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and Mediation Center
Six Continents Hotels, Inc. v. Tripod UK Ltd
Case No. D2006-0041
1. The Parties
The Complainant is Six Continents Hotels, Inc., InterContinents Hotels Group, Atlanta, Georgia, United States of America, represented by The Gigalaw Firm, LLC, United States of America.
The Respondent is Tripod UK Ltd, Fulham, London, United Kingdom of Great Britain
and Northern Ireland.
2. The Domain Name and Registrar
The disputed domain name <crownplaza.net> is registered with eNom, Inc.
3. Procedural History
The Complaint was filed with the WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center (the “Center”) on January 11, 2006. On January 12, 2006, the Center transmitted by email to eNom a request for registrar verification in connection with the domain name at issue. On January 12, 2006, eNom 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 January 19, 2006. In accordance with the Rules, paragraph 5(a), the due date for Response was February 8, 2006. The Respondent did not submit any response. Accordingly, the Center notified the Respondent’s default on February 9, 2006.
The Center appointed Guillermo Carey as the sole panelist
in this matter on February 21, 2006. 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,
4. Factual Background
The Complainant is Six Continents Hotels, Inc., a Delaware corporation doing business in Atlanta, Georgia, United States of America. The Complainant itself, or through an affiliate, owns, manages or franchises the CROWNE PLAZA, HOLIDAY INN, HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS, HOLIDAY INN SELECT, HOLIDAY INN SUNSPREE, INTERCONTINENTAL, STAYBRIDGE SUITES and CANDLEWOOD SUITES brand hotels, providing hotel services worldwide (Complaint page five, V letter A, numeral 1).
In accordance with the information provided in the Complaint, and as verified by the registrar of the domain name, the Respondent is Tripod UK Ltd., which registered the Domain Name <crownplaza.net> on June 10, 2003.
Through the Complainant’s exclusive and continuous use of its CROWNE PLAZA trademark, the CROWNE PLAZA trademark has developed significant goodwill in the minds of consumers worldwide and is a famous trademark (Complaint, page seven, V letter A, numeral 6).
The Complainant has invoked the registration of the following U.S. trademarks regarding the CROWNE PLAZA family of trademarks, which have been evidenced through printouts from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office evidencing the Complainant’s registration of the following trademarks among others (Complaint, Exhibit C and D):
U.S. REG. NO.
September 18, 1984
CROWNE PLAZA (and design)
March 14, 2000
CROWNE PLAZA HOTPHONE
June 27, 2000
CROWNE PLAZA HOTELS & RESORTS (application)
October 19, 2004
HOLIDAY INN CROWNE PLAZA (and design)
June 12, 1984
HOLIDAY INN CROWNE PLAZA
October 16, 1984
HOLIDAY INN CROWNE PLAZA (and design)
September 5, 1989
All of these trademark registrations were first used and registered prior to the registration of the disputed Domain Name <crownplaza.net> by the Respondent on June 10, 2003.
Additionally, the Complainant has invoked 269 trademark registrations of its own in 118 countries, besides 45 trademark applications in 32 countries for its CROWNE PLAZA family of trademarks (Complaint, Exhibit C and D).
According to WhoIs printouts, the Complainant has evidenced (Complaint, Exhibit F) use and registration of the domain names <crowneplaza.com> and <crownplaza.com>. The former was registered on March 31, 1995, and the latter on February 21, 2000.
On October 27, 2005, the Complainant sent a letter to the Respondent, requesting the Respondent to cease and desist from using the Domain Name. The Respondent did not reply to this letter (Complaint, Exhibit I).
As stated by the Complainant and confirmed by this
Panelist, the Domain Name is linked to various competitor hotel websites. Besides,
this Panel has confirmed that the Respondent is offering the Domain Name for
5. Contentions of the Parties
A. The Complainant
The Complainant states that it has accrued trademark rights by virtue of its long and continuous use of the CROWNE PLAZA trademark. As a consequence of its efforts, this trademark has acquired significant goodwill in the minds of consumers worldwide.
