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French Designer Ordered to Give up milka.fr 462

jmf writes "The BBC is running a story about French designer Milka Budumir, who has been ordered by a judge to give up milka.fr to Kraft Foods. You can read her side of the story (in French) at her site which also points to Kraft's side of the story. Kraft make very good chocolate, but they seem to be colour-blind: claiming that this website's colour is similar to this one's."
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French Designer Ordered to Give up milka.fr

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  • WHOA! (Score:5, Funny)

    by sandstorming ( 850026 ) <johnsee@[ ]dstorming.com ['san' in gap]> on Tuesday March 15, 2005 @07:53AM (#11942035)
    Thank god I didn't register that domain... I was going to... but I decided with http://www.mycrowsoft.com Crisis averted!
    • Re:WHOA! (Score:3, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward
      "but I decided with http://www.mycrowsoft.com"

      Sorry to hear that. You know, I think there are drugs you can take to make your 'crow' hard again.
    • by sgant ( 178166 ) on Tuesday March 15, 2005 @09:16AM (#11942413) Homepage Journal
      Some years ago, before even the big dot-com boom and before the net was even popular, I had somehow registered www.gant.com. I mean, this was in the registration infancy when there were just a handfull of web sites. I honestly don't even remember registering it and at the time I though the Web was going to be a fad...ok, I never claimed to be a visionary. Besides, IRC-Gopher-Usenet-FTP WAS the Internet to me...again, at the time.

      Anyway, to make a long story longer...the lawyers from Gant Shirts got ahold of me some years later demanding I release all claims on gant.com to them...but of course, I didn't mention that I didn't even remember registering it...but why muck up the water? So I wrote back and said, hey, it's my fricken name! How could I part with my name! Then I started channeling Arthur Millers "The Crucible" with "Because it is my name! Because I cannot have another in my life! Because I lie and sign myself to lies! Because I am not worth the dust on the feet of them that hang! How may I live without my name? I have given you my soul; LEAVE ME MY NAME!"

      They cut a check for an even grand and I found I could part with my name pretty easily after all.
  • Evil Milka! (Score:5, Funny)

    by Harald74 ( 40901 ) on Tuesday March 15, 2005 @07:55AM (#11942043) Homepage Journal
    On top of everything: Their site is a Web-trap! No "back" button for me! Aaargh!
    • What's the deal with not being able to back out of some pages (especially the scummy ones)? Why is this an even issue in non-IE browsers? Is this required for compatibility or something and can it be disabled without killing a bunch of other things as well?
  • a designer ??? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward
    one old granny doing clothes touch'ups isn't what I would call a designer
  • by seifried ( 12921 ) on Tuesday March 15, 2005 @07:56AM (#11942048) Homepage
    I call BS. Find me one Kraft "chocolate" product where Chocolate or Cocoa butter is listed first ont he ingredients (i.e. the majority ingredient), or even then second or third one.... To be perfectly honest I have never seen a Kraft "chocolate" product, but I have seen their "cheese" prducts (and as a kid I ate them, but now they make me gag).
  • Designer? (Score:2, Funny)

    by nmg196 ( 184961 ) *
    He's a *designer* and his website looks like *that*?!
  • OMFG (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 15, 2005 @07:58AM (#11942057)
    OK, so first this 'kraft' company doesnt register domains for all their brands on the country tld's. Then, *YEARS* later they go "oops, it's alreay taken! What should we do? Oh, thats right! Sue the bastard. Who is the bastard anyway? Ah!".

    So they got away with their neglection by fixing it with a lawsuit. Man, I thought France was about freedom and justice.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 15, 2005 @08:00AM (#11942061)
    How much business could the website be generating for her in the first place?
    She should appeal, then settle. Go to the new suggested domain (milkacouture.fr) and have Kraft link her from Milka.fr with a brief note about the settlement.
    Irregardless, I hope she has the sense to register the alternative (milkacouture) just in case. It's currently unreserved and prime for a squatter.
    • by Anonymous Coward
      Please stop saying irregardless... it makes people's intelligent points stop sounding so intelligent...

