23, 2001, the Center transmitted a request for registrar verification to Register.com, Inc. in connection with this case.
On March 23, 2001, Register.com, Inc. sent via email to the Center a verification response confirming that the Respondent is the registrant as well as the administrative contact and that the technical and zone contact is GreatDomains.com.
On March 27, 2001, the Center verified that the Complaint satisfies the formal requirements of the ICANN Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy (the "Policy"), the Rules for Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy (the "Rules") and the Supplemental Rules for Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution (the "Supplemental Rules").
On March 27, 2001, the Center formally commenced this proceeding and notified Respondent that its response would be due by April 15, 2001. The notification was sent to the Respondent by courier, fax and by email. The email appears to have been transferred without receipt of any "undeliverable" notice.
On March 27, 2001, the Center entered the address <http://louis-roederer.com> and was forwarded to the web page for GreatDomains.com.
The Respondent filed after the due date what appears to be an informal Response by email with the Center on April 17, 2001. The Panelist accepts the Respondent's submission in this case as part of the record.
Complainant elected a single-member Panel. On May 14, 2001, after clearing for potential conflicts, the Center appointed Thomas H. Webster as the Panelist, and set May 28, 2001, as the deadline for issuance of a decision.
4. Procedural and Factual Background
The following facts are taken from the Complaint and are generally accepted as true in the circumstances of this case.
"LOUIS ROEDERER is the distinctive part of the firm name of the Complainant, a very old and world-renowned French Champagne house (see Annex 2). Since that date, CHAMPAGNE LOUIS ROEDERER has been constantly active in the Champagne wines production and has become one of the most prestigious French Champagne houses enjoying a strong reputation throughout the world…
CHAMPAGNE LOUIS ROEDERER’s products include famous Champagne trademarks such has "CRISTAL" and "BRUT PREMIER" which are among the most sought-after in the world…
In France, LOUIS ROEDERER is the owner of the following trademark registrations (see Annex 4):
LOUIS ROEDERER, French registered word mark n° 1 713 574.
LOUIS ROEDERER also owns a large number of word marks LOUIS ROEDERER, registered all over the world (see Annex 4).
Furthermore, the name LOUIS ROEDERER has been constantly used by the Complainant as its Company name (see Company House Certificate in Annex 5).
The Respondent, David LLOYD-JONES, registered the domain name <louis-roederer.com> on January 24, 2000, with Register.com."
5. Parties Contentions
Complainant and Respondent make the following allegations. The factual elements of such allegations are generally accepted as true in the circumstances of this case in light of the Complainant's supporting documents. The legal issues are discussed in the next section of this decision.
A. Similarity of the Domain Name and Trademark.
In respect of the domain name being identical or confusingly similar to a trademark or service mark in which the Complainant has rights, Complainant alleges that:
"It is clear that the domain name <louis-roederer.com> is identical to the trademarks registered and used by the Complainant, as for example the French trademark LOUIS ROEDERER n° 1 713 574 (see Annex 4 of the Complaint)."
The Respondent does not contest Complainant’s allegation in his Response.
B. Respondent's Rights and Legitimate Interests.
Complainant contends that the Respondent has no rights or legitimate interests in the domain name on the basis of the following elements:
"The respondent has neither rights nor legitimate interests in respect of the domain name <louis-roederer.com>. Indeed, to the knowledge of the Complainant, the Respondent has not registered LOUIS ROEDERER anywhere in the world. Moreover, the Respondent is not a licensee of the Complainant, nor is it otherwise authorized to use any of the Complainant’s trademarks and corporate name."
The Respondent does not dispute this allegation.
C. Bad Faith Registration and Use.
Complainant further alleges that the domain name was registered and used in bad faith by the Respondent and relies on the following elements:
"[O]n January 29, 2000, as mentioned in the Respondent’s letter dated June 14, 2000 (see Annex 6 of the Complaint), the Respondent offered the domain name <louis-roederer.com> for sale to the Complainant.
The Complainant rejected this offer (see Annex 6 of the Complaint).
Considering the date of registration (January 24, 2000) of the domain name <louis-roederer.com> and the date on which the letter offering the domain name for sale was sent (January 24, 2000), together with the absence of any legitimate rights of the Respondent over the name LOUIS ROEDERER, it is clear that the respondent registered the domain name primarily for the purpose of selling the domain name registration to the to the (sic) Complainant who is the owner of numerous LOUIS ROEDERER trademarks (see Annex 4 of the Complaint).
Moreover, if the defendant was to argue that the name "ROEDERER" is a current patronymic name, the addition of the first name "LOUIS" is an evidence of the defendant’s bad faith. Indeed, the trademark composed, on one hand, of the first name "LOUIS" and, on the other hand, of the patronymic name "ROEDERER" is clearly distinctive and, in the public’s mind, only refers to the well-known champagne house LOUIS ROEDERER.
These arguments are strengthen (sic) by the fact that, the search conducted by the Complainant did not reveal the existence of any people whose patronymic name was ROEDERER in London, Birmingham and Northwich, were the defendant is located (see Annex ;8of the Complaint)…
Concerning the requirement of use of the domain name <louis-roederer.com>, the fact that the domain name do (sic) not resolve to a website or to any other on-line presence is not to be interpreted as an absence of use in bad faith, as required under section 4(a)(iii) of the Policy.
