A French-born American Jean-Noël Frydman, sued his home country because, he claims, that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has illegally seized France.com, a domain that he has owned since 1994.
According to Ars Technica, he purchased the domain name from Web.com back in the mid-1990s, where he created a website that serves as a "digital kiosk" for Francophiles and Francophones for people living the the U.S.. He owns the domain for more than 20 years, and has even built a business called France.com, and collaborated with multiple agencies in both France and the U.S..
The website has roughly 100,000 visitors a month, and was an information hub for French people and fans of French culture living in the US.
Then in 2015, the French Ministry initiated a lawsuit in its attempt to control the France.com domain. As a result, Web.com which registered the domain, locked it away from Frydman.
In retaliation, Frydman went to the Berkman Klein Center at Harvard Law School to intervene on his behalf.
In September 2017, the Paris Court of Appeals ruled that France.com was violating French trademark law. Armed with this ruling, the lawyers that represent France wrote to Web.com demanding that the domain be handed over. This was done on March 12, 2018, when Web.com transferred the ownership of the domain to the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Web.com did what the Ministry asked, without notifying Frydman who legally owned it, giving him no compensation whatsoever.
"I'm probably [one of Web.com's] oldest customers," said Frydman. "I've been with them for 24 years... There's never been any cases against France.com, and they just did that without any notice. I've never been treated like that by any company anywhere in the world. If it happened to me, it can happen to anyone."
"They claim to be a company that's good for small businesses," Frydman said. "What a joke. They've been absolutely horrible, not even answering our emails."
Making things even worse for Frydman, the transfer shifted the registration from Web.com to OVH, a French registrar that may be less responsive to U.S. courts.
On April 19th, Frydman filed a federal lawsuit in Virginia in his attempt to retrieve his domain. The suit names the French Republic, Atout France (a government tourism agency), the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the minister himself (Jean-Yves Le Drian), and VeriSign as defendants.
The lawsuit accuses France for cybersquatting France.com and "reverse domain-name hijacking," among other allegations.
Frydman's civil complaint said that:
In 2015, Defendants began expressing an interest in owning the
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."
Defendants knew that they did not, and do not, have a right to the word "France," as evidenced by Defendant Atout France's US Trademark Registration No. 4027580, filed in 2009, in which Defendant expressly disclaimed the exclusive right to the word "France."
Frydman has created another website, called unfairfrance.com, which explains the the history of France.com and the extent of its collaboration with the French state.