France faces lawsuit for seizing France.com domain
In a landmark case, a French-born American is suing France after his domain, France.com, was seized by the country’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Jean-Noël Frydman, who owned the domain since 1994, claims that the French government took it unlawfully and without compensation. As reported by Ars Technica, Frydman had operated a site using the France.com domain for some 20 years, which sold merchandise aimed at Francophiles and Francophones in the United States.
Although Frydman worked with French agencies including the Consulate General in Los Angeles and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on business matters, the latter filed a lawsuit around three years ago seeking to take control of the domain, the website reports. At this time, the domain was locked, prompting Frydman to seek legal help.
Last September, lawyers representing the French state demanded domain registrar Web.com transfer ownership ownership to the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs after the Paris Court of Appeals ruled the domain violated French trademark law. Then, on March 12 this year, Web.com did exactly that, reportedly without giving Frydman any formal notification.
Frydman’s lawsuit, which names the French Republic and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (but not Web.com) among its defendants asserts that they “misused the French judicial system’ to seize the domain under the “erroneous theory” that the defendants were entitled to take it because it included the name France.
It claims that defendants knew they did not have any right to the name France, as shown by government tourism agency – and defendant – Atout France’s trademark registration in 2009 in which it “expressly disclaimed the exclusive right to the word ‘France'”.
And most interestingly, perhaps, the lawsuit adds that former Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius acknowledged the French government could not have registered the France.com domain in 1994, because .com domain names were “expressly reserved for private companies”.