According to the Administrative Panel Decision in the WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center (WIPO Case No. D2000-0003), "the significance of the distinction is that the concept of a domain name "being used in bad faith" is not limited to positive action; inaction is within the concept. That is to say, it is possible, in certain circumstances for inactivity by the Respondent to amount to the domain name being used in bad faith".
In [WIPO Case No. D2000-0003 and No. D2000-0055], the Administrative Panels stated that the Respondent had registered and used the domain name in bad faith although the Respondent did not create a website in relation with the litigious domain name."
Respondent disputes this allegation of the Complainant by objecting:
"to the premise that an individual simply purchasing a keyword rich domain name on the open market after having offered the domain name to the most likely interested party and following that offers rejection, could be considered as having acted "in bad faith"."
6. Discussion and Findings
The burden for the Complainant under paragraph 4(a) of the Policy is to prove:
(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; and
(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.
A. Similarity of the Domain Name and Trademark.
Complainant has established its rights in the trademark "LOUIS ROEDERER" with an initial registration in the United States in 1990 and subsequent registrations in Europe and internationally throughout the 1990s including in the United Kingdom.
This Panelist finds that <louis-roederer.com> is confusingly similar to the trademark "LOUIS ROEDERER". The use of lower case letter format, the hyphen between "louis" and "roederer" and the addition of the gTLD ".com" are not significant in determining whether the domain name is identical or confusingly similar to the mark: see CBS Broadcasting Inc. v. Worldwide Webs, Inc., WIPO Case No. D2000-0834 (September 4, 2000).
Therefore, the Complainant has satisfied the first requirement.
B. Respondent's Rights and Legitimate Interests.
The Complainant has established that the LOUIS ROEDERER mark is well-known internationally. The Panelist accepts that the Complainant's mark is known in England.
The Complainant has not licensed or otherwise authorized the Respondent to use its trademark or to apply for any domain name incorporating the trademark. Therefore, prior to any notice of this dispute, the Respondent had not used the domain name in connection with any bona fide offering of goods or services within the meaning of Paragraph 4(c)(i) of the Policy.
Nor is there any evidence that the Respondent is commonly known by the domain name or is making a legitimate noncommercial or fair use of the domain name within the meaning of Paragraph 4(c)(ii) or (iii) of the Policy.
Notwithstanding the Response, the Respondent has failed to demonstrate, pursuant to paragraph 4(c) of the Policy, that he has rights or a legitimate interest in the domain name.
Therefore, this Panelist concludes on the basis of the evidence of the Complainant that the Respondent has no rights or legitimate interests in the domain name.
C. Bad Faith Registration and Use
The Respondent was aware of the Complainant's products when he registered the domain name in dispute on January 24, 2000. This is evidenced by the fact that the Respondent wrote to the Complainant just five days after the registration date and by Respondent's subsequent statement that "we are avid fans of your client’s products!" (see Annex 6 of the Complaint).
Complainant's contention that the Respondent offered to sell <louis-roederer.com> to the Complainant is evidenced by Annex 6 and is admitted by the Respondent. The domain name at issue also appears to have been for sale for a minimum of $300 on the GreatDomains.com web page on March 27, 2001. This type of offer to sell the domain name is clear evidence of bad faith on the part of the holder of the domain name: see paragraph 4(b)(i) of the Policy and Metabolife International v. Robert Williams, WIPO Case No. D2000-0630 (September 5, 2000). It also suggests that the Respondent believed that (1) the right to use the domain name in question was valuable and (2) the Complainant would be willing to pay a significant amount for the domain name, despite the Respondent's lack of legitimate interest in it.
The present situation is very similar to that of Veuve Cliquot Ponsardin, Maison Fondée en 1772 v. The Polygenix Group Co., WIPO Case No. D2000-0163 (May 1, 2000) where the Complainant owned the VEUVE CLIQUOT mark and produced the world-famous Veuve Cliquot champagne. The panelist in that case concluded that the domain name in dispute was "so obviously connected with such a well-known product that its very use by someone with no connection with the product suggests opportunistic bad faith." Therefore, bad faith can also be inferred from Respondent's registration and use of a domain name consisting wholly of the Complainant's well-known trademark.
Finally, the Respondent's objection to a finding of bad faith based on a "keyword rich domain name" is misplaced. The issue is not whether the domain name is "keyword rich", whatever that may mean. The issue is whether the Respondent registered it to profit from someone else's trademark, which is exactly what appears to have occurred in this case.
Therefore, the Panelist is satisfied that the Respondent registered and is using the domain name in bad faith in accordance with the criteria set out under paragraph 4(b)(i) of the Policy.
For the foregoing reasons, the Panelist holds:
(a) that the domain name is identical to the LOUIS ROEDERER mark in which the Complainant has rights; and
(b) that the Respondent has no rights or legitimate interests in respect of the domain name; and
(c) that the Respondent has registered and is using the domain name in bad faith.
Accordingly, pursuant to paragraph 4(i) of the Policy, the Panelist decides that the domain name <louis-roederer.com> must be transferred to the Complainant.
Thomas H. Webster
Dated: May 31, 2001