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MICHELIN Rolls Away With A Win.

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In the recent domain name dispute decision of Michelin North America, Inc. v. Bobbi Goldfinch c/o Gold finch enterprise FA1285536 (Nat. Arb. Forum, November 2, 2009), a single member Panel was faced with a dispute over the domain www.michelintires.org. Complainant is the well known manufacturer of tires, with sales in nearly 170 countries. Complainant owns a trademark for MICHELIN since 1970. Respondent failed to respond to the complaint.

Paragraph 4(a) of the Policy requires that Complainant must prove each of the following three elements to obtain an order that a domain name should be cancelled or transferred: (i) the domain name registered by Respondent is identical or confusingly similar to a trademark or service mark in which Complainant has rights; and (ii) Respondent has no rights or legitimate interests in respect of the domain name; and (iii) the domain name has been registered and is being used in bad faith.

In addressing the first element, the Panel noted that the disputed domain name incorporated all of the MICHELIN trademark and added the descriptive term tires. This addition increased the likelihood of confusion since it related directly to Michelin’s products. The Panel noted that the affixation of a generic top-level domain was functional and had no effect as well. The Panel found Michelin satisfied this element.

Moving to the second element, the Panel noted that Michelin made a prima facie case, which shifted the burden to Respondent. However, since Respondent did not present a defense, the Panel could have chosen to find in favor of Complainant and move on, but instead the Panel chose to review the record. The Panel noted that the disputed domain resolved to a site showing Complainant’s logo and providing click-through links to Michelin’s competitors. The Panel found this was not bona fide offering of goods or services. Additionally the Whois information showed that Respondent was not commonly known by the name. For these reasons the Panel found that Michelin satisfied this element also.

Moving to the final element, bad faith, the Panel found that Respondent’s use of a web site with click-through links to divert business satisfied this element. Additionally, those click-through links were presumed to receive click-through fees, capitalizing on Michelin’s mark. The Panel found that Respondent engaged in bad faith registration and use of the disputed domain.

Ultimately, the Panel found that Michelin satisfied all three elements and ordered the domain be TRANSFERRED.

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