      It's not a word...good grief
    • Squatting a domain in the .fr TLD takes a bit more work than doing the same in the .com one, actually.
      You need to have a registered business with the same (or a close one) name to be allowed to apply for it.
  • Kraft owns Milka? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by MunchMunch ( 670504 ) on Tuesday March 15, 2005 @08:00AM (#11942062) Homepage
    I spent a year in Austria around 1996 and, coming from America where you have Hershey's or the highway, Milka was like rediscovering chocolate. Compared to it, America chocolate tasted sort of chalky and brittle at best, 1984-style-chocolate-ration at worst.

    So when did Kraft buy it? Does this mean it's gonna get worse?

    • Kraft has owned Milka for quite a while - several years, at least, and they haven't gotten any worse. The same goes for other brands they own, like Côte d'Or, Toblerone, Marabou, Suchard etc.

      But of course, that's only talking about the quality of the chocolate, not that of the business ethics.
    • by ghoti ( 60903 ) on Tuesday March 15, 2005 @08:27AM (#11942181) Homepage
      Milka is the Microsoft of the European chocolate market. They are trying to push everybody else out, shamelessly copy other products, and all their products taste exactly the same. What's the point of buying chocolate easter bunnies when they taste exactly like the bar of chocolate you buy all year? Damn those big fucking companies, I want my variety back!
    • by dunkelfalke ( 91624 ) on Tuesday March 15, 2005 @08:48AM (#11942275)
      as someone living in germany i say milka sucks.

      even the cheapest german chocolate is better than milka.

      if you want to try a really good chocolate, try lindt
    • Re:Kraft owns Milka? (Score:5, Informative)

      by Katchina'404 ( 85738 ) on Tuesday March 15, 2005 @09:06AM (#11942367) Homepage
      Things ARE going to get worse, as Europe as decided a little while ago that the name chocolate would be allowed for products containing other vegetal oils than cocoa butter (i.e. soy bean, etc). Until then, in some countries chocolate HAD to contain only cocoa butter.

      In reaction, Belgium has created a new label "Ambao" which identifies chocolates containing only cocoa butter. I suppose (and hope) that similar initiatives have been taken in other countries where chocolate is taken seriously ;-)

      See this article [nytimes.com] for details...
  • Not a designer (Score:5, Informative)

    by Max von H. ( 19283 ) on Tuesday March 15, 2005 @08:00AM (#11942064)
    Milka Budumir isn't a designer... She's just a seamstress who got her name / domain name given to her by her son for her birthday. It's not like she has a brand to defend ; OTOH she's not causing Kraft any harm.

    Thing is, in France, trademark law will prevail when it comes to .fr domain names, which were only available to registered companies with a trademark brand name (you had to show paperwork), which certainly explains this ruling.

    Country TLDs ownership rules differ from country to country, unlike the usual .com .org .net .info .biz so don't scream if you haven't read the legal mumbojumbo above the "I agree" button!
    • Re:Not a designer (Score:4, Insightful)

      by KiloByte ( 825081 ) on Tuesday March 15, 2005 @08:15AM (#11942131)
      If you don't own "trademark" to your own name, something is really fucked up...

      Besides, Milka-the-company owns their trademark only for chocolate and dairy products, it's available for all other uses. If a "script kiddie for hire" company in town A is named "Pwnage", this doesn't restrict a "bouncers for hire" company in town B from using the same name. In fact, giving one of them advantage over the other -- that is, any advantage other than preventing people from knowingly infringing an established name -- is just plain wrong. And show me how exactly the old lady's parents were knowingly abusing the company's name...
      • Re:Not a designer (Score:3, Interesting)

        by R.Caley ( 126968 )
        If you don't own "trademark" to your own name, something is really fucked up...

        How many people named McDonald do you think there are in the world? Some proportion of them presumably run restaurants or similar. How many of them have the trademark on that name for that purpose in their jurisdiction?

        What is supprising is that the court decided that such a different business infringed. Presumably French trademark law is very different from UK and US law.

