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WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center

 

ADMINISTRATIVE PANEL DECISION

Sanofi-Aventis v. US-Meds.com

Case No. D2004-0809

 

1. The Parties

The Complainant is Sanofi-Aventis of Paris, France, represented by Bird & Bird Solicitors of Paris, France.

The Respondent is US-Meds.com of Fontana, California, United States of America.

 

2. The Domain Names and Registrar

The disputed domain names <acomplia-drug.com>, <acompliadrug.com>, <acompliadrug.net>, <acomplia-online.com>, <acompliaonline.net>, <acomplia-pharmacy.com>, <acompliapharmacy.com>, <acomplia-pills.com>, <acompliapills.com>, <acompliapills.net>, <acomplia-store.com>, <acompliastore.com>, <buy-acomplia.com>, <buyacomplia.net>, <buy-acomplia-online.com>, and <genericacomplia.net> are registered with Go Daddy Software.

 

3. Procedural History

The Complaint was filed with the WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center (the “Center”) on October 5, 2004. On October 6, 2004, the Center transmitted by email to Go Daddy Software a request for registrar verification in connection with the domain names at issue. On October 6, 2004, Go Daddy Software transmitted by email to the Center its verification response confirming that the Respondent is listed as the registrant and providing the contact details for the administrative, billing, and technical contact. 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 October 11, 2004. In accordance with the Rules, paragraph 5(a), the due date for Response was October 31, 2004. The Respondent did not submit any response. Accordingly, the Center notified the Respondent’s default on November 3, 2004.

The Center appointed Ross Carson as the sole panelist in this matter on November 15, 2004. 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 company was created by Sanofi-Synthelabo’s 2004 acquisition of Aventis’ shares.

Completion of the transaction created the No. 1 pharmaceutical group in Europe, No. 3 in the world, with pro forma 2002, consolidated sales of 25 billion Euro in its core business, and a strong direct presence in all major world markets.

The new group benefits from a large portfolio of high-growth drugs, with 9 products that individually generated annual sales of over Euro 500 million in 2003. It enjoys firmly established positions in key fast-growth therapeutic fields such as cardiovascular, thrombosis, oncology, diabetes, central nervous system, urology, internal medicine and human vaccines.

A true copy of the Complainant’s 2003 Annual Report is attached to the Complaint. Annex 3 to the Complaint.

The Complainant’s products are marketed in the United States through a number of channels: the affiliate, Sanofi-Synthelabo Inc.; an alliance with Bristol-Myers Squibb for Plavix® and Avapro®, the sales of which are not consolidated by Sanofi-Synthelabo; a 50/50 alliance with Organon on Arixtra® in 2003, with Sanofi-Synthelabo taking full control of Arixtra® in 2004; license agreements in particular on Cordarone®, Depakine® and Ticlid®.

A website specifically dedicated to US is accessible at the following address: “www.sanofi-synthelabo.us”. Annex 4 to the Complaint.

On February 16, 2004, during an information meeting, the content of which was released on the Internet, the Complainant announced early results of two Phase III studies for the new Acomplia drug, indicating that overweight and obese patients with untreated dyslipidemia lost weight in one year while improving their lipid and glucose profiles, and that smokers who had previously unsuccessfully tried to quit smoking, were able to quit in 10 weeks without post cessation weight gain. Annex 5 to the Complaint.

These results were presented to the scientific community at the American College of Cardiology annual meeting in New Orleans on March 9, 2004. Annex 6 to the Complainant.

The ACOMPLIA pharmaceutical is expected to be launched in 2006.

As obesity is currently being recognized as a major health problem the ACOMPLIA product announcements and scientific papers relating to Phase III studies of a pharmaceutical for the treatment of overweight and obese patients created substantial interest in the medical area. Numerous domain name registrants registered over forty domain names for or including the Complainant’s trademark ACOMPLIA in the days and months immediately following the release of information and scientific papers relating to the Phase III studies for the ACOMPLIA drug.

The Complainant has filed trademark applications for ACOMPLIA in more that 100 countries including the US. A list of the Complainant’s worldwide trade mark applications or registrations for the ACOMPLIA trade mark is attached at Annex 7 to the Complaint and copies of some of the Complainant’s worldwide registration certificates for the trade mark ACOMPLIA are attached at Annex 8 to the Complaint. The United States trademark application for ACOMPLIA was filed on January 5, 2004, claiming a priority date of December 3, 2003.

