The trademark invoked by the applicant does not necessarily have to be protected in the country of the respondent
WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center ADMINISTRATIVE PANEL DECISIONVente-privee.com v. 郑碧莲 (Zheng Bi Lian)Case No. DCN2021-0004
In order for a UDRP complaint to succeed, it is necessary to prove a trademark right similar or identical to the domain name, generating a risk of confusion. Then, it must be established that the respondent has no rights or legitimate interests, and finally, it must be shown that the respondent has registered and used the name in bad faith.
In order to establish this bad faith, it is essential to show that the respondent has prior knowledge of the applicant’s rights and that the disputed registration is aimed at these rights. Being the owner of a trademark protected in the country where the defendant is established is therefore a considerable asset. However, it is not a requirement.
Vente-privee.com is a French e-commerce company that has been operating for 20 years in the organization of event-based sales of all kinds of products and services at reduced prices, including major trademarks.
At the beginning of 2019, Vente-privee.com began a process of unifying its trademarks under a single new name: VEEPEE. This rebranding was widely promoted internationally. It had previously secured trademark rights to the “VEEPEE” sign via a filing an EUTM in November 2017 and via an international trademark filed the same day covering Mexico, Monaco, Norway and Switzerland. Vente-privee.com also owns numerous domain names matching “VEEPEE” such as <veepee.es>, <veepee.it>, <veepee.de> and <veepee.com>.
Having detected the registration of the <veepee.cn> domain name reserved in 2018 by a China-based registrant, the company filed a complaint with the WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center seeking the transfer of the name.
The likelihood of confusion was easily admitted by the expert, who considered the domain name to be identical to the applicant’s earlier trademarks. On this occasion, he recalls that the trademark does not need to be registered in a specific country for the assessment of the likelihood of confusion.
This is in line with the assessment of WIPO’s Overview 3.0, which specifies in its section 1.1.2, quoted by the expert, that in view of the international nature of domain names and the Internet, the jurisdiction in which the trademark is protected is not relevant for the analysis of the first criterion. Bearing in mind, however, that this factor may be important for the examination of the other criteria.
the Panel notes that the Respondent has no business relationship with the Complainant and has not received any authorization from it to reserve the disputed domain name. As the Respondent did not respond to the Complaint, the Panel finds that Vente-privee.com has established that the Respondent has no rights or legitimate interests in the disputed domain name.
Finally, on the issue of bad faith, the expert insists on the arbitrary nature of the name VEEPEE: “VEEPEE is a made-up word with no particular meaning in Chinese or English”. He also highlights the fact that the domain name has not been actively used, but on the contrary refers to a website in English, accessible to all, on which it is for sale.
Therefore, the expert orders that the disputed domain name <veepee.cn> be transferred to the Complainant.
This decision is a reminder that it is important to choose the right trademarks to be used in a UDRP complaint. Ideally, it is necessary to prove a registration in the country of the registrant, if possible prior to the domain name. In the absence of a registration in the relevant jurisdiction, it is important to demonstrate that the trademark is used and known outside the boundaries of its registration.
In this instance, we note that the disputed domain name is indeed subsequent to the applicant’s trademarks, but prior to the Vente-privee.com rebranding operation by almost a year. This information might have required analysis had the Respondent responded to the Complaint. Information that could have been counterbalanced, however, with the registration date of the name <veepee.com> (the <.com> targeting the international), which is very old: December 6, 1999.