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Business Editor for the NZ Herald

Lacoste loses Supreme Court trademark fight

Fashion label Crocodile International has won a Supreme Court fight against rival Lacoste over which company can lay claim to a crocodile trademark in New Zealand.

Both clothing companies use a logo with a picture of a crocodile and have argued around the globe about who gets to lay claim to it in various countries.

Crocodile International is incorporated in Singapore while Lacoste is based out of France.

In 2008, Crocodile International said Lacoste had not genuinely used the disputed trademark and wanted it revoked, which New Zealand's assistant commissioner of trademarks agreed to do.

Trade mark 70068 and the Lacoste marks as shown in the Supreme Court decision.
Trade mark 70068 and the Lacoste marks as shown in the Supreme Court decision.

Lacoste appealed this and was successful in the High Court, where Justice David Collins overturned the assistant commissioner of trademarks' decision.

Crocodile International then went to the Court of Appeal, which was satisfied Justice Collins' identification was correct, saying the crocodile image was the "central idea and message" of the logo, not the word crocodile or the combination of the word and logo.

"It is all about the crocodile," the appellate court said.

Crocodile International last year was given leave to take the case to the Supreme Court, which allowed its appeal in a decision this morning.

The country's highest court today revoked registration of the disputed trademark from December 1999.

"Lacoste has never used the trade mark anywhere in the world. There is no reason to retain it on the register [of trade marks]," the Supreme Court said.

Whether Crocodile International or any other company can now register a similar trademark was a different question, the judge said.

The judges awarded $25,000 in costs to Crocodile International.

- NZ Herald

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