The Complainant also registered numerous domain names worldwide containing the ACOMPLIA trademark, for example “www.acomplia.fr”, “www.acomplia.us” etc. Copies of the WHOIS search results for a selection of those domain names are attached at Annex 9 to the Complaint. The Complainant registered the domain name <acomplia.com> on December 18, 2003. The Complainant registered the domain name <acomplia.net> on December 18, 2003.

 

5. Parties’ Contentions

A. Complainant

Confusingly Similar

The Complainant submits that the domain names <acomplia-drug.com>, <acompliadrug.net>, <acomplia-online.com>, <acompliaonline.net>, <acomplia-pills.com>, <acompliapills.net>, <acompliapharmacy.com>, <acomplia-pharmacy.com>, <acomplia-store.com>, <buyacomplia.net>, <acompliastore.com>, < buy-acomplia.com>, <buy-acompliaonline.com>, <genericacomplia.net>, <acompliadrug.com>, and <acompliapills.com> are confusingly similar to the ACOMPLIA trademark in which the Complainant has rights for the following reasons:

The Respondent’s registrations consist of the Complainant’s trademark with the adjunction of generic words and the gTLDs “.com” and “net.”

The generic words used in conjunction with the Complainant’s trademark ACOMPLIA are either generic words used in trade such as “buy,” “store” or “online” or common words used in the medical market such as “pills,” “drug,” “generic” and “pharmacy.”

A wide variety of Panels have considered that the addition of a generic word such as buy, store, pharmacy, drugs, doctor, online, soccer…to a distinctive trademark was not sufficient to escape a finding of confusing similarity and does not change the overall impression of the designations as being connected to the complainant (see Telstra Corporation Limited v. Peter Lombardo, Marino Sussich and Ray Landers,WIPO Case No. D2000-1511 concerning the term “freeonline”; PepsiCo, Inc. v. PEPSI, SRL (a/k/a P.E.P.S.I.) and EMS COMPUTER INDUSTRY (a/k/a EMS), WIPO Case No. D2003-0696 concerning the term “soccer”; Playboy Enterprises International, Inc. v. Tonya Flynt Foundation, WIPO Case No. D2001-1002 concerning the term “online”; Aventis, Aventis Pharma SA. v. VASHA Dukes; WIPO Case No. D2004-0276 concerning the term “buy”; Guerlain S.A. v. HI Investments, WIPO Case No. D2000-0494 concerning the term “buy”; Pfizer Inc. v. United Pharmacy Ltd, WIPO Case No. D2001-0446 concerning the terms “pharmacy” and “stores”; Revlon Consumer Products Corporation v. Domain Manager, Page Up Communications, WIPO Case No. D2003-0602 concerning the term “store”; Amazon.com, Inc, v. PDC, WIPO Case No. D2003-0076 concerning the terms “drugs” and “pharmacy”).

Therefore, and after analyzing these different UDRP cases, there is no doubt that the reproduction of the trademark ACOMPLIA, as the sole distinctive element of the domain names concerned, generates confusion. Indeed, persons accessing the domain names would be bound to think that the domain names have a connection with the Complainant.

Furthermore, the addition of the gTLD “.com” or “.net,” which is required for registration of a domain name, has no distinguishing capacity in the context of the domain name and does not alter the value of the trademark represented in the domain names in dispute (Telecom Personal, S.A., v. NAMEZERO.COM, Inc, WIPO Case No. D2001-0015; Nokia Corporation v. Private, WIPO Case No. D2000-1271).

Consequently, because of this similarity, there is a high risk of confusion, as a consumer may think that the domain names in dispute directly refer to the Complainant’s product.

In conclusion, the domain names <acomplia-drug.com>, <acompliadrug.net>, <acomplia-online.com>, <acompliaonline.net>, <acomplia-pills.com>, <acompliapills.net>, <acompliapharmacy.com>, <acomplia-pharmacy.com>, <acomplia-store.com>, <buyacomplia.net>, <acompliastore.com>, <buy-acomplia.com>, <buy-acomplia-online.com>, <genericacomplia.net>, <acompliadrug.com>, and <acompliapills.com> generate confusion with the Complainant’s trademark ACOMPLIA.

No Rights or Legitimate Interests

The Complainant submits that the Respondent has no rights or legitimate interests in respect of the domain names in dispute for the following reasons:

The Complainant has prior rights in the trademark ACOMPLIA, which precedes Respondent’s registration of the domain names in dispute.

