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WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center
ADMINISTRATIVE PANEL DECISION
Singapore Airlines Limited v. P&P Servicios de Communicacion S.L.
Case No. D2000-0643
1. The Parties
The Complainant is Singapore Airlines Limited, a corporation under the laws of the Republic of Singapore with its address at Airline House, 25 Airline Road, Singapore 819829. It is represented by Mr. Roy Goldbert of Schnader Harrison Segal & Lewis LLP, Attorneys of Washington DC, U.S.A.
The Respondent is P&P Servicios de Communicacion S.L., Av. Hospital Militar, 56 Barcelona, BCN 08023, Spain. The Administrative, Technical, Zone and Billing contact is Juan Manuel Burgueno Romero, of Alderete 8, 1-2 Malaga, Spain, Tel: 95 225 2949, Fax: 95 224 1557. The Respondent is not represented by counsel and has filed no Response.
2. The Domain Name and Registrar
The domain name at issue is "singaporeairlines.com". The domain name is registered with Network Solutions Inc., 505 Huntmar Park Drive, Herndon, Virginia 20170, United States of America ("NSI").
3. Procedural History
The Complaint, submitted by Singapore Airlines Limited was received on June 20, 2000, (electronic version) and June 22, 2000, (hard copy) by the World Intellectual Property Organization Arbitration and Mediation Center ("WIPO Center").
On or about June 22, 2000, a request for Registrar verification was transmitted by the WIPO Center to NSI, requesting it to:
- Confirm that a copy of the Complaint had been sent to it by the Complainant as required by the WIPO Supplemental Rules for Uniform Dispute Resolution Policy ("Supplemental Rules"), paragraph 4(b).
- Confirm that the domain name at issue is registered with NSI.
- Confirm that the person identified as the Respondent is the current registrant of the domain name.
- Provide full contact details, i.e., postal address(es), telephone number(s), facsimile number(s), email address(es), available in the Registrar’s WHOIS database for the registrant of the disputed domain name, the technical contact, the administrative contact and the billing contact for the domain name.
- Confirm that the Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy was in effect.
- Indicate the current status of the domain name.
By email dated June 30, 2000, NSI advised WIPO Center as follows:
- NSI had received a copy of the Complaint from the Complainant.
- NSI is the Registrar of the domain name registrations "singaporeairlines.com".
- P&P Servicios de Communicacion S.L. is shown as the "current registrant" of the domain name "singaporeairlines.com".
- Juan Manuel Burgueno Romero is shown as the administrative, technical, zone and billing contact. His telephone and facsimile numbers are as indicated above.
- NSI’s 5.0 Service Agreement is in effect.
- The domain name registration "singaporeairlines.com" is in "Active" status.
NSI has currently incorporated in its agreements the policy for Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution adopted by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers ("ICANN").
The advice from NSI that the domain name in question is still "active", indicates the Respondent has not requested that the domain name at issue be deleted from the domain name database. The Respondent has not sought to terminate the agreement with NSI. Accordingly, the Respondent is bound by the provisions of NSI’s Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy, i.e., the ICANN policy. The Respondent has not challenged the jurisdiction of the Panel.
Having verified that the Complaint satisfied the formal requirements of the Uniform Policy and the Uniform Rules, the WIPO Center on July 6, 2000, transmitted by post/courier and by email a notification of Complaint and Commencement of Administrative Proceedings to the Respondent. A copy of the Complaint was also emailed to NSI and ICANN.
The Complainant elected to have its Complaint resolved by a single panel member: it has duly paid the amount required of it to the WIPO Center.
The Respondent was advised that a Response to the Complaint was required within 20 calendar days (i.e., by July 25, 2000). The Respondent was also advised that any Response should be communicated, in accordance with the Rules, by four sets of hard copy and by email. The Respondent has filed no Response. A Notice of Default was sent by WIPO Center to the Respondent on July 26, 2000.
On August 17, 2000, the WIPO Center invited the Honorable Sir Ian Barker QC of Auckland, New Zealand, to serve as Sole Panelist in the case. It transmitted to him a statement of acceptance and requested a declaration of impartiality and independence.
On August 17, 2000, the Honorable Sir Ian Barker QC advised his acceptance and forwarded to the WIPO Center his statement of impartiality and independence. The Panelist finds that the Administrative Panel was properly constituted in accordance with the Rules and the Supplemental Rules.
On August 21, 2000, WIPO Center forwarded to the Honorable Sir Ian Barker QC by courier the relevant submissions and the record. These were received by him on August 25, 2000. In terms of Rule 5(b), in the absence of exceptional circumstances, the Panel is required to forward its decision by September 4, 2000.
The Panel has independently determined and agrees with the assessment of WIPO Center that the Complaint meets the formal requirements of the Rules for Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy as approved by ICANN on October 24, 1999, ("the Rules") and the Supplemental Rules.
The language of the administrative proceeding is English, being the language of the registration agreement.
4. Factual Background
The Complainant owns and operates Singapore Airlines, a leading international air carrier, which operates in 70 cities and 35 countries in Asia, Europe, North America, Africa and Australasia. The Complainant has operated its international air services since 1972, and prides itself on the quality of those services.
The Complainant owns registered trademark and service mark rights to the mark "Singapore Airlines" in numerous countries throughout the world, including the United States and Spain.
