European Union: Dispute Over ‘France.com’ Trademark
Technology for the modern world is as important as oxygen is for life. The development of internet and the exchange of data amongst different computers has led to major technological as well as telecommunication revolutions. With the advent of Internet, the domain names have taken a new dimension for the business potentials. As is a fact of today’s world, domain names are a part of the corporate assest of a company and their identity on the Internet.
In March 2018, Jean-Noel Frydman, who owned France.com Inc. was prevented from using his registered domain name ‘France.com’ by the French Government. He had valid trademark registrations for ‘France.com’ covering Classes 35, 39 and 41 in the US. The first registration of the domain name France.com dated back to February 10, 1994. The domain name was used as a “digital kiosk” for France-lovers based in the U.S.
In 2015, the French government sued Jean-Noel Frydman in French Court to recover the domain name. In 2017, an Appeals Court ruled that the domain name France.com violated French trademark law. In March 2018, the domain name was transferred to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs by the registrar of the domain, Web.com.
In response to this in April 2018, Jean-Noel Frydman sued the French Government in Virginia Court to get back his rights on the domain name he was using for more than two decades. His allegations included accusing the French government and Atout France, the French Government’s tourism agency, of cybersquatting, hijacking his domain name, expropriation of property, infringing on his trademark, and unfair competition.
In its ruling, the Court of EU held that ‘the privately owned “France.com” cannot be registered as an EU trademark’. Further upholding the EUIP’s analysis, it held that, In light of the fact that the signs at issue cover identical or similar services and have a particularly high degree of phonetic and conceptual similarity, the Court finds that there is a likelihood of confusion. It follows that, as EUIPO decided, France is entitled to oppose registration of the sign france.com’.
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