Moreover, the Complainant is present in over 100 countries including the United States and is well known throughout the world.

Furthermore, the results of the ACOMPLIA trials were communicated worldwide, via the Internet before the registration date of the domain names in dispute. Annex 10 to the Complaint.

The disputed domain names do not appear to have been used by the Respondent at all and lead to websites with no content. Annex 11 to the Complaint.

There is no license, consent or other right by which the Respondent would have been entitled to register or use the domain names incorporating the Complainant’s trademark ACOMPLIA.

The Respondent is not commonly known by any of the domain names.

There is no doubt that the Respondent is aware that ACOMPLIA corresponds to a trademark.

Indeed, the Respondent would not have registered the domain names in dispute if it had not known that a revolutionary drug will be soon marketed under the name ACOMPLIA by the Complainant.

The Respondent, who has no legitimate interest in respect of the domain names in dispute, registered the domain names with the intention to divert consumers and to prevent the Complainant from reflecting the mark in a corresponding domain name.

Indeed, the Respondent has made no bona fide use of the domain names in dispute because of his lack of authorization to use the trademark ACOMPLIA. Furthermore, using a domain name in order to divert consumers for commercial gain cannot be characterized as a fair use. (Trip.com, Inc. v. Daniel Deamone, WIPO Case No. D2001–1066.)

Registered and Used in Bad Faith

The Respondent registered the domain names in dispute on March 10, 2004, a short time after the Complainant publicly announced the early results of two Phase III studies on the drug ACOMPLIA through an information meeting, which was communicated worldwide via the Internet. Annex 5 to the Complaint. The registration of the domain names in dispute also followed the presentation of the two Phase III studies on the drug ACOMPLIA to the scientific community at the American College of Cardiology’s annual meeting in New Orleans on March 9, 2004. Annex 6 to the Complaint.

The registration shortly after a product launch announcement is an example of opportunistic cybersquatting.

Various Panels considered that the act of registering a domain name soon after a complainant’s product launch leads to an inference of bad faith. (Medestea Internazionale S.r.l. v. Chris Gaunt, WIPO Case No. D2003-0011.)

As far as this case is concerned, a comparison can also be made with cybersquatting cases with respect to merger or rumor of merger announcements. (Pharmacia & Upjohn AB v. Monsantopharmacia.com Inc., WIPO Case No. D2000-0446.) Such an opportunistic combination of two well-known trademarks made shortly after the announcement of a merger by someone having no connection with either of the merging companies amounts to use in bad faith.

These decisions and the argument adopted are completely transposable to the present case.

There is no doubt that the Respondent, knowing of the Internet reports of a new product under development to be sold under the mark ACOMPLIA by the Complainant, has registered the domain names in dispute in order to prevent the Complainant from reflecting the mark in a corresponding domain name. It is an opportunistic act which seeks to disrupt the Complainant’s business.

The mere holding of a domain name that is identical or confusingly similar to a trademark belonging to a third party in itself can be considered as disrupting the business of the trademark owner.

The Respondent added the words “online,” “store,” and “buy” to the trademark ACOMPLIA to form the domain names <acomplia-online.com>, <acompliaonline.net>, <acomplia-store.com>, <buyacomplia.net>, <acompliastore.com>, <buy-acomplia.com>, and <buy-acomplia-online.com>.

Any Internet user who will try to connect to the above mentioned websites will believe that the ACOMPLIA medicine is offered for sale, whereas the Complainant is expecting to launch such product only in 2006!

Making believe that the ACOMPLIA product is available with the knowledge that it will not be marketed by the Complainant until 2006 is another relevant element to establish the bad faith registration of the above mentioned domain names.

Finally, on August 23, 2004, the Complainant wrote to the Respondent demanding the disputed domain names be transferred to the Complainant within ten days. A copy of the letter of demand is attached at Annex 12 to the Complaint. The Respondent has failed to reply and has therefore refused to transfer the disputed domain names to its legitimate owner, the Complainant.

It emerges from these facts that the registration of the domain names in dispute constitutes opportunistic registrations which have been registered and used in bad faith.

B. Respondent

The Respondent did not reply to the Complainant’s contentions.

 

6. Discussion and Findings

Paragraph 4(a) of the Policy provides that for the Complaint to succeed, the Complainant must establish that:

i) the Respondent’s Domain Name(s) is (are) identical or confusingly similar to a trademark in which the Complainant has rights; and

ii) the Respondent has no rights or legitimate interests in respect of the Domain Name(s); and

iii) the Respondent’s Domain Name(s) has (have) been registered and is (are) being used in bad faith.