According to the registration and printouts from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office provided by the Complainant (Exhibit D) for the CROWNE PLAZA trademarks, besides other registrations for these trademarks in numerous countries throughout the world (Exhibit C), the Complainant demonstrates that its rights to the CROWNE PLAZA family of trademarks are unquestionable.
The Complainant has provided information regarding its presence on the Internet, through the registration and operation of the following domain names: <crowneplaza.com> and <crownplaza.com>. The Complainant emphasizes the lack of the letter “E” in this last domain name.
The Complainant argues that the Respondent registered the Domain Name in order to use it as a home page providing links to various hotel websites. Therefore, in the Complainant’s opinion the Respondent uses it to divert traffic to websites that offer hotel reservation services. Furthermore, the Complainant submits evidence of the Respondent offering the disputed Domain Site for sale, evidencing its lack of rights or legitimate interests in the disputed Domain Name.
On October 27, 2005, the Complainant sent a letter to the Respondent, demanding that the Respondent immediately cease and desist from using the Domain Name. This letter was not answered by the Respondent.
The Complainant further alleges that the Respondent’s registration and use of the Domain Name violates the Policy, considering the following:
The Complainant argues that the Respondent is neither its affiliate nor its licensee. The Respondent is not authorized by the Complainant to use any of the Complainant’s trademarks as a domain name or otherwise.
Additionally, the Complainant argues that the Domain Name is confusingly similar or identical to the Complainant’s trademarks since the Domain Name consists of the CROWNE PLAZA trademark minus the letter “E”. In the Complainant’s opinion this fact helps to create a visual impression which, in conjunction with a similar pronunciation, causes Internet users to wrongly associate the Domain Name with its CROWNE PLAZA trademarks.
Finally, the Complainant alleges that the Respondent is using the Complainant’s trademark and its worldwide fame and reputation to attract, for commercial gain, Internet users to its website where it provides hotel reservation services for the Complainant’s competitors through sponsored links. The Respondent’s behavior is a clear manifestation of its bad faith.
As per the above, the Complainant requests the Panel to issue a decision that the Domain Name be transferred to the Complainant.
B. The Respondent
The Respondent did not reply to the Complainant’s contentions. However, as confirmed by this Panel, after the expiration of the term given to reply to the Complainant’s contentions, the Respondent sent an email to the Complainant’s counsel, setting out its opinion regarding the disputed Domain Name.
The Respondent states that it is a domain-name acquisition company, which acquires domain names on behalf of its clients.
Often, the clients do not purchase the domain names acquired by the Respondent, therefore, in order to recover registration costs, the Respondent offers these domain names for sale.
Hence, and according to the Respondent’s opinion, the registration of the domain name was not performed in bad faith, considering moreover that there is a difference between the domain names registered by the Complainant and the disputed Domain Name (the absence of the letter “E”).
Finally, in the aforementioned email the Respondent
offers the disputed Domain Name to the Complainant at no cost.
6. Discussion and Findings
Paragraph 4(a) of the Policy states that the Complainant must prove each of the following:
(i) That the Domain Name registered by the Respondent is identical or confusingly similar to a trademark in which the complainant has rights; and
(ii) That the Respondent has no legitimate interest in respect of the Domain Name; and;
(iii) That the Domain Name has been registered and used in bad faith.
A. Identical or Confusingly Similar
The Complainant has provided undisputed evidence indicating its ownership of the CROWNE PLAZA trademark rights in the United States, and also declaring the ownership of this trademark in various countries. CROWNE PLAZA was registered by the Complainant in 1984, in the United States, the first use of the trademark dating back to as early as 1983, as shown by certificates provided by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Offices.