The Complainant has registered the domain name "singaporeair.com" with NSI as well as domain names containing "singaporeair" in country codes throughout the world, e.g., "singaporeair.com.sg" and "singaporeair.com.de".
The Complainant uses the "Singapore Airlines" mark to promote and market its aviation services worldwide through various marketing channels, including websites. The Panel is able to take judicial notice of the fact that the mark is distinctive and is universally associated with the Complainant’s airline.
The Complainant has not granted any license or other authority to the Respondent to use the mark.
5. Parties’ Contentions
The Complainant submits that the only possible conclusion must be that the Respondent registered a domain name, which is identical to its world-famous registered mark, "Singapore Airlines" and is using it in bad faith. The Respondent must have known of the Complainant’s mark and the Complainant’s place in international aviation. The Respondent has no rights or legitimate interest in the disputed domain name. There can be no plausible explanation for the encapture of the mark by the Respondent.
The Respondent has made no submissions.
6. Discussion and Findings
Paragraph 15(a) of the Rules instructs the Panel to:
"decide a complaint on the basis of the statements and documents submitted in accordance with the policy, these rules and any rules and principles of law that it deems applicable".
The burden for the Complainant, under paragraph 4(a) of the ICANN Policy, is to show:
h 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
h That the Respondent has no rights or legitimate interests in respect of the domain name; and
h That the domain name has been registered and is being used by the Respondent in bad faith.
The domain name "singaporeairlines.com" is obviously identical or confusingly similar to the Complainant’s mark. The Panel so decides. The addition of the ".com" is of no importance in arriving at this conclusion.
Likewise, the Panel decides that the Respondent has no rights or legitimate interests in the domain name at issue. The Complainant has granted no rights to the Respondent. The Respondent has never suggested to the contrary. Nor is there any suggestion that the Respondent is known by the words contained in the mark.
Paragraph 4(b) of the ICANN Policy states:
"For the purposes of Paragraph 4(a)(iii), the following circumstances, in particular but without limitation, if found by the Panel to be present, shall be evidence of the registration and use of a domain name in bad faith:
(i) circumstances indicating that you have registered or you have acquired the domain name primarily for the purpose of selling, renting, or otherwise transferring the domain name registration to the complainant who is the owner of the trademark or service mark or to a competitor of that complainant, for valuable consideration in excess of your documented out-of-pocket costs directly related to the domain name; or
(ii) you have registered the domain name in order to prevent the owner of the trademark or service mark from reflecting the mark in a corresponding domain name, provided that you have engaged in a pattern of such conduct; or
(iii) you have registered the domain name primarily for the purpose of disrupting the business of a competitor; or
(iv) by using the domain name, you have intentionally attempted to attract, for commercial gain, Internet users to your web site or other on-line 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."
It should be noted that the circumstances of bad faith are not limited to the above.
The Panel considers that the Respondent has registered and used the domain name "singaporeairlines.com" in bad faith for the following reasons:
(a) The domain name "singaporeairlines.com" is so obviously connected with a well-known airline that its very registration and use by someone with no connection with the airline suggests opportunistic bad faith. Indeed, it is hard to imagine a more blatant exercise in "cybersquatting".
(b) The present situation is similar to that in Educational Tertiary Service v. TOEFL (WIPO Case D2000-0044) where the learned Panelist said:
"The value which Respondents seeks to secure from sale of the domain name is based on the underlying value of Complainant’s trademark. This value is grounded in the right of Complainant to use its mark to identify itself as a source of goods or services. Respondents have failed to establish any legitimate domain name-related use for Complainant’s trademark, in a context in which such legitimization might be possible. The Respondents having failed to present any such justification, the Panel may reasonably infer that Respondents neither intended to make nor has made any legitimate use of Complainant’s trademark in connection with the domain name at issue."
Normally, in cases such as this, there is a "cease and desist" letter from the Complainant seeking an explanation from the Respondent for the use of the mark. Sometimes, a Respondent offers some excuse for the "cybersquatting". Although such a letter is normally to be encouraged, its absence here is not material because of the stark blatancy of the Respondent’s registration. The registration of a domain name obviously relating to the Complainant which is known worldwide is in itself a pointer to the Respondent’s bad faith. A desire by the Respondent to "cash in" on the Complainant’s reputation is the only possible inference.
Accordingly, for the reasons discussed above, the Panel finds that the domain name "singaporeairlines.com" has been registered and is being used by the Respondent in bad faith.
7. Legal Considerations
Although entitled to consider principles of law deemed applicable, the Panel finds it unnecessary to do so. The jurisprudence which is being rapidly developed by a variety of WIPO Panelists worldwide under the ICANN Policy provides a fruitful source of precedent. Cheeky attempts by "cybersquatters" to capitalize on universally known brands or trademarks have to date been thwarted fairly summarily by many WIPO Panelists.
For the foregoing reasons, the Panel decides:
(a) that the domain name registered by the Respondent is identical or confusingly similar to the trademark to which the Complainant has rights;
(b) that the Respondent has no rights or legitimate interests in respect of the domain name; and
(c) the Respondent’s domain name has been registered and is being used in bad faith.
Accordingly, pursuant to paragraph 4(i) of the Policy, the Panel requires that the registration of the domain name "singaporeairlines.com" be transferred to the Complainant.
Hon Sir Ian Barker QC
Dated: August 29, 2000