A US business, by the name of ‘France.com Inc.’, has lost a copyright battle with France, the country. Its logo depicts the domain name, in red white and blue, next to a silhouette of the Eifel Tower.
The company, founded by Frenchman Jean-Noël Frydman, purchased the domain name ‘France.com’ in 1994. But France has contested its lawful ownership for years, and the domain name has been under the de facto control of the French state since 2015. Earlier this year, Frydman brought a fresh lawsuit against France in the US courts, accusing it of expropriating the domain name without authority or compensation.
Frydman separately applied for an EU trademark of France.com – but the French state opposed its application, claiming that it conflicts with its own registered trademark (France), and that it was characteristically similar to the logo for Atout, France’s national tourism agency. Amusingly, Frydman protested that the company’s rights to the name France.com actually predate those of France. France.com is also ranked higher in web search results than the state-owned tourism agency.
But, the EU General Court, a division of the EU Court of Justice, ruled that the company France.com Inc was not entitled to register the domain name as an EU trademark. The likelihood for confusion between the company and the French tourist authority was too high.
This is a blow to France.com – which was also ordered to pay the costs of the proceedings. The US case over the ownership of the domain name remains ongoing.