The Panel in Cortefiel, S.A. v. Miguel Garcia Quintas, WIPO Case No. D2000-0140 notes that under the Policy, even if the respondent is in default,

“…the complainant must prove that each of these three elements are present.”

Paragraph 5(b)(i) of the Rules requires a Respondent to submit a response that shall:

“Respond specifically to the statements and allegations contained in the complaint and include any and all bases for the Respondent (domain name holder) to retain registration and use of the disputed domain name…”

In the event of a default, under paragraph (14)(b) of the Rules:

“…the Panel shall draw such inferences therefrom as it considers appropriate.”

As stated by the Panel in Mary-Lynn Mondich and American Vintage Wine Biscuits, Inc. v. Shane Brown, doing business as Big Daddy’s Antiques, WIPO Case No. D2000-0004,

“Respondent’s failure to present any such evidence or to deny complainant’s allegations allows an inference that the evidence would not have been favorable to respondent.”

In the instant administrative proceeding, the Respondent’s default entitles the Panel to conclude that Respondent has no evidence to rebut the assertions of the Complainant.

A. Identical or Confusingly Similar

The domain names in dispute are comprised of the Complainant’s trademark ACOMPLIA preceded or followed by generic words used in the trade such as “buy,” “store,” or “online” or common words used in the medical market such as “pills,” “drug,” “generic” and “pharmacy” and the gTLDs “.com” or “.net.” The Complainant holds a number of valid registrations for the ACOMPLIA trademark.

The use of the above noted generic terms in conjunction with the Complainant’s trademark ACOMPLIA does not remove the domain names in dispute from being confusingly similar, as the generic terms lack distinctiveness.

Furthermore, the addition of the gTLD “.com”or “.net” which is required for registration of a domain name, has no distinguishing capacity in the context of the domain name and does not alter the value of the trademark represented in the domain name (Telecom Personal, S.A., v. NAMEZERO.COM, Inc, WIPO Case No. D2001-0015; Nokia Corporation v. Private, WIPO Case No. D2000-1271).

Many Panels have held that the use of a Complainant’s trademark as the sole distinctive portion of a domain name in dispute is a confusingly similar use of the Complainant’s trademark. (Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. v. Brad Tauer, WIPO Case No. D2000-1076.)

The Panel finds that the Complainant has proven that the domain names in dispute are confusingly similar to the Complainant’s trademark ACOMPLIA.

B. Rights or Legitimate Interests

The Respondent is not commonly known by the name ACOMPLIA. The Respondent has never been authorized by the Complainant to use the trademark ACOMPLIA. The Respondent registered the domain names in dispute following the filing of applications for the trademark ACOMPLIA by the Complainant in many countries. Further, the Respondent registered the domain names in dispute immediately following the Complainant’s worldwide announcements of the results of the Phase III studies of the pharmaceutical ACOMPLIA. Annex 5 and Annex 6 to the Complaint.

Under paragraph 4(c) of the Policy, a respondent may demonstrate its rights and interests in a disputed domain name by showing:

“(i) before any notice to you of the dispute, your use of, or demonstrable preparations to use, the domain name or a name corresponding to the domain name in connection with a bona fide offering of goods or services; or

(ii) you (as an individual, business, or other organization) have been commonly known by the domain name, even if you have acquired no trademark or service mark rights; or

(iii) you are making a legitimate noncommercial or fair use of the domain name, without intent for commercial gain to misleadingly divert consumers or to tarnish the trademark or service mark at issue.”

The Respondent chose not to file a Response demonstrating its rights and interests in the domain names in dispute.

Upon considering the evidence filed by the Complainant and the failure of the Respondent to file evidence demonstrating its rights and interests in the domain names in dispute, the Panel finds that the Complainant has proven that the Respondent has no rights or legitimate interests in respect of the domain names in dispute.

C. Registered and Used in Bad Faith

Paragraph 4(b) of the Policy sets out four circumstances which if found by the Panel to be present, shall be evidence of the registration and use of the domain names in bad faith.

The four criteria set forth in the Policy, paragraph 4(b) are nonexclusive. (Telstra Corporation Limited v. Nuclear Marshmallows, WIPO Case No. D2000-0003.) In addition to these criteria, other factors alone or in combination can support a finding of bad faith.

