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ADMINISTRATIVE PANEL DECISION
Hotelconnect Limited v. Nawaz Haq
Case No. D2007-0616
1. The Parties
The Complainant is Hotelconnect Limited, London, United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland (“UK”) represented by SafeNames Ltd., United Kingdom of Northern Ireland and Great Britain.
The Respondent is Nawaz Haq, Knightsridge, Livingston, West Lothian, United Kingdom of Northern Ireland and Great Britain.
2. The Domain Name and Registrar
The disputed domain name <hotelconnect.mobi> (the “Domain Name”) is registered with Tucows Inc.
3. Procedural History
The Complaint was filed with the WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center (the “Center”) on April 26, 2007. On April 27, 2007, the Center transmitted by email to Tucows a request for registrar verification in connection with the domain name at issue. On April 30, 2007, Tucows transmitted by email to the Center its verification response confirming that the Respondent is listed as the registrant and providing the contact details. The Center verified that the Complaint satisfied the formal requirements of the Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy (the “Policy”), 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(a) and 4(a), the Center formally notified the Respondent of the Complaint, and the proceedings commenced on May 15, 2007. In accordance with the Rules, paragraph 5(a), the due date for Response was June 4, 2007. The Respondent did not submit any response. Accordingly, the Center notified the Respondent’s default on June 8, 2007.
The Center appointed Ian Lowe as the sole panelist in this matter on July 4, 2007. 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.
4. Factual Background
The Complainant provides an online booking service for discount hotel accommodation through its website at “www.hotelconnect.co.uk”. It also owns the domain names <hotelconnect.net>, <hotelconnect.org> and <hotelconnect.biz>, all of which resolve to the same website.
The Complainant is the proprietor of Community trademark No. 981761 HOTELCONNECT registered in classes 39 and 42 as of November 10, 1998 and of Community trademark No. 2379469 comprising a device and stylized word “hotelconnect” registered in classes 16, 39 and 42 as of September 17, 2001. It is also the proprietor of US trademark No. 2752237 HOTELCONNECT registered as of May 15, 2002, in respect of services including travel agency services and making reservations for temporary lodging.
The Domain Name was registered on September 27, 2006. At the time of the Complaint it resolved to a domain registration webpage of “www.domainmonster.com”.
5. Parties’ Contentions
The Complainant has been trading under the name Hotel Connect since 1993. It has rights in the name HOTELCONNECT as evidenced by its two Community trademarks and its US trademark registered between November 1998 and September 2006.
HOTELCONNECT is identical to the Domain Name save only for the suffix “.mobi” that should be disregarded for the purposes of comparison.
The Respondent has no rights or legitimate interests in respect of the Domain Name in that he has not taken any steps to use it; he is not offering goods or services in bona fide; and the Complainant has not granted the Respondent any license or permission to use the Domain Name.
The Complainant submits that the Domain Name was registered and is being used by the Respondent in bad faith in that it was registered with the primary purpose of being sold to the Complainant for valuable consideration in excess of the Respondent’s out-of-pocket expenses.
The Complainant initially attempted to register the Domain Name but failed to do so through an administrative error. It was then registered by the Respondent. An approach was made to the Respondent on behalf of the Complainant to purchase the Domain Name. The Respondent offered to sell it for Ј4,000 which is higher than the out-of-pocket costs for the Domain Name and rejected the Complainant’s counter-offer of Ј2,500. He stated that “I do not intend to use the domain however it still does belong to me”.
The Complainant submits that although the Respondent did not approach the Complainant directly, the offering for sale of the Domain Name to the trademark holder or its competitor for a price in excess of out-of-pocket costs is one avenue for establishing bad faith registration and use pursuant to the Policy.
The Complainant submits that indications of the Respondent’s intentions appear from his registration of a number of other domain names with the “dot-mobi” extension comprising trademarks or the names of international corporations including:
<joneslanglasalle.mobi> – Jones Lang LaSalle
<hibernianfc.mobi> – Hibernian Football Club
<dtz.mobi> – DTZ Holdings plc
<british-car-auctions.mobi> – British Car Auctions
<companies-house.mobi> – Companies House, the UK Government Register of Companies.
The Complainant submits that the Respondent has no legitimate interest in any of these domain names and their registration in addition to that of the Domain Name constitutes a pattern within the scope of paragraph 4(b)(ii) of the Rules.