      • Re:Not a designer (Score:4, Insightful)

        by VdG ( 633317 ) on Tuesday March 15, 2005 @08:34AM (#11942216)
        I've got a slight interest in this, since Kraft are one of my customers and I used to work for them. However...

        Most major companies are extremely interested in brand names. They see the brand name itself as more important than any individual product that's associated with it. They're always looking for new products to associate with succesful brands. It also means they get very concerned at any threat to the brand image.

        In this particular case, Kraft are not in the clothing business, nor are they ever likely to be. But they *do* have interests in promotional items which might well include clothes.

        The Milka brand has for a very long time been associated with a particular colour: a shade of lilac/purple. Compared side-by-side there's not much similarity between that and the milka.fr site. But milka.fr does use a sort of purple/mauve colour: someone going to that site might conceivably mistake it for the trade-marked colour - if they didn't have an example to hand - and think that the site was associated with the chocolate in some way.

        I suspect that Kraft's objection is not so much that Ms Milka might make soome money out of it, but that their customers might wonder "why is Milka associated with this tatty little fashion site?", thus damaging the name.

        Not a big risk, but if they let one site get away with it - however innocently - they leave themselves wide-open to future abuse.

        Coming down on the side of big business isn't going to be popular around here, but I think that Kraft are quite justified in this case, provided that they don't get too heavy-handed.
        • Re:Not a designer (Score:2, Insightful)

          by bicho ( 144895 )
          So its ok to abuse others if it is because this way they might prevent others from abusing them later?
        • The story said that Kraft had been around a lot longer than the 58 year old Milka - why didn't they buy the domain name sooner? I realize that Kraft bought Milka at some point - but either they bought it and failed to register milka.fr then, or bought it knowing that the name was already taken. No matter how I slice it, Kraft had the opportunity to go into the thing with their eyes open - if they didn't, then why should a living, breathing person suffer for a corporation's lack of planning?
      • You should have been a lawyer during the original trademark dispute between Apple Computer and Apple Records...


        Yeah, two different companies doing two different things using a common/generic name "Apple" and it still wound up in the courts.

        I think you do not really understand the intricacies of trademarks.
    • Thing is, in France, trademark law will prevail when it comes to .fr domain names, which were only available to registered companies with a trademark brand name (you had to show paperwork), which certainly explains this ruling.

      Just out of curiosity, what TLD do non-business entities in France use then, the universal TLD's?

      • Re:Not a designer (Score:3, Informative)

        by boule75 ( 649166 )
        The universal TLD of course, plus several sub-brands of the .fr :
        - .asso.fr for the "associations" (charities & other registered non-for-profit organisations; the domain name has to be essentially similar to the name of the registered association).
        - .nom.fr for individuals (never seen one!)
        - .gouv.fr (government agencies)
        - .presse.fr (scarcely used and outdated, it was intended for the newspapers and TVs)
        - .tm.fr (brand names)

        The rules have been relaxed recently.

        Meanwhile, it seems to me that t

      • Re:Not a designer (Score:2, Informative)

        by Daytura ( 672946 )

        what TLD do non-business entities in France use then, the universal TLD's?

        The criteria were relaxed last May; you no longer need to supply proof of a registered trademark [afnic.fr] when obtaining a .fr domain name.

        To answer your question: yes, until the law change people either obtained a universal TLD or made do with an ISP subdomain [google.com].

        Slight tangent: people here in France seem to have been (kept?) remarkably poorly informed about the procedure for obtaining a domain name, whether it be a .fr or a universal
    • Re:Not a designer (Score:3, Interesting)

      by plumby ( 179557 )
      She's got a shop (or at least it looks like she has from the photos). She may well have printed business cards/adverts etc with her website/email address on it, so she does have some form of brand to defend, and if the brand, and internet presence, is so important to Kraft, why did they not get round to doing something about registering in France before 2002?

