Michelin Domain Challenge

20 11 2015

Dear Rich: An Intellectual Property Blog

October 12, 2015

The Dear Rich Staff

Dear Rich: Two years ago, my mother received a medical diagnosis and was expected to live about nine months to a year. In order to pass the time, and take her mind off of things, she decided she wanted to eat at all the Michelin star restaurants in London and write a blog critiquing their vegetarian offerings. (My stepfather is vegetarian and she felt this would be a fun bucket list item, that would also help people). In order to help her with her project, I bought the domain “MeatFreeMichelin.com.” I was shocked when I received a communication from Michelin’s legal representative saying that I was running the site in bad faith (he’s basing this on the fact I didn’t respond to the email he sent – I didn’t see it because it went to junk mail) and has started proceedings to seize the domain. He also threatened I would have to pay attorney’s fees – all for a site that was put up for fun- with no commercial interest- that used very little other than the name. The site didn’t look anything like Michelin’s, no logo’s were used, we did not imply that we had any kind of sponsorship and my mother chose the Michelin name because that’s how she decided which restaurants. In other words there was little other way to identify them. We believe this was fair use. However, even though we believe we are right with the fair use part — and I have taken down the site as a precautionary measure — we are still getting communications from Michelin’s attorney who continues to ignore our repeated requests that he explain why this is not fair use.

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