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Lacoste loses China crocodile trademark suit

SINGAPORE, March 26 (AFP) – Lacoste, the French retailer of polo shirts with a crocodile emblem, said Friday the loss of a trademark suit in Shanghai against long-time rival Crocodile International would have no impact on its China operations.

The Shanghai No. 2 Intermediate People’s Court ordered Lacoste to stop using the left-facing crocodile logo, make a public apology and pay the Singapore-based shirtmaker one dollar in compensation, said Tao Xinliang, an attorney for Crocodile International.

“This was the correct verdict in line with Chinese laws,” Tao said.Crocodile International claims it was the first to design the trademark in 1947 with the English word “crocodile”.

Lacoste, a unit of France’s Devanlay SA, claims that French tennis legend Rene Lacoste registered the logo in 1933 and put the toothy reptilian emblem on his own line of sports clothing.

Lacoste’s representatives told reporters in Singapore that the Shanghai verdict was irrelevant, saying it referred to a variant of the logo they had registered in China but never intended to use.

The complex legal battle centers around Lacoste’s general legal right to use a right-facing crocodile while Crocodile International has the rights to a left-facing one.

But Lacoste registered a left-facing crocodile in China in 1995, which Friday’s Shanghai case passed judgement on.

“We never wanted to use the (left-facing crocodile) trademark and we never did,” Lacoste spokesman Philippe Lacoste said.

Lacoste lawyer Paul Ranjard said his company registered the left-facing crocodile as a legal defensive measure.

“We thought that if we could own this then we could cover completely left and right. So it was a purely additional defence that we were trying to obtain,” Ranjard said.

However, Crocodile International said its court victory in Shanghai was an important one.

“Lacoste has once again failed in its deliberate tactic to monopolise the China market,” Crocodile’s Tao said in a statement released in Singapore.

“Their repeated attempts and malicious attempts to infringe upon our trademark have clearly been driven by their intention to reap the market share of Crocodile International.”

The rival companies are locked in another suit in China and engaged in similar rows throughout Asia and the Middle East.

Lacoste has also sued Crocodile International and its partners, Shanghai Oriental Cartelo Apparel Co and Beijing Hualian Department Store Shareholding Co, for trademark infringement in Beijing.

The case, which was accepted by the Beijing No. 2 Intermediate People’s Court last October, has yet to be heard.


                                                              Subject: France news