Danone loses to protest site

France

Both the US Anti-Cybersquatting Act and ICANN's Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy were created to combat cybersquatting. In France, however, cybersquatters can be convicted only on the basis of copyright infringement or unfair competition; there is, as yet, no specific cybersquatting legislation.

A recent example of cybersquatting in France involved a web site created to denounce the social policy of the company Danone. The domain name 'jeboycottedanone.com' went online on April 13 2001 and each page showed Danone's trademark. Danone sued the web site's owner, aiming to shut the site down.

An injunction was granted, finding the web master liable for using Danone's protected logo. However, the court did not find the web master guilty of copyright infringement by using Danone's trade name as part of his domain name. The court stated:

"The use of the term 'Danone' in the domain name was a necessary reference to indicate the destination of this polemical site. Because it is associated with the very explicit term 'jeboycotte', it cannot lead to any confusion in the public's mind [about its origin]."

It is interesting to compare the outcome of this case to the recent decision of the World Intellectual Property Organization in the Guiness-beer-really-sucks.com Case (WIPO D-2000-0996). In this case the domain name was transferred to the complainant. However, as Milton Mueller suggests in his paper Rough Justice: An Analysis of ICANN's Uniform Dispute Resolution Policy, "the panel's finding that the domain name was confusingly similar to the trademark GUINNESS is insupportable."

A copy of the decision can be found at http://www.juriscom.net/txt/jurisfr/ndm/tgiparis20010423.htm .

Cédric Manara, Cabinet Caprioli Avocats, Nice. The author wishes to acknowledge the assistance of Franck Manara in the preparation of this update.

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