The Complainant has a strong presence in the UK, where the Respondent is resident, and in the Complainant’s view the Respondent was aware of this at the time of the registration of the Domain Name. The Complainant contends that the Respondent’s offer for sale in conjunction with his lack of legitimate interest and use of the Domain Name amounts to a passive holding registration that can constitute bad faith for the purposes of paragraph 4(a)(iii) of the Policy.
The Respondent did not reply to the Complainant’s contentions.
6. Discussion and Findings
According to paragraph 4(a) of the Policy, for this Complaint to succeed in relation to the Domain Name the Complainant must prove that:
(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 interest in respect of the Domain Name; and
(iii) the Domain Name has been registered in bad faith and is being used in bad faith.
A. Identical or Confusingly Similar
The Complainant has adduced uncontroverted evidence of Community and US trademark registrations in respect of the mark HOTELCONNECT and of the use of the trademark in connection with the provision of its online services. The Panel finds that the Complainant has clearly established rights in the mark HOTELCONNECT.
The Domain Name is identical to the Domain Name, ignoring the suffix “.mobi”. Accordingly, the Panel finds that the Domain Name is identical to a trademark in which the Complainant has rights.
B. Rights or Legitimate Interests
The Respondent has not replied to the Complainant’s contentions and has not therefore displaced the assertion on the part of the Complainant that the Respondent does not and cannot possibly have any rights or legitimate interests in the Domain Name. The Panel accepts the supported assertion on the part of the Complainant that the name HOTELCONNECT is sufficiently well-known that the Respondent is very likely to have had it in mind when registering the Domain Name. The email correspondence with the Respondent annexed to the Complaint includes the statement on the part of the Respondent that he does not intend to use the Domain Name. This supports the contention that the Respondent has no rights or legitimate interest in the Domain Name.
Accordingly, the Panel finds that the Respondent has no rights or legitimate interests in the Domain Name.
C. Registered and Used in Bad Faith
At the time of the Complaint the Domain Name resolved to a domain name registration page of “www.domainmonster.com” through whom the Domain Name was apparently registered and there is no evidence of any prior active use of the Domain Name by the Respondent. The case therefore raises the question of the extent to which passive holding of a domain name may amount to use in bad faith.
As the WIPO Overview of WIPO Panel Views on Selected UDRP Questions indicates, the consensus view of WIPO panelists is that the lack of active use of the domain name does not as such prevent a finding of bad faith. The panel must examine all the circumstances of the case to determine whether respondent is acting in bad faith. Examples of circumstances that can indicate bad faith include the complainant having a well-known trademark, no response to the complaint, concealment of identity and the impossibility of conceiving a good faith use of the domain name. Panels may draw inferences about whether the domain name was used in bad faith given the circumstances surrounding registration, and vice versa.
As indicated above, the Panel accepts that the Complainant’s trademark HOTELCONNECT is sufficiently notorious that the Respondent is very likely to have had it in mind when registering the Domain Name. There was no Response in this case and therefore no good faith explanation has been provided by the Respondent as to how he came to register the Domain Name. On the contrary, the email correspondence exhibited to the Complaint indicates that the Respondent had no intention of using the Domain Name and that by inference the Respondent must therefore have registered it with a view to selling it. Given the nature of the Domain Name, identical as it is to the Complainant’s distinctive mark, such a sale is overwhelmingly likely to have been a sale to the Complainant or one of its competitors.
In looking to sell the Domain Name for Ј4,000, the Respondent aimed to do so for significantly in excess of his out-of-pocket expenses associated with the Domain Name.
Taking into account all the above matters, it is difficult to conceive any plausible actual or contemplated active use of the domain name by the Respondent that would not be illegitimate, such as passing off or an infringement of the Complainant’s rights under trademark law.
In addition, there is some evidence that the Respondent has registered a number of domain names corresponding to other well known names in which he is most unlikely to have any legitimate interest and that this pattern supports the contention that the Respondent registered the Domain Name in order to prevent the Complainant from reflecting its registered trademarks in a corresponding domain name. Such activity is identified as supporting evidence of registration and use in bad faith under paragraph 4b(ii) of the Policy.
In all the circumstances, the Panel finds that the Domain Name was registered and has been used in bad faith.
For all the foregoing reasons, in accordance with paragraphs 4(i) of the Policy and 15 of the Rules, the Panel orders that the domain name <hotelconnect.mobi> be transferred to the Complainant.
Dated: July 18, 2007