The French Republic used French courts to wrest the domain away from an American company.
The United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit has delivered a blow to the former owner of France.com.
Jean-Noël Frydman registered France.com in 1994 and used it for many years to promote tourism in France. In 2014, Frydman’s company France.com, Inc. filed a lawsuit in Paris against a Dutch company alleging trademark infringement of France.com. The French Republic and its tourism agency, Atout France, intervened in the matter.
The French government managed to convince successive courts that the government — not someone in the U.S. — should own France.com. The government asserted the exclusive right to use the term “France” commercially, contending that under French law, the name “France” cannot be appropriated or used commercially by a private enterprise because doing so violates the French Republic’s exclusive right to its name and infringes on its sovereignty.
In 2018, the French government presented a copy of the Paris Court of Appeals decision over France.com to Web.com, and Web.com transferred the domain to it.
Transferring this domain, which was registered to a U.S. business, to France was a big blow that many in the domain industry viewed as unjust.
Frydman sued in U.S. court in 2018. The French government convinced the Court of Appeals (in a decision published today) that the government has sovereign immunity under the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act. The court remanded the case back to the district court with instructions to dismiss the lawsuit.
You can listen to Frydman’s saga in this podcast interview from 2018.