The Respondent registered the domain names in dispute on March 10, 2004, less than a month after the Complainant publicly announced the early results of two Phase III studies on the drug ACOMPLIA through an information meeting, results of which were communicated the same day on the Internet. Annex 5 to the Complaint. The registration of the domain names in dispute also followed the presentation of the two Phase III studies on the drug ACOMPLIA to the scientific community at the American College of Cardiology’s annual meeting in New Orleans on March 9, 2004. Annex 6 to the Complaint.

The Panel infers from the Respondent’s name ‘US-Meds.com’ and the generic and descriptive terms in the domain names in dispute that the Respondent is involved in selling pharmaceuticals over the Internet. The Respondent is not related to the Complainant and has not been authorized by the Complainant to use the trademark ACOMPLIA alone or in combination as a trademark or as a domain name. The four domain names at issue are each confusingly similar to the Complainant’s registered trademark ACOMPLIA. Many trademark applications for ACOMPLIA had been filed by the Complainant throughout the world before the Respondent registered the domain names in dispute.

The Respondent’s websites associated with each of the domain names at issue have no content. The Panel is of the view that as soon as the websites featuring any of the domain names in dispute are activated, persons using the Internet will be directed to one or more of the Respondent’s websites associated with the domain names in dispute. The domain names in dispute will create a likelihood of confusion with the Complainant’s trademark ACOMPLIA as to the source, sponsorship, affiliation or endorsement of Respondent’s websites or of a product or service on those websites.

In AVENTIS Pharma S.A. and Merrell Pharmaceuticals Inc. v. Rx USA, WIPO Case No. D2002–0290, the Respondent had registered domain names comprised of the trademarked names of two pharmaceuticals each used in conjunction with the gTLD “.net.” The Panel in the Aventis case held that the use of the domain names was clearly in bad faith, stating:

“By, admittedly, having knowledge of the Complainant’s mark, Respondent can be assumed to have been aware of the risk of deception and confusion that would inevitably follow if it registered and used the Domain Name under the “.net” gTLD since this could give the impression that the site and thus the Respondent was somehow endorsed by the Complainant: See Ullfrotte AB v. Bollnas Imports, WIPO Case No. D2000–1176. Not only was the Respondent not endorsed by the Complainant, it had no consensual relationship with Complaint at all. Any representation, such as here, to the contrary is clearly bad faith.”

A similar conclusion was reached by the Panel in Gorstew Limited & Unique Vacations, Inc. v. Satin Leaf, Inc., National Arbitration Forum Case No. FA 000800009514. In the Gorstew case, neither of the two domains names in question had been developed yet.

The Complainant states that the announcements and reports carried over the Internet of the results of two Phase III studies for the new ACOMPLIA drug created substantial interest in the medical field. The Respondent registered the domain names in dispute within weeks of the announcements and presentation of the results of scientific studies. The Respondent was positioning itself to benefit from further reports and ultimately from sale of the ACOMPLIA pharmaceutical if and when the necessary government approvals were received. Previous Panels have held that registration of a domain name incorporating a trademark so obviously connected with a Complainant immediately following an announcement or rumors of an event suggest opportunistic bad faith. (Pharmacia & Upjohn AB v. Monsantopharmacia.com Inc., WIPO Case No. D2000–0446.)

Many Panels have held that bad faith inaction, resulting from failure to provide an active website, amounts to use in bad faith when all the surrounding circumstances point to registration and use in bad faith. (Revlon Consumer Products Corporation v. Domain Manager, PageUp Communications, WIPO Case No. D2003–0602; Telstra Corporation Limited v. Nuclear Marshmallows, WIPO Case No. D2000–0003.)

For the various reasons discussed above, the Panel finds that the Respondent has registered and used the domain names in dispute in bad faith.

 

7. Decision

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 names <acomplia-drug.com>, <acompliadrug.com>, <acompliadrug.net>, <acomplia-online.com>, <acompliaonline.net>, <acomplia-pharmacy.com>, <acompliapharmacy.com>, <acomplia-pills.com>, <acompliapills.com>, <acompliapills.net>, <acomplia-store.com>, <acompliastore.com>, <buy-acomplia.com>, <buyacomplia.net>, <buy-acomplia-online.com>, and <genericacomplia.net> be transferred to the Complainant.


Ross Carson
Sole Panelist

Dated: November 22, 2004

 

Источник информации: https://www.internet-law.ru/intlaw/udrp/2004/d2004-0809.html

 

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