On 10 March, following the request of the “Comité Champagne” and of the “Institut National de l’Origine et de la Qualité”, INAO (request no. FR-2022-02678), the Afnic issued an interesting decision concerning the domain name “champagne-co.fr” in the context of the “Syreli” extrajudicial dispute resolution procedure. As Syreli does not allow several claimants to initiate an action, the “Comité Champagne” officially brought it, but the INAO is mentioned in the Afnic decision.
The Afnic – the “Association Française pour le Nommage Internet en Coopération” is a non-for-profit association in charge of managing the register of domain names in France (more than 3.7 million of them in the “.fr”). The “.fr” string is the “country code top level domain” (ccTLD) of France. To settle disputes concerning the allocation of a second-level domain name in the “.fr”, and to obtain its recovery or cancellation, the Afnic provides two extrajudicial procedures for interested physical and moral persons:
- The Syreli procedure, managed exclusively by the Afnic. In this context, decisions are adopted by an internal panel;
- The Parl regulation (alternative dispute resolution procedures), implemented by the Afnic in collaboration with the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO). As part of this procedure, decisions are rendered by experts selected by both the Afnic and the WIPO.
The two procedures are available to any natural or legal person considering that a domain name registered in the “.fr” falls within one of the cases mentioned in Art. L.45-2 of the Postal and Electronic Communications Code :
i. Liable to disrupt public order or morality, or the rights guaranteed by the Constitution or the law; ;
ii. Liable to infringe intellectual property rights or personal rights, unless the Claimant provides proof of a legitimate interest and is acting in good faith;
iii. Identical or related to that of the French Republic, of a local authority or group of local authorities, of an institution or a local or national public service, unless the Claimant provides proof of a legitimate interest and is acting in good faith.
With respect to the “champagne-co.fr” domain name in the context of the Syreli procedure, the Afnic panel considered that the “Comité Champagne”, as well as the INAO, had a legitimate interest in initiating the procedure. Likewise, according to the case law, the panel considered that, as a distinctive sign, the protected designation of origin benefit from protection against infringements when the applicant proves that: it is in charge to protect and manage the designation of origin; there is a similarity between the signs (domain name and designation of origin); the private use by the holder of the domain name deprives the designation of origin beneficiaries from a legitimate use and/or causes a misappropriation or a dilution of the designation of origin reputation. In conclusion, the panel considered that the registration of the domain name at issue constitutes a misappropriation of “Champagne” and causes dilution of its reputation. The panel concluded that the domain name holder could not ignore the existence of the designation of origin “Champagne” and that the domain name at issue infringes a right guaranteed by the law, as provided for by the Articles L. 115-1 and the following of the Consumer Code (to which Article L. 721-1 of the Intellectual Property Code refers) and Article 103 § 2 of Regulation (EU) 1308/2013 of December 17, 2013. As a result, the panel decided to accept the request of cancellation for the domain “champagne-co.fr”.
The full text of the Afnic decision is available here (in French). This is the first Syreli procedure initiated by the “Comité Champagne”. It had already used the Parl regulation since 2005 (see the decision concerning the domain name “champagnes.fr”, available here).
For more information on oriGIn’s activities in the field of GIs and Internet domain names, as well as on the relevant case law, please consult the dedicated page of our website.