According to the information provided by the Complainant, and as confirmed by the Panel, the Respondent registered its Domain Name in June 10, 2003. The Complainant has been present on the Internet since 1995, as demonstrated by the registration of the domain names <crowneplaza.com> and <crownplaza.com>. The former was registered on March 31, 1995, and the latter on February 21, 2000.
Given that the disputed Domain Name is nearly identical to the Complainants’ registered trademarks and integrates the Complainant’s registered trademark CROWNE PLAZA minus its letter “E”, the confusion between the Respondent’s Domain Name and the Complainant’s CROWNE PLAZA trademark is obvious.
Phonetically, the disputed Domain Name sounds identical to the Complainant’s trademark. The absence of the silent letter “E” does not alter the pronunciation of the trademark. The lack of the aforementioned letter is a common misspelling which does not change the essence of the trademark in order to allow for a clear distinction between this trademark and the Domain Name. The disputed Domain Name immediately evokes the CROWNE PLAZA hotels, suggesting a relation which does not exist with the Complainant.
Finally, the Domain Name hosts content that includes links to hotel websites. This fact contributes to further confuse Internet users.
This Panel finds that the disputed Domain Name is essentially identical and confusingly similar to the Complainant’s registered trademarks. Consequently, the Complainant has satisfied the requirements under paragraph 4(a) (i) of the policy.
B. Rights or Legitimate Interests
There is no evidence which shows that the Respondent has any rights or legitimate interests regarding the Domain Name <crownplaza.net>, nor any evidence that indicates that the Respondent is commonly known by the Domain Name. Furthermore, no evidence has been provided to prove that the Respondent is associated with the Complainant, or that the Complainant has licensed or otherwise authorized the Respondent to incorporate its registered trademark into the Domain Name.
Considering the similarity between the Domain Name and the Complainant’s CROWNE PLAZA trademark, the Respondent appears to be using the Domain Name in an attempt to i) sell the Domain Name taking advantage of the trademark’s goodwill and ii) to attract Internet users to the websites of competing hotels. This Panel does not consider such uses bona fide.
The Respondent has failed to respond to the cease and desist letters issued by the Complainant and has failed to respond to this Complaint. Accordingly, the Respondent’s lack of rights and legitimate interest in the Domain Name has been asserted.
Finally, and considering the email sent by the Respondent to the Complainant’s counsel after the expiration of the term given to reply to the Complainant’s contentions, the no-cost offer of the Domain Name made by the Respondent to the Complainant clearly evidences that the Respondent has no rights in the disputed matter and that it has no legitimate interest in continuing to operate the Domain Name.
Therefore, the Complainant satisfies the requirement of Paragraph 4(a)(ii) of the Policy.
C. Registered and Used in Bad Faith
The Complainant’s worldwide reputation and presence on the Internet, indicates that the Respondent was, or should have been, aware of the trademarks prior to registering the Domain Name. The fact that the Respondent uses the Domain Name to provide hotel reservation services for the Complainant’s competitors through sponsored links clearly indicates that the Respondent knew the scope of the Complainant’s services provided under its CROWNE PLAZA marks.
Moreover, by using the Domain Site, the Respondent is profiting from the recognition and prestige of the Complainant’s trademarks, exploiting the confusion of Internet users by making them believe that the Respondent is related to the Complainant. This behavior clearly reveals the Respondent’s intention of attracting, for its commercial benefit, Internet users to its website.
Due to the worldwide reputation of the CROWNE PLAZA trademark, the Respondent evidences its bad faith in offering the Domain Name for sale, considering that the price of the sale would clearly be based on the fame of the trademark.
Due to the aforementioned offer and the exploitation of the confusion of Internet users, this Panel finds that the Respondent has registered and uses the Domain Name in bad faith, and the Complainant has satisfied the third requirement under paragraph 4(a) (iii) of the Policy.
This finding is further reinforced by the fact that the Respondent has not
provided evidence to support its statements regarding its line of business.
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 <crownplaza.net> be transferred to the Complainant.
Dated: March 16, 2006