      IANAL, but doesn't trademark only apply to a specific industry? It doesn't seem likely that someone going to Milka Couture is going to believe that th
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 15, 2005 @08:01AM (#11942069)
    german (food) companies are somewhat known to defend their trademarks. the most pathetic one was the trademark holder of "kinder" (= children) cracking down on everything with children in their product name. even funnier that courts rule in their favor most of the time too.
  • by jonadab ( 583620 ) on Tuesday March 15, 2005 @08:02AM (#11942073) Homepage Journal
    Those colour schemes are similar, in the sense that both of them make heavy
    use of garish, clashing, high-saturation colours that DON'T GO TOGETHER.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    There is no trademark infringement - clearly a case of trademark overreach.

    Many businesses share the same name as others.

    It tells you everything on http://wipo.org.uk/ [wipo.org.uk]
  • by gweihir ( 88907 ) on Tuesday March 15, 2005 @08:10AM (#11942108)
    Possibly just some fellows without any true skills making sure their jobs are safe.

    In a way they are administrative personell. And the primary goal of any administration is to grow, because it has no jsutification for its existence in the first place.
  • by Alain Williams ( 2972 ) <addw@phcomp.co.uk> on Tuesday March 15, 2005 @08:10AM (#11942110) Homepage
    At least there was no possibility of confusion between a chocolate site and the French Designer site.

    But why does the chocolate company NEED the French site ? Yes, it has a name of their product, but there are limited meaningful/nice/... names that can be used but millions of businesses around the world - just 'cos you are big doesn't mean that you can lay claim to all uses of what happens to be the name of your product(s) - follow that to conclusion and we will run out of names quite quickly. Every town in the UK seems to have an ABC taxi company - no problem at all.

    Why not try to stop the use of the name outside the shop ? Well, they would fail; it is just that the judges are sufficiently confused to think that 'E-space' is different from 'physical-space' that they come up with these stupid decisions.

  • Question is, why didn't Kraft register milka.fr if it was so important to them? Big companies should just register all big top level domains so you don't get this nonsense later.
    And if they don't they shouldn't be surprised someone else (legitemately) registered it, i think she's entitled to keep it because it's her name and Kraft was too cheap to register it in the first place.
    • >Big companies should just register all big top
      >level domains so you don't get this nonsense

      Out of curiosity, what would you say is the point in having all the different top level domains if each one is still assigned to the very same company???? Sort of defeats the purpose and need of them, would you not say?
  • by fr0dicus ( 641320 ) on Tuesday March 15, 2005 @08:23AM (#11942160) Journal
    Worst department name ever?
  • by slushbat ( 777142 ) on Tuesday March 15, 2005 @08:25AM (#11942171)
    Personally I don't think this judgement goes nearly far enough. How can she get away with such blatant infringement of their trademark. Fancy trying to pass herself off as a chocolate bar. I think she should be forced to change her name immediately.
  • by Beautyon ( 214567 ) on Tuesday March 15, 2005 @08:25AM (#11942173) Homepage
    Kraft make very good chocolate

    Ummmm, wtf?

    Kraft dont even make food let alone 'good chocolate'.

    This is what real chocolate looks like [google.com]; and the taste, as compared to the garbage made by Hersheys, Kraft and the like is like the difference between, oh, how can we describe it to the unitiated /.rs who have never eaten real food...um, the difference between working with OS X and Windoze 1.0. There. Thats stark enough!
    • Côte d'Or (which belongs to Kraft) is nice enough, though, and Milka isn't that bad, either. The same goes for Marabou - they're not the best in the world, sure, but not so bad that you have to look down on them with a snotty attitude, either. :)
  • Translation: (Score:5, Informative)

    by elgatozorbas ( 783538 ) on Tuesday March 15, 2005 @08:36AM (#11942224)
    The French text says that Milka complained that the colours of her website looked too much like theirs. They did not negotiate, but gave her an ultimatum [to give the site to them, it becomes clear later].

    At the moment their "friendly" solution is to pay for the costs of taking the domain milka.fr from the lady and offering her milkacouture.fr, which is useless to her, because her clients don't know it. She also does not understand why they complain, because she did not do them any damage. Milka claims there is a link between the ladies site and www.food.fr, whish sells pizzas in Valence.

