Rueducommerce.fr sentenced for trademark infringement

Carré Blanc Expansion (Carré Blanc) holds the French trademark “Carré Blanc” (No. 07 3534 168) for classes 24, 35 and 38 (fabrics for textile use, household linen, tablecloths, sheets, fabrics for lingerie. It also owns the domain name carreblanc.com which it uses to promote and sell its products.

Rue du Commerce is an e-commerce platform belonging to the Carrefour group.

Carré Blanc was surprised to find that rueducommerce.fr appeared in the results of the queries relating to the trademark “Carré Blanc” associated with various keywords of it business (linen, quilt, etc.).

In concrete terms, the results of these queries in the search engines revealed addresses such as:

  • http://www.rueducommerce.fr/indexlcarre%20blanc%20bebe
  • http://www.rueducommerce.fr/indexlcarre%20blanc%20draps
  • http://www.rueducommerce.fr/indexlcarre%20blanc%20linge
  • http://www.rueducommerce.fr/indexlcarre%20blanc%20peignoir
  • http://www.rueducommerce.fr/indexlcarre%20blanc%20promo
  • http://www.rueducommerce.fr/index/couette%20carre%20blanc
  • http://www.rueducommerce.fr/index/nappe%20carre%20blanc
  • http://www.rueducommerce.fr/indexlparureo/o20carre%20blanc
  • http://www.rueducommerce.fr/indexlpeignoïr0/o20carre%20blanc

Carré Blanc has therefore sued Rue du commerce for counterfeiting, unfair competition and misleading advertising. Rue du Commerce insisted that it had removed all references to the “Carré Blanc” trademark. The defendant also lamented the lack of discussion prior to the sending of the subpoena, and regretted that Carré Blanc refused to engage in a process of mediation. The defendant was also trying to convince the court of first instance and appellate judges that Carré Blanc had exagerating.

Cooperation between intellectual property rights (IPR) holders and e-commerce platforms is essential. However, the efforts of e-commerce platforms are not sufficient to temper the expectations of IPR holders. It must be admitted that negligence such as that committed in the present case is painfully justifiable and painstakingly defensible, hence Rue de Commerce’s eagerness for an amicable and confidential method of settling the dispute. It must be remembered that rightholders are faced with endemic and protean counterfeiting. Fighting counterfeiting requires a technical, human and legal investment. The budget share allocated to fighting counterfeiting is constantly increasing, to the detriment of actions conducive to healthy and profitable competition. It is true that the legal profession bodies encourage parties to use alternative dispute resolution methods. However, nothing obliges them to resort to it (unless a contractual stipulation compels them to do so), and all the more so in matters of tort. In the current context, companies that are victims of counterfeiting can not be reproached for dispensing with a rule of courtesy on economic actors who break legal norms to infringe IPR.

At first instance, the Paris Court of First Instance had: (i) found no agreement on a mediation measure, (ii) dismissed the unfair competition claim and (iii) the misleading advertising claim, but (iv) admitted the trademark infringement case, and sentenced Rue du Commerce to 50 000 euros. Rue du Commerce appealed, while Carré Blanc filed an appeal against the claims dismissed at first instance and the amount of the damage compensation for infringement.

In its judgment delivered on March 5, 2019, the Paris Court of Appeal upheld the judgment in all its provisions, except for the amount of the damage compensation. The Court of appeal sentenced Rue de Commerce  to 10 000 euros more for the moral damage suffered by Carré Blanc, in accordance with Article L. 716-14-2 ° of the French Code of Intellectual Property (Paris, pole 5, chapter 1, March 5, 2019, No. RG 17 / 13296, Portalis No. 35L7-V-B7B-B3VFP).

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