Ski instructor keeps domain name despite trademark infringement

France

The Paris Court of Appeal has decided to allow an individual to keep a domain name that includes the name of a French town, despite finding him guilty of trademark infringement. The decision confirms that French courts may allow the legitimate use of geographical names in cyberspace.

Maurice Guille, a ski instructor working in the French ski resort of La Plagne, registered the domain name 'plagne.com' in July 1999. He created a personal website and posted pictures of himself, details of his job, general ski information and links to related websites.

La Plagne's tourist office owns a variety of trademarks, including a slogan ('La Plagne, toute la montagne en 10 stations') and a logo of a ski hat wearing sunglasses. It also operates a website using the domain name 'la-plagne.com'.

Guille was found guilty of trademark infringement by the Paris Court of Appeal for reproducing the tourist office's trademarks on his website. Nevertheless, the court ruled that he could keep the domain name, highlighting the fact that Guille has a genuine economic connection with La Plagne and is thus using the name in a legitimate way. The court also held that Guille's use of the word 'plagne' did not cause confusion as (i) many other websites use it, and (ii) it is a common name that merely designates a geographical area.

Cédric Manara, Cabinet Caprioli Avocats, Nice

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