    She also says that her site will not lead away internetters who look for the chocolate company, because she only appears as 41th on search engines.

    She concludes to say that KRAFT never wanted the best for both parties, and only wanted her to give up the domain name, and only after a struggle of 2 years they are prepared to reimburse her the costs she has made.

    • [...] her site will not lead away internetters [...]

      The term already agreed upon is internauts. Especially seeing that this is a french story and the term originates from france.
  • by RenatoRam ( 446720 ) on Tuesday March 15, 2005 @08:37AM (#11942229)
    The owner of the armani.it domain, a stamp maker from Milan (if I remember correctly) was forced, after years of legal battle, to resign the domain to the fashion designer (Armani).

    Search on google "timbrificio armani" if you are interested and you can read italian.
  • Ack! Text-what-follows-the-pointy-thing! Gag. Buy her out, boys.
  • by crovira ( 10242 ) on Tuesday March 15, 2005 @08:58AM (#11942330) Homepage
    Milka Budimir.

    She can't even use her NAME as a web site. Where's the justice in that?

    Kraft might as well tell Taco he can't run /. because his "nom de plume" is Taco and they wan't it. "In fact its owned by "Technical Advisors COmpany" and looks like pre-eaten tacos."

    The internet tries to flatten too many regionalisms into too few TLDs. Its a stupid system of nomenclature.
  • ...buying up everything with the word milka in it I think. I'm tempted to buy milka.ws on principle and give it to her. Anyone speak any French and want to sort it out? :)
  • Simple Rule: (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Kaenneth ( 82978 ) on Tuesday March 15, 2005 @09:10AM (#11942387) Homepage Journal
    near-top level Domain names are for companies, organizations, corporations, or persons.

    NOT for Product names, be they medicines, foods, movies.

    getting a domain name should involve faxing a copy of an offical document, such as drivers license/birth cert., business license, charitable organization license, etc appropriate for the domain in question.
  • I would think that the guild of seamstresses would put up a fight over this... oh, she's the sewing kind of seasmstress? They never bother with them.

    So, then, I'll just add that to the list of reasons to boycott Kraft products.
  • by Stalyn ( 662 ) on Tuesday March 15, 2005 @09:48AM (#11942599) Homepage Journal
    translation from kraft
    - Within the framework of a friendly solution, our company does not claim any sum with Mrs. Budimir. In a new mail addressed on last 17 November, we proposed to take responsibility for our the expenses related on the deposit and the administration of the site "milka.fr" of its creation so far.

    - We also proposed to Mrs. Budimir to take responsibility for our the deposit of the domain name "milkacouture.fr" which corresponds to the sign of its stores. This name would guarantee to Mrs. Budimir to continue to develop its activities and to inform its customers without creating confusion with our mark.

    Milka Budimir's response
    This proposal is entirely unfavourable for me because my customers, local
    primarily, knows me under the name of Milka, and that the possible ones
    customers would have by no means the reflex to seek "milkacouture".

    My response
    If her customers are local namely those who are in walking distance of her store.. then why does she need a website at all. Unless her website is more about her store then the store itself. Therefore a change in domain name will not hurt her financially at all.
    • If her customers are local namely those who are in walking distance of her store.. then why does she need a website at all.

      Possibly true. But by the same token, why does Milka (the chocolate company) need a website at all? They sell their products in retail stores, not over the net. Their site serves absolutely no useful purpose.* Sometime in the 90s, the finest minds of the business world decided that a product needs to have a "web presence" in order to be taken seriously. It doesn't matter if anyone act
    • Doresn't thatcount for ANYTHING these days? Seems to me that we're giving COROPRATIONS more freedoms and rights then PEOPLE!!
  • by sunhou ( 238795 ) on Tuesday March 15, 2005 @12:49PM (#11944085)
    Kraft had suggested that Mrs Budimir launch a new website under the domain name www.milkacouture.fr...

    Mrs. Budimir should suggest that Kraft re-launch their own website, under the name www.butthead-astronomers-chocolate.fr.

I was playing poker the other night... with Tarot cards. I got a full house and 4 people died. -- Steven Wright