Another blow to the former owner of France.com.
The Supreme Court of the United States has declined a writ of certiorari for a dispute involving France.com. Jean-Noël Frydman asked the court to consider his case after exhausting all over court avenues in the United States.
Frydman registered France.com in 1994 and used the domain for many years to promote travel to 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 convinced 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.
Frydman sued in U.S. court in 2018. The French government convinced the Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit that the French government has sovereign immunity under the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act. Frydman petitioned the appeals court for en banc rehearing but was rejected.
He then filed a writ of certiorari. The Supreme Court rejected it in its order list today.
Dont look for justice in amErica. This country no longer respects property rights. Thank the left !!
R. Funden says
The left? Last I heard the Supreme court was stacked by Agent Orange and the evil turtle.
Grossly unfair. So they can issue and pursue a claim, BUT when they (France) are on the receiving end they say that they have state immunity. That cannot be right. I mean, France.com is NOT even “resident” in France/Europe ,it is resident in Virginia ,USA is it not ,at the Registry ?. So everyone who uses “France” in their name is violating sovereignty of France .
I wonder whether there is any other avenue. MAYBE the European Court of Human Rights ,possibly.
David Michaels says
Virginia has no jurisdiction over The French Republic because it didn’t do anything in Virginia.
See this year’s SCOTUS decision in Ford v Montana.
It doesn’t matter that the Verisign registry is in Virginia, as that only applies to In Rem cases, under Ford.
The error made by the domain owner perhaps was this;
” 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.”
That then meant he had accepted French Jurisdiction over France.com by litigating IN France.
No error beyond believing his trademark rights would be honored and protected by law.
Ultimately, U.S. Courts have ruled Nations like France have ‘sovereign exclusive rights’ to intangible property like France*com.
How soon before other nations like Canada, Japan, Brazil etc., that don’t own their EMD geo domain file suit under this newly recognized right in domain name law?
Terrible decision by the U.S. Courts.
Andrew Allemann says
That’s what opened up the can of worms.
Archie Sapitula says
I know pear.com right now will be need a clean pair of undies after all this since they own domains like London.com, Singapore.com, Japan.com, Italy.com, Spain.com, Russia.com, America.com, and many more.
Absolutely. If the main reasoning by the Courts was accepting the argument that nations, states, and cities have this inherent ‘exclusive sovereign right’; why wouldn’t other legal state entities claim the same right using France.com as the legal test moving forward?
Quite a slippery slope for geo-domain speculators, especially INTERNATIONAL assets.
How many of those international geo-domain speculators supported Frydman’s case?
As long as they dont litigate IN the Countries in questions, then they will be ok as would be hard to get Jurisdiction. That was a major error of thinking in France.comn saga, giving them Jurisdiction. Infact IF a Lawyer advised him to take a claim to France then he could have claim for negligent advice I guess.
I disagree based on reading the decision from the U.S. Courts. This decision and decline by SCOTUS goes beyond the filing of the lawsuit in France. Based on the legal reasoning and the claim for ‘sovereign exclusive rights’ it seems clear the U.S. Courts recognize a SOVEREIGN right to EMD geo-domains to those individual nations, states and possibly cities.
If we are lucky, a domain law legal expert will chime in, but my non-legal opinion is that this decision goes beyond Frydman’s attempt to protect his trademark rights.
John Berryhill says
You are obviously reading different court decisions than the ones I have seen. The Fourth Circuit decision on which this appeal was premised is quite clear. In the context of an FSIA analysis as to whether the plaintiff’s claim arose from commercial activity or an exercise of sovereign power, the Fourth Circuit stated:
“The Corporation’s claims arise from an adverse judgment of a foreign court — in a
proceeding initiated by the Corporation itself — resulting in the transfer of the domain
name, not any commercial activity that may have followed that transfer.
French courts held that the French State owns the word “France” because it
is integral to its identity as a nation, and so was also entitled to . The French
courts so held after the French State intervened in litigation in France initiated by the
Corporation itself. And the French courts acted only after years of litigation. Although
the Corporation now asserts the French courts were biased, it points to nothing that suggests
it did not receive a full and fair (and lengthy) opportunity to present its position.
The Corporation also asserts that the French courts had no authority to declare the
domain name the property of the French State. The Corporation claims that
the order doing so is “specious” and was rendered absent “legitimate legal process.”
Other than assertedly reaching a result contrary to the laws of the United States, the Corporation
does not explain or even allege how this is so. The French courts are courts of competent
jurisdiction. Neither in its amended complaint nor its brief does the Corporation assert
facts supporting a claim that the French legal process was not “legitimate.” Moreover, this
would seem to be a difficult and unlikely claim given that the Corporation itself invoked
the power of the French courts. Only because it did so could the French State intervene in
that action to obtain the result challenged here.”
You’ll notice that each time the Fourth Circuit refers to the legal action in France, they specifically point out who started it.
@Berryhill ESQ thank you for chiming in.
A few arguments from the 4th Circuit ruling that stood out to me:
(1) Republic claimed FRANCE expresses the country’s geographic, historic, economic, and cultural identity.
> Where in the decision does 4th Circuit deny this general claim by The French Republic?
(2) French Courts held the French State owns the word FRANCE because it is integral to its identity as a nation and so was also entitled to .
> Why can’t the other 193 nations recognized by the UN make the same claim; and NOT win on this argument?
(3) 4th Circuit says, it is not at all clear that the French State’s actions in obtaining the website in a judicial proceeding constitute a “seizure” or an “expropriation” for purposes of the FSIA’s “expropriation” exception to immunity (p, 10).
> If Japan tomorrow filed a ACPA suit for Japan*com; why would the national identity argument presented in France*com not apply?
I get the ‘who started it element of France*com. You are the expert in this area of law.
As a layman, reading the decision, it seems like a slippery slope to seizure of similar geo-domains in the future by sovereign states.
What a blow to the original registrant.
A bad precedent has been set here for those heavily invested in geo-domains, specifically international geo domains. I would be wary as a geo-domain speculator of similar assets to France*com.
The issue goes beyond Frydman filing a lawsuit in France, as the reasoning from the Courts was based on ‘exclusive sovereign rights’. What is to stop other nations, states, and cities from asserting similar rights for geo-domains?
Frydman had TRADEMARK rights in France*com and was still shafted. What protections do general domain speculators of similar URLs have?
This was theft of a multi-million dollar intangible property.
U.S. Courts failed to protect Mr. Frydman’s property rights and interests.
David Michaels says
It would have been better to file an In Rem action instead making The French Republic a defendant.
Michel Payette says
France is also a first name, common in French-speaking countries.
There are 193 Nations recognized by the UN. A few questions to the best legal minds in domain name law:
(1) How many of those nations do not currently own their EMD geo domain dot-Com?
(2) How many will use the decision in France*com to justify Courts seizing their EMD dot-Com from domain speculators over the next few years?
(3) What laws can protect geo-domain speculators from the France*com ruling?
Luis Zamora says
Second mistake was using that registrar. The registrars I use only transfer domain ownership upon UDRP or court decision in their jurisdiction, not another entity making a request
Can’t we all start a social grass roots campaign against this (ie on social media)? Letting this slide will allow non-nation states (ie companies) to make the same argument. I’d say start a go fund me or ask lawyers if they’re willing to help out pro-bono and give their two cents but I know that’s a lot to ask for. Staying silent on this is not the answer