THE COUNTRY OF FRANCE - yes, the whole ruddy country - is being sued by one of its citizens after it emerged that the government had seized the domain name france.com which he had previously owned.
Jean-Noel Frydman had owned the domain since 1994 and built a successful business offering 'digital kiosks' for US-based French speakers and Francophiles.
For years all had been well and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs had worked even alongside Frydman.
Then, in 2015 everything changed when that same Ministry of Foreign Affairs sued Frydman and seized his domain. He appealed, and a Paris court heard that France.com was a violation of French trademark law and ruled in favour of the French government.
Frydman has not taken the news lying down, though, and has filed a counter lawsuit against France - or more specifically its government.
Ubergizmo has published an extract of the complaint which reads: "Defendants did not approach Plaintiff to purchase or license the domain, the trademark, or Plaintiff's underlying business and goodwill.
"Instead, in 2015, Defendants misused the French judicial system to seize the domain from Plaintiff without compensation, under the erroneous theory that Defendants were inherently entitled to take the domain because it included the word ‘France.'"
It goes on to accuse the French authorities of cybersquatting and "reverse domain name hijacking".
Usually, the practice of seizing web domains is done to prevent illegal activity such as piracy. However, in 2011, the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency (ICE) ruled that any .com or .net domains came under their jurisdiction regardless of whether or not the servers are based in the USA.
A lot of water has passed under the bridge since those days, but nevertheless, the fact that the domain is not .fr but rather a .com demonstrates the potential complications for the French defence.
Basically, it will come down to whether or not a judge rules that a country's name is a trademark in all contexts in perpetuity and can then make it stand up in court, globally.
As the French would doubtless say, "Bof!".µ
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