Unprecedented outcome in Le Commerce du Bois criticized

France

Everyone is now familiar with disputes between holders of trademarks and holders of domain names. But France has now had its first conflict involving a domain name that was not registered as a trademark, nor used for the identification of a person, product or service. The outcome of this unprecedented case has been much criticized.

An association called Le Commerce du Bois registered the domain name 'boistropicaux.com' in November 1999 and created a site about tropical wood. In January 2001 the association discovered the existence of another site called 'bois-tropicaux.com', operated by a US company and registered under the name of a French individual. That site also contained information on tropical wood. The association argued that the US company was guilty of unfair competition, because the name was identical and the site covered the same area of activity.

The court held that the association has a "right of occupation" in relation to the name, allowing it to oppose the registration of an identical name. The fact that the disputed name was generic was not considered relevant - a point which has prompted much of the criticism that has since been voiced.

Cédric Manara, Cabinet Caprioli